Author: Ken Payne
August 4-8, 2004: International Truck and Engine Corporation, manufacturer of the Power Stroke diesel engine, invited Ford Truck Enthusiasts to attend the Powerfest Rally in Indianapolis, Indianna. The Rally, with nearly 600 Power Stroke diesel owners in attendance, was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Power Stroke diesel engine.
We started out driving in the lead with a convoy 70 Power Stroke Diesel Ford Super Duty trucks to the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville. Our truck was decked out with a decal package to look like the Power Stroke Diesel NASCAR Craftsman Truck driven by Terry Cook. The convoy was at least a mile long, possibly longer (we couldn't see the back of it). We stopped at a rest area halfway throught the drive and pretty much filled the place up. It was a great opportunity for mingling and gave and everyone a chance for a quick close-up look of the 2005 Super Duty (see our First Drive article here: http://www.ford-trucks.com/news/2004/news2004-16.html). Reaction to the truck was very positive. The only complaints I heard were from a few people didn't like the yellow color option (personally I like it) and some thought the grill was constructed a little light-weight.
We then all piled back into the trucks and started back towards the truck plant. At the plant we had a quick lunch courtesy of Ford and International. One thing was very apparent during this gathering --- these people love their trucks and they love talking about them. In my line of work I interact with Power Stroke owners almost daily so I know the pride they have in them but I don't often have the opportunity to gather in groups with them. Their group spirit is infectious.
Unfortunately the truck plant tour was rushed in part because of the large number of people attending. I was disappointed because I had a great time at a Michigan truck assembly plant tour in early 2003 where we had a lot personal attention and time to ask questions. Unlike that tour, we didn't have a chance to stop and watch each major part of the assembly. Most of the stops in this tour were to catch our breath! Luckily we did get to stop and watch one of the coolest robots in the plant: the wind-shield installation. If you've never seen this its a real treat. The robot picks up the windshield with suction cups and then manuvers it around a "glue gun" while adhesive is applied to the outer edge of the glass. The windshield is then rotated back around to the chassic of the vehicle and automatically placed on the truck.
One Friday International Truck And Engine led us on a tour of the Power Stroke diesel engine plant. This was a first class operation. Everyone, without exception, was friendly. Its common practice for plants to tell their employees to wear smiles when working but this was different. Nothing looked canned, some of the people were beaming with smiles as we looked at their stations. The technology that gones into building these engines was amazing.
Seeing a rough cast block go through all the machining processes and the assembly was a real treat. The piston stuffing machine was very cool (apparently its a tedious job that no one liked when it was done manually. The engine testing was incredible. They don't just do a random sampling. Each engine is actually started and put through its paces before it leaves the plant. Additionally, a random sample of engines are put through even more stringent testing to insure the quality processes in place are working as designed.
What struck me the most was the cleanliness of the plant. I've been on plant tours before and while I've never seen a messy assembly plant I've also never experienced one quite as neat as this plant. International has a lot to be proud of.
During the weekend we had the opportunity to talk with many hard core Ford truck enthusiasts. Power Stroke diesel owners take a lot of pride in their trucks. The machines are tough, capable and long lasting. The engines offer plenty of power for most any application and the owners can count on them to deliver.
On Friday we went to Indianapolis Raceway Park for a tailgaiting party and Power Stroke Diesel truck gathering prior to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Power Stroke Diesel 200. Many members of FOKISD (pronounced similar to "focused"), a Ford Super Duty truck club were in attendance and participated in the events surrounding the race.
Prior to this race I never understood the appeal of NASCAR. To me driving around in a circle for hours at a time has never been my idea of racing. Fans always told me I needed to attend a race in order to really have the "NASCAR experience." I took the opportunity a few years ago and attended a race. My experience was negative. After walking a mile and a half through a muddy field of parking I then walked a mile around to the other side of the track before getting to my seat.
Cars zoomed by so fast I didn't have a chance to see them. By the time I could they were so far away that I couldn't see the action. On top of that, ever time the cars came around everyone would jump up to get a better look and block my view. I left in disgust 15-20 minutes after I arrived.
This time things were different. I had the pleasure of driving the lead Power Stroke diesel truck around the track leading a pack of 9 other Power Stroke 200 trucks and 10 FOKISD member trucks, each representing a year of Power Stroke production. After that, the NASCAR drivers loaded into the back of several Power Stroke Super Duty trucks while we drove around the track.
As we passed the fans the drivers threw stuffed Power Stroke mascots to the kids in the crowds. The fans called out to each driver by name, wishing them luck and the kids were hooting and hollering for toys. No booing, no rude comments -- just clean fun. I was wearing a grin from ear to ear.
Just before the race there was a low altitude fly-by of military jets and then the drivers started getting ready. The rumbing roar from the engines was incredible. Not since I heard an open header 427 SOHC have I experienced the same thrill from the sound of an engine. It literally shook the booth we were in.
Unlike the last NASCAR race I attended I had someone to cheer for this time - Terry Cook, driver of the number 10 Power Stroke diesel Ford F-150. The race was exciting with more than one accident (you just can't help looking!) and a lot of jokeying for position. What really amazed me was how much of a difference a good pit stop could make. Unfortunately, Terry didn't win but that really didn't take away from the great time I had.
To put it mildly I had a blast. Several things made it enjoyable... I had someone to cheer for. The track was smaller than the Atlanta track and I could see the action on both sides. I didn't have to walk in the mud only to end up dealing with people rudely jumping up in front of everyone. Lastly, I had a group of people with me to share the experience with.
Now I understand.
Congratulations to Ford Motor Company and International Truck And Engine for 10 years of the Power Stroke diesel.