Caught: Current Generation 'Raptor' Ford F-150?
By: Mike Levine Posted: 02-12-08 19:10 PT
© 2008

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Update #3: 02-14-08 15:09 PT

New Raptor photos!

Sean Holman at Four Wheeler, who broke the story of the Raptor, and I have banged heads together. Here's our latest conjecture.

Sean has published his take on Four Wheeler's blog.

What we're seeing is a second, or third, test truck (top picture - maybe driving away from the grassy knoll?). It's not the black mule.

It looks like it's a 'franken-mule', cobbled together with body parts from the new 2009 F-150 and 2004-2008 model. We suspect the front clip is 2009. The rearview mirrors look to be pre-production '09 mirrors. The interior, with its rounded cowl over the instrument panel, looks to be 2008 vintage. The 2009 dashboard top is flatter. The taillights seem to be 2008 model year - they don't have the bolder two lens design used on the 2009 F-150.

Here's where it gets interesting.

In one of the photos showing the interior there's a label that clearly says "PREMIUM FUEL ONLY" over the instrument panel. Ford's current, naturally aspirated V8 engines don't require premium fuel. The hoodline on the 2009 F-150 has been raised. We think it's to accommodate the rumored BOSS/EcoBoost twin turbo GDI V8. If that engine was to be tuned for high performance off-roading, it would make sense to only run the motor on high octane gasoline.

Even under all the cammo the air intake in the bottom bumper appears larger than intakes seen on other 2009 F-150s. The F-150s shown at the Detroit auto show had rectangular openings, while this one seems to have an opening shaped like a smile. This could be another indication there's a turbocharged BOSS V8 hiding under the hood requiring extra airflow to an intercooler, to decrease air intake temps. It looks like there are cooling vents on top of the hood, too.

There's also interesting twin-tailpipes sticking out the back. The last F-150 we saw similar pipes on was the Ford Project FX2 - another performance oriented Ford pickup. And there are twin rear tow hooks, like the old Ford Ranger FX4 Level II extreme factory off-roader.

We still don't have a good shot of the suspension components and running gear, but we were able to read the tires this time. They're Toyo All Terrain Open Country LT325/70R17s, which translates to really tough 35x12.50-inch rubber mounted on 17-inch rims. Perfect for bombing across the desert.

Stay tuned!

Update #2: 02-14-08 13:49 PT

As promised - our good buddies over at 4Wheel & Off Road Magazine have something to say about the stickers on the black mule.

Our take: A good idea that's taking its time to come together. And things tend to change over time.

Update #1: 02-13-08 23:08 PT

Pictures of this black truck have caused many in the spy community to dig back through their archives. Here's the same mule caught testing on the track (in a picture taken from a public vantage point on Oakwood Blvd we're explicitly told) at Ford's Dearborn Test Facility back in August 2007. At the time, the photographer thought it was just a cool toy belonging to one of the engineers.

Looks like I was wrong about the stickers being applied 10 minutes before the black truck left the fenced confines of Ford's test track, yesterday.

However, this new (old) picture seems to certainly confirm we're looking at two different trucks in the photos on this page. A black mule, seen in August 2007 and yesterday, and the camouflaged truck caught between those two dates, last fall, with a different rear window and no stickers.

We're expecting to hear more about the black truck's stickers and history from another online source on Thursday. The cammo truck is still a mystery.

One truck, a project. Two trucks, a program? Stay tuned.

Fresh from the arctic climes of Dearborn, MI come these hot photos of what might be the rumored future 'Project Raptor' Ford F-150. However, this truck is a current-generation F-150 and not a new 2009 model year pickup.

So what's the story?

Last week we received a picture of a similar truck in full cammo. From the background of that photo (immediately below), it was taken sometime last fall.

Here's what makes these new pictures so interesting.

They were taken in the past 24 hours outside Ford's Dearborn Test Facility (the fence and red brick buildings, below, are recognizable) and now the truck is totally bare, revealing it to be a 2008, or earlier, F-150. You'd think, and so would we, that the Raptor would wear 2009 model year sheetmetal.

These are probably early Raptor mules built using a mix and match of old and new parts. We're saying mules (plural) because it's very likely *not the same truck* in these photos. The back window of the F-150 in the fall season picture (immediately above) has no slider like the black truck does (immediately below). But the wheel cuts and wheels look identical.

The F-150 engineering team might have gotten an itch to create a single off-road 'toy', based on the last generation F-150. But two? Not likely, unless there was a formal program of some kind in place for an off-road F-150. Like, say, 'Raptor'?

You can also see two other 'mods'. The manufacturer plate is missing, even though this is next to Ford's Dearborn facility, and someone has gotten very excited about pasting certain stickers all over the back window and bumpers.

Remember, in Four Wheeler's earlier scoop on the Raptor F-150, Fox Suspensions was strongly rumored to be involved. Now we see blue and yellow Bilstein Shocks and red Eibach Springs stickers, along with a very specific 'Petersen's 4Wheel & Off Road' bumper sticker - a competitor on the magazine rack to Four Wheeler. The stickers also look like they were applied 10 minutes before the truck exited the gate for street conditions as icy and wet as those.

A sharp-eyed reader at Autoblog also spotted a test vehicle 'red kill button' mounted on the cowl above the instrument panel - a sure sign this is a test truck and not some Michigan resident's radical project truck.

We speculate this truck is driving around immediately outside Ford's test center for a reason. Ford could be trying to send a message using a current F-150 to make a next-generation Raptor appear to be an extra-urban legend. Then again, maybe it's not.

Stay tuned.

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