Mythbusting the Ford Ranger Centrifuge Commercial

Why Ford's so-called 'Science of Truck' is the worst kind of failed experiment

The acid-dropping, crack-smoking, marijuana cookie-chomping, self-administering recreational pharmacologists at Ford … well, they’ve done it again.
In public.
This time, they're literally yanking your chain.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

One of the most technically nauseating, yet visually compelling, but critically flawed, ads you will ever see is the Ranger-centrifuge, or so-called ‘Rangerfuge’ episode of Ford’s ‘Science or Truck’ advertising campaign.

This dreadful embarrassment dressed superficially as science occurred when Ford decided to affix both of Iron Mike Tyson’s 300-kilo steel grey gonads to a Ranger rig mounted, creatively, on a Nutribullet.

The Nutribullet is set to ‘puree’, and Iron Mike’s twirling black nuts are in a 4.7-G tensile teste-tugging twist. It’s a novel way to proof load a chassis.

They call it science, but what did it prove?

Stuffed if I know.

It proves the facts don’t matter as long as this visuals are compelling. It proves Ford thinks Ranger buyers are somewhat retarded. It proves no technically literate people were detained in the production of this commercial. It proves you could do it a whole lot better.

This ad is in fact a travesty of scientific misrepresentation. Which is a real pity because it purports to be science, and we need better scientific literacy and more mainstream interest in science. We’ve never needed that more than we do right now.

So here it comes: the blow-by-blow on this commercial’s exhaustive science snafus. Incredibly, 96 seconds of unforgivable misrepresentation. Let’s tally up these venial science sins.

WHOLLY Gs

SIN: “Generating 4.7 Gs of opposing forces”

REALITY: A G is really not a force. It’s an acceleration. They’re pretty different things.

PUSHING WITH A CHAIN

SIN: “We tried to push and pull Ranger to its limits”

REALITY: Ahhh - slight technical issue there. Chains only ever pull. You can’t really push anything with a chain. Give it a go … they don’t work that way.

FRONT BALL CONNECTION

See image above, right: Not to nit-pick, but if you look at this video frame-by-frame, the front ball appears to be mounted to a cradle that appears to be mounted to the turntable, not the truck. It appears just to be there merely for counterbalancing effect. The truck itself appears to be bolted to the turntable. So that’s a bit visually disingenuous.

A CROWD OF LEGENDS

SIN: “Ranger's legendary towing capacity”

REALITY: If memory serves - BT-50, Landcruiser, Grand Cherokee, Patrol, Hilux, Colorado, D-MAX, Touareg and Navara also share the same towing capacity. We’re getting kinda top-heavy in the towing legend sweepstakes. Legendary actually means ‘remarkable enough to be famous’.

ENERGY VERSUS LOAD

SIN: "The 12-bolt towbar is designed to distribute energy evenly."

REALITY: Towbars actually distribute ‘load’, not energy. If we’re doing ‘actual science’ and not 'bogan science' that’s pretty much what they’re for.

 

TORSION VERSUS TENSION

SIN: “Precision crafted for optimum durability and torsional strength.”

REALITY: Without wanting to be a total pedant, we seem to have suddenly begun spruiking torsional strength. I thought this was a tensile strength gig? Anyway … just seems incongruous.

HARDNESS VERSUS STRENGTH

SIN: “Eight different kinds of steel are used. Each chosen for either its hardness or flexibility.”

REALITY: If that’s the way Ford is actually choosing steel, someone better let them know they’re doing it wrong. Hardness is reasonably irrelevant - except if you’re trying to cut it. I think they mean yield strength. That’s pretty important, structurally. And ‘flexibility’? Really? Flexibility is what they’re trying to eliminate. Rigidity is what they’re trying to achieve.

FLEXIBILITY VERSUS STIFFNESS

Instead of ‘hardness or flexibility’ they really should have run with ‘strength and stiffness’. In fact, after committing these eight sins, it wouldn’t have got any worse if they’d just rolled out the chick from the other Ford ads and just had her say ‘stiffness’, over and over, all husky, in a bikini and some Christian Louboutine pumps, for 96 seconds.

That would probably sell a shitload more Rangers.

Meanwhile, back above the belt, the real benefit of high-strength steel is actually achieving the target strength with less weight.

'Hardness' and 'flexibility' - one science sin each.

ANOTHER G-UP...

SIN: “Ranger’s smart design once again allows us to go to the next level where even 4.7 Gs of constant force isn’t enough to break it”

REALITY: Just checked: Since the last time we discussed this, nine sins ago, 4.7 Gs is STILL NOT A FRIGGING FORCE.

KNOWING YOUR LIMITS

SIN: “We tried to push and pull Ranger to its limits.”

REALITY: No, you didn’t. I just wanted to detain ourselves with this statement again, briefly. I’d suggest that Ford’s engineers know exactly how strong Ranger really is. And it’s a lot stronger than this test demonstrates. See, in a crash test, it would be common for the passenger compartment to be subject to 40Gs of acceleration. (You might think of it as deceleration; same thing - but deceleration is a bullshit concept).

