everybody look at it like that? Hasn't anybody seen a pickup
truck before? I mean, it's just an F-150. Shortbed. Flareside.
Oh, sure, it has a forged crank. Aluminum heads. Alloy rods
and pistons. A sports-car suspension. Oh, and did I mention
the supercharger? But really, it's just a truck. Just a 360
horsepower, slick handling, badass truck. Lowered and black
and glowering its way around town on custom alloy rims. That
tows 5000 pounds. Ford's Lightning is almost too outrageous
to be real. A pickup truck that does .85 g on the skidpad?
What's next, a fifth-wheel Kia? But real it is, and the only
true debate about the Lightning is which is the greater achievement:
360 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque from a 2-valve engine,
or the fact that it all gets to the ground -- and stays there.
no mistaking the Lightning for anything else. Lowered half
an inch in front and two inches in the rear, SVT's hauler
squats over its 18" wheels. A bespoke fascia and rocker extensions
visually lower the truck even more, until only the full-height
cab reveals that this isn't one a' them NASCAR trucks. As
in NASCAR, the exhaust exits on the side, although the street
Ford puts it out just ahead of the right rear wheels. (And,
as in NASCAR, whatever Ford gets, GM wants; watch for Chevy's
forthcoming Silverado SS, designed specifically to take on
and frame are stock F-150, built on Ford's Oakville, Ontario
line. It's available only with the short bed (which handles
better) and as a flareside (which simplifies production; they're
only making 4000.) Because it's a stock cab, there's plenty
of room for your Stetson or your Simpson, as appropriate.
Almost all you have to decide is: red, black or white?
SVT's signature black-on-white gauges tell you this isn't
your grandpappy's truck. In this case, those gauges are
electroluminescent, lit from behind with orange needles.
Scanning from left to right, you find small fuel and oil
a 140 mile per hour speedometer (where the aerodynamic limit
is enforced by a fuel cutoff); and the 6000 rpm tachometer
with red line at 5250. Then, to the right, a water temperature
gauge leads your eyes to the magic boost gauge that sets this
F-150 apart from its kin.
aside, the interior is standard F-150, which is to say comfortable
and stylish. The Lightning comes with your choice of gray
cloth with black accents. Period. A very large fold-down armrest
opens to reveal a cupholder -- that'll handle even the very
large drinks -- and extra storage. In the dash are two power
ports and two smaller cupholders (soft cups only) nearer the
passenger side. The AM-FM cassette radio, air conditioning,
power mirrors, windows, and locks, and cruise control all
appear when you tick the Lightning box on your order form.
unique to the Lightning, start as an F-150 40/60 split bench.
The sides are then highly bolstered, particularly on the seat
back, so the result feels (and looks) like a bucket, but retains
a space for your Skip Barber instructor in the middle. Unfortunately,
as we have noticed in other SVT projects, the bolstering across
the shoulders and along the sides is so prodigious that the
small of your back sinks rearward, with seemingly less support.
That becomes an issue on longer trips, or particularly over
rough downtown pavement. But what are you doing downtown?
This truck was built for the open road; it loves to run.
all, this is the part you really wanted to read, isn't it?
The Lightning will take your breath away faster than a Lawrence
Taylor tackle. Its performance in any dimension is superb
for a car, and
of for a truck. Step on the throttle and the blown 5.4 jams you
back in the seat, lighting up even the massive Goodyears and thrusting
down the road with a gorgeous supercharger howl. Bury the brakes
-- or even finesse them -- and you'll be glad you fastened your
belt. Crank the steering wheel and the Lightning's mammoth contact
patch converts speed into lateral g NOW. It's more F-15 than F-150.
For that stopping
power, credit the pie-plate sized F-250 based 4-wheel discs (12.1"
in front, 13.1" in the rear, with 4mm thicker rotors than stock)
linked to 4-wheel ABS. Ford says the Lightning stops from 60 in
137 feet, only ten more than a Cobra. For the turning, credit the
stabilizer bars and massive 295/45-ZR18 Eagle F1GS rubber, based
on the tires Goodyear supplies to Ferrari and Corvette, but with
sidewalls stiffened to handle trailer loads (an attribute which,
for some reason, the Testarossa doesn't need.) But most of all,
give thanks to the SVT engineers, a bunch of wild and crazy car
people who make the whole thing work as a package.
dedication is nowhere more evident than driving to the grocery store.
Unlike many a hot-rod Frankenstein, the Lightning is docile and
completely tractable; indeed, were it not for the white gauges and
the wide eyes of passersby, you might well be in any F-150.
It would have
been easy to stop at the engine, as some earlier hot trucks did.
Heaven knows it would have been enough. The intercooled Eaton blower
takes the strength of the 5.4-liter Triton V-8 and adds Tabasco,
raising compression to 8.4:1. (Premium unleaded only, please.) Max
torque (440 lb/ft, remember?) arrives at 3000 revs, all 360 horses
flows through a four-speed automatic (no manual is available) to
the 9.75 inch, 3:55 limited slip rear. While it rained almost the
entire time that we had the Lightning, Ford claims an 0-60 time
of 6.2, and a 14.6 quarter at 97 mph. Which seems awfully conservative
But SVT didn't
stop at the firewall. Gas shocks went to all four corners, with
a 5-leaf rear spring replacing the standard 3-leaf. Add the fat
stabilizer bars and tires, and the up to 800 pound payload had better
be tied down really well.
enters corners with just a hint of initial understeer. Then the
Goodyears take over, delivering remarkably neutral handling through
the apex. On exit, you can use the throttle to move the rear end
out, but not very much; such is the Lightning's grip -- unloaded
-- that it takes a truly ham-footed driver to get it out of shape.
(Even we were unable to upset the rear end in anything but a wet
road situation.) Except for the very vertical seating position,
you might as well be in a Corvette or Cobra.
Part of the
appeal of a factory hot rod is polish, and the Lightning certainly
has that. Annoyances were few. In mixed but spirited driving, the
Lightning consistently averaged 15.3 mpg, but what did you expect?
Also, over rough surfaces, the pickup bed rattled a bit. We suspect
the standard bed liner to may not have had quite a happy marriage
with our test truck.
is a terrific ride. Consider it the perfect companion vehicle for
someone who has a Corvette in her garage. It adds real utility to
real sport. Our tested Lightning, which bore every available option
except the tonneau cover, came to just over 30K; that's a decent
tab for a vehicle with limits so distant that most of its performance
is not available on the street.
In the end,
the Lightning is the most fun you can have sitting straight up.
Ford SVT Lightning
Price as tested
includes class III trailer towing package, $245USD; 6-disc cd changer,
$210USD; destination, $640USD.