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So, where does all this leave the next generation SVT Lightning with Dodge and Chevy mobilizing their troops? Scarpello says, “SVT customers have to have the top of the line and that’s what we plan to continue to offer. What we are trying to show with the Lightning (concept) is that no one will knock us off the mountain. The production truck will probably be quite close to this.”

Scarpello and the SVT gang seem to be most concerned with the performance threat offered from the Dodge Ram SRT-10, and what that means to this segment will probably lighten wallets as much as it boosts performance.

The Dodge Ram SRT-10 is expected to sticker in the $50,000 range with performance numbers almost certainly better than the 2003 Ford SVT Lightning when it hits the streets later this year or in early 2004.

“It’s a total repositioning of trucks in the (performance) segment…but their moment in the limelight will be very short”, says Scarpello. “Our engineers have been doing this for over 10 years and we have a brand new platform we are starting with. We can offer a much better driving experience.”

Performance numbers are sure to change but in Scarpello’s view, “You have to be careful about getting hung up on certain specs. We (SVT) would give up having the best 0-60 times but we won’t let go of the ¼-mile. That’s our performance benchmark.”

Scarpello expects to see prices on the highest performing truck rise with their driving dynamics. “We are getting into higher and higher performance and that pushes prices up, but you can’t let the competition take over. SVT owners deserve the top-of-the-line.”

Though Scarpello and others won’t say what the final price range for a next generation Lightning will be, we think it can be assumed that it will be far north of the low $30k’s you might pay for one of these trucks today and probably a lot closer to the SRT-10’s expected price tag to get those three letters and the performance numbers that go with it on your pickup.

Scarpello does speculate that we could see a price-driven division in performance appear that’s similar to today’s Mustang. For those willing to pay top dollar they can purchase an SVT Mustang Cobra while those with less financial resources that still want a high performing car can buy a Ford Mach I Mustang. Ford could take the same path with the new truck and offer lower-priced but very muscular F-150’s while SVT follows whatever path possible to stay at the top of the heap.

When will the new Lightning show up? According to Scarpello, “For 2004 we are in a changeover period and the Lightning’s plant will be one of the last plants to convert for production of the new F-150. Our version will lag by months, possibly up to a year after the new truck goes on sale.”

In the meantime, Scarpello says that John Coletti is waiting down by the stoplight for the competition to finally show up and for SVT owners and driving enthusiasts to keep a spot open in their driveways. Ford’s Lightning will be striking again soon.

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