It all started out when I was looking for a truck to tow my 24-foot jet boat. — Kevin Dupoux
When the first-generation Ford F-150 SVT Lightning entered the marketplace back in 1993, it was a breath of fresh air in the performance-truck segment. Boasting a 351 Windsor (or a 5.8-liter, as some folks call it), the first Lightning really was a truck in its own class, delivering 240 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque at the crank.
Despite those numbers, the Lightning focused on more than just straight-line speed. In fact, SVT really went back to the drawing board for this special F-150, as the first Lightning could out pace a Mustang GT of the same year around a road course. And with a towing capacity of more than 8,400 pounds, we think it’s safe to say, it really was a truck above its class for the time.
Fast forward about seven years later, and the second-generation, 1999 SVT Lightning debuts. Boasting a smaller, yet more powerful, supercharged 5.4-liter SOHC Two-Valve V8 – this revamped Lightning was good for 360 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque at the crank. Moreover, the second generation SVT Lightning made more horsepower and torque than the SVT Mustang Cobra of the same model year.
And then you have folks like Kevin Dupoux, the owner of this Whipple-supercharged 2004 Lightning. Being the owner of the last year of the SVT Lightnings, Kevin was fortunate enough to start his horsepower journey with what is arguably the best year for these trucks — as these pickups saw an increase in power over time culminating 380 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque.
Love At First Sight
It all began with the need to tow his jet boat.
It’s a tale as old as time. We find ourselves in need of a second car (or in this case, a truck,) for various reasons.
“It all started out when I was looking for a truck to tow my 24-foot jet boat,” Kevin told us. “I found the truck on the internet in Jacksonville, Florida. I decided to go look at it, and I fell in love with it. It was mostly stock, save for a 6-pound pulley and an aftermarket cold air intake. The truck was spotless and super clean – it was one of kind for the price and condition it was in. It had 10,000 original miles on it, and it was a one-owner truck. I didn’t hesitate one bit on buying since they are rare with low mileage in like new condition, so I purchased it in February of 2013. From there I did a few bolt-ons, such as a smaller pulley, a new intake, and a tune.”
After installing that handful of simple modifications, Kevin began to see the potential of his newly purchased Lightning. He also learned the limits of the factory Eaton supercharger.
The interior of Kevin's SVT Lightning isn't a bad place to be at all, either. The custom center console and bucket seats, along with the "Lightning" logo laser-engraved and matching upholstery seats was done courtesy of Chris Conrad.
Just One More Pound…
Kevin eventually replaced the stock Eaton supercharger with a 2.3-liter Whipple twin-screw supercharger, and that’s when he really felt the difference. “I saw the potential of the SVT Lightning, and I continued to modify the truck with more upgrades,” he said. “As the upgrades went on the truck and it made more power, I fell in love with it even more – especially being that it is a 4,700 pound truck! I never knew that these trucks made great power with only a few bolt-ons.”
Photo credit: Josh Baker
Unfortunately, all wasn’t perfect in paradise. As a result of adding too much timing in the engine for a 93 octane pump gas tune, the engine was completely trashed.
“I then hit a few road blocks with my Lightning, as the tune wasn’t dialed in properly,” Kevin confessed. “It ended up destroying a valve and a piston, and I melted the spark plugs. We found that out when we pulled the tune out of the PCM. It was a stock 5.4-liter Lightning engine, and it happened while I was racing at the track and the truck began hesitating.”
We Can Rebuild Him
This Whipple twin screw supercharger received a serious upgrade by RareFab. Now this Whipple is ready to flow more air than ever before.
Down but not out, Kevin decided he wanted to transform his Lightning into the truck he had always imagined it could be. With form and functionality in mind, he sought out to begin his endeavor with two goals in mind: his Lightning had to make a 10-second pass, and it still had to tow his 24-foot jet boat across the country.
