MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Archives
Published 11.11.2020

Fords Big Red turbine truck prototype 1964 Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 1Fords Big Red turbine truck prototype, 1964 (Ford Motor Company Archives) 

The Big Red concept truck was designed and engineered by Ford Motor Company’s Scientific Research Laboratory and styling team during the early 1960s. The 96-foot truck project was put together by Roy Lunn.

The truck was launched on August 28, 1964 around the same time that the Ford Mustang was also being introduced to the public. The concept truck model offered a 600-hp gas turbine engine and could haul two trailers when traveling. It was introduced at the World’s Fair in New York City, and visitors enjoyed its great styling and appreciated its engineering.

1964 Ford Turbine Truck 21964 Ford Turbine Truck

The interior of the truck was made of steel and could accommodate two passengers. Its design was based on wind tunnel data and offered an air-ride suspension. A full kitchen with hot and cold running water was included, along with a bathroom and television.

The trucks interior Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 6The truck's interior (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The cab design was made of fiberglass, a lightweight material. The fiberglass design was independently mounted and featured on the framework body along with an air conditioning unit for the driver and passengers. The driver or passengers would enter the truck by activating a special switch that would open the door and lower a retractable ladder.

Another view of the truck Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 3Another view of the truck (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The Big Red concept traveled the country during the early 1960s on a promotional tour for Ford. Big Red was also featured in advertising with the new Mustang.

In 1964, the Ford’s highest ranking executives wanted to manufacture the Big Red concept truck. However, there were three problems: 1) the new US environmental regulations, 2) huge production costs and 3) different requirements for gas turbines in different states.

The Big Red Truck Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 4The Big Red Truck (Ford Motor Company Archives)

According to many automotive historians, Big Red was called a super-hauler, an experimental 600 hp gas turbine truck. Designed for the superhighways of tomorrow, experimental truck represented a massive investment and was a research project that Ford engineers thoroughly enjoyed. Ford executive vice president Charles H. Patterson said, “This truck is a concept vehicle from our product research office. It is attest-bed in which advance engineering ideas are proved out in actual over-the-road operation.”

A magazine ad featuring the truck Ford Motor Company Archives 5A magazine ad featuring the truck (Ford Motor Company Archives)

When researching the history of Big Red, I was able to find out some interesting information about what happened to the truck. After touring the country for many years and being featured in Life magazine during the 1960s, the concept model was returned to Ford’s engineering staff center until the early 1970s. After being in storage at Ford for several years, the truck was later moved to the Holman Moody’s storage hanger where it remained until 1978. Ford kept the original turbine engine. Many years later, Holman Moody promoted a huge inventory sale, which included Big Red. The truck was sold to an anonymous buyer and its current location remains unknown.

Big Red at the Worlds Fair in New York City 7Big Red at the Worlds Fair in New York City

Bibliography

Wagner, James K. “Ford Trucks Since 1905.” Crestline Publishing, 1978.

Kscarbel. “Ford’s Futuristic Gas-Turbine – “Big Red.” BigMackTrucks.com. July 24, 2013.

Frumkin, Mitch. “Big Red.” Old Cars Weekly. December 21, 2007.