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New life for an old dog: Latest version of European standby boasts state-of-the-art diesel powerUnlike on this side of the Atlantic, where the lightest-duty commercial vehicles are either some sort of pickup or step van, the narrow streets of the old world are chock-a-block with lots of zippy little trucks.Something of an icon in the competitive European light-duty market is Ford Motor Co.'s erstwhile

New life for an old dog: Latest version of European standby boasts state-of-the-art diesel power

Unlike on this side of the Atlantic, where the lightest-duty commercial vehicles are either some sort of pickup or step van, the narrow streets of the old world are chock-a-block with lots of zippy little trucks.

Something of an icon in the competitive European light-duty market is Ford Motor Co.'s erstwhile Transit panel van, which after 35 years remains the market leader in "mid-weight" commercial vehicles.

In fact, over 4 million of these one- and two-ton delivery trucks have hit the roads over there since the model first rolled onto the scene in 1965.

What's perhaps most interesting about this long-running success story is that the 2000-model Transit represents an industry first. Never before has a truck been offered in both front- and rear-drive versions on the same chassis platform.

What's more, these latest Transits are being powered by an all-new family of direct-injection turbodiesels that are adaptable for both front- and rear-drive configurations. And they boast design enhancements not typical of truck engines.

Developed at Ford's research and engineering center in Dunton, England, the new Duratorq 4-cyl. engines are built in a plant nearby.

Highest in volume production is the 2.4-liter Duratorq for two-ton, rear-drive Transits. Turbo-boosted ratings are 75 hp. at 3,500 rpm, and 90 and 120 hp., each at 4,000 rpm. Engines with the two highest ratings also have intercooling. Torque ratings are, respectively, 136, 148, and 177 lb.-ft.

The 2-liter version for one-ton, front-drive Transits offers turbo-boosted ratings of 75, 85, and 105 hp., with the latter intercooled. Respective torque ratings are 133, 140, and 170 lb.-ft. The compression ratio for all the Duratorq engines is 19:1.

The diesels, which were "purpose-designed" for commercial use, boast the following notable features:

* Four-valve breathing

* Two-piece aluminum head clamped by six bolts per cylinder

* Short-skirt iron block extended by an aluminum ladder frame

* Fuel injection under full electronic control

* Cooled exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) - something we can expect to see here soon in heavy-duty diesels.

The engines also have inlet and exhaust valves that are operated by two individual, chain-driven lightweight camshafts. The camshafts are actually steel tubes assembled with press-fitted cam lobes to save 2.4 lb. per shaft vs. using solid shafts.

In yet another innovation, the cam and rocker shafts are carried in a separate alloy casting bolted to the head. This reduces engine height, which eases vehicle assembly.

Indeed, according to Ford, the Duratorq is designed to fit within tight vehicle "packaging" limits.

The new 2.4-liter Duratorq, for example, is 3.5 in. shorter and about 3 in. lower than the 2.5-liter Transit engine (introduced in 1984) it replaces.

In the same vein, the 2.4-liter block has an interbore cylinder wall thickness of just 0.4 in. This allows encasing a slim water jacket around the combustion area. That ties in with a minimized coolant volume sought by Ford to reduce warmup time. As a result, the new engine warms up two minutes faster than the 2.5-liter unit it replaces.

The short-skirt block, noted above, is stiffened and lightened by the adjoining aluminum ladder frame. This setup provides both a rigid lower attachment for the clutch housing and a weight saving of 17.6 lb. compared to using a conventional deep-skirt cast iron block.

The EGR system, also noted before, that's designed to reduce nitrous oxide emissions is regulated by a vacuum valve that boasts a pintle design to get improved response at low valve lifts.

As for the truck itself, Ford says the Transit now offers the widest choice of body styles and roof heights on the market. That's thanks to the flexibility afforded by three optional wheelbases and the choice of four load lengths.

Truly a common market player, the Transit is now built in two countries. Short-wheelbase versions are assembled in England, while medium- and long-wheelbase models are produced in Belgium.

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