“I looked at my options after that incident,” Kevin explained. “I decided to go with a fully built engine from Tim (Eichorn) at MPR Race Engines. He built me a full long-block to handle the power and goal that I had in mind.” It was then that Kevin hooked up with William (Barnette) from RareFab Performance & Fabrication. “He’s a good friend of mine, and he suggested we do a few upgrades once the engine was back in the truck.”
The final product.
William fabricated Kevin a custom plenum with a 5-inch intake tube to take full potential of the 2.3-liter Whipple supercharger, allowing it to be pushed to its limits and to let it breathe at maximum capacity; while a custom billet mid-plate built by Joel Charles from JC Customs houses the entire package.
“At this point, I went to one of the best tuner that I know…Ken Bjonnes from Palm Beach Dyno.” Kevin said. “RareFab and Palm Beach Dyno are basically two bays apart, which made it even easier to get everything situated and worked on. Ken was able to work with me and get the truck to maximum power out of my Lightning without any issues.
Onward And Upward!
Ready for the rollers at Palm Beach Dyno.
2004 SVT Lightning Specs
Brakes:OEM Ford F-250 brakes
Camshafts: Custom Bullet cams by Todd Warren
Cylinder Heads: TrickFlow
Engine: 5.4-liter SOHC Two-Valve V8 short-block built by MPR Race Engines
Tires/Wheels: 17×4.5-inch and 15×10-inch Race Star wheels and Mickey Thompson ET Street II drag radials
Transmission: 4R100 BTS billet built automatic transmission
After buttoning everything up, Kevin had the truck ready to roll in the capable hands of Ken Bjonnes once again. His Lightning made more than 700 horsepower and 800 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels, but transmission just wasn’t in the mood.
“I contacted Brian at BTS Transmissions and was able to use a bulletproof transmission with billet internals,” Kevin said.
He also added a PI torque converter. After RareFab got everything running with the new transmission, Ken came to the track a few times to review the datalogs and tweak the shift point with a few other things.
“I ended up with a 10.4-second pass at more than 131 mph that day, and that was in 90-degree weather with 90-percent humidity at only 21 psi last May.
“The truck is still full weight, and it still has A/C. The only thing that came out of the truck was my passenger seat for the quarter-mile passes,” Kevin said. “It weighs roughly 4,750 pounds the last time I weighed it at the track.”
In January of this year, Kevin was able to make a blistering 10.21-second pass at more than 135mph. He knew his Lightning still had plenty left in it, as he was still using a smaller set of 1 5/8-inch headers with a 2.5-inch exhaust. Kevin is planning the move to a set of 1 7/8 American Racing Headers with a custom 3-inch exhaust from RareFab soon.
Photo credit: RareFab
“It’s currently making around 750 and 860 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels, and can still tow my boat around! I like that it can be a show truck and race/tow truck all in one. It’s hard to do, but it can be done, and I think it’s unique,” he added. “I have won many local shows for best truck, and my Lightning has been the only truck on the ‘Top 10 List of Street Racing Made Safe’ events here in South Florida for the last seven months. I’ve raced against cars that weigh a lot less, and make more power than me!”
Photo credit: Michael D. Photography
If you thought Kevin’s Lightning build wasn’t already ambitious enough, you’ll be happy to know he’s completely switching up the game.
“We plan to go 9s on boost only in a full-weight truck,” Kevin told us. “I have since done a few different things on the truck and increased the boost with the current Whipple combination. After we make a 9-second pass in the truck the way it sits, I am planning to have full, custom-built turbo kit from RareFab. We’ve started a new engine build on the side which will use custom Diamond Racing pistons, billet I-beam connecting rods, and ARP 2000 head studs to handle the higher boost I am going to throw at it. We’ll be bumping up the compression as well. Tim at MPR says this long-block will be good for 1, 500 horsepower. ”
Kevin also has plans to run some additional events coming later in the year, such as FL2K in October and the NMRA/Mod Nationals events later this year. Rest assured, we’ll update you on Kevin’s ’04 Lightning as he progresses with the build.