If you do any regular commuting for any substantial distance, you probably notice the sheer number of big, lifted crew-cab pickups on the road. It’s a sign of the times, and the latest trend in truck culture. Inspired by factory-built models like Ford’s off-roading SVT Raptor, the flashy Chevy Silverado 1500 Rally, and the blacked-out Ram 1500 Rebel, these customized trucks are tough and purposeful looking, with big rims, tinted windows, light bars, graphics, and maybe even smokestacks – even if most of them look a little cartoonish.
But it wasn’t always like this. In an era when the difference in performance and comfort between cars and trucks was much larger, customizers built trucks to run with the fastest cars on the street. Lowered, leaner, and powered by the biggest engine you could fit under the hood (and you can fit a lot of engine under the hood of a full size truck), street trucks were a major phenomenon from the ’80s to the early 2000s, and even Detroit got caught up in it. There was the 1990 to ’93 Chevy Silverado 454 SS, the 2002 to 2004 Viper V10-powered Dodge Ram SRT-10, and of course, the legendary Ford F-150 SVT Lightning.
The Lightning was Ford’s response to the 454 SS, and quickly overshadowed it (sorry, Chevy guys) on the streets. Offered from 1993 to ’95, the first-generation truck had an upgraded suspension and drivetrain developed by Ford’s Special Vehicles Team with assistance from racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart, and delivered 240 horsepower to the rear wheels via an overhauled 5.8-liter Windsor V8. The next generation came in 1999, when SVT took Ford’s 10th-generation F-Series and dropped in a supercharged 5.4-liter Triton engine, sending a whopping 380 horses to the wheels. And despite it being lowered and engineered for the streets, it could also haul a 1,350-pound payload, proving that it was still a truck first and foremost.
But the SVT Lightning disappeared after 2004, and after the discontinuation of the Chevy Silverado SS in 2007, we haven’t really seen anything close to a factory-built street truck since. Ford’s Raptor has quickly made a claim to being the greatest performance truck of all time, but much of that is because of its off-road prowess. Don’t get us wrong; we love the Raptor, and it’s about time someone built a factory-ready rally truck, but we also miss the heady days of street trucks. And if you ask us, we think Ford is in a better position to build a serious performance truck than anybody else. Here are five reasons why we think Ford should build a new SVT Lightning to sell alongside the Raptor.
1. Beat Fiat Chrysler to the punch
It’s already in the wind: With its supercharged 707-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 available and able to fit under the hood of a Ram pickup, dealers are already installing the motors in Ram 1500s. Fiat Chrysler has said that it has no plans to build a production model like this, but if these aftermarket super trucks sell, then all bets are off. A Ram Hellcat would set the bar for next-generation street trucks unless someone beats FCA to the punch. Still, we think Ford can do it better thanks to some serious…
2. Powertrain options
The ’93 Lightning had a 351 cubic inch Windsor V8 providing motivation, and it dated back to the late ’60s, and was heavy and inefficient. The ’99 truck had the newer 5.4-liter Triton V8 but, by today’s standards, is just as heavy and old-fashioned as the Windsor. In comparison, the upcoming 2017 Raptor has ditched its 411 horsepower 6.2-liter V8 in favor of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. The smaller engine is hundreds of pounds lighter, more fuel-efficient, and is rumored to make upwards of 450 horsepower and up to 500 pound-feet of torque. Put that in a lighter truck built for the asphalt, and you could have one of the fastest production trucks ever made. Plus, the EcoBoost V6 in the GT supercar makes 600 horsepower, just in case Ford Performance wants to get crazy.
3. The aluminum performance edge
When the all-new aluminum-bodied F-Series bowed for 2015, much ado was made about its 700-plus pound weight loss and what that did for fuel economy. But part of what made the F-Series’ diet so interesting is that up until that point, aluminum bodies were largely used on luxury and – you guessed it – performance vehicles. With the F-150 lighter than its been in years, a big engine, some aggressive aero, and a revised suspension could make it seriously quick. You might even say… lightning quick.
4. Ford Performance could use more trucks
Over the past few years, Ford Performance has developed one of the best go-fast lineups in the world, ranging from the mighty-mite Fiesta ST to the 24 Hours of Le Mans champ GT. But of the eight vehicles it offers, the Raptor is the only truck. Like we said before, we love that off-roading beast, but we’d love to see an even faster truck built specifically for the street.
5. The anti-bro truck
Are you a truck guy, but hate the lifted, tribal graphic-laden Tonka trucks that are seemingly everywhere? Wouldn’t you just love to dust those guys riding high on their polished 24-inch rims in trucks that have never so much as seen a gravel road, but can’t take a corner either? Yeah, we would too.
When done right, a lifted truck looks great and can handle everything. But we’ve seen so many ridiculous bro trucks out there that we’d love to blast by them in a serious performance pickup, leaving them wondering what was under the hood of that F-150.
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