Drive: Ford SVT Lightning Bolt Ranger!
By: Michael Levine
© 2002 PickupTruck.com
Call it trickle
down performance. After all the years of attention and engineering paid
by Ford to the superb SVT Lightning F-150 muscle truck, some of that high-octane
magic has finally reached Ford’s compact pickup in the form of the
SVT Lightning Bolt Ranger concept.
for the Lightning Bolt Ranger began with Ford Special Vehicle Team powertrain
engineer Dave Dempster. His concept was to create a vehicle that didn’t
draw attention with just 'paint-and-tape' looks as much as creating a
performance machine that would leave its mark “on those occasions
when the accelerator pedal might get exercised aggressively.”
approached O.J. “John” Coletti, SVT’s engineering director,
for project approval.
you've gone over the edge!” is what Dempster remembers from Coletti’s
initial comments about the Lightning Bolt but Coletti immediately gave
the project the green light under the mantle of SVT’s performance
Next up was
the Ford Ranger that would be transformed by Dempster and his team into
the Lightning Bolt - a black regular cab, style side 2.5-liter I4 automatic.
As much as possible, off-the-shelf hardware was used to keep build and
fabrication costs down.
engine and transmission were replaced with the same 5.4-liter supercharged
engine and automatic transmission used in the SVT Lightning, even though
the compact Lightning Bolt weighs in at 1200 pounds less than its big
brother. Custom 2-foot headers, a K&N air filter and the relocation
of the supercharger’s air inlet to accommodate the Ranger’s
unique air entry position were the only material changes to the stock
powerplant. The exhaust system was modified with stainless steel and Borla
Super Pro mufflers resulting in a power boost from 380hp and 450lb-ft
to an estimated 400hp and 460lb-ft. Handling all of this power also meant
replacing the Ranger’s stock driveshaft with a shortened 3-foot
aluminum version from the Lightning.
As the powertrain
transplant was going on, the Ranger was torn down right to its chassis.
To fit the
5.4-liter engine under the Ranger’s factory hood the suspension
was lowered 2-inches. Dempster said, “The Ranger's light duty front
suspension was inadequate to handle the heavier V8 powertrain. Production
F-150 Lightning suspension hardware was fitted to the chassis wherever
possible (such as) in the lower control arms and steering knuckles.”
rails were boxed and cross-braced in several areas to handle the almost
300lb-ft increase in torque between the Ranger’s 153lb-ft I4 and
the Lightning Bolt’s V8. These chassis modifications also “necessitated
the removal of the production plastic longitudinal fuel tank and an aft
axle fuel cell was fabricated requiring moving the fuel access door to
the rear of the vehicle” according to Dempster.
Ranger’s rack and pinion steering gear was retained but the power
steering pump was replaced with one from a Lightning for better steering
feedback. A custom steering shaft was required to clear the new headers.