More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DEARBORN – A concept signaling the future of the Explorer SportTrac sport/utility truck will be among the keynotes of Ford Motor Co.’s North American International Auto Show stampede slated for next month.

The concept – which features street-rod cues such as 21-in. wheels and a 2-tone interior – is a conglomeration of “new ideas and a new attitude we’re considering for the Explorer SportTrac,” J Mays, group vice president-design, says at an auto show preview here.

The SportTrac was first launched in 2001 and is considered a segment pioneer by Ford. But company brass say they lately have heard rumblings its days are numbered and the company hopes the ’05 show stopper plugs all speculation.

Ford Explorer SportTrac concept.

A Ford spokesman says the vehicle also answers Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s Ridgeline car-based midsize pickup truck that also will debut at the Detroit show. (See related story: Honda Dubs Pickup Ridgeline)

Mays says the SportTrac concept has more presence than the version currently on sale. The cab is 5 ins. (12.7 cm) longer and the pickup box delivers an additional 8 sq.-ft. (0.7 sq.-m) of cargo room.

The concept also is equipped with a pair of goodies currently found on the Explorer: Ford’s patented Roll Stability Control and independent rear suspension.

The auto maker gives no timetable for the second-generation SportTrac’s production debut.

jstoll@primediabusiness.com