Ford Motor Company’s support of the annual ‘AirVenture’ airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, may seem an unusual one, as the worlds of modern aircraft and automobiles hardly seem compatible. Despite this, the association between Ford and the US airshow goes back more than a decade, with the carmaker also supporting the ‘Gathering of Eagles’ element of the show, which is part of a broader Young Eagles program run by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) with the aim of getting young people interested in flying.
Since 2008, Ford has created a concept vehicle with an aviation theme for the EAA to auction off as a fundraiser for the EAA, with past creations raising as much as US$500,000. Until now, the one-offs have always been based on the Mustang muscle car, with past creations inspired by the likes of the Thunderbirds and Blue Angles aerial display teams, the ‘Tuskegee Airmen’ African American pilots of World War II and the Cold War-era Lockheed SR71 Blackbird spy plane. This year, Ford broke with tradition and chose an F-150 as the basis for their EAA vehicle. Inspiration for the customisation of the giveaway vehicle came from the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor; a single-seat fighter which at one point was under consideration for use by the Royal Australian Air Force. Australia instead went for Lockheed Martin’s newer F-35 Lightning II (aka the Joint Strike Fighter).
Coincidentally, the F-35 served as the basis for the custom Ford Mustang built for the 2014 EAA Gathering of Eagles. So, why a pickup instead of a Mustang? Well, the immediate synergy is that the F-22 and a variant of the F-150 both share the ‘Raptor’ name, but with the latest version of the F-150 Raptor being the lightest and fastest F-150 ever (thanks to the aluminium architecture on the MY17 version), it perhaps served as a more potent link to the fighter jet that’s capable of Mach 2.25. Ford says the concept “combines the best attributes of the world’s finest high-performance machines for air and ground.”
Making It Real
The ‘F-22 F-150 Raptor’ started with Ford design manager Melvin Betancourt, who, along with representatives from Ford Performance, led the design and engineering of the concept. "Few things are as streamlined, as gloriously intimidating as the shape, metallic color and sinister speed a fighter jet represents," said Betancourt. "The simple, extreme functionality of the cockpit alone proved inspiring, prompting the team to create matte finishes, purposeful gauges, controls for ready proximity and dramatic LED lighting for the instrument panel."
While Ford’s interior design team were also involved in the project, the actual build was entrusted to DeBerti Design in California. Last year, DeBerti Design unveiled a Raptor-based ‘Pre Runner’ at the SEMA automotive aftermarket show and many of the elements from that creation can be seen in the F-22 F-150 Raptor.
In standard trim, the current F-150 Raptor delivers 450hp and 510lb/ft (335kW and 691Nm) from the 3.5-litre twin turbo EcoBoost V6 engine. To this, Ford and DeBerti Design strapped on a Whipple intercooler and dialled up the boost pressure; the result is now 545hp and 660lb/ft (406kW and 895Nm). The engine was also fitted with a fully stainless steel cat-back exhaust from Borla, with carbon fibre tips. The Raptor’s new-for-2017 10-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive system were unaltered for the concept, but the factory suspension was traded for a modified spring, shock and bump stop kit from Addictive Desert Design at the front, a Deaver spring pack at the rear and upgraded versions of the factory-fitted Fox bypass series shocks. With adjustable compression and rebound, Ford says these shocks are ideal for both on-road and off-road use. The stock braking system was upgraded with larger discs, more powerful Alcon six-piston calipers and high-friction brake pads. Wheels are Innov8 Racing custom forged beadlock units, wrapped in Falcon Wildpeak tyres.
DeBerti touches include their own brand tyre, fuel and jack holder for the load bed, which was sprayed with LineX bedliner before this carry rack was fitted. The DeBerti’s prerunner from SEMA 2016 featured a full-width supplementary lighting cluster atop the windscreen; this feature has been added to the F-22 F-150 Raptor, too, with the LED lighting system from KC HiLites claiming 1.3-million candlepower. Other DeBerti exterior touches include a carbon fibre bonnet, wheelarch flares and front guard vents, while the power-retractable side steps are from Amp Research.
The paint for the concept is a unique mix from Sherwin-Williams, inspired by the grey of the F-22 fighter plane and incorporating a stylised ‘F-22’ logo. It’s almost missed at the front end, but the grille incorpates a relief silhouette of the F-22, while the grille itself is actually made of titanium. Additional graphics of the F-22’s silhouette are added to the exterior, with the red and green versions on the side mirrors, (mimicking the same colour mast lights used on aircraft) being a particularly clever touch. Inside, there’s a 1500-watt Kicker audio system and more styling touches on the seats and console inspired by the F-22.
Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager, said the F-22 F-150 Raptor celebrates the fighter jet's dominance of the skies and the consistent leadership of F-Series on the ground: "Our long-standing commitment to Young Eagles encourages new talent to enter the world of flight, while highlighting the freedom, power, speed and agility shared by the Ford F-150 Raptor and the F-22 Raptor fighter jet."
When it went to auction at the Gathering of Eagles night at the 2017 AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in, Ford’s F-22 F-150 Raptor sold for an impressive US$300,000 (around AU$375,000), which will be used to fund future EAA programs. The winning bidder was Gary Ackerman, who runs a Ford dealership in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was a fitting purchase, as Ackerman is the Honorary Commander/Ambassador for the US Airforce's F-22 squadron at Nellis Airforce Base in North Las Vegas. This year’s auction result means Ford has helped to provide more than US$3 million to EAA youth flying programs since 2008. The reception the F-22 F-150 Raptor received means that some to the styling features and design ideas employed on the concept may find their way into future F-150 pickups, too.
Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: Ford Media