When a group of 14 Ford Raptor owners took to the desert for an off-road run in the spirit of what has become the quintessential hot-rod pickup, ten came back with bent frames. Is the Raptor too weak to play in the desert?
The $42,000 Ford SVT Raptor has won plaudits from enthusiasts across the spectrum for offering the excitement of a desert race-ready truck in a factory-built, dealer-warrantied vehicle. Nearly four years after its debut, its only true competition comes from a bolt-on kit Dodge sells for $19,000 on top of the price of a Ram pickup.
But last month, experienced owners complained on the RaptorForumz.com that a Nevada desert run had left a majority of their trucks with a frame bent in exactly the same location. The owners all had the same diagnosis: a rear frame and bed tilted a few degrees upward, due to a poor location for a "bump stop" — the rubber cushion that prevents the suspension from crashing into the frame. While Ford advertises the Raptor as having 12.1 inches of rear suspension travel, Raptor owners say at speed on a road, the suspension has only four or five inches of space before it hits the bump stop.
When the original poster took his Raptor in for service, Ford engineers examined his truck and took photos of its underside. After much back-and-forth, Ford ruled the damage was due to "extensive customer abuse," and denied a warranty claim for the $765 estimate to put the frame straight. Other Raptor owners with bent frames received similar verdicts from Ford, leaving some outraged:
14 Raptor owners on an outing drive fast down a gravel road and 10 come back with bent frames.... no other damage - no broken axles, no flat tires, no leaf spring problems, no smashed body panels or skid plates, no wheel bearing problems, etc... That is a design flaw - bottoming out your truck should NOT bend the frame and leave no other damage unless the frame is very delicate.
But how fast is too fast?
Performance car and truck enthusiasts generally know what to expect from their vehicles — and what goes beyond the limits of their warranties. Jeep owners have decades of experience with off-roading, enough to suggest that those who want to speed through water need to install an engine snorkel before tackling waves. Just last week, Ford triggered another dustup with Mustang owners after warning dealers to be on the lookout for go-fast mods to new V8 engines that would void the warranty. In each case, there's a well-stocked pool of enthusiasts who've been tinkering with their cars for years and generally understand the boundaries of what a dealer and automaker will fix.
But the Raptor is so pioneering there isn't a huge user base, and there's never been a vehicle meant for high-speed desert travel — the most destructive form of auto racing — with an automaker's warranty. When video finally emerged of the Nevada run showing the bump that bent the Raptors (the last in the video here) many owners sided with Ford's call — including one of the drivers in the group of 14 who didn't suffer a bent frame:
If Ford fixes these, I will be surprised. Why? The trucks were driven past what they are capable of. You do not buy a GT500 and expect it to drive like a race car, why would you buy a Raptor and expect it to handle and take the abuse of a trophy truck?...While it was not a challenging route we took, we caught quite a bit of air, jumped the road, hit numerous G-Outs at faster than anything sensible, hit speeds off road in excess of 125mph (I did) and had a shit load of fun doing so. How were most of the bent frames caused? inherent weakness in the frame and over driving the truck. Is there mods to fix this for those of you who are scared? Yes. Drive slower in the desert and know the road you are driving.
Mike Levine, editor of PickupTrucks.com, says while the owners have responsibilities for knowing what their off-roading courses hold, Ford should have offered driving classes similar to what Land Rover provides for new customers to give Raptor owners a better sense of their vehicle's limits. "For Raptor owners trying to figure out what the capabilities are, this would be a lot better than going out in groups and finding out what the design limits are in the real world. I can't fault these guys for getting upset."
For those who wish to attempt a similar run, the company that set up the first one has another round scheduled for later this month, advertising speeds of "110+ mph." They should explore one of the several firms offering to reinforce the rear frames of SVT Raptors for hardcore use, and maybe chip in for the $785 tuition in hard-earned lessons.
Hat tip to Josh and everyone else who sent this in!