SLP Engineering's Ranger Thunderbolt Package Gets Ready to Make Some Noise
By: Michael Levine

If you're a fan of General Motor's F-body twins, the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, than you've probably heard of SLP Engineering. The Troy, Michigan based niche vehicle manufacturer has been responsible for creating the ground pounding, pavement eating high performance Camaro SS and Firebird Firehawk spin-offs (325 and 335-hp respectively for 2001).

But all is not well in the land of the GM pony cars. The still unconfirmed but continuous rumble out of Detroit is that 2002 marks the end of the road for the F-body cars.

So, SLP Engineering has started to look for an alternative to the Camaro and Firebird and has targeted the increasingly crowded, high-performance compact pickup truck market as their next target. Already occupied by the Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme and Toyota S-Runner, SLP Engineering has partnered with Ford and will use its Ranger compact pickup to go after younger truck enthusiasts looking to get as much performance bang for the buck as possible on a limited budget. Seems like the low 20K's is where all the action is happening in this segment.

Starting at around $1500, and ordered as an original equipment (not aftermarket) option, the Thunderbolt Performance Package will be available to 2002 XLT 4x2 Ranger buyers looking to stand apart from the rest of the crowd in looks and performance. The OE distinction is important because, like the Camaro SS and Firebird Firehawk, the Ranger Thunderbolt will be fully covered by Ford's factory warranty.

The base Thunderbolt will arrive with full-body exterior cladding, including a new front fascia with sculpted bumpers, rocker panel extensions, a rear roll panel, chromed rear exhaust tip and distinctive exterior badging and wheel caps.

Thunderbolt buyers will have the option of picking and choosing from a menu of SLP add-ons for their Ranger to further control the price of the package.

Additional options will include a performance package that adds 15-hp more to the XLT's optional V6 engine using a cat-back exhaust system, cold air box and free-flow filter.

To further strengthen the exterior's looks a monochromatic grille can be selected, integrated fog lights added, a nonfunctional hood scoop installed and rear tail bolted on. A lightning bolt graphics package and turn signal mirrors will also be available along with a choice of hard or soft tonneau covers.

Inside the the instrument panel can be enhanced with carbon fiber trim or brushed aluminum accents. Floor mats with Thunderbolt logos and matching key fob round out the options.

The full option package is expected to top out around $3000.

Rangers ordered with Thunderbolt options are to be shipped to SLP Engineering's retrofit facility in Shelbyville, KY where they will be customized with Thunderbolt body and drivetrain components. Finished trucks will ship straight to Ford dealerships. Total Thunderbolt production is expected to be around 5000 pickups the first year growing to 6500 in 2003.