While we can bask in the glory of new performance trucks like the 2017 F-150 Raptor, it has been a whopping 13 years since Ford’s now-defunct Special Vehicle Team produced its last street performance truck—the Lightning. For many these trucks are low on voltage but for fans of these supercharged haulers, the spark of passion is still strong.
Nearly 50 Lightning trucks gathered at the Route 46 Entertainment District in Sanford, Florida, to celebrate SVT’s performance pickup at the 2017 Florida Lightning/Harley Davidson Meet.
“It started at Old Town and started to get a little stagnant. About three years ago we did the last one at Old Town. It was dumping rain and about five or six trucks showed up,” Tommy explained. “So, I took it over and changed it up. Went to Daytona last year and had about 70 trucks. More people started to get interested in it and now I am changing it up every year to a different venue because this is some peoples’ vacation.”
Taking over the event and guiding it back from the brink was a passion play for Tommy, who seems to thrive on making the event a great time for fellow Lightning fans.
From his Slayer shirt to his build-it-for-the-street attitude, Eric Gray is your author’s kinda guy. His 700-horsepower 2003 Lighting sports a built motor, a Whipple 3.4-liter supercharger and every possible mod you can imagine, including subtle touches like a shaved antenna. “Trailer queens ain’t my thing. I wanted to build something that I could get my achievement out of. …I built this truck so that—the way I drive it in street form—I can drive to the track, run a 10.8-10.9 on street wheels at 5,000 pounds and turn around and drive it home,” he told us. “I don’t build them to the point where getting there is a chore. The drive is what’s about for me. I have no qualms. I could hop in this and go to California…”
Two thousand four was the last year they made them. It’s a dying breed like a dinosaur, but the passion is still here.—Tommy McGee, Palm Bay Ford
“Two thousand four was the last year they made them. It’s a dying breed like a dinosaur, but the passion is still here,” he said. “That’s one of things I like about these guys. It doesn’t matter. We all share passion for one thing—the trucks and getting together. Right, wrong or indifferent. Whatever the builds are. One might not be as good as the other, but it’s the passion.”
The origins of the event spawned from loyalists populating the Internet forums dedicated to these trucks, including Lightning Rodder and Lightning Garage. These days the key bringing the group together to charge its collective batteries together once a year is driven by getting the word out the way most people do these days.
“Social media has taken it to a whole new level this year,” Tommy added. “Back in the early 2000s it was all about the forums, but now social media has taken and spread this out.”
Would you be surprised to learn that Chris Conrad drove his 900-horsepower Lightning down from Charleston, South Carolina? His truck goes by the name Cinderblock and features a 5.4 bored 0.30 over and topped by ported Romeo PI heads from CNCPort.com fitted with custom turbo cams. Those bumpsticks work nicely with the truck’s custom stainless steel turbo system based on a single Borg-Warner turbo. It still retains all the creature comforts, save for the cruise control, which was displaced by the turbo.
I love these trucks. There is just something about them. It’s not just the trucks. It’s the owners.—Chris Conrad, Lightning Owner
Indeed, when we stopped by to check out the event there were a diverse group of Lightnings on hand. From bolt-on pickups to insanely powerful builds, there was something for everyone who appreciates these trucks and those in attendance certainly seem to share a special bond.
“I love these trucks,” said Chris Conrad, owner of a turbo Lighting, who makes carbon-fiber interior bits for these trucks on the side. “There is just something about them. It’s not just the trucks. It’s the owners. They are just a different type of people.”
If you share this passion for SVT’s super truck, look for another meet to pop up in February of 2018.
The most powerful truck we discovered at the meet belonged to Matias Perez from Miami, Florida. “I have had the truck since new, so it’s my baby. In 2006, after daily driving it for three years, I took it of the road as my daily driver,” Matias explained. “I wanted to do a motor project in it. I had a friend convince me. He said, ‘If you are going to pull the motor out, you have to put in a Four-Valve.’ So that’s what we did.” The result is a 1,040-horsepower, 9.71-second street truck motived by an engine fortified by billet internals by Al Papito and topped by the heads, cams and lower intake from a Ford GT super car. It receives 26 pounds of boost from an 82mm turbo and is fueled by three AEM E85 fuel pumps that supply 16 injectors commanded by a Pro EFI controller. “The idea was to keep it—when the hood’s down, the windows are up and the truck is driving down the street—so it doesn’t seem like it’s anything crazy or out of the ordinary, but it has a lot of power under the hood in a package that’s still manageable to drive around,” he added.
Just a toy truck that Tim Duckett from Pennsyslvania only drives 200-300 miles a year to shows, this 2000 Lightning is powered by a Kenne Bell-blown 5.4 with forged internals which cranks out 650 horsepower. It rides 3 inches lower in the front and 5 inches lower in the back and sports big brakes and a custom interior. While this truck is obviously is pride and joy, Tim’s love for Lightings has room to grow, as he is currently constructing a 1999 Lightning with a turbo Coyote, which he hopes will produce 1,500 horsepower.
We don’t blame Josh Sayers for taping up the front of his 2000 Lightning for the drive up from Naples, Florida. Under that protection-worthy paint job is a 5.4 built with forged Manley internals and topped by Comp cams and a Kenne Bell supercharger. All together, it puts own 539 horsepower to back up the truck’s menacing look.
Everybody loves a long-haul story, and Jesus Elizondo topped them all at this year’s meet, driving 24 hours from Mission, Texas, to attend. His 2004 Lightning features a few choice bolt-ons, including a cold-air intake, a single-blade throttle body, a full exhaust, a 6-pound lower pulley and a tune. All told it puts down 403 horsepower to the wheels.