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Bad Boys and Bad Calls
February 15, 2005, by Bill Cawthon
Spielwarenmesse, the International Toy Fair in Nürnberg, Germany, is still in full swing as I write this, but it will close on the day this column appears. Since I will be heading up to the Big Apple for the New York International Toy Fair, I will devote the end-of-the-month column to a report on both, as there is much to tell.
This time, the topic is a bit closer to home. My home, that is.
Texas seems to be the place to be for more and more over-the-top trucks. It's the full-size pickup capital of the nation, home to a GM light truck plant and the future home of the factory that will build Toyota's bigger Tundra. However, even the big Ford F-350 Super Duty or upcoming Dodge 3500 Mega Cab don't seem to be enough.
Last September, I told you about the International CXT, a medium-duty crew dump truck that had been converted to a pickup with the help of a Ford-supplied bed. Built in Garland, Texas, up near Dallas, the CXT is the world's largest production pickup. When it was first announced, International hoped to sell 60 of the giant trucks in the first year, but the company has been overwhelmed by interest in the CXT. So now, International is adding the RXT, a smaller version of the CXT built on a tow truck chassis, and plans to add two more "XT" models to the line.
As if that wasn't enough, now there's another player that hopes to combine the testosterone-loaded appeal of the CXT with the military heritage of the Hummer H1.
About 150 miles northeast of Houston, Texas is the town of Newton. It's the county seat of Newton County, which is the easternmost county in Texas. Newton is a small town nestled in the Big Thicket with a 2,015 residents, according to the 2000 Census. The town's major employers are the Kirby Lumber plywood mill, a medium-security prison, and Brookshire Brothers grocery store. It's also the home of the latest outrageous truck.
Last month, Homeland Defense Vehicles of Newton, Texas, announced it would offer the "Bad Boy Heavy Muscle Truck," a civilianized version of the M1080A1 and the M1092AI medium tactical trucks built for the U.S. Army by Stewart & Stevenson in Sealy, which is about 50 miles west of Houston.
You might be surprised to learn what one would expect to be an all-American truck actually has its roots in Austria. Back in the 1980s, when the U.S. Army was working on a specification for a new truck to replace the aging M35, Austrian truck maker Steyr began working on a new platform based on its 12M18, a truck originally developed for the Austrian Bundesheer. The 12M18 is also used by military forces in Canada, Kuwait, Pakistan and Thailand. When the Army released its specifications for a family of medium tactical vehicles (FMTV) in 1988, Steyr linked up with Houston-based Stewart & Stevenson and sent several prototype vehicles to the U.S. over the next two years. In October 1991, Steyr and Stewart & Stevenson won the bid. The first truck rolled off the Sealy assembly line in June 1993. In 1996, the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps became the first unit to be equipped with the FMTV.
While the base 2.5-ton Bad Boy is eight inches shorter than the CXT, it beats it in height by four inches, standing nearly ten feet tall. It also has more horsepower, with 275 compared to the CXT's 220. At 13,274 pounds, the Bad Boy is lighter than the CXT, but only by about 1200 pounds. If those deficits bother you, opt for the 5-ton Bad Boy, which is also longer and heavier than the CXT. The 5-ton Bad Boy is 22 feet, 9 inches long and tips the scales at nearly 8.5 tons.
Like the CXT and Hummer, the Bad Boy HMT is a luxury conversion of a utilitarian truck. Instead of the spartan military interior, there's a fully-lined and padded cockpit with three Edelman black-leather Weiland Impreza seats, Pioneer DVD, MP3, SVCD, CD player, with motorized flip out LCD Screen, Kyocera satellite phone, XM satellite radio GPS system and a 2400-watt inverter with interior and exterior outlets. Exterior niceties include a remote-control 72,000 candlepower spotlight, chromed bumper and trim and custom-made, polished aluminum wheels. There are even chrome roof rails to protect the satellite communications systems.
In case you don't mind risking the chrome and leather to the elements, the Bad Boy is ready to go offroading. There's 22 inches of ground clearance, six more than a Hummer H1, and the Bad Boy can ford water up to five feet deep. Like the Hummer, the Bad Boy can handle a 60-percent grade. The truck comes equipped with a central tire inflation system that allows the driver to adjust pressure for road, in mud or snow.
Of course, a truck from a company called "Homeland Defense Vehicles" should do more than just carry the owner in high style to his hunting lease or fishing spot, it should offer the ultimate in security. The Bad Boy Heavy Muscle Truck does not disappoint. In addition to a keypad-operated safe mounted in the cab, the Bad Boy is probably the only civilian vehicle sold in the United States that offers protection from nuclear radiation, biological contaminants and chemical agents, known in the trade as NBC, as a factory-installed option. The NBC system includes a cab pressurization system to keep out any nasty stuff that might come your way. And no worries about getting a flat on the way to your bunker, the inflation system mentioned above can keep the tires inflated even if one has a quarter-sized hole in the sidewall.
