The first two road-going versions of the Ford F150 Raptor SVT Baja 1000 desert racer have arrived and will be used as "chase trucks" in the Targa rally series. They have been imported in left-hand drive and converted by Vehicle Development Corporation (VDC) in Melbourne.
VDC spokesman Jim Cody says pricing for the road-going version of the Baja 1000 desert racers is yet to be finalised but they will cost about $125,000.
The first two have been bought by VDC's Queensland representative, Neill Ford, and son Daniel. They will use them as support vehicles for the 2012 defence of their Targa Tasmania class trifecta in Corvette Z06 sportscars this year with Dick Johnson.
"It's like driving a lounge chair," says Daniel Ford. "It gets about 15.4 litres per 100km, depending on how you drive it, but it's got all the power you need."
The most powerful half tonner in the world is driven by a 6.2-litre V8 petrol engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It produces 306kW of power and 585Nm of of torque and has a 110-litre fuel tank.
The 3.6m pick-up can run in two-wheel drive and switch to four-wheel drive on the fly. It also has low range, hill descent and a lockable rear differential. Baja additions include BF Goodrich 315/70 R17 desert tyres, Fox twin rear racing shocks and dual exhaust pipes. However, its performance characteristics also reduce towing capacity.
"Basically a recreational vehicle," says Cody.
"We have about 15 orders and it's quite interesting because the people that are buying them use it as a work vehicle which is not quite what we expected. We thought it might appeal more to the off-road enthusiast. It will also appeal to people who want to tow a boat or race vehicle, rather than a heavy horse float."
While towing capacity is down, the job made easier with the aid of a rear camera that zooms in on the tow ball so the driver can easily line up the hitch on the screen embedded in the rearview mirror. It also includes electric trailer brakes as standard. Other features include rear sensors, electric rear sliding window, electric sunroof, six-stack CD player, Bluetooth, MP3 connectivity, four airbags, an extender tray and a fold-down step on the tailgate.
Neill Ford says supply will be difficult because the American border patrol has ordered 2600.
VDC's conversion is a professional job that looks just like the original. They use factory-style injection moulded plastic for the dashboard rather than rattly and shiny fibreglass. The only concession to left-hand-drive is that the bonnet latch is in the left foot well. It has a foot-operated parking brake in the driver's foot well.
F trucks have the highest resale value of any vehicle in Australia with some limited edition models fetching more than their original price. Ford stopped importing them in 2007. This Baja model is not the first race special produced by Ford who made a Nascar edition about 10 years ago. VDC's next big project is to import and convert even-bigger F550 pick-up trucks for use by emergency services.
"They will probably be used by rural fire brigades, but we have no orders yet," Ford says. "It's all about getting to the fire quickly carrying more water and these also have water cannon fitted to the front."
VDC was set up by Ford in 1992 and is now a separate company with a "working relationship" with Ford in Australia and America.