In Focus: Jimco Ford Raptor Luxury Prerunner

Images by Boyd Jaynes

In Focus: Jimco Ford Raptor Luxury Prerunner

RACER Magazine Excerpts

In Focus: Jimco Ford Raptor Luxury Prerunner

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A STATE OF THE ART HOME RUN

Since its formative days in the deserts of Baja and the southwestern United States, top-tier off-road racing has suffered a decided lack of self-confidence as to where it fits among the world’s very best forms of motorsports and automotive engineering.

Mazen Fawaz, CEO of Singer Vehicle Design and an off-road newcomer, summed it up best when he recently observed: “The level of craftsmanship and execution (in off-road racing) is mind blowing – and we have seen it all. The metal work, the tube design and all of that is super advanced. I was really, really surprised. I thought it was all about some dudes welding up scaffolding and shoving a big old V8 in it.”

Thus, one of the world’s foremost creators of bespoke Porsche 911s became among the converted. With few overburdensome regulations, the sport continues to push on with an unbridled mix of enthusiasm and epic craftsmanship. For tangible proof, one need look no further than this newly-birthed, Ford Raptor-bodied prerunner. Built by the sport’s legendary Jimco Racing in Santee, Calif., this incredible machine was commissioned by newbie off-road enthusiast Bobby Patton, part of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise ownership group.

Pre-running is the long-held off-road tradition of exploring the race course ahead of the competition, a still popular practice that’s often as enjoyable as the competition itself. For Patton and others on his Fastball Racing team (they race a Jimco-built and maintained Spec Trophy-Truck), more seat time is essential for both safety and taking their talents to a higher level.

Now one of the sport’s most incredible bespoke trucks will allow Patton and company to enjoy it all via the ultimate expression of craftsmanship, style and 2020 technology.

THE “OPTION 3” PROJECT

The most important aspect of this Jimco Ford is the realization that it’s not a Ford Raptor built into a Baja-ready prerunner. It’s the opposite – a modern Trophy-Truck with all of today’s best suspension, drivetrain and powerplant technology interwoven with a brand-new Ford production cab, myriad hand-formed aluminum panels and exclusive Jimco bodywork.

Imagine a modern Ferrari Formula 1 car retrofitted within one of its 488 Pista or Enzo bodies. Indeed, the truck’s entire front suspension, rear suspension, steering, shocks, uprights, hubs, brakes and much of its tube frame chassis are the very same Jimco uses for its latest unlimited Trophy-Trucks. They are completely interchangeable.

Not surprisingly, Patton’s new machine incorporates every conceivable upgrade and detail possible on Jimco’s options list. “We ended up calling this the ‘Option 3’ project,” shared Jimco owner and racer Robbie Pierce with a laugh. “Whenever we laid out different options from lowest cost to highest, Bobby almost always chose option three. He wanted the best.”

The devil lies in the details, and creating such a rolling work of art is far more complex than building a competition-only Trophy-Truck. Both start with a proprietary, CAD-drawn Chromoly chassis that arrives at Jimco with each tube pre-numbered, CNC bent, and fish mouthed — literally a precision erector set on a pallet. Today’s intricate front and rear arms arrive the same way, to be TIG welded to world-class perfection by Jimco’s uber talented craftsmen.

Component packaging is clear sans rear bodywork, including massive 95-gallon fuel cell, 40in. spare tire and wheel, Brunhoelzl jack, spare drive shaft, rear sway bar, twin Fox Shox and electrically actuated light bar.

All of the mechanical, electrical and comfort elements found in the new Ford represent thousands of man hours in fabrication and execution in order to artfully package these components into the confines of a production style, street-legal prerunner. With the help of grandson Ezra Sims, legendary metal maestro Larry Storck lent his time-worn hands to the truck’s dizzying array of aluminum panels that form much of the interior, inner and outer fender wells, and more – all with the intention of creating a comfortable environment for Patton, despite the hard conditions the truck will be asked to traverse.

One of the biggest challenges came in the form of working around the truck’s high-performance, Ray Dougan-built engine, which sits almost entirely within the interior, thanks to its massive set back in the chassis. In fact, the Jimco crew will eventually have to remove the windshield and much of the dash in order to remove the powerplant for its inevitable rebuild.

Further inspection reveals use of internationally recognized componentry from C&R (custom radiators, two heat exchangers, a transmission cooler and a separate bed-mounted oil cooler as well), Brown & Miller (all plumbing, hose and fittings), aircraft-quality hardware, the latest Brembo brake system, and many other top level bits and pieces perfected by the best suppliers in the off-road universe.

While all of that is mechanical, another jaw-dropping aspect of the new Jimco is the use of electronic wizardry that rivals anything short of F1. The latest Motec ECU has been tuned to run a race-quality fuel-injection system, all routed back into a full spectrum Motec digital dash (with multiple screens) that incorporates monitors for all of the standard fluid pressures and temperatures, but also the differential, torque converter and even steering system temps. The complex wiring loom was created by Nick Tiedemann, one that incorporates tire air-pressure sensors, fully-operational power doors and windows, power-seat adjustment, a rear-view camera and a state-of-the-art MSAT phone system offering push-to-talk communications to crew members anywhere in Baja.

Less than a half-dozen builders in the world could produce an unlimited street legal pre-run truck to the level found in this Ford. Fewer still have the racing pedigree that Jimco has forged over the past four decades.

All of this mechanical poetry comes at a price of course. How much? Try the cost of a nicely-optioned Ferrari 488 Pista. Times two.

That, of course, isn’t the point. What other vehicle on earth combines this much performance, capability and comfort? The truck was delivered in Mexico to Patton for his 2019 BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 1000 pre-running efforts. The man used to 100mph fastballs will be able to fly over 3ft whoops or traverse lakebeds at the about the same speed or greater in total luxury and safety.

Which is precisely the point.

LUXURY WITHIN

While the new Jimco’s custom exterior is intentionally downplayed with subtle camo graphics and dark grey paint, the interior represents the ultimate manifestation of the “luxury prerunner” concept. Within the confines of a new production Ford cab is a complete roll cage assembly that’s incorporated into the truck’s space-frame chassis. Great care is taken to completely seal the interior with custom steel floors, enclosure panels and production Ford doors, glass and seals.

Once the custom steel dash and all the one-off interior panels were pre-fitted, the entire enchilada was power coated in satin black, and the painstaking reassembly process could begin.

The final product is truly a work of automotive art; a visceral overload complete with that new-truck smell, courtesy of Jimco’s use of real Ferrari leather on the massive dash and three re-covered MasterCraft seats. Hand stitched by the talented Felipe Ramos, the headliner, carpet panels and retro-fitted Ford production door panels (including camo insets) hide all of the chassis tubing, keeping dust out and the driving experience as quiet as possible.

For the driver and co-driver, a wide array of electronics are within reach. Each has a large color GPS to help guide them, as well as three separate PDM (Power Distribution Module) panels that control everything from seat position, to wipers, to manual overrides for engine fans and fuel pumps. To keep things cool and rockin’, there is also a unique dual air-conditioning system and integrated headphone/intercom system with built-in satellite radio. A brake bias adjuster knob and dual Flame-Out system? Sure.

Clearly, Jimco did not nickname this the “Option 3” project for no reason.

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