When the Chevrolet Silverado Reaper was unveiled at the 2014 North American Dealers Association conference in New Orleans last week, it received a lot of attention from Chevrolet dealers -- as well as some unintended attention from automotive enthusiast sites and blogs before the official reveal. The timing of the truck's unveiling is coming at an opportune time for Chevrolet dealers, as the Ford F-150 Raptor SVT enters its final year of officially announced production. Although many expect a Raptor or Raptor-like version of the new 2015 F-150 will eventually be offered, there's likely to be a one-to-two-year hiatus until we see its successor unveiled.
We wanted to get a little more in-depth look at the origins of the Reaper project, and the collaboration between renowned domestic performance tuning company Lingenfelter Performance Engineering and Southern Comfort Automotive, for this strategic collaboration of Yankee engineering know-how and Southern style. We talked with Mike Copeland, vice president of Operations at LPE, about how the Reaper came to be, and what the plans are for the truck moving forward.
Same Idea, Unique Visions
Copeland said the idea for a performance off-road oriented Silverado began in 2012, when the company became aware of the imminent introduction of the all-new K2XX-series trucks. The company initially planned to do all styling and performance upgrades in-house. The original name for the concept was T-Rex, and it was envisioned as a rival to the Roush and Shelby-tuned versions of the Ford Raptor. Lingenfelter got its first 2014 truck in May 2013, and immediately started development on the engine performance packages. With a Magnacharger on the 5.3-liter EcoTec V-8, the truck ran an impressive 13.89 quarter mile at over 100 mph, even with a tall 3.08 axle ratio.
While Lingenfelter was moving full speed ahead on its T-Rex project, Ken Lingenfelter received a call from Michael McSweeney of Southern Comfort Automotive, based in Trussville, Alabama. Southern Comfort was working on their own customized Silverado, and called on Lingenfelter for performance upgrades for the truck. After a prolonged call between Lingenfelter and McSweeney, Copeland and Lingenfelter flew down to Alabama to see what the company was working on. Impressed with the aggressive styling treatment Southern Comfort had created for the Silverado, the two companies decided to join forces on the truck that would become the Reaper.
Reaper vs. Raptor
While the Raptor is the most obvious rival to the Reaper at first glance, Copeland points out the differences in approach. "The Raptor is a factory-built truck. [OEMs] have the opportunity to apply lots of resources and spend lots of money developing something." But Copeland doesn't feel Lingenfelter or Southern Comfort are necessarily at a disadvantage from a factory-built effort. "We don't have the advantage of huge budgets, nor do we have hundreds of trucks to use for development, but we're able to move fast and make decisions quickly."
Like the Raptor, the Reaper uses Fox racing shocks. Some of the more cynical observers may see that as a copycat move, but Copeland says that Fox dampers were selected because "they're the best in the business." The other suspension components were developed by Ridetech, due to its experience developing military-spec suspension systems. Fox, Ridetech and LPE worked collaboratively in developing the Reaper's suspension.
Dealer response to the Reaper at the NADA show was strong, and Southern Comfort already presold several units and signed up new dealers that expressed interest in selling the Reaper. The package will be offered in all cab configurations of the Silverado, and non-factory parts will be covered by a three-year, 36,000-mile limited warranty. Prices are expected to start in the mid-$50,000 range with the final price dependent on personalization options selected by the customer. Trucks are expected to be available for purchase starting in late spring/early summer 2014. You can find out more information on the Reaper at reaperperformanceusa.com.