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How Ford snuck a 2015 F-150 past everyone at the Baja 1000

  • baja-ford-660.jpg

     (FoxNews.com)

  • baja-ford-rear-660.jpg

     (FoxNews.com)

  • baja-ford-in-660.jpg

     (FoxNews.com)

Greg Foutz has been turning production Ford pickups into Baja 1000 beasts since the mid-1990s. When Ford wants to put a pickup through the gauntlet in the desert, Foutz spins the wrenches and makes it happen. Last year, the phone rang at Foutz Motorsports—Ford wanted to do something different. With the aluminum-bodied F-150 headed for production and an all-new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 coming to the order sheet, the company wanted to race a 2015 F-150 in the 2013 Baja 1000. The catch? No one could see the new truck before it was unveiled in Detroit.

Ford pulled a prototype pickup from its test fleet: a 2015 model in 2014 clothing. In order to keep spy photographers at bay, Ford went through the hassle of stamping a number of 2014 bodies in aluminum for road testing. It was the perfect camouflage.

“This truck is all the 2015 powertrain, frame, the suspension stuff, the 2.7-liter EcoBoost motor, and then they actually stamped the old molds out in aluminum so we could hide in plain sight,” Foutz said.

He grabbed a prototype and set to work. Unlike previous race trucks, Ford was dead set on using as may production parts as possible. Aside from a set of lift springs, Fox shocks borrowed from the Raptor, a fuel cell in the bed, a cage, and a set of 35/12.50 R17 prototype BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, the truck is bone stock. It even has the factory transmission cooler.

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“We broke all the rules for racing. This is as stock as you can possibly get. It’s all the stock arms and four-wheel drive components.”

Ford even insisted on using the factory air intake and filter. During the race, the ambient air turns from gas to a viscous solid comprised of sand, tumbleweed, and slower competitors. If you want to finish the Baja 1000, you simply don’t run a factory air filter.

But the truck is still a prototype, not a production vehicle, and this means it had to compete in the Class 2, where the only limitations are cylinder count and displacement.

Interestingly enough, the switch to an aluminum body structure actually allowed Ford to use a thicker gauge metal for greater durability while still saving substantial weight. How much? Between the new aluminum body and the new high-strength steel frame, Ford trimmed 700 pounds from its bread-and-butter pickup. On the street, it means better fuel economy. On the trail, it means the F-150 race truck is far easier on equipment.

In a race notorious for pounding hardware into submission, Ford managed to wrap up all 1000 miles of trail without so much as a tire puncture. That’s nearly unheard of.

After the race was over, Ford asked Greg to pull one more stunt: drive the truck, unchanged, from Mexico to Michigan.

“When we drove it back, we put a temporary windshield in it because some states have real windshield laws, but structurally, the truck’s fine. It’s ready to go race again.”