Ford revealed the 2016 F-750 Tonka dump truck in March at an industry show, underscoring that the Blue Oval is back in the business of big trucks after years of teaming with Navistar in a joint venture. The new F-650s and F-750s start rolling off the line at a factory near Cleveland this summer, and the order bank is open now.
The trucks come in regular, super, and crew cabs and offer three states of tune for the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel, plus a gasoline-fed 6.8-liter V10. Naturally, the Tonka has most powerful diesel mill, with 330 horsepower and 725 pound-feet of torque.
The Tonka edition is a paint-and-sticker one-off that Ford is using as a promotional tool. You can't buy one, and it will be touring shows and events throughout the year. Lowrey notes that it calls attention to work trucks in a positive way. The general public usually only sees them when the trucks are blocking the road or making too much noise at a construction site. Tonka trucks, on the other hand, conjure up happy childhood memories.
"We're going to do something where someone's going to see this truck and smile," he says.
It's hard not to grin as we climb into the cabin of this monster truck. It has a 33,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating and can carry five yards worth of dirt. We're not doing anything like that today – just puttering around Ford's handling circuit inside its product enclave. The course is closed, so even though this track is better suited to calibrating Mustangs, F-150s, and well, almost anything but a dump truck, we're totally relaxed.
We depress the button to release the parking brake and are off. The truck is surprisingly easy to drive. The vision ahead is excellent – makes sense, we're nearly one story off the ground, after all. The cabin is simple and cleanly laid out. It looks like a Ford truck, regardless of the size. The diesel engine has a lot of grunt. We can feel the torque. The steering is light, and we have to stomp on the air brakes to slow this thing down. We go 'hot' into a tight corner just for fun. It's not really that fast, but it raises the eyebrows of our film crew, which is set up nearby. After a few laps, perhaps five, and maybe a top speed of 50 miles per hour, we return to the staging area and leap out.
There's no doubt, this truck is big business for Ford, and the 2016 edition is more refined and intuitive than ever. Trucks like these are the backbone of the economy, and despite the serious nature of that, we're left with one overriding sentiment: It's way more fun to play with Tonka trucks as an adult.