Anybody who can cough up a measly $40,000 or so can buy a dually pickup truck from the Big Three builders, but it'll be like thousands of others—and dwarfed if parked next to "Big Yellow." The really big and heavy dually from International Truck & Engine is one of a few hundred units to be assembled for interested dealers.
Big Yellow is a production version of a "Big Red" concept done a couple of years ago to rave reviews from dealers. "Build it!" they yelled at International executives who conceived the red truck as an attention-getter. So they are—between 300 and 500 of them—with extended and crew-cab versions in various colors, using 8-foot beds from Ford's SuperDuty series.
Big Yellow, shown off during an early summer demonstration of International's 2004–05 medium- and heavy-duty diesels, sits on a 7300 chassis with a 230-hp DT 466 diesel, Allison 6-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel-drive equipment, and air brakes. Its official model designation is 7300 CXT, and its gross vehicle weight rating is 25,999 pounds.
And it's a kick to drive. Yours truly, accompanied by CE Sales Representative Mary Adee, took it for a spin around a dusty course set up outside the Texas Motor Speedway north of Dallas-Fort Worth. We bounced over dirt moguls, skidded through turns and lost traction briefly while climbing a low hill. No matter—I punched a rocker switch on the dash to engage the transfer case and front-driving axle, mashed the foot feed and up we went. I never worried about ground clearance because, well, you can see how high the truck sits.
Ford executives say they're amused by International's pickups and happy to sell the beds to International, which has built the 6.9-, 7.3- and now 6-liter V-8 diesels used in Ford trucks since the mid-1980s. And while there are a handful of F-450 and F-550 pickups out on the streets, they're from enthusiastic dealers and upfitters, not Ford's factory.
Ford engineers believe that the F-350 chassis is the heaviest practical for the loadings they anticipated in designing the steel bed. International's use of it in a Class 5 chassis is okay because the truck will see few if any real loads. Indeed, International figures the trucks they build will be snapped up by dealers for promotional use.
Wider use might be seen by another International creation, the commercial variant of a "SmarTruck III" developed for the U.S. Army. Also displayed at the engine demo (but not available for driving), the silver crew-cab pickup has four doors, nice interior appointments with room for five people, 4×4 layout, the new VT 245 V-6 diesel (essentially three-quarters of the VT 365/Power Stroke V-8), and a custom-built pickup bed. Its GVW rating is 16,000 to 18,000 pounds.
International is pitching the commercial crewcab SmarTruck to the military for garrison duties, and to municipal and fire-fighting fleets for utility work and brush fire suppression. The V-6 diesel, incidently, is the engine that International wants to sell the Army to repower worn-out Humvees (better known as Hummers) that the military began buying from AM General in the late 1980s. The V-6 will also power the upcoming low-cab-forward truck from International and Ford.
Aside from serious size and weight, International's two big pickups carry serious estimated prices: between $50,000 and $60,000 per. So buyers will have to be serious about wanting bragging rights.