2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Ford flexes its talons
What do you do if you want to buy a truck that can work during the week, and then race on the weekend? Nothing – the option simply doesn’t exist. Until now, that is, because Ford USA has developed a truck that can do this and more, without a single modification needed. They call it the Raptor
Text: Stephen Smith
It’s been sixty years since the first Ford F-series saw the light of day on the roads of North America, and 33 years since the F-150 came to be. For those three decades the Ford F-series has been the most popular vehicle in the United States nearly every year, with annual sales peaking at almost one million.
The twelfth generation F-series truck was introduced early in 2009, while in 2010 a special edition F-150, code-named the Raptor, will go on sale, aimed at pure off-road performance.
The first whisperings of a special-edition, “halo-model” F-150 were heard in 2005, when Ford’s development planners sat down with those of SVT (Ford’s Special Vehicle Team), and started bandying ideas around. Initially there was talk of it being a “super-truck” in the mould of the F-150 Lightning, with sportscar-like on-road performance.
Thankfully the team saw sense, and set out to build the ultimate off-the-shelf off-road racer, fast enough and tough enough to compete in races like the 1000km-long Baja 1000.
Ford also has years of experience in the Baja 1000 race to draw on – 12 Ford-powered vehicles have won the overall title for four-wheel vehicles, the most of any engine manufacturer.
The team used the standard F-150 fully-boxed frame, considered to be easily strong enough to deal with the rigours of off-road racing, but that’s where similarities between the base F-150 and the Raptor end.
To set the Raptor apart from the base F-150 visually, the designers gave it a distinctive grille that has the Ford name seemingly carved into it. A bespoke front bumper, a vented bonnet, side airvents (with “SVT” incorporated into them) and visible Fox Racing Shox all add attitude, while the vehicle is also seven inches wider than the standard model.
Initially the Raptor will be available with a 5,4-litre V-8 three-valve engine, which delivers 235 kW and 530 Nm of torque. A new open-valve fuel injection strategy improves the air/fuel charge conditions in the combustion chamber, allowing greater spark advance at higher loads and engine speeds. This delivers increased power during towing and higher engine speeds, lower emissions and more efficient use of fuel.
A new 6,2-litre engine will also be available some time after launch, specially designed for reliability in tough conditions, and already undergoing severe performance and longevity tests.
Ford maintains that the performance of an off-road vehicle is not just about power, but more about suspension. With this in mind they have given the Raptor 13.4 inches of usable travel in the rear suspension and 11.2 inches in the front.
“With the F-150 SVT Raptor, we changed the axle, the whole front suspension is different – new upper A arm, new lower A arm, new tie rod, new half-shaft joints,” said Jamal Hameedi, Ford SVT chief engineer. “It’s well beyond what SVT has ever done with one of our vehicles. The suspension does all the work to keep the truck stable.”
In addition to a beefed up suspension, the F-150 SVT Raptor also boasts unique internal bypass Fox Racing Shox, the only internal bypass shocks on a street truck. The position-sensitive dampening internal bypass feature allows the shock to become significantly stiffer as it travels, preventing the truck from bottoming out.
A tough truck needs tough tyres, and SVT chose BF Goodrich All-Terrain TA/KO 315/70 R17 tyres for the job. To help improve the tyre in a variety of conditions, the compound of the tread was altered. Engineers made the rubber softer for better performance on and off-road and for precise and predictable steering in a variety of conditions, while the interior of the tyre was modified to improve lateral firmness.
The Raptor has also been given a full complement of electronic driving aids, such as traction control, hill descent control and an electronic locking differential. A sport mode (which shuts off traction control) and an off-road mode (which shuts off all stability programs, and alters the ABS) allow the driver better control over his vehicle.
“Like its fighter jet and dinosaur namesakes, the F-150 SVT Raptor is tough, fast, aggressive, and built with the off-road enthusiast in mind,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president for Global Product Development.
And from what we can see the Raptor is a phenomenal off-road vehicle, and promises to be great fun. Unfortunately, as with all the F-Series vehicles, it’s only available in left-hand drive, and that means the Raptor will join a lengthy list of exciting cars that will never make it to our shores.