"My daddy drives a Ford" were the words displayed across a T-shirt that was a short-lived fashion craze when I lived in Texas at the age of 8. Though my own father's vehicle of choice was a red Ford Explorer, for one week, when it was in for repairs, my family's substitute ride was a red F-150. My sister and I sat in the back, opting to ride home in the open-air trunk, letting the wind blow through our hair.
Now, almost two decades later, I find myself in the latest version – the 2017 F-150 Raptor. This time, I'm in the driver's seat, and while the rear of the Raptor is surely impressive, it's far less useful in our hot, dusty desert climate.
There is a stereotypical thought that women opt for smaller, cuter cars. The Raptor is anything but cute – it is monstrous, and I love every bit of the elevated power and control it gives me. The front windshield and driver and passenger front windows are huge. It's very spacious, and there is a large cooled console between the driver and front passenger, with its top making a wide armrest. Storage is plentiful and that is important for me. Well within reach of the driver's seat are four cup holders, an upper tray and two lower compartments for keys and phones.
The leather seats feature orange piping, and ambient lights in the cup holders and door storage compartments can change colour – I go for purple.
Though it contains ample storage and a high-tech entertainment system, the Raptor lacks in a few areas. Because the rear is completely open, there isn't much space for luggage or large bags inside the main cabin – so without an additional cover, your suitcase will get fairly dirty on the way to the airport.
When you press the button on the key to lock it, the horn sounds an obnoxiously loud honk. Then again, subtlety was probably the last thing on the minds of the Raptor's makers.
Growing up in England, the only part of daily life that was infiltrated by pick-up trucks was the occasional intrusion of American television shows. The Raptor is a long way from The Beverly Hillbillies, however. But you could definitely fit a family and a half in the back.
It is an obscene, ridiculous and quite often incredible machine that only really makes a modicum of sense in two parts of the world: here and in the United States, where it has been the best-selling truck since, if you listen to Ford's advertising, pretty much the invention of the wheel.
In the cab, pretty much anybody, male or female, smaller than an NFL linebacker will feel dwarfed. Everything is on a different scale. The buttons and control knobs are seemingly conceived for a driver with two bunches of bananas as hands. The wing mirrors could be repurposed in your bathroom. It has a gearstick like a whale's nose. And the driver's airbag is vital because the most likely mishap isn't your face hitting the massive steering wheel but rather your entire head plunging through the gap, leaving you to wear it like a giant, unwieldy necklace. The foot-operated parking brake completes the 21st-century Neanderthal vibe.
Despite all this, and its macho growl, the Raptor is a reformed beast, with its 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine (down from a 6.2L V8), better torque-to-weight ratio (from 678Nm) and fuel economy.
But don't equate any of that to it going soft. Its high-strength steel frame and sizeable suspension travel makes venturing off the tarmac as stress-free as taking a leisurely stroll, with six terrain modes, from "Baja" (for high-speed desert running) to rock crawl. The Raptor eats up all before it – just as well, given that its general demeanour will make you want to bounce over wadis and mountainsides while blaring the angriest of metal music. It could just as easily have been called the Rapture, because this is a truck in which to survive the end of the world.