It may be 2020, but dinosaurs still roam the humid plains of south Texas. Don’t believe me? Rise before dawn and drive west on Interstate-10 from Houston, past where the last tendrils of suburbia melt into open prairie. Turn off at a barren exit marked by nothing more than a gas station. Move quickly towards the beast’s hideout, a weatherbeaten drag strip complex down a crumbling frontage road. There, as the morning mist catches fire with the sun’s first rays, you’ll see it, towering towards the sky: the Hennessey Velociraptor 6×6.
The Ford F-150 Raptor has inspired a lot of paleontological wordplay since it stormed onto the off-road scene in 2010, but it’s John Hennessey’s mad six-wheeled pickup that truly shocks the senses like seeing a dinosaur in the flesh today. Others have dared to wonder what Ford’s hard-charging Baja blaster would be like with even more power, or higher clearance, or an exhaust that actually sounds good. Only founder John Hennessey dreamed a dream of a three-axle version to stand up to the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6. American pride was on the line. And only Hennessey had the mechanical menagerie to make it happen.
Just like the rest of the country, Hennessey Performance has gone gaga for trucks over the last decade; the shop introduced 500- and 600-horsepower upgrade packages for the Ford Raptor after the second-gen model launched in 2016, and these days, it cranks out more pickups and SUVs than anything else. For VelociRaptor duty, the truck’s 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 gains a better cold air intake, larger intercooler, and a Borla exhaust to kick things up a notch. The block’s internal bits are hardy enough to stay stock, and the factory 10-speed automatic handles the power boost with aplomb. An optional lift kit completes the VelociRaptor transformation.
Or rather, it did, until John Hennessey tasked his chief builder with turning this three-axle daydream into reality ahead of SEMA in 2017—you know, just the small task of fabricating a new frame, bed, and 6×6 drivetrain from scratch. The first two were relatively simple, since adding a 30-inch extension to the frame rails out back meant a stock Ford long bed could be used as a donor part. The drivetrain was a completely different story. The middle axle, which sits where the stock one used to be, is a custom Ford 9.0-inch with a trick pass-through differential, while the original Raptor axle (which retains its locking differential) is pushed to the rear.
The solution was actually quite clever; some of the factory mounting points could be used for the family of Fox shocks now living under the bed, and an inverted leaf spring setup leaves room for Jesus between the two sets of rear wheels. Those are connected by a shortened driveshaft that’s not unlike one you’d find on a tractor trailer.
Balancing everything out took an enormous amount of trial and error, and Hennessey admits that it’s refined the design even further since building that first show truck—which was a street-legal, 100-percent functional vehicle, by the way. Altogether, the modifications push the truck’s curb weight to nearly 7,000 pounds, though the power boost has it scooting from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds.
Part of the magic here undoubtedly comes from Hennessey’s Cretaceous Era vibe. Part of it also comes from the fact that the Velociraptor 6×6 is a real truck you can buy with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty, one that comes with a complete Ford Raptor crew cab interior with all stock functions intact—even the 360-degree camera and parking sensors. But mostly it’s found behind the wheel, where apart from a noticeable heftiness and an extra bounce when going over bumps, it’s almost possible to forget you’re riding around on six wheels. Almost.
But resurrecting dinosaurs doesn’t come cheap. A new Velociraptor 6×6 will run you $350,000, and while that does include the price of the donor vehicle, there are a lot of things you could buy with that money. Then again, it’s a lot cheaper than a Mercedes-AMG G63 6×6, which is out of production and currently running around a million bucks on the “used” market. So is it worth that kind of cash? We took a deep dive into the heart of Texas to find out.