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Ford trucks of future passed

  • c502-pickup-660.jpg

     (Ford)

  • atlas-hero-660.jpg

    Ford Atlas Concept (Ford)

  • C502-van-660.jpg

     (Ford)

  • 1961-econoline.jpg

    1961 Ford Econoline (Ford)

Now that the sixth generation Ford Mustang has been revealed, the worst kept secret in Detroit is that there’s a new F-150 on the way, too.

Ford won’t talk about it, but the 13th-generation pickup is expected to make its debut at the North American International Auto Show in January and hit the road later in 2014.

It’s rumored to be the most cutting-edge version of the F-Series yet, offering a selection of turbocharged engines, an extensive use of aluminum in its construction, and possibly a 10-speed transmission at some point in its lifecycle, all in the name of fuel economy.

What’s more certain is that its look will be inspired by the Ford Atlas concept that was unveiled at the 2013 NAIAS. It’s a bold design filled with modern touches, but not exactly what you’d describe as a work of futurism.

Sixty years ago, things were different.

Back in 1953, Ford’s designers sketched a couple of proposals that were straight out of the atomic age, and were recently dug out of the archives for FoxNews.com.

The first is of a stepside pickup appropriately hard at work at the observation bunker of a ballistic missile launch pad. It features a half-cabover layout similar to a 1970’s Econoline van, its blunt nose complimented by square yet smooth bodywork, with large radius curves and flush door handles. Those air in the front fenders? Who knows where they led, but they’d show up again on the 1965 Mustang.

It was a vast departure from the production truck of the day, to be sure, although the third generation model that arrived in 1957 did retain its forward-leaning rear roof pillar and was the first F-Series to integrate the hood and fenders, and use a clamshell hood.

What’s more interesting today, however, is its front-end style. While the grille and lighting arrangement is similar to the 1953 F-Series, it’s surrounded by a large hexagonal enclosure that’s the spitting image of Ford’s current family face -- especially that new Mustang's -- and a slightly eerie premonition of the Atlas’ design.

Even more frightening, however, is a proposal for a van also created in 1953. The hearse-like profile and protruding, vampire-fang headlights giving it a dark and dreary demeanor enhanced by the desolate setting of the sketch.

It’s little surprise that this one didn’t make it off the drawing board, but while the circular door handles and (how about that) side air intakes never saw production, that forward-canted B-pillar and snazzy flares on the wheel arches did show up on the first Econoline in 1961, as did a split grille and headlight design that could be the sort of hazy reflection of the concept that a prince of darkness might cast.

Hopefully for the sake of the Atlas' designers, 13 turns out to be a lucky number.