Trucks & SUVs

Is Ford’s Aluminum Really ‘Military Grade’?

In recent years, Ford has made a stir in the automaking world over one controversial choice. Most trucks are made with mostly or entirely high-grade steel. However, some of the latest Ford trucks are made with steel frames and aluminum bodies. This decision was highly criticized by other automakers, but Ford’s sales didn’t suffer.

In 2014, Ford issued a press release about its new aluminum trucks with a surprising claim. The automaker stated that the truck was made with “military grade” aluminum alloy. The automaker didn’t elaborate on this statement, which caused some confusion. Does this mean Ford trucks are just as durable as military vehicles?

Ford’s military history

Ford’s success is partially due to its efforts in serving the armed forces. The military uses many Ford trucks for their day-to-day operations. These include armored and Super Duty COMBATT versions of the F-350. Universal carriers were also supplied by Ford of Canada during World War II.

Ford makes no secret about its appreciation for both active military members and veterans. The company offers military personnel a cashback bonus of $500 on the purchase of a new Ford vehicle. The customer is also entitled to a military discount. Because of its military ties, some speculate that the military grade claim is strictly a marketing strategy.

What exactly is “military grade” aluminum?

The truth is that the military uses aluminum for a wide variety of tools and accessories. Much of it is used in the production of vehicles, but it could also be used in straps or bullets. In the army, each part is held to military standard, or ‘mil spec‘.

Even when something is made to mil spec, that doesn’t mean it can take as much damage as an armored tank. However, in theory, the aluminum used to build a military bunk could also be used to produce a powerful pickup. This is why marketing strategists typically used the term “military grade” as a synonym for a durable product.

The debate surrounding Ford’s “military grade” aluminum

Ford’s use of the term “military grade” has been widely disputed by metal workers. The general consensus is that it’s all just a marketing ploy to move units. A large number of customers will see the term “military-grade” and think of the truck as highly indestructible. 

Ford confirmed this further when it released more production details. It’s mainly built with 6,000 series alloy, the same material used for mil spec. However, they also mention that the alloy is mixed with silicon and magnesium. It’s also worth noting that the frame of the F-150 is still primarily made of steel.

Chevy’s demonstration

Ford’s military-level strength claims have also been criticized by other automakers. A year after the press release, GM put Ford’s “military-grade” claim to the test in a commercial advertisement. Over 800 pounds of concrete blocks were dumped into the truck beds of the F-150 and the Chevy Silverado.

The Silverado’s high-grade steel bed suffered multiple dents, but remained structurally intact. On the other hand, the F-150’s bed was dotted with holes from the blocks.

Some argued that the demonstration was an unfair comparison. Neither of the trucks had bedliners, which could have prevented heavy damage. However, a Chevy spokesperson stated that a bed-liner only helps “protect the appearance” of the truck bed.

What does this say about Ford trucks?

Ford’s use of the word “military-grade” could be seen as stretching the truth. However, it doesn’t mean that the F-150 is a subpar truck. Even with the aluminum bed, it can still haul over 3,000 pounds and continues to outsell popular rivals. So despite being an overreach by Ford, the F-150 and Ford trucks in general, are still reliable durable trucks.