When Ford introduced the SVT Raptor in 2010, its second truck to roll out of its high-performance development team, they took a decidedly different approach to high-performance than they did with the SVT Lightning.
While the Lightning focused on straight-line street performance, the Raptor was conceived with legitimate off-road prowess in mind. The Special Vehicles Team (SVT) nabbed a 6.2-liter V8 and a six-speed automatic gearbox from the Super Duty parts bin, and then matched it up with a long travel suspension system and bulging bodywork to accommodate the upgraded all-terrain rubber. As quick as you could say “prerunner,” the Raptor immediately had made a name for itself in off-road enthusiast circles.
Yet all that hotness came with a steep price tag that limited its accessibility – particularly for folks who were looking to do some real off-roading with it. “I’m a Ford guy and I love the Raptors, but they are pretty pricey,” said Jeff Young. “So with this project, the plan was to build something better than the Raptor for less money.”
We came across Young’s Sterling Gray Metallic 2013 F-150 Platinum 4×4 SuperCrew at this year’s Mint 400 in Las Vegas. Originally conceived in 1967 as a promotional event for the Mint Hotel’s annual deer hunt, the race quickly evolved into a serious off-road competition. The epic endurance event spans several hundred miles, and with national media coverage of the inaugural event, it quickly caught the attention of enthusiasts and race teams across the country.
With this project, the plan was to build something better than the Raptor for less money. – Jeff Young, owner
Almost 50 years after the first race, the Mint 400 is now considered one of the most demanding desert events on the race calendar each season. Off-road racing icons like Mickey Thompson, Ivan Stewart, and Jack Flannery have competed in the race previously, as well as Hollywood celebrities and icons from various motorsport disciplines, including Indianapolis 500 winners Parnelli Jones, Al Unser, and Robby Gordon.
Finding Jeff at the Mint 400 comes as little surprise, as his passion for off-roading started at an early age. “When I was a kid in the ’70s, my family took me to see a little movie called ‘On Any Sunday,'” he explained. “Not long after that, we were on our way to Baja with some used motorcycles and an RV. My first car was a ’67 Baja Bug, which was a lot of fun, but I was always working on it. Through the ’80s, I worked as a volunteer on the pit crew for Team McPherson Chevrolet, and that enabled me to experience off-road and racing from a different perspective.”
After moving to North Carolina, and taking some time off from desert excursions, Jeff says he just couldn’t shake the bug. “I’d bought a Hummer H1 and did a lot of trail rides and rockcrawling through the South, but it just wasn’t the same satisfaction as the open desert. When I moved back to California six years ago, I noticed my daily driver was starting to show its age,so I started looking around for something newer to replace it with. I am 6 feet 4 inches tall, and weight 350 pounds, so finding something I could comfortably fit in was obviously important. I wanted something that was plush as well, but also capable of not only getting me out to those hard to reach places to view races, but to chase with if I decided to get back into that, too.”
The expense of the Raptor kept Jeff out of Ford showrooms, but that didn’t mean a beefed-up F-150 was off the table, so he decided to go a DIY route to get the Raptor’s capability. “I got this F-150 at auction with a salvage title as the basis for the project. It was fully loaded with every option, including the 3.5L twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 motor with only 31,000 miles on it,” he said. “The truck was hit in the right front end with minimum damage to the structure, and I wasn’t worried about body components since they were going to be replaced with fiberglass anyway.”
Working together with fabricator and high school buddy Grant Simpson, Jeff set to work turning the F-150 into a Raptor killer, attacking the bodywork first. “We started by fitting the fiberglass body panels. After that, we moved on to the suspension installation, and from there, bumpers and tire rack. The sequence was mainly due to what parts we had on hand at the time,” he explained.
Like most builds, Jeff learned a few lessons along the way. “If I could do it over again I would have spent the extra money and gotten the factory Raptor grill,” he said. Of course like any project, the process is on-going – at least from a conceptual standpoint.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that really bring it all together. “Grant was able to incorporate the backup sensors into the rear bumper he built, which I thought was pretty cool.”
“Eventually, I would like to fully cage it, and maybe do a linked rear suspension,” Jeff says, but also admits that he’s happy with it as is. “It’s all pretty awesome the way it came together, but the hinged front end might be my favorite part – that took an impressive amount of engineering to get right.”