Ford Wants Retractable Tailpipes in Trucks for Better Off-Roading

Ford seems to think a telescoping tailpipe is one way to achieve a more aggressive departure angle.

byPeter Holderith| UPDATED Oct 20, 2021 8:20 AM
Ford Wants Retractable Tailpipes in Trucks for Better Off-Roading

Ford is going after the off-road market in a serious way. It has, of course, launched the Bronco, its ultra-popular retro-styled Jeep Wrangler competitor. It's also released off-road-focused versions of other models like the Explorer Timberline, F-150 Tremor, and of course, the new F-150 Raptor. According to patent documents by the automaker, however, there's one detail that's keeping these vehicles from achieving their true potential: departure angle. 

As such, the Dearborn auto giant has decided to secure a patent on a device to address part of this issue, as CarBuzz first spotted. In some models, the exhaust tip can be the limiting factor when it comes to departure angle. When climbing obstacles or tackling trails, they can often get bashed up, making them look bad. This can also make some customers wonder if the off-roader they bought is really capable of what the manufacturer claims. The solution? A retractable tailpipe. Seems simple enough.

Ford filed a patent for such a device back in April of 2020, but it was finally published a little over a week ago on Oct. 7. The patent describes a system of linear bearings connected from the vehicle's fixed exhaust system to the movable tailpipe. One of these bearings is combined with an electrically driven gear. Basically, in an off-road situation, a tiny rack and pinion would pull the exhaust tip in. When the vehicle returned to the road, it would push it back out.

According to the patent description, this sort of system would allow for the tailpipe to be tucked away as far as five inches. The patent also claims that it could be used on a variety of vehicles, with the patent specifically mentioning "pickup trucks, SUVs, vans, sedans, [hatchbacks], [coupes], and so on." The system wouldn't likely be able to detect when an off-road situation was entered, and as such it's stated that the tailpipe would retract when an off-road mode was selected within the vehicle.

Questioning the real need for such a device, we should consider how important automotive designers consider tailpipes these days. Sure, designing shorter tailpipes and skipping the extra mechanism might come to mind, but we should remember that the aesthetics of shiny exhaust tips on expensive trucks are very important. Just making a shorter tip that you can't really see may not be an acceptable solution to a customer looking to buy a big, luxurious truck.

As an example, Ford already has strange fake exhaust tips on the Explorer ST that are designed to maintain the aesthetic of a nice chrome tip, but actually vent the exhaust downwards. Fake exhaust tips have also spread through the lineup of Volkswagen and by extension, Audi. People like looking at chrome tips, but they don't like cleaning them or, in the case of an off-roader, smashing them on things. 


And let's be real, a telescoping exhaust pipe would be at the very least a nice party piece, even if it seems like it may endure lots of torture due to being constantly heat cycled. In any case, let's wait and see if this particular feature actually makes it into production. Maybe an upcoming F-150 might be equipped with these fancy exhaust tips.

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