Detroit Auto Show: Ford Airstream Concept

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WHOA, This thing conjures up images of caffeine and nicotine fueled road trips, the KTel 8-track banging away with the requesite matchbook jammed in there to keep it operating smoothly. The nose says Econoline quite clearly, while the rest of Ford's latest CUV concept is inspired by both space capsules and Airstream trailers. While the styling of the exterior and interior may pay some homage to what has passed, the mechanized bits of the Airstream are definitely space-age and forward looking. Once you digest the styling and the high-tech underpinnings, the old camper and Hal 9000 influences converge neatly. We can definitely picture an A-Team edition with matte black paint, a wing on the back and a red stripe down the sides.

More after the jump including a press release, and check out our gallery of high-resolution images.

Check out all the debuts and galleries from the Detroit Auto Show here.

The exterior of the Airstream is resplendent in reflective paint, and there are 12 rivets adorning the structure and giving a nod to Airstream. The clamshell passenger door looks great, but it'd make tight parking lots quite the adventure. Come to think of it, that's perfectly in keeping with the theme of the Airstream - carry on. Loading in and out from that huge opening would be a cinch.

Once inside, there's acres of fabric, reminding us of a carpet-lined Dodge Tradesman a friend's mom took us roller skating in. There's a 360-degree screen in the back seat, it's that psychedelic thing in the pictures, occupying the perfect spot for a floor-mounted bong. The screen has built-in mood lighting modes like Lava Lamp and Virtual Fire. Like, wow man. Up front, there's touch sensitive controls and a centralized screen that's notable for its usefulness in posting mobile blogs, among other things. Okay, now they're just sucking up to us. The seats keep with the groovy theme, though we do wonder if they were OEM'd by Britax?

Providing motive force for the Airstream is the real news here. The concept is powered by a plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel-cell. The major leap with this fuel cell is that it can function when temperatures drop below freezing. The fuel cell is provided by Ballard, and its sole purpose is to keep the lithium-ion batteries charged, not drive the vehicle as in previous fuel cell implementations. Removing motivation chores from the fuel cell allows a smaller, less costly fuel cell and should result in better durability, as the cell runs in a steady-state. The mind races with potential special editions of this van. Given the preponderance of special Mustangs, we don't think it's too much to ask for there to be a Mystery Machine and A-Team edition, should the Airstream ever hit showrooms. It's not like they'd appeal to the same demographic, anyway. We're on the edge of our seats to see the next Ford concept, the Airwolf.



Expanding the future of crossovers

Playing to win in the growing crossover segment, Ford has partnered with another iconic company to showcase how it could further expand its lineup of expressive crossovers.

The Ford Airstream Concept is influenced by Airstream's iconic design and the optimism for the future that Stanley Kubrick captured in his 1960s cult film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The concept is powered by a plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell drivetrain that operates under electric power at all times. This advanced fuel cell system is half the weight and cost of today's fuel cells and can operate in the dead of winter. That's a major step forward because today's fuel cells don't do well when the mercury dips below freezing.

Continuous CUV growth
Crossovers are at the intersection of trends in the economy and society and have been brewing for years. Couples are starting families later in life, while baby boomers are downsizing their lives and their vehicles. Fuel prices and intense competition are influencing vehicle choices as well.

The crossover segment is expected to hit 3 million units by the end of the decade, vying to be the largest U.S. vehicle segment.

Bold designs will allow Ford to reach the customers in this competitive and fragmenting segment that already includes Ford Freestyle, Ford Edge and, in time, the full-size crossover based on the Fairlane concept.
See the future today

The Ford Airstream Concept captures the sense of optimism and adventure conveyed in American aircraft and spacecraft, right down to its organic, fuselage-inspired form language, the Ford-first unique reflective paint and 12 ceremonial rivets, which pay homage to Airstream's iconic construction.

The concept's bold, futuristic front-end explores a new look for Ford, encapsulating the single-surface grille and headlamps into the same graphic.

Each of the concept's bold orange-trimmed window graphics is a unique shape, reflecting the purpose of the vehicle: looking out and remembering that the journey – not the destination – matters most.

The Ford Airstream Concept's doors are asymmetric as well, allowing for easy loading of passengers and cargo. In addition to the driver's side hatch, the passenger side features a power clamshell door that runs two-thirds the length of the vehicle. A three-door hatch finishes the rear of the crossover.

Futuristic interior
The futuristic theme carries through to the interior, as well.

The Ford Airstream Concept features a floating instrument panel with flush-mounted, touch-sensitive controls. A multi-function single gauge display provides the driver all primary information. A Sharp¨ dual-view screen centrally mounted on the instrument panel provides a camera view and secondary driver-oriented information, while allowing the front-seat passenger to view DVDs and post mobile blogs.

Modern, pod-shaped swiveling captain's chairs rotate so the driver and front-seat passenger can easily socialize.
Ford Airstream Concept is a futuristic crossover capturing the sense of optimism and adventure conveyed in American aircraft and spacecraft.

In the rear, lounge-like seating is sculptural, creating a continuous cocoon-like environment wrapped in bold red B&B Italia fabric. The focal point of the rear seating area is a 360-degree screen for entertainment and games.
The unique screen not only creates ambient mood settings including a modern lava lamp and virtual fire, but it also is an entertainment source featuring games and a live camera feed.

Safer journeys
Safety belts remain the most important safety technology in vehicles.

Ford is researching several new safety belt designs for the future, including four-point safety belts aiming to help further reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

One of Ford's possible next-generation safety belts incorporates a four-point "belt and suspenders" design in lieu of the familiar three-point safety belt, which is featured on the Ford Airstream Concept.

The rubber meets the road
The new plug-in hydrogen fuel cell featured in the Ford Airstream Concept is much more than a concept. It is already on the road and driving in a Ford Edge prototype, created by scientists and engineers at Ford's Research & Innovation Center with partial funding from the United States Department of Energy.

In this application, the fuel cell's sole function is to recharge the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack as needed.This allows it to work like a portable generator, instead of an engine, as had been the case in previous Ford fuel cell vehicles. The new fuel cell, supplied by Ford partner Ballard, operates in a steady state, allowing a significantly smaller, less expensive fuel cell and drastically improving the durability of the fuel cell. With this system, the fuel cell delivers the power needed to recharge the lithium-ion batteries, rather than to be the primary power source to drive the wheels, as in a typical fuel cell-powered vehicle.

Celebrating wanderlust
On the heels of Airstream's 75th birthday, Ford and Airstream have teamed up to deliver a futuristic crossover concept that could be used to navigate America's highways and byways.

Much like Ford, Airstream began because of one man's vision.

In 1931, Wally Byam began leveraging aircraft-construction methods to make trailers aimed at feeding Americans' surging desire to travel.

Inspired by American spacecraft, the Ford Airstream Concept features a unique 360-degree screen for entertainment and games.

Ford's new plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell
Chassis lengths
Overall length .......................185.0 in.
Wheelbase .............................125.9 in.
Overall width ..........................78.9 in.
Overall height at curb ..............70.6 in.
Track width
Front .......................................67.6 in.
Rear ........................................69.2 in.
Front ................. Double wishbone-independent suspension
Rear ..................Multi-link independent
Front .......................................37.5 in.
Second Row ............................36.2 in.
Front .......................................39.6 in.
Second Row ............................33.1 in.
These specifications are preliminary and subject to change.

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