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Ford has given its strongest hint yet that it wants to squeeze a V8 under the bonnet of the recently revealed next-generation Ranger ute.
Two of the Blue Oval’s most senior executives - Trevor Worthington, the company’s vice-president of global product development, and Mark Rushbook, Ford Performance motorsports global director - have spoken publicly about their desire to create the ultimate version of the Ranger Raptor.
The key to the possible creation of a potential Ranger Raptor R is the success of the Ford Bronco Desert Racer, a turn-key customer racing version of the reborn SUV that has been designed to take on the likes of the Baja 1000.
The Bronco DR is powered by a racing-specification ‘Coyote’ 5.0-litre V8, features specific off-road suspension and will be built by Canadian engineering and racing specialists, Multimatic; the company behind the Ford GT project.
Mr Worthington, a former Ford Australia engineer who was involved in the development of the BA Falcon and Territory, acknowledged the potential for a Ranger Raptor built in the same spirit as the Bronco DR.
“Twenty-five million people in the country the size of Australia, lots of desert, lots of places to have fun,” he said.
Mr Worthington added: “There is a lot of that Bronco DR that is standard Bronco, and the underpinning of the standard Bronco and the underpinnings of the Ranger we’re just in the process of releasing is the same architecture.
“It’s developed by our team in Melbourne. So, there’s a lot of opportunity.”
Mr Rushbrook simply nodded when asked if he felt a V8-powered Ranger would appeal to the local market, where it would go tyre to tyre with the upcoming Toyota GR HiLux and current Volkswagen Amarok V6.
The Ford Performance boss, who was in Australia for the unveiling of the Gen3 Ford Mustang V8 Supercar at Bathurst, said there is a lot of crossover potential between the Bronco DR and a possible Raptor R – or whichever nameplate it carries.
“There would be a lot that would transfer,” Mr Rushbrook said, when asked how much of the mechanical components of the Bronco DR would fit on the Ranger platform.
However, while the pair were happy to discuss the possibility of a V8-powered, desert-racing-capable Ranger, neither confirmed that such a project has been given the green light.
Importantly, though, Mr Worthington is confident there is a market for such a car in Australia, even if it costs more than the current $75k Ranger Raptor.
“No, I don’t think there’s a cap [on price],” he said, when asked if there is an upper limit to what Australians will pay for utes.
“But at the end of the day, it’s got to be sensible and work for the business. I’d love to think we could do something like that. No plans at the moment, but we want to work on it.”
While never confirmed officially, Ford Australia is believed to have extensively evaluated the possibility of creating a V8-powered version of the outgoing Ranger Raptor. Premcar, the company previously responsible for Ford Performance Vehicles, and Herrod Performance were both linked to the V8 Raptor project.
This also follows the recent revelation from Walkinshaw Group that Holden Special Vehicles built a prototype Holden Colorado powered by a 6.2-litre V8 taken from a Chevrolet Camaro. However, the project was abandoned when General Motors shuttered Holden.