Road & Track (USA)
Whence It Came
A. First Generation: 1993–95
In 1992, Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) division unveiled the F-150 Lightning in direct response to Chevrolet’s performanceoriented Silverado 454 SS. Under the hood of every Lightning sat a 5.8-liter V-8 engine, although not one you’d find in any other Ford. SVT outfitted it with better-breathing GT40 heads and a set of shorty stainless-steel headers. That hot-rodded engine made 240 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels via the F-350’s four-speed automatic—that’s 10 more horsepower than the 454 SS. Other performance tweaks included an aluminum driveshaft, a limited-slip differential, and 4.10 gears out back. Custom shocks and a set of front and rear anti-roll bars helped keep the power under control. The Lightning even used a version of the F-250’s beefier frame. The performance upgrades didn’t come at the cost of capability: The Lightning’s tow rating matched that of standard F-150s. Distinctive 17-inch wheels, bucket seats, color-matched bumpers, a front air dam, and Lightning decals make the first-gen truck easy to identify. It was offered only in black, red, or white exterior paint. Ford sold 11,563 first-gen Lightnings.
B. Second Generation: 1999–2004
After a three-year absence, the F-150 SVT Lightning returned in 1999 as a far more aggressive sport truck than its predecessor. It came exclusively in the regular-cab, short-bed configuration and was no longer as capable at typical tasks like towing as its counterparts. Its payload capacity was a measly 800 pounds when it debuted. That later increased to 1350 pounds. Truckish capability suffered, but the Lightning’s performance improved dramatically. The 5.4-liter V-8 engine, which came fitted with an intercooled supercharger, provided 360 hp and 440 lb-ft when it debuted, later bumped to 380 hp and 450 lb-ft for 2001. A Detroit Locker rear differential helped keep things tidy during the truck’s 5.2-second 0–60-mph runs. Upgraded front and rear shocks and four-wheel ABS and disc brakes rounded out the major upgrades. Bilstein shocks became standard in 2001. The truck’s body was heavily reworked compared to the standard F-150, with new fascias, fog lamps, air deflectors, and rocker moldings. Unique 18-inch wheels came wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Ford built 28,124 secondgen Lightnings.