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.