Ford's Torture Test Is More Brutal Than Most Cars Can Handle


Every Ford must pass before it gets the green light.

Many sports teams have certain superstitions and rituals that they swear by before going out and winning a championship. Given that automakers compete with each other, many also have traditions that must be undertaken before a new car is given the seal of approval and launched to compete with the rest of the pack. Some rituals call back on earlier times and apply only to the high performance cars that leave the factory while others are generally applied to each car.

Ford happens to have one ritualistic test that it conducts on every car before it's approved. It calls it the pothole test, and despite the semi-innocent name, it involves torturing the car’s suspension and steering components to ensure that they don’t crack under pressure. Chief engineer of the Ford Focus RS, Tyrone Johnson, spoke with Autocar to detail just how barbarous the test is and explain how it helps modern Fords become some of the more resilient cars out there. Completing it is simple. All it takes is a prototype vehicle and a deep pothole lined with steel reinforcement. Then, a test driver with either a highly resilient spine or a good chiropractor takes the test vehicle to speeds over 50 mph and rams the wheels into the pothole.

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The poor driver completes this task a few times, and then goes on to do it a few hundred more times. At the end of the test, a Ford prototype will have gone through 560 of these harsh test runs and remain unharmed in order to pass. Johnson had a word of caution about competitor vehicles that have been put through the same test. “Let me tell you what happened to one of our competitors when we put it through the pothole test,” says Johnson. “All the suspension and steering bent, including the subframe." Even though it could use some improvement, this may be the reason that the Ford Mustang was tested as the safest muscle car out of the Detroit big three.

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