Tom Wilson
November 24, 2008
Twenty minutes after the finish it was still a mob scene around the Raptor R as film crews scrambled and spectators checked out the new Ford truck. Leaning on the front fender with sunglasses is Jamal Hameedi, SVT chief engineer and the technical boss of the Raptor program.

Ford SVT no more introduced the exciting F-150 Raptor Pre-Runner-style production truck than an R version of the Raptor finished third in class in one of the most grueling Baja 1000s in memory.

The remarkable feat was orchestrated by Ford Racing and Ford SVT working with Foutz Motorsports. It apparently marks the first time a pre-production Ford truck has tackled Baja, and is a welcome spot of factory involvement not seen since the halcyon Rough Riders program of the 1990s.

The single Raptor R served many roles in its Baja debut. At its most basic, it was the ultimate engineering development drive for the F-150 SVT Raptor going on-sale this summer. The R is a lightly modified version of the production Raptor, differing mainly in the substitution of sophisticated racing shocks and springs, plus the necessary safety gear and off-road racing modifications such as a deleted windshield, roll cage, gutted spaces for accommodating full-size spare tires, and enough lighting for a night ball game.

The Raptor R's transmission, axles and brakes are stock Ford SVT. So is the stock production F-150 frame, although it benefits from the rollcage reinforcement. The engine is a "specially calibrated" 500 hp version of the upcoming 6.2-liter V-8 F-150 engine, but is considered essentially stock by Ford insiders.

Many of the R-specific parts were not only designed for Baja, but also for the Ford Racing catalog. In this respect, those Ford Racing parts are definitely Baja-proven, and the 1000 served as their development drive.

The Raptor R competed in Class 8, for moderately modified full-size pickups; its improvements were quite limited by Class 8 standards, making its third place finish more remarkable. Only minor difficulties were encountered, such as a flat tire and a broken leaf spring eye (in an aftermarket spring, as Ford was quick to point out). All Raptor parts, including the new engine, ran without issue.

Finally, rumors circulating at the race have Ford SVT producing a limited production run of Raptor R's for sale as finished trucks for those wanting to compete or just desiring the ultimate factory off-road truck. These sound like the usual trial balloons Ford likes to send out to gauge reaction, so if you're interested in one of maybe 50 Raptor R's, definitely give Ford SVT a shout. They won't be cheap--think close to $100,000--but they will be Baja-proven.