There is basically one way to go quicker. You need to improve the power-to-weight ratio, which involves more power, less weight, or both. But what if you want to go faster, as opposed to quicker?
This feature was originally published in MOTOR’s 2004 Hot Tuner special
In fact, fast enough to have a crack at the Australian land speed record for utes and, if that goes well, the world record for the class.
Going faster involves a hike in power and a more slippery shape. At first glance, the XR6 Turbo Raptor Ute from Auto-Tek (importers of Momo, Recaro and others) looks like any other XR ute with a sharp paint job and big wheels. Then you open the doors and the more you look, the more you see.
The body has been subtly, and not so subtly, reshaped to smooth it and strengthen it to cope with the stresses of the 300km/h-plus Auto-Tek boss Bob Roman has in mind. The bodywork is the genius of the good ol’ Hillier boys from Tenterfield, NSW.
They made their name on the street machine stage, where their craftsmanship led them to build a two-door AU Falcon that was so slick, it looked factory. They’ve enjoyed a relationship with Auto-Tek for years and were a walk-up start when plans were being sketched for the world’s fastest Falcon ute.
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Okay, so the gullwing doors won’t actually make the thing any faster. They’re a nod to the past, when a much younger Roman was knocked sideways when he first saw a gullwing Mercedes SL, back in 1954. They open and close via hydraulics and they’re 100 percent metal, like the rest of the bodywork. The windows don’t open, but the design does allow for a big, deep sill for torsional rigidity.
The roof has been lowered about 40mm (most obvious from behind) and the windscreen has been laid back 2.5 degrees. The centre rail of the roof, windscreen header and pillars all incorporate the roll-cage, which is invisible from inside or out.
Auto-Tek is still experimenting with the aero undertrays, but the replacement front and rear aprons probably won’t change much. You get the feeling the ute will grow a wing or two before record-rattling time in 12 or 18 months. Harrop Engineering supplied the 13-inch grooved front rotors and six-spot calipers.
The wheels are 20-inch Momos shod with 285/30 ZR Pirelli P-Zeroes. Front and rear guards have been pumped a little for clearance, although some banging and scraping of inner-guards still needs sorting. A cute touch will be the intercooler in the trailing edge of each front guard (which explains the door scallop).
The Auto-Tek ute’s cabin is radically altered, but driving it is nothing extraordinary. Getting in over the sill is the first trick (tip: plonk your butt in and swing the legs afterwards). It’s unnatural, but still easier than entering, say, a Lotus Elise.
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A rocker switch pulls the door down and shut, and by then you’d better have the engine running and air conditioning on because it’s a hothouse. The seats have been lowered for helmet clearance. Only the hydraulic ram is in your peripheral vision.
The new window-line is pretty high, but overall the cabin is reasonably airy because the doors are much thinner, creating extra elbow room. The dash and switchgear is stock, mainly because this is predominantly a road car. That’s also why the engine in this, the first prototype, is stock, along with the four-speed auto (a second car is being prepared).
The bodywork for the actual record-breaker will be even more radical, with a new bonnet line hiding a single wiper arm and providing a mounting pod for the heads-up instrument cluster on the other side of the windscreen. The new bonnet will be necessary because the grand plan calls for a full-house, twin-turbo V8, which, one imagines, will be good for 520-600kW.
As we said, slippery lines and big grunt equals speed and, if everything goes to plan, that’s exactly what this ute will deliver. Watch this space.
Sydneysiders can check out the Raptor at Auto-Tek, 14 Cavill Avenue, Rhodes.
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2004 Auto-Tek Ford XR6 Turbo Raptor ute
BODY: 2-door, 2-seat utility
ENGINE: front-mounted 4.0-litre DOHC 24-valve inline six, turbo
POWER: 240kW @ 5250rpm
TORQUE: 450Nm @ 2000–4000rpm
BORE/STROKE: 92.3 x 99.3mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 8.7:1
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed auto
SUSPENSION: double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); live axle, leaf springs, anti-roll bar (r)
TRACKS: 1566mm (f), 1547mm (r)
BRAKES: Harrop 380mm rotors with six-piston calipers (f); 303mm solid grooved discs, single-piston calipers (r), ABS
WHEELS: 20 x 8.5-in (f & r); Momo Magnums
TYRES: Pirelli P Zeros, 225/35 ZR20 (f); 285/30 ZR20 (r)
Unleashing the Beast
Wildly modified utes are nothing new for either the Hillier Brothers or Roman Auto-Tek. When Ford was lax in releasing a ute variant of the EA/EL Falcon, the Tenterfield-based brothers, Troy and Clayton Hillier, decided to put their hearse-building skills to good use and make their own.
Starting with a stock EA wagon, the extremely talented lads sliced and diced it until it was a very real representation of what Ford should have been building – instead of that dysfunctional XF/EA hybrid they were attempting to force onto us.
So convincing was the ute’s conversion it had more than a couple of people rocking down to their local Ford dealer trying to place an order. Behind every successful company is an equally successful marketing campaign, and few do it better than Roman Auto-Tek.
Wanting to promote both their then-new range of 20-inch Momo wheels and car-modification abilities, Bob Roman devised this wild VR Commodore ute: The Beast.
To get it sitting in the weeds it utilised a custom fabricated, full tube-frame chassis, just like a real race car. Its tyre-frying 490kW was delivered by a stonking-hot, alcohol-snorting 502-cube, big-block Chev – which was as beautifully detailed as it was brutal. - Craig Parker