Let us paint a scenario for you. While adventuring through Moab in your new Ford Bronco, you decide to tackle Devil's Hot Tub. You expertly crawl into the pit, but as you try to climb out, there's a spine-ripping scrape from behind that crushes your heart. Your spiffy new exhaust tips just got a rock-bottom makeover, scouring the metal and possibly crimping your exhaust system. That's not good.

Admittedly, scraping exhaust tips is neither a big problem nor a big deal for folks who enjoy off-roading. That's not stopping Ford from seeking a novel solution in the form of retractable exhaust tips, outlined in excessive detail through a recent patent application to the US Patent and Trademark Office. Filed back in 2020 but published at the beginning of October 2021, the patent is titled Retractile Tail Pipe For Vehicle Exhaust System and it works pretty much just as it sounds.

A gear-driven tip slides on a series of small shafts. The tip is operated electrically, so in theory, you can parade through the mall parking lot with your shiny exhaust in full view, then pull it in for negotiating rugged trails without taking damage. If we're honest, the idea seems a bit silly since a stock exhaust pipe doesn't stick out that much anyway. And we suspect anyone finding themselves in such a situation has more important things to worry about than a scratched tip.

Gallery: 2021 Ford Bronco: First Drive

Ford emphasizes off-road use for its idea, but in reality, it could be better suited for lower-riding pickup trucks and crossovers in an urban environment. Just about everyone has encountered a steep driveway at some point, not to mention breakdowns that require a tow truck. Those are situations where exhaust tips can definitely scrape. Having a retract feature could come in handy.

As always with patent applications, there's no guarantee such a thing will progress beyond the idea. With the industry moving towards electrification where exhaust systems aren't even needed, it seems even more likely this clever idea will remain just that.

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