I’m surely preaching to the choir here, but unlike those who spend most of their time on nicely paved suburban roads, those of us with the off-road bug need to consider vehicle protection as part of a build. Roo’s at dusk or dawn, rocky tracks just waiting to puncture your sills or take advantage of that extra overhang on your ute and tight rutted tracks that want to send you over like a pendulum into the embankment all add risk that could see significant damage or even prevent you from continuing your journey. The conditions in which you plan to use your fourby plays a factor in selecting the right protection for your needs. That’s before even considering what lighting setup you want, aerial count and positioning, provisions for hi-lift jacking etc etc.
The intent with the Raptor build is to improve what is already a really good thing out of the box. It needs to be able to retain its driving characteristics and off-road capability as a minimum. At the same time it must be fit for a mix of touring and getting thrown at some more technical terrain, where the risk of damage increases.
When we got a hold of our Raptor, the list of available items was a lot shorter than it is today; it would seem the market underplayed how popular they would be. Rhino 4X4 was a brand that stood out for me from way-back-when. You see, the first time I encountered a Rhino 4X4 bar was on the way to the Big Red Bash in 2016. The owners name escapes me, but I was quite struck by the way the bar followed the lines of the Amarok that it was gracing. It just looked integrated, mimicking the lines of the original vehicle design and presenting an option for the traditional bar-and-loop style of bulbar. After spending some time talking to Ben from Rhino 4X4, we decided on going the full gamut of kit available; an Evolution 3D Bullbar with integrated lightbar, Steel Rock Sliders, Heavy Duty Rear Step Bar and Rear Tub Sports Bar with Cage Platform.
After a short wait, it was off to our mate Steve and his team at AE-CO 4X4 who were tasked with installation. The front bar is a composite item made of pieces that range from 3-7mm steel and basically replaces everything from the grill down to the factory bash plate. As an aside, a real credit to the guys at Ford, the Rhino 4X4 team felt comfortable that the factory bash plate was good enough not to warrant a replacement, which is usually part of the front bar package. I hear you questioning “composite”. Yes, most bars available on the market are a single piece so one does question the strength, but I’ve been told by the team at Rhino that all of their bars are tested utilising full dynamic, pendulum based and computer simulation in accordance with Australian standards to ensure airbag and Australia Design Rule (ADR) compliance. Interestingly the findings show that the design is the safest on the market for pedestrian impact, owed to the smooth outer profile and the fact that by design it follows the lines of the vehicle. It doesn’t have the traditional hoops which would usually help with a reduction in damage from something like an animal impact, but the option for a traditional bar was (and I think still is) simply unavailable for the Raptor. With a little lift I’d imagine all but the largest impact would see a deflection downwards anyway.
The bar has provisions for a winch, hi-lift jack points and an integration for a light bar. I’ve always enjoyed the traditional round driving lights, but in this case given the integration and the aforementioned lack of hoops I thought I’d give it a shot. Supplied with the bar, the modular 10,000 lumen unit is available in a range of colours, if that’s your thing. It really is a clean look which also serves a purpose of minimising potential damage. I will report back on performance once they’re wired up. Rounding out the features are hi-lift jacking points, along with 40w replacements for the factory driving lights which also incorporate Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and indicators. One significant benefit of the bar is the increase in approach angle – the bar really clears away in front of the wheels on each side and also increases the general clearance right throughout the front end. Finally, in my constant battle of form over function, Rhino’s bar was the only one that was colour-coded to match the flares on the Raptor which was definitely an option I selected.
With the front bar on, it was time to shift focus to the sliders. As mentioned, we are planning to do some more technical off-roading in the Raptor and the extra clearance afforded by these replacements was really attractive. These are constructed from 3mm thick steel in the form of a 50mm tube. With hi-lift jack points integrated and just enough of a step to help the tin-lids into the car without dad’s assistance, they were an easy choice.
Whilst the overhang on the Raptor in combination with the extra tyre and suspension based clearance afforded from the factory doesn’t really put the tub at risk like some other dual cab utes on the market, we thought we’d also add the rear bar for some extra safety. Like the other gear we added, its manufactured from 3, 5 and 6mm steel and provides a much larger stepping space for access to the tub, something I think will be welcomed once we add the lift and taller tyres. The rear bar also integrates hi-lift jack points and options to mount auxiliary lighting to compliment the factory rear view camera of the Raptor. The bar also re-houses the factory parking sensors and in fact recesses them to provide extra protection against damage.
The final piece to the puzzle was the Rear Tub Sports Bar. Part of the spec for the Raptor build was to allow it to be used as a load-lugger should we need it, as such we opted for the HSP electric roll-top rather than a traditional canopy. The addition of the Sports Bar with the Cage Platform was as good fit as it provides some extra storage without compromising all of the space in the tray. With space for our Tred Pros and the option to carry items like Jerry Can’s in front of the rear Axle line the rack makes weight distribution easier also and works perfectly with the afore-mentioned roll-top.
So what’s it like? Obviously when replacing plastic or polymer with steel to add protection, weight is a by-product; nothing new to us four wheel drivers. The extra weight was felt at take-off only, once you’re rolling you’d never know about it which is good given our estimate is a net difference of about 150-200 kilos across all 4 pieces. The front end sagged a fair bit, but we knew this was going to happen and will be compensating with springs before we move on to wheels and tyres to finish off the visible parts of the build.
Rhino has done really well pulling together a great kit here and I’m really looking forward to putting this new gear to the test later this year, Covid permitting!
What’s the damage?
3d Evolution Bar – $2900 (including replacement driving lights, Raptor Grey to match the flares)
HD Combat Lightbar – $730
Steel Rock Sliders – $990 (pair)
Rear Tub Sports Bar and Cage Platform – $1395
Heavy Duty Rear Step Bar – $1730