Johnny Lightning Performance uses this Harley-Davidson F-150 as a rolling testbed for the
Getting a long-wheelbase vehicle to transfer weight in a drag racing scenario is difficult
In 2000, Ford Motor Company announced a partnership with one of America's most recognizable brands-Harley-Davidson. At first, this partnership was just about fancy badges on Ford's number one selling vehicle. Ford spruced up the F-150 on the inside and added some sweet wheels. In 2001, a lower suspension setup and 20-inch wheels added more flair and greater interest. There was a major attraction to the truck, but sales were flat. The potential buyer was looking for greater performance. Once the public spoke out, Ford and Harley-Davidson listened.
The goals for the F-150 project changed, and the first priority became adding more excitement. The '02 model was to be way different for buyers. For the first time, mainstream Ford engineering teams had access to the SVT parts bin, and the one item they wanted was the highly touted 5.4L supercharged engine. It ensured this F-150 would have the guts to drag a trailer with a few bikes to Daytona Bike Week. Not only would it haul ass down the highway with ease, but the passengers would also be resting comfortably in a cushy cabin.
There are those who viewed the muscular Harley-Davidson F-150 as a more practical version of the SVT Lightning. Despite having a detuned computer system, which lowered the horsepower rating, and a suspension that wasn't as high-performance oriented as its SVT cousin, the Harley-Davidson F-150 fit the needs of high-performance truck enthusiasts. The truck came in two sizes; crew cab and super crew. That meant hauling more than two passengers was guaranteed, making it more appealing to a different demographic of buyers.
Sue Wiker (aka Mrs. Lightning) described how she got the Harley-Davidson F-150. "Johnny (Johnny Lightning) went to trade in my '99 V-6 (Mustang) for an '03 Cobra. We ended up with an '02 Harley. Johnny said the '03 Cobra would be too much to handle. He only said that because he would buy it for himself a few weeks later!" With the level of performance from Sue's truck, we think she would have been just fine behind the wheel of a Cobra. But, then again, having a 10-second truck isn't so bad, either! Another buying bonus for Johnny was he could use this truck to help develop more parts for their business, Johnny Lightning Performance. It was a great way for him to get hands-on with a Harley-Davidson F-150 and offer a line of parts for this premier performance vehicle. Having a more practical daily driver than a two-seater Lightning or a small Mustang also helped.
First on the list of mods was horsepower, with the goal of getting it back to the Lightning levels. A DiabloSport custom tune-up was in order as well. Johnny fired up the DynoJet chassis dyno one night and fixed the sub-standard computer tune-up. Then, he kept thrashing through the night adding supercharger pulleys, an air-inlet system, and an exhaust system (among other things). By dawn, his wife had a Harley truck that could hang with most Lightnings on the road.
For Sue, diamonds are a lot like drag racing records-they are both forever. With the first set of modifications, her truck was the first Harley-Davidson F-150 to run in the 11s. That accomplishment came rather easy, which then led to the husband and wife team taking a shot at the 10-second barrier a few months later.
The interior remains largely untouched, save for a few gauges so that Sue can keep an eye
Just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, 685-rwhp, 840 lb-ft rear-wheel-torque-producing engine
The power under the hood was the easy part of the equation-it was something the Johnny Lightning Performance crew did on a daily basis. It was the extra-long wheelbase that garnered the most questions and doubt. You can have all the horsepower and torque in the world, but if it is hampered by poor traction, then your e.t. will be slow on the dragstrip. The suspension is fairly straightforward and compensates for the extra-long wheelbase. JLP traction bars (in chrome finish) act as long levers to help bring up the front end and plant the Hoosier radial slicks. JLP/Bilstein shocks handle the hard launches and the potholes on the local Pennsylvania streets. Two JLP driveshaft loops surround the OEM driveshafts. The rear end is stock save for a Detroit Locker True-Trac differential and a set of 3.73 gears. Bogart wheels sit at all four corners when Sue's truck is on the racetrack. While on the street and going shopping, the Harley rolls around on the factory wheels.
Under the hood is pretty much standard JLP insanity, as the stock mill has been replaced with a mild 335. The factory block was bored to 3.57 inches and filled with Manley pistons and H-beam rods that swing off a factory crankshaft. A pair of JLP Stage 3 cylinder heads rests atop the engine and features a pair of JLP Stage 1 camshafts. Both Sue and Johnny were dead silent about the cam specs. It is a daily driver, so the idle is tame and throttle response is crisp.
The boost maker comes courtesy of Kenne Bell superchargers and is of the twin-screw variety. The air is efficiently supplied to the supercharger through a complete JLP induction system. The outside air is sucked into a high-flow conical air filter and makes its way through a JLP cold air kit. The air then runs through a custom inlet tube and stock MAF sensor with DiabloSport MAFia add-on. An Accufab throttle body opens up wide (133mm single blade) and lets the air into the JLP sheetmetal intake manifold. The Kenne Bell blower then crushes the air to 20 pounds per square inch. The factory air-to-water intercooler is aided by the JLP Ultra Cooler setup. This keeps the boosted air at power-making temperatures, no matter what the ambient temperature is outside of the truck. If that is not enough, then a Zex 125hp shot of nitrous oxide gets this pickup to giddy-up.
A surprisingly stock transmission backs the horsepower and massive amount of torque. It has been beefed up with a JLP/Level 10 valvebody and shift kit. But everything else is from the factory-including the torque converter! Transmission controls are handled through the computer. Johnny uses DiabloSport Chip Master Revolution software for all tuning.
When everything was said and done, it was time to take a shot at the coveted 10-second zone. It wasn't about power, it was about the long wheelbase. With tried and true modifications, Johnny was confident he could turn a 10 with his wife's grocery-getter. The deed happened in early 2005 at the NMRA-Reynolds event, where Johnny was racing in the Truck and Lightning category. He flipped on the nitrous and held on tight as the Harley truck pierced the 10-second barrier and ran 10.90 at 126 mph.
Primary use of this truck is everyday driving, so its days as a race vehicle are limited. Also, given the fact that Sue fills up the truck with groceries and people, there isn't a rollbar. When Johnny isn't messing with his new twin-turbo Gen 2 Lightning, you can be sure he will be asking his wife for the keys to her Harley truck and clicking off 10-second runs at will.