This hills surrounding
San Antonio frequently play host to massive lightning storms that strike
central Texas each winter and spring. Usually nothing natural or man-made
can match these fiery displays for their shear power or display but Ford's
Special Vehicles Team sure is willing to try. Creating, and improving
on, its own form of thunderbolt, Ford brought us out to the Lone Star
State to ride and drive in the 2001 SVT F-150 Lightning.
at the hardcore, no compromise enthusiast, Ford's SVT unit, led by chief
engineer John Coletti, has turned the normally conservative F-150
pickup into a raging 380 horsepower rocket.
and trucks are a special breed of automobile at Ford. The Special Vehicles
Team was started in 1992 when two Ford executives saw the need for the
company to step up its commitment to develop and market a line of Ford-badged
performance vehicles that would appeal to knowledgeable automotive enthusiasts.
extremely limited numbers with pure performance in mind, the Lightning
is also joined in the SVT stable by its siblings the Mustang Cobra and
a brand new, entry-level Focus. So rare are SVTs that Tom Scarpello, Ford's
Specialty Vehicle Marketing Manager told us, "As many SVT (vehicles)
are built in a year as F-150's in a week."
the establishment of SVT the first Lightnings appeared as 1993 model trucks
and ran in production until 1995. Compared to today's truck the first
generation now seems downright vanilla but was revolutionary in its day.
Though little different fundamentally from the F-Series, the 93-95 Lightning
boasted much more horsepower, 240 horsepower total, and a high-performance
suspension with twin I-beams up front, Monroe Formula shock absorbers
and front and rear stabilizer bars. It ran 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds with
a top-speed of 110 mph.
the Lightning in 1999.
With its new F-Series body the Lightning now came equipped with a 5.4L
Triton V8 and an Eaton supercharger helping pump out an astounding 120
more horsepower than the previous generation. The Lightning's 360 horsepower
and 440 ft-lbs. of torque made it the fastest production truck in the
world doing 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds, a title still held today. The twin
short-and-long-arm suspension was lowered 1/2-inch up front and the solid
axle, five leaf-spring rear suspension lowered 2-inches over the standard
truck's three-leaf units. Little changes were made for 2000.
SVT F-150 Lighting is another leap over the 1999-2000 model. Today's truck
can do 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds and finish the quarter-mile at 100 mph
in 13.9 seconds. And we can assure you, those 13.9 seconds go by very
worked diligently to improve the performance of the supercharger even
though the supercharger itself was untouched. Compared to the 2000 model
the Lightning's front air intake opening is 50 percent larger, with a
26 percent larger inlet opening in the filter box, providing more airflow
to the supercharger and immediate throttle response. Additional rows of
cooling tubes in the intercooler under the supercharger help improve power
only comes equipped with a four speed automatic transmission with overdrive.
No manual is offered contrary to what most enthusiasts might want. Ford
doesn't have a manual transmission that can handle the Lightning's 450
ft-lbs of torque.
For its suspension
the Lightning adds brand new Bilstein monotube shocks with better dampening
than the tubular, gas-charged shocks found in last year's truck. The rest
of the suspension and chassis remains unchanged. Compared to the 2000
model truck on hand during the drive you feel much more secure in tight
corners and during hard driving. The Lightning hugs the road like Lycra
on a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. When combined with the limited-slip
differential in the rear and specially formulated Goodyear Eagle tires,
the Lightning exhibits the best handling found in a pickup truck not sporting
all-wheel drive. Any of the understeer you normally expect to find in
a pickup during aggressive cornering was quickly overcome using the accelerator.
Ford SVT Lightning's engine, transmission and suspension complement each
other well. To experience the best performance we let the Lightning 'bolt'
from a standing start with overdrive off. The 3.73 rear axle ratio aids
in fast starts and it was amazing how solid the truck felt at well north
of 75 mph on the empty Texas hillside roads, even more so than at lower
One of the
more memorable points of the drive was when we came across an intersection
where one of the other Lightnings had been only moments earlier. The only
evidence the Lightning had been there was the cloud of gray smoke slowly
dissipating above the thick, black rubber marks in the road.
Lightning's exterior has received several enhancements over last year's
model. Though the front fascia is still the same it sports a new billet-like
grille and lower air intake. The headlights and tail lamps take a cue
from the aftermarket import crowd - clear lenses. It's a great way to
set the Lightning apart from the rest of the F-Series crowd and the rear
lamps are especially striking. Finishing off the exterior are sharp-edged,
5-spoke 18" rims.
Lightning the interior is largely unchanged. The white-on-black gauges
continue in the IP but now have electroluminescent backlighting.
has bumped up this year's production numbers for the Lightning from 5000
units to 7500. At $32,300 ($150 more dollars for the optional tonneau)
these trucks won't last long at the dealership leaving only the sound
of their thunder in the air.
mounted, single overhead cam, 90-degree Triton V-8 supercharged/intercooled,
cast iron block, aluminum-alloy heads, forged steel crankshaft
hp @ 4,750 rpm
lb.-ft. @ 3,250 rpm
horsepower per liter
rpm (fuel shut-off @ 5,400 rpm)
overhead camshafts, chain drive, roller finger followers with hydraulic
lash adjustment, beehive valve springs, two valves per cylinder