August 13, 2003 – the day of reckoning was at hand. The Ford F-150 Lightning would seek to make official its claim to be the world’s fastest production pickup. The Guinness World Records team was in place at Ford’s Michigan Proving Grounds high-speed oval. It was time for the Lightning to go big or go home. After turning a first lap through the timing lights at 147.974 mph, driver and Ford engineer Tom Chapman pushed the Lightning to 147.454 mph in the opposite direction for an average speed of 147.714 mph – a new Guinness World’s Record for production pickups.
Ford’s Electric Lightning
Ford’s electric F-150 Lightning will face tremendous pressure when it debuts sometime in the spring of 2022. Pressure will not only come from competitors trying to knock the F-150 brand off the top step of the truck sales podium, but from the Lightning’s own family. His grandfather, the SVT Lightning built between 1993 and 1995, successfully fought off the competition to establish the Ford F-150 family’s place in the world of high-performance trucks. But his father, the 1999-2004 Lightning, raised the family success bar to almost impossible heights. He was certified as the world’s fastest production pickup by none other than the authorities at Guinness World Records. How in the world is the new electric kid supposed keep up the family traditions?
Well, it won’t be easy, but chief engineer Linda Zhang seems to have given the 2022 electric F-150 Lightning enough muscles and features to carve out its own niche in the family tree. It will be available only as a SuperCrew body style with a standard battery pack rated at 426 horsepower and an EPA-estimated range of 230 miles, or an optional extended range pack with 563 horsepower and an EPA-estimated range of 300 miles. The Lithium-Ion power packs, both rated at 775 pound-feet of torque, will power front and rear electric motors to give the Lightning full-time four-wheel drive. Official performance figures have not yet been released, but zero-to-sixty mph time is estimated to be in the mid-four second range, quicker than his dad’s 5.2 seconds.
The electric F-150 Lightning will not only be fast, it will be a work horse. With the standard battery pack, the new Lightning has a payload capacity of 2,000 pounds and a towing rating of 7,700 pounds. The Lightning with extended range battery pack carries a towing rating of 10,000 pounds when equipped with the Max Trailer Tow package. Since the extended range battery pack is heavier and larger than the standard pack, the Lightning’s payload capacity with the extended range pack drops down to 1,800 pounds. Ford is pushing its own boundaries with the battery packs, as they are the largest Ford has ever put into production,
You will have a choice of four Lightning models. The base PRO model is directed toward the commercial trades and for personal use, Ford will offer three levels of luxury trim and cool features with the XLT, the LARIAT, and the top-of-the-line PLATINUM models. What will it cost? According to Ford, the MSRP for the entry level, commercially oriented model will begin at $39,974 and the XLT MSRP will begin at $52,974. Depending on the options selected, it is believed that the price for the more upscale models will top out around $90,000.
First Generation Lightning 1993 to 1995
The electric Lightning’s speed and hauling ability fits in well with the trails blazed by its ancestors. Ford’s F-Series pickup truck first saw the light of day in 1948 and has been the world’s most popular pickup for the past forty-four years. The first SVT Lightning was based on the fourth generation F-150 produced between 1992 and 1996. For 1992, the F-150 saw a complete fenders and grille facelift, a lower hood, a new dash, a reintroduction of the FlareSide pickup bed, and new creature comforts, such as remote keyless entry, power driver’s seat, passive alarm system, and an optional CD player.
The heart of the first Lightning was the Windsor 5.8L V8 with high-flow GT-40 heads and a special Lightning intake manifold to increase response, output and durability. With all the modifications, the Windsor 351 engine produced 240 horsepower at 4,200 rpm and 340 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm giving the Lightning a zero-to-sixty time of 7.2 seconds and a standing quarter-mile time of 15.6 seconds with a terminal velocity of 87.4 mph. Not bad for a pickup with a cargo capacity rating of 745 pounds and a towing capacity rating of 4,600 pounds – figures its high-performance competition couldn’t match.
An upgraded Ford E40D automatic transmission with an aluminum driveshaft was the only transmission available for the hot rod pickup. Handling was improved by lowering the ride height one inch in the front and 2.5 inches at the rear to lower the center of gravity and adding seventeen-inch aluminum wheels with Firestone Firehawk tires to help the stiffer and more responsive suspension get a good grip on the road.
Ford’s Michigan Truck Facility turned out 11,563 Lightnings in three years of production. But with the new fifth generation F-150 due in 1997 scheduled to have a new engine and improved aerodynamics, there was little reason for Ford to continue developing the Lightning based on the outgoing fourth generation F-150. Lightning production ceased following the 1995 model year.
Second Generation Lightning 1999 to 2004
The Ford team went to work on the fifth generation F-150 and the new Lightning II was ready for the 1999 model year. The Lightning II was available only as a two-door standard cab with the step-side bed, but it shared a host of features with the latest F-150, such as anti-lock braking system, 40/60 split bench seat with six-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped four-spoke steering wheel, auxiliary transmission cooler, and an engine oil cooler trailer towing package. Comfort and convenience items included air conditioning, power door locks, power side windows, power mirrors, and remote keyless entry.