That 40Gs imposes massive loads on the structure. It’s engaged briefly with maybe half the mass of the Ranger (the back half, obviously). And Ranger weighs about 2.2 tonnes - so (half of that times 40 Gs) that’s about 44 tonnes of total compressive load across the passenger compartment during the ANCAP offset frontal crash test.

Therefore, Ranger is actually about 16 times stronger than this test demonstrates. A rare case of the truth being 16 times more impressive advertising.

This is such a bullshit demonstration of alleged strength. Especially when you realise that steel is actually stronger in tension (ie here) than it is in compression (ie in a crash).

EPIC PHYSICS FAIL

And that brings us to the science sin that really does plumb the limits of gross scientific dumb-shittery. Check out the load cell - it’s visible for only a few seconds.

1400-odd kilos. That’s one 300-kilo big, black twirly gonad accelerating at 4.7 Gs. They got that number right. And here’s the central CGI display showing the alleged total load.

Two balls, equal and opposite rotating force: 1400 kilos apiece, one pulling one way and one pulling the other, equals 2800 kilos. Seems pretty cut and dried. Basic arithmetic, right?

Not so fast. You absolutely don’t get to do that. This is, like, an elementary engineering problem. 1400 kilos of load on each end. Balanced force system. What’s the tension in the chain? It’s the kind of problem they wheel out, early on in an engineering degree, to weed out all potential non-hackers of applied physics. Trust me when I say that, here, 1400 plus 1400 does not equal 2800. It never did, and it never will.

This is a classic Newton’s third law of motion problem. Let’s say you’ve got two US Marines and a big, fat rope. Each Marine pulls back on the rope. Let’s say with 50 kilos of force. The tension in the rope is the same at each point in the rope. It’s 50 kilos, not 100. The Ranger is in exactly the same tug-o-war.

1400 one way and 1400 the other is just a bigger, more dramatic, spinning, balanced force system. (It might help if you think of the Ranger and the turntable as just one really big link in a continuous chain between Iron Mike’s big, hefty balls.)

I get that, for some people, this concept is a challenge. Physics in the beer garden does tend to bend the human brain. So, maybe you’re saying ‘Yeah - I can see that.’ If so, great. But if not, you really just have to accept it, because any other assessment is simply wrong. Newton would agree. And he’s the greatest scientific genius of recorded history.

This is the core scientific truth that ‘Science of Truck’ fails to acknowledge. The expensive CGI digital display is breathtakingly wrong. But only by a factor of 100 per cent. The alleged Science of Truck advertisement adroitly shoots itself not only in the foot, but mortally wounding itself this time, by falsely claiming the Ranger withstands 2800 kilos of total tensile load, when in fact it is only subject to 1400.

I really do try to make this upbeat and, maybe not sidesplitting, but at least amusing. But I really can’t excuse this kind of thing. You - in the audience, really do deserve much better service.

This is a disgraceful and quite basic scientific travesty. There’s no excuse, especially as the core proposition of the entire advertising campaign hinges on the word ‘science’.

OVERSEEN BY EXPERTS?

SIN: And then there’s the fine print - "Test devised by Ford engineers"

REALITY: What a pity those engineers apparently never studied. None of the actual engineers I know could cock this up so badly. It’s that basic. I was a very mediocre engineer - I mean, let’s face it, I became a journalist - and it stands out like dog’s balls even to me.

THE 'NOT REALLY SCIENCE' OF TRUCK

That slogan is the icing on the cake, I guess. I really don’t think this could be less scientific if it tried. That’s an incredible 13 deadly science sins in just 96 seconds. One science sin, on average, every 7.4 seconds. I didn’t think that was humanly possible. It’s certainly an achievement. Another record for Ford, perhaps. Alongside the Pinto, and the two-star Mustang, and wasting all those taxpayer funds.

CONCLUSION

When I worked in tabloid TV, on A Current Affair, and later on Today Tonight, people used to get into us all the time for our allegedly shoddy work. And hey, none of it was a walk-up start for a Nobel Prize. But you know what?

I don’t think I ever worked on a story where the factual cock-up rate smashed the 10-second barrier. So Ford’s achievement here is pretty impressive, any way you look at it. Remarkable, only not in a good way.  

Who knows? Ford might achieve corporate communications cock-up gold in Tokyo in 2020.  Anything can happen, of course, and only time will tell, but preliminary results are looking good. Incidentally, have a guess what size bolt you need to withstand 2.8 tonnes of tensile load? Guess.

All you need is one eight-millimetre grade 8.8 high tensile bolt. That’ll do it easily. With a margin of safety. All of a sudden taking Iron Mikes balls for a spin doesn’t seem like such a super-strength achievement. I’m John Cadogan. Thanks for watching.

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