Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lightning in a bottle…..Ford harnessed rare power in a truck!

The pickup truck is the idea vehicle to haul almost anything; lumber, mulch, furniture, tools, even those weekend recreational items……but in the early 1990’s Ford decided it was time to haul the mail. In 1993 Ford turned the truck market on its head and offered the Ford Lightning F-150 and it was an instant hit with the muscle car guys because finally a truck was offered that matched the performance of their hot-rod in the garage.

Colors on the first generation Lightning’s were limited to Black or Red and then White was added for the 1994 and 95 models. These early trucks were offered as a standard cab, short bed (fleetside) only; however they had that short bed/wide stance that remains popular with truck lovers today.

The SVT (Specialty Vehicle Team) engineers and marketing executives at Ford motor Company birthed this high-performance truck and they must have done it right because they are still legendary today among collectors. They only made 11,563 of those first gen trucks but many are still being driven.

Ford launched an all-new F-150 Truck in 1997, so after a few years away they reintroduced another Lightning (2nd generation) in 1999 based on this new body style. This time the performance was enhanced just a bit. The 5.4 liter V8 engine was juiced up with an (Roots-Type) Eaton Supercharger producing 360 horsepower and 440 lb.ft. of torque. It also was capable of a zero to 60 mph time of 6.2 sec. These 2nd gen trucks were made from 1999 to 2004, but in 2001 some upgrades were made that kind of solidified the truck as a serious contender. An additional 20 horsepower was achieved by a modified air intake manifold putting the truck at a respectable 380HP and 450 lb. ft. of torque. Other goodies on the 2001 included an aluminum driveshaft, 3.73:1 gears, and suspension upgrades allowing the truck to bolt from zero to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. A total of 28,124 of the 2nd gen F-150 Lightning trucks were made from 1999 – 2004.

Another special designation of the 2nd generation SVT Lightning came when it was it recognized as the World’s fastest production truck and in 2003 Guinness certified the F150 Lightning after it ran 147 mph off the showroom floor. These trucks still remain quite popular at the local strip due to the quick ¼ mile times they can lay down. From 1999-2000 the trucks were regularly running low 14’s with trap speeds near 100 mph.

Wheels and tires were also improved on the truck. It was now riding on unique 18 inch Goodyear Eagle F1-GS low profile tires and special 18 x 9.5 inch (Cobra-like) wheels, making the Lightening a true performer on the street. But don’t worry about style because the 2nd generation also included anti-lock brakes, keyless remote entry, tilt steering wheel, leather seats, white face gauges, air conditioning, and power door locks and windows. A wide variety of colorful exterior paints also set Lightning owners apart in a crowd; Bright Red, Silver Metallic, True and Sonic Blue were just a few.

Ford hit a homerun with this truck, so it begs the question why it had to end. They did tease us with a concept truck based on the all-new 2004 F-150 shown at the NAIAS in 2003 (Detroit, MI). It had T-56 manual transmission borrowed from the SVT Cobra Mustang and a whopping 500HP supercharged V8 engine, independent rear suspension, and massive 22 inch wheels with six-piston Brembo calipers to set off the package. However, it never was produced but the future would hold another surprise to the truck world in the form of an F-150 Raptor in 2009, but that’s another story.