You may not find them practical, or particularly pretty, but for many buyers, the desert off road truck is a kind of supercar. Capable of traveling across dirt and sand at speeds that rival highway travel, these desert pickups have long wheel travel and impressively powerful motors. Right now, the Ford F-150 Raptor is the only one of these trucks you can buy from a dealership, but GM tuner Lingenfelter is trying to level the playing field with the Silverado-based “Reaper.”
Commonly known as a Corvette tuner, Lingenfelter seems to be interested in any vehicle with a Chevy V8– having tuned vehicles like the CTS-V. Its latest creation has the Ford F-150 Raptor square in its sights, and so we wanted to get more info from President of Operations at Lingenfelter, Mike Copland.
“The goal was to build an aggressive off road truck at higher speeds,” said Copland, “And frankly, build a competitor to the Raptor but based on a GM truck.” Copland’s team had wanted to build a truck like this since 2012, but the GMT900-generation Silverado was getting near the end of its life. They wanted to wait for the new truck.
The Reaper made its world debut at the National Automobile Dealers Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans, which hardly seems like the ideal location for such a specialized vehicle. But Lingenfelter had their reasons: “Our partner on this project is Southern Comfort Automotive,” said Copland. “They are a GM outfitter, and are in 100-plus GM dealerships.” Getting the distribution network in place was key to take on the Raptor. Following NADA, the Reaper made its more press-centric debut at the recent Chicago Auto Show.
Southern Comfort (not the booze) was not a partner from the get-go, and the original plan was to have a stock-looking front end. But when the two companies came together, the decision was to re-do the front body work– something done completely by Southern Comfort. This new front end is more than just an aesthetic choice, as it offers some advantages. “The new front adds 8 additional inches of ground clearance.” said Copland. “The lower bumper is all steel zinc plated and powder coated– so it’s tougher. It features integrated LED off road light strips, which the custom truck buyer will want.”
Buyers also want power, and the Reaper has it in spades. The base setup is a supercharged 5.3-liter V8 that makes 475 horsepower. If, for some reason, that’s not enough power, a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 is available making 550 horsepower.
Other upgrades includes a three-inch lift, long-travel Fox racing shocks, 20-inch wheels, General Grabber tires and a performance exhaust system. The Fox Racing shocks are a dual mode system which offers dynamics that are ideal for both on-and-off road driving.
It was all in an effort to take on the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. The Raptor has been very successful, but Copland knew there would be some off-road buyers who would never own one. “The Raptor is a great truck,” said Copland, “But truck buyers are VERY loyal. Some Chevy buyers would never touch it, so we knew we had to build them an off-road truck.”
There are other tuner versions of the Ford Raptor, from Roush and Shelby, but Copland argues that those tuner trucks get very expensive. Which begs the question- how much is this brute going to cost? “The Reaper will start in the mid-$50K-range, and go up from there,” said Copland. “For that, you get an exclusive truck, built in low numbers, and with parts like wheels and exhaust that you can’t go out and buy.” Many of the components are exclusive to the Reaper.
According to Copland, the improved off-road dynamics do not detract from the on-road driving– something that might be a concern for some drivers. “[buyers] are going to be surprised by the on road drivability.” said Copland, “It’s really, really close to the production ride, but it can do 60 mph through dirt roads in the desert in California.”
We also asked about the potential for Lingenfelter to tune the new mid-size Chevy Colorado pickup. His concerns echoed our own: “We have looked at the Colorado, we’re waiting on the price, and seeing what the market does. Historically the mid-size truck market is very small and the buyers are looking for a vehicle for fuel economy.” But Copland says, in spite of the concerns, it would make a great base for an off-road truck.
When asked about any future projects and what’s next for the brand, Mike’s experience at GM revealed itself, “We’re not ready to release any details, or talk about future products just yet,” he said, reiterating the corporate mantra of most auto manufacturers.
Before we concluded, Copland did offer this as guidance for where they expect to go next: “There are a lot more opportunities for us in the off road genre.” We certainly agree.