Our Ultimate Factory shoot for the F150 actually began at Ford's Proving Grounds rather than the factory. (The factory manager was out of town that week and we were politely asked to film at the proving grounds first. I get it; if I were the manager, I'd want to be around when film crews were inside my factory).
The neat thing about Proving Grounds is that the normal rules of the road don't apply. Not even close. The whole idea is to push any vehicle to the limits and beyond even if that means breaking something.
Watching test drivers do that with the new F150 Raptor was mind blowing. It was like little kids in the ultimate candy store even though the drivers are all highly trained engineers who can really drive.
There's a new F150 Raptor, sitting on huge 35" tires with a full racing suspension right out of the factory, tearing through not only the dirt, but serious mud, and streams that are deep enough to put the hood under water! (I could see the "don't try this at home" warning clearly in my mind watching the truck do things that clearly seemed impossible). But it never skipped a beat. After watching a Raptor totally covered in mud ford a stream and come out relatively clean on the other side I suggested, "This is the way real truck owners wash their trucks" as a new ad campaign for Ford. The Ford folks all had a good laugh at that one. And should they ever make that commercial, remember you read about here first! (Wonder what the royalty fee might be?)
The next Monday we began filming inside what they all simply call DTP—the Dearborn Truck Plant. (Car companies seem to love internal acronyms that are unintelligible to the uninitiated). They build the Raptor there along with nine other models of the F150.
I've been in a lot of automotive and motorcycle factories, but DTP is unreal. Built from the ground up in 2003, it's a marvel of what good old Henry Ford started nearly 100 years earlier. To describe it as an automated assembly line doesn't even come close to doing it justice.
Everything in the plant is in a constant state of motion. Parts, bodies, and engines—you name it and it's moving up, over, and down on more than 4 miles of conveyor belts. Somehow, the right part always seems to arrive at the right place at the right time. Kind of need that to happen if you're cranking out new trucks every 58 or 59 seconds. That's right, every 58 or 59 SECONDS!
Part of me wanted to meet the people who designed and built the plant but that would be another show entirely. So we spent the next several days watching bare frames go to finished trucks without a single hiccup. Amazing stuff. Truly amazing. And every 58 or 59 seconds a new F150 started up and rolled off the line.
My only regret is I didn't have the time to ask if I could take a new Raptor out to the proving grounds and go play in the dirt!