Ford first built the SVT Lightning back in 1993, stuffing a 240-horsepower 5.8-liter V8 under the hood of the F-150. But it wasn't until the second generation that the SVT Lightning truly came into its own. The 1999 F-150 got a 5.4-liter V8 with a factory supercharger that pushed out 360 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft. of torque. But after 2004, Ford stopped building the Lightning, and it never came back. Apparently, that's because the F-150 got too big.
That's , which recently spoke with Ford Performance's Dynamics Technical Specialist Eric Zinkosky about the SVT Lightning. Turns out, his team actually considered developing a third-generation version, but they soon realized that turning it into a street-performance truck would be impractical.
"In about 2006, we started looking at a performance truck off the new chassis. The truck had grown to be very big," Zinkosky told Motor Authority. "When we looked at what it took to make that a better performing Lightning, it was a lot of power, it was a lot of tire, it was a lot of brake. In our mind, that became a huge challenge."
Fitting the new truck with big enough brakes presented an especially daunting challenge.
"We started looking at what it would take to stop a good, fast-moving truck that could go to the road course, and the brakes were 6-piston Brembos that you and I would have to drag over to the truck. They were huge," said Zinkosky. "All of that started making less and less sense as you looked at how big and heavy it was going to be."
At the suggestion of Jamal Hameedi, current Global Performance Vehicle Chief Engineer, they decided to go a different direction and developed an off-road performance truck. "We realized there was a place where the OEMs weren't doing anything, and that was this performance off-road truck right out of the dealership," Zinkosky said.
But developing the first-generation SVT Raptor proved to be plenty challenging on its own. Since Ford had never sold an off-road performance truck before, it had to figure out the process and the testing on the fly.
As Motor Authority points out, though, bringing the SVT Raptor to market was worth the hassle. Not only did it blow the socks off most reviewers, it also sold like crazy. Ford was even forced to increase production to keep up with demand.
It would definitely have been nice if Ford had brought back the SVT Lightning. But having just driven the 2017 Ford Raptor, we have to say we're thankful it made the switch.