Ford's bright yellow Tonka concept truck borrows heavily from the heavy-metal, sibling-bashing iconic toy that's a toddler's favorite. In one of the strangest ventures in reverse automobile engineering, Ford is expressing the workhorse theme embraced by the collectible Tonka toy trucks in a full-size vehicle based on the company's super-duty F-350 pickup. (The deal with Tonka is for using the name on this concept only. Tonka may at some point want to adapt the design for a toy.) But despite styling and power ratings at the outer end of the Schwarzenegger scale, the concept truck is also a test bed for moderation and efficiency in heavy-duty pickups.
The squared-off exterior, with its prominent fender flares, is a strong hint at the future design of Ford's pickup trucks. The interior, all rounded plastic and brushed metal, with lots of bins and a giant toolbox, is more far-fetched.
But the most dramatic innovation is a hydraulic hybrid drive system that promises 25 to 50 percent more efficiency. The 16 to 18 mpg or so that results is hardly as fuel-stingy as the 70 mpg claimed by, say, Honda's lightweight aluminum gas-electric Insight hybrid. But the 350 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque produced by the new Navistar diesel would let the Tonka keep up in traffic with two Insights crushed and stacked in its bed.