All of those features were nice, but the heart and soul of the Lightning II was its get-up-and-go. A 5.4L, SOHC Triton V8 with aluminum alloy heads, forged steel crankshaft and an intercooled Eaton Roots-type supercharger lurked under the hood producing 360 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and torque of 440 pound-feet at 3,250 rpm. The ponies gave the Lightning a zero-to-sixty time of 6.2 seconds and a standing quarter-mile time of 14.6 seconds at a speed of 97 mph. Not content to rest on its laurels, in 2001 the Ford team improved the air intake manifold and redesigned the intercooler to boost the horsepower to 380 and the torque to 450 pound-feet, dropping the zero-to-sixty time to 5.8 seconds. More upgrades in 2003 included improved Goodyear unidirectional tires with a new F1GS rubber compound to improve the tire’s grip, reducing of the Lightning II’s zero-to-sixty time to 5.2 seconds as tested by Car and Driver magazine.
The handling of the Lightning II was even better than its predecessor thanks to eighteen-inch wheels and monster twelve-inch vented disc brakes with twin-piston calipers at the front and thirteen-inch disc brakes with single-piston calipers at the rear. Initially, the Lightning II had Monroe shock absorbers, but switched to Bilsteins from 2001 to 2004. It was the 2003 Lightning II that established the new Guinness World Speed Record for production pickup trucks of 147.714 mph. The Lightning II’s record stood until Feb. 2, 2004 when it was broken by a Dodge Ram SRT-10 pickup averaging 154.587 mph.
The Nineties Lightning Rides into the Sunset
When Ford engineers looked into their crystal ball, they were not excited by the high-performance trucks they saw. The predicted continued growth in size of the F-150 simply made it too large to be practically converted into a street performance machine. The braking requirements to quickly stop a big truck like the upcoming F-150 on a road course would require massive six-piston brake calipers increasing the weight of the already too-heavy vehicle. The bottom line was that too much bulky equipment would have been required to make an SVT Lightning III work.
A Lightning III concept truck appeared at the Detroit Auto Show in 2003 with a supercharged V8 producing 500 horsepower and making 500 pound-feet of torque, but Ford’s new F-150 platform was so much heavier than the existing F-150 it would have required a host of drivetrain upgrades to surpass the previous Lightning’s performance. In addition to the weight issue, the only transmission that could handle the torque of the Lightning III engine was a manual, which was considered to be too awkward to drive in a sporty manner. Faced with all the facts, Ford decided to shift their high-performance truck efforts to off-road vehicles, such as the Raptor, and let the Lightning II ride peacefully into the sunset.
As a collectible vehicle, the first- and second-generation Lightnings have a lot to offer. They had short production runs, special appearance features, hot engines and improved suspensions. Lightnings are still relatively obscure, but that may soon change. With all of the hoopla surrounding the electric Lightning, more and more people will become acquainted with the name and the performance accomplishments of the Lightning family, boosting their desirability among collectors. Judging from the preliminary figures, the electric Lightning should be able to go fast and haul stuff, which is, as Hank Williams Jr. once sang, a “family tradition” of the whole Lightning clan.
The bottom line for many collectors is that Lightnings can embarrass many newer vehicles from a standing start, handle better than non-performance pickups, and unlike many of their fellow performance pickups, can still haul or tow reasonable loads. The Lightnings offer a combination of heart-pounding performance and usable practicality that simply cannot be matched by other collectible vehicles.
Blue Oval Trucks: https://www.blueovaltrucks.com/ford_articles/ford-f-150-lightning-history/
Hot Cars https://www.hotcars.com/story-ford-f-150-lightning/
Ford Lightning: http://www.fordlightning.com/
Gear Patrol https://www.gearpatrol.com/cars/a595347/vintage-ford-f-150-svt-lightning-the-sport-truck-you-never-knew-you-wanted/
Driving Line: https://www.drivingline.com/articles/ford-svt-lightning-perfected-the-modern-muscle-truck-formula/
Truck Trend: http://www.trucktrend.com/features/ford-f-150-from-1948-to-2021
Ford Media: https://www.ford.com/trucks/f150/f150-lightning/2022/#faqs
Car and Driver: https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a36433090/2022-ford-f-150-lightning-specs-revealed/
Bruce Troxell Bio
“There’s no shortage today of enthusiast automotive writers and bloggers. Bruce Troxell, however, is unique. He writes with an understanding of what truly makes cars and car people tick. Bruce is a storyteller, not just a writer. Once you start reading his lead, you can’t stop.” Martyn Schorr – Editor, CarGuyChronicles.com
Bruce Troxell is a professional freelance writer who has been contributing articles on automotive and aviation topics to a variety of websites and print publications since 2009. Following careers as an engineer with a major automobile manufacturer and as a lawyer in private practice, Bruce discovered the joys of writing and has never looked back. He brings a unique perspective and an engaging conversational style to all his writings.
Bruce is a creative automotive storyteller always looking for the stories of the people behind the automobiles. His expertise in storytelling has been recognized by the Automotive Heritage Foundation in their annual journalism competition. In 2020, his story The Day Corvette Became a World Class Sports Car was awarded a Silver medal in the Best Heritage Motorsports Story category. In 2018, his blog Cars We Love came home with a Bronze Medal in the Best Blog or Column category.
An avid sports car fan since he saw his first professional race at Watkins Glen, New York, Bruce’s car interests have blossomed to include vintage cars, hot rods, and custom cars. He has participated in numerous vintage car rallies and is a concours veteran.
Born and raised in New Jersey, he and his wife Cindy now live in bucolic central Virginia with Max, a prescient stray cat who wandered into their lives several years ago and decided to stay.