Dream of a Lifetime: Ford Super Duty development engineer Harry Rawlins is right where he always wanted to be
Harry Erle Rawlins IV is one of those people who have made their dreams come true. Rawlins is an integral part of the Ford Super Duty engineering and development team, something he’s wanted to be part of since he was a young boy growing up on a ranch outside Amarillo, Texas.
“My first Ford was an old Fordson tractor,” says Rawlins. “We had a brush hog on it to clean out the area behind the barn and a grader on the back to maintain the roads when the rains washed them out.”
When Rawlins got his driver’s license at 16, he inherited his mother’s 5-year-old, 1981 Ford Bronco. That vehicle, he says, ignited his passion for 4×4 Ford trucks.
“I drove that Bronco pretty hard during high school,” Rawlins laughs. “Flew it a few times.”
The Bronco gave way to something “more practical” as Rawlins went off to college. “It was a sad day when I had to sell that vehicle,” he says.
Rawlins earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University and was the first student enrolled in the postgraduate Advanced Vehicle Engineering program, where he received his master’s degree in 15 months.
Halfway through his graduate program, Rawlins took the next step toward making his dream of working for Ford Motor Company come true: scheduling an interview with the automaker in Dearborn, Mich. Rawlins was offered the job before his plane even landed back in Texas.
He accepted immediately.
Nearly seven years later, Rawlins is right where he wants to be. As the 4×4 and Trailer Tow engineer for Super Duty trucks, he has been influential in bringing several technical innovations to Ford’s Super Duty lineup.
Rawlins has used his expertise to lead the development and implementation of tow-haul technology in the Super Duty pickup. As the point man, he brought together the transmission, electrical, shift lever and program teams to smoothly integrate the technology into the vehicle.
Rawlins also used his towing knowledge to fine-tune Ford’s TowCommand, the industry’s only integrated trailer brake control system, currently available on the F-Series Super Duty.
When he’s not on the job, Rawlins can be found enjoying his other passion, his 1973 Ford Bronco.
Rawlins bought the vintage Bronco as soon as he landed at Ford and used it as his daily driver for the first couple of years. When he added a 2002 F-Series Super Duty to his stable, the Bronco morphed into a four-wheeling, rock-climbing, trail vehicle.
The modified Bronco is fitted with Detroit Locker differentials, front and rear, and deeper gears in the transfer case. The 2-inch body lift and 3½-inch suspension lift, with extended radius arms, help it easily clear the 36-inch Super Swamper tires.
Rawlins cut the rockers off, added a custom tire carrier out back and a custom-built front bumper that houses a Warn 8275-50 winch that has seen plenty of use.
“I pulled the top off and realized that it was never going back on,” says Rawlins. “Now it’s got a six-point roll cage with a bikini top on it.” The original 302 V-8 was swapped out for a 351 Windsor from a 1979 F-250. Rawlins doesn’t know the big V-8’s horsepower number.
“The kind of off-roading that I do isn’t about horsepower; it’s about lots of low-end, sustainable torque,” says Rawlins. “I don’t care much about horsepower. If you’re going too fast or rev at too high an RPM, it usually ends pretty badly with a loud snap or something like that.”
Rawlins has just given the Bronco a fresh coat of white paint, readying it for a road trip this summer to several of the major 40th anniversary Ford Bronco events across the country.
Rawlins will head to Texas in early May to pick up one of the Broncos owned by rocker and rabid outdoorsman Ted Nugent. Then Rawlins will haul the Nuge’s Bronco and his own Bronco behind his F-250 Super Duty to the West Coast Bronco anniversary event in Victorville, Calif. His next stop will be Moab, Utah, before heading back to Detroit for a few days and then on to Carlisle, Penn., for the East Coast celebration. Then it’s back to work developing the next Super Duty.
“This is a dream come true,” says Rawlins. “I’m a lifer. I love working on Super Duty. I feel that I can relate to the Super Duty customer, coming from a ranch in Texas, where people depend their livelihood on their trucks.”
Though Rawlins dreams of someday owning another 1981 Bronco, his next project is his 2002 Super Duty, his current daily driver and the tow vehicle for his 1973 Bronco. He special-ordered his F-250 SRW with a Triton® V-10, a manual transmission and 4:30 gears, knowing that in five or 10 years, when he adds a new F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab Diesel, the F-250 will become his secondary off-road vehicle.