Testing a F-250 at Ford’s Former Arizona Proving Ground

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I remember one of my more exciting days developing transmission cooling systems at Ford. This happened at Ford’s Arizona Proving Ground, in Yucca, AZ. Not long after I left Ford in 2007 this facility was sold to Chrysler.

I was working on a F-250 6.0L/TorqShift truck. On this day I had to run a test that was adopted from a steep grade in Sweden. The test consisted of running at maximum GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating – Total weight of truck and trailer) up a continuous 12% grade at 30 kph (18.4 mph.) The test had to run until the temperatures stabilized.

Since we didn’t have a 12% grade, we had to create a simulated grade. The way to do that is with a towable dynamometer. I hitched a dynamometer to the truck, and with a few quick calculations, determined the load that the dynamometer needed to place on the truck to simulate 23,000 pounds climbing a 12% grade.

The test track that I was using is a 5 mile long oval. You can see it on Google Maps here. At this speed it took 16 minutes to complete one lap. Almost four laps per hour.

fordproving ground
Since the speed needed to be closely controlled, and speed control won’t work below about 27 mph, I had a mechanical device to hold the throttle. It clipped to the dash and had a rod that pushed the go pedal. There was a screw adjustment to get the exact pedal position I needed to maintain 30 kph.

I filled the fuel tank, set my portable XM radio in the F-250, and off I went. I set up the throttle device and settled in for an exciting 16 minute lap. I had several variables that needed to be tested, so I spent the entire day running this test. At my lunch break the low fuel light was on, so I filled the tank again. At the end of the day I was out of fuel again. I used three tanks of fuel that day. I didn’t hand calculate fuel economy, but the trip computer was steady at 1.8 mpg!

The tests showed what we expected, the transmission cooling on the 6.0L was world class. While I don’t remember the exact temperatures, I do remember that they were not even close to the limits.

Here is some history about the Arizona Proving Ground. It was created during World War II by the Army Air Force. It served during the way as a B-17 base. After the war it was used to decommission B-17s. Not long after I arrived at Ford I met an engineer that told me he served at that base during the war.

He was discharged shortly after the war and went to work at Ford. His first assignment at Ford was to go back to the base as part of a team to evaluate the possibility of Ford purchasing the base to use as a desert proving ground!

The administration offices were original to the base. There were many areas of concrete that still had aircraft tie downs visible.

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