In 1993, Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) unveiled a unique performance vehicle that would change the face of hot rodding. SVT offered up the F-150 Lightning, and in doing so gave us a sharp-looking pickup truck that could kick the you-know-what out of Chevy's SS454 pickup, among other vehicles. Prior to the SVT rig, pickups were mainly used to tow race cars and haul parts and other stuff. But the Lightning, in its Gen I and Gen II iterations, changed that notion forever.
In case you're unaware, the Gen I models were produced from 1993 to 1995 with a 351-inch Windsor packing 240 hp, which was potent for the early '90s. Then, as quickly as it came, the Lightning went away, only to return after a five-year hiatus. For 1999, SVT brought back the nameplate with the second-edition production run, which lasted until 2004. It was worth the wait.
The Gen II Lightnings packed a nasty wallop, thanks in part to the Eaton blower sitting atop the 5.4-liter Triton modular engine. Starting off at 360 hp (1999-2000), the power output was boosted in 2001 to 380 hp, making the Lightning the fastest production truck at the time. Stock Gen IIs could run low-13s, and a revolution began to see who could run 12s, 11s, and then 10s.
The Lightning was a viable alternative for the Mustang, and with a few bolt-ons it could be turned into a Camaro or Vette killer. Even though production stopped in 2004, the appeal of the heavyweight hauler is still going strong.
To prove it, we gathered some of the bad-dest street-legal Lightnings and cut them loose on the quarter-mile strip at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. Eight trucks made the trek, and after the ground rules were laid down (as far as streetability and safety equipment), it was time to take it to the track. We had an even spread of trucks and combinations, as First and Second Gen trucks ripped up the track with boost and laughing gas. When it was all said and done, there were eight trucks that flat-out hauled the mail.
Amazingly, a few of these 4,000-plus-pound beasts ran quicker than any stock suspension Lightnings ever had, despite being forced to breath in some of the hottest air the '06 summer had to offer. In the end, we saw killer burnouts, great runs, and a nine-second elapsed time.