142. The Latest Ford
By SUSAN ELLICOTT
The Ford Motor Company today introduced the first design change to make the rising number of huge sport utility vehicles a little safer in crashes with cars. It said its newest sport utility vehicle, a behemoth that would be the tallest and heaviest yet, would be equipped with hollow steel bars mounted below the front and rear bumpers to prevent it from riding over cars during collisions. The horizontal steel beams hang down six inches from the high-riding steel frame of the vehicle, the Ford Excursion, which is nearly seven feet tall and weighs more than three tons.
The New York Times, Feb. 27
Unconfirmed leaks in the car industry press suggest that the Excursion, an improved version of the Expedition, which itself upgraded the once popular Explorer, is a precursor to several even larger and heavier sport utility models expected within the next three years.
First off the production line will be the Extravagance. At 90 inches wide, compared with the Excursion's 80 inches, it will be the first sport model to be classified as an extra-wide vehicle and therefore required by Federal regulations to carry special running lights on the roof and sides. The Extravagance will be available in 150 colors, but not yellow, which Ford palette researchers rejected after studies showed that a yellow mock-up was frequently mistaken in tests for a school bus, especially when its driver's side stop sign swung out.
Auto-industry life-style researchers are said to be especially pleased with the Extravagance's beverage holder. With a capacity for up to four grande lattes, the holder will be the first to be built of flexible steel beams and to have a double layer of insulation. Company safety officials said that, in the event of a head-on collision, the holder is designed to bend and absorb energy, thereby minimizing the amount of dangerous hot spillage.