For those special nighttime jaunts, there's a grille-mounted infrared illumination system with Starlight third-generation night-vision goggles. Forget about the game warden; your days of spotlighting deer are over.
By the way, the all this protection and stealth might come in handy because, other than a scooter or riding mower, you're not going to outrun anything equipped with an internal combustion engine. The Bad Boy tops out at 72 miles per hour.
Of course, all of this doesn't come cheap. The basic Bad Boy will set you back about $200,000, and if you want the full-tilt 5-ton model with night vision and the NBC package, plan on dropping a cool three-quarters of a million dollars (U.S.). Then there's the Bad Boy's appetite for diesel, which is estimated to be somewhat less than seven miles per gallon or about thirty cents a mile at current U.S. average pump price. I guess if you can come up with the price of the truck, a mere $4,400 in annual average fuel costs is no big deal.
If this sounds the like ride you've been dreaming of, get your order in soon. Homeland Defense Vehicles plans to produce only about 50 Bad Boys in 2005 and there's a six-week wait for the truck to be delivered from Stewart and Stevenson and go through the full conversion process.
On the other hand, you can save a lot of money by building your own Bad Boy in 1/87 scale. Trident model no. 90244 is a M1080 with a flatbed. If you also get Trident no. 90086, the M1078, you can swap cargo beds with the M1080 and have a Bad Boy ready for painting. Of course, you'll need to remove the hatch cover. Neither the military version's commander's hatch nor the machine gun mounting ring are offered on the full-size Bad Boy, which is kind of disappointing, considering the name.
Speaking of disappointments, DaimlerChrysler today unveiled the production version of the new B-Class, which will be officially presented at the Geneva Auto Show. The new car, which is essentially a larger version of the A-Class, is not the disappointment; it looks very nice (a promotional model in 1:87 scale should be appearing soon). What is disappointing is DaimlerChrysler's decision not to offer the car in the United States, although the company will sell the car in Canada and Mexico.
Considering that DaimlerChrysler developed the B-Class for the U.S. market, this sounds like a bad call on the part of DaimlerChrysler management. The company blames the drop in value of the dollar for the decision, but one can't help but wonder where the firm's top executives were while they were pouring millions of euros into developing the B-Class. After all, the dollar has been declining against the euro for a couple of years now and DaimlerChrysler made its decision just before the B-Class was to be displayed at last month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
What is most interesting is that DaimlerChrysler decided to develop the B-Class instead of simply exporting the popular A-Class. DaimlerChrysler management has been waffling on whether the A-Class would be coming to the U.S. since the car was unveiled in 1997, but ultimately decided it wasn't big enough for American tastes. So they developed the B-Class. This is the same thing they did with the Smart when the larger Forfour was being developed, also supposedly for the U.S. market. The Forfour was introduced and Jürgen Hubbert said DaimlerChrysler couldn't introduce Smart to the U.S. until there was an SUV. So more millions were dumped on the development of the Formore, which has now been shelved. And DaimlerChrysler is coming under heavy fire because they still can't move enough Smart cars to make the operation profitable.
In calendar year 2004 Mercedes sold 13,259 vehicles in Canada. In the same period, they sold 221,610 vehicles in the U.S., equal to almost a sixth of the entire light vehicle market in Mexico.
So we have probably several hundred million euros spent on developing two vehicles for the U.S. market, DaimlerChrysler has no U.S. sales to show for it and profits at the flagship Mercedes Group (which includes Smart) have taken a major hit. All because DaimlerChrysler doesn't think Americans will buy small cars.
In the meantime, BMW has sold tens of thousands of Minis, Toyota has had a very successful launch of its Scion and ZAP out in California has rolled up $55 million in dealer orders in just a couple of months for its Americanized Smart Fortwo, the car DaimlerChrysler said couldn't meet U.S. government standards.
Sounds to me like the honchos in Stuttgart don't really know the American auto market nearly as well as they think, and it definitely sounds like a few should have been handed their gold watches and hustled off to Happy Acres a while back.
In 1994, the Farrelly brothers produced the popular movie "Dumb and Dumber" with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels playing the intellectually challenged protagonists. Perhaps the Farrellys could make another sequel, called "Jürgen & Jürgen," with Messrs. Carrey and Daniels reprising their characters in the roles of two clueless executives at a German auto company, which they perhaps could call "DumblerChrysler." Should be good for a laugh: unless you're a DCAG stockholder.
See you next time!
- Bill Cawthon
Bill Cawthon is a modeler and collector. His primary hobby interests are vehicle models in 1:87 and 1:160 scales and model railroading. He is senior editor of Route 1-87, the magazine of the 1/87 Vehicle Club, and a columnist and product reviewer for Model Railroad News. He is one of the creators of the award-winning "Grimy Gulch" model railroad layout.
In real life, Bill is a marketing and public relations consultant for MARK III Systems, a successful information technology company. He also writes for just-auto.com, an international auto industry publication, reporting on the U.S. light vehicle industry.
He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife, Marge, and their children.
Bill's columns appear twice monthly on Promotex Online. To learn more about him, click here.
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