PHOTOS of a right-hand drive, mid-size pick-up snapped in the US are believed to be that of a Raptor variant of the Ranger ute.

The Australian-developed, The Australian-developed, T6-based Ranger is set to be launched in the USA as a 2019 model to compete with the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and Ford in both the US and Australia have trademarked the Ranger Raptor name.

These RHD test mules further fed the fire that we’ll get it here in Australia.

The Raptor moniker is taken from the Ford F-150 Raptor, which gets some serious desert racing kit in the form of Fox bypass shocks, raised ride height, a turbocharged ride height, a turbocharged V6 petrol engine, 10-speed automatic, underbody protection, off-road tyres, and bold, bespoke styling.

Style shops and eBay sellers have been applying the Raptor look to local Rangers for years, but a factory-built model with the go-fast bits has only ever been a dream.

The rumour mill is rampant with suggestions of what will power the Ranger Raptor, but the trend is leaning towards a 2.7-litre version of Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged V6 that currently makes upwards of 240kW and 500Nm.

Spy photographers have also reported seeing Ranger prototypes in both the US and TUNING TOYOT Australia with a coil-sprung/ Watts link rear end similar to what is currently employed under the Ranger-based Everest wagon. The tassels seen under the back of the ute in these pics are there to conceal the rear suspension from prying camera lenses – Ford Oz used similar disguises on Everest prototypes before it was revealed.

With the demise of fast 2WD utes from Holden and Ford Australia, a genuine, high-performance, off-road ute would be welcome change from the dressed-up dollies like the Hilux TRD, Colorado Z71 and Ford’s Ranger Wildtrak.

The Ranger is currently leading the new 4x4 sales race in Australia ahead of the Hilux, and a performance petrol model in 2018 will ensure that trend continues.

Other rumours of the 3.0- litre diesel V6 from the Ford F-150 (and derived from the engine already used in Ranger Rovers) replacing the inline five-cylinder diesel (for 2019 models) would also help Ford’s sales continue to grow.

If the Ranger Raptor comes to fruition here, it will arrive along with a major revamp of the model in the first half of 2018. Our prayers go out to the gods of desert racing to make this a reality.