John Hedenberg
December 29, 2004
Contributers: John Hedenburg

Our 2003 MM&FF Lightning shootout comes to you with a slight twist. In years past, we've concentrated mainly on Gen II Lightnings, however, after receiving quite a bit of feedback from Gen I Lightning owners, we've decided to add to the format by including the terrors of old in their own Lightning slugfest.

As many of you are aware, the '99-and-up Lightnings are frighteningly fast and with an Eaton-blown mill under the hood, 12-second e.t.'s from slightly modified machines are rather commonplace. But the '93-95 351W-powered Lightnings are anything but slugs. With 351-cubic-inches of Ford Windsor generating an underrated 240 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque, these machines could throw down low 15-second times on the quarter-mile with ease or haul your Mustang to the track on the back of a trailer. And with the addition of a supercharger or a small hit from a nitrous oxide system, 12- and 11-second times are effortless.

Aluminum 17x8-inch wheels, H-rated tires and suspension tweaks were thrown into the mix for improved handling and 4.10:1 gears were stuffed into the 8.8-inch rear to get the rather hefty (over 4,000 pounds) vehicles up and moving. In 1993, the first year of the SVT Lightning, consumers had their color choices of Raven Black or Vermilion Red. The '94-95 model years brought Crystal White to the mix, but that was it for exterior paint schemes.

Due to the immense turnout of trucks this year (we had 11 new Lightnings and four older ones), we decided to break up the old and new for a two-part dose of ground-poundin' pickups. In part one, we'll capitalize on the four Gen I competitors and next month we'll bring you part two of our truck thrash.

Check out some web exclusive video footage from the Lightning Shootout.

Cobin VideoJLP Video
Klopp Video Walker Video
Macho Video Voorhees Video
Larocca Video Sorby Video

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FIRST PLACE

Tommy Sangiorgio/Jim LaRocca
The LaRocca's Performance posse of Old Bridge, New Jersey, is known for constructing and tuning some of the quickest Mustangs on the planet, but their clientele is not limited to just cool cars. Be it a car, truck, boat or rollerskate, chances are the boys at LaRocca's Performance know how to make it fly.

Staten Island's Tommy Sangiorgio, the shop co-owner (and brother-in-law of well-known Mustang racer and 2002 NMRA EFI Renegade champ, Jim LaRocca) owns this pristine white '94 Lightning, which was left in its stock state for quite some time before finally being transformed into what you see here.

In fact, Tommy was trustworthy enough to hand over the keys to the truck (when it was bonestock) to LaRocca and me during the 1996 racing season. We used the ride to tow my '86 Mustang (supercharged by Jimmy of course!) to the J&P Day in London, Ontario, Canada, where we were lucky enough to prevail and capture the gold in the Street class.

A lot has changed on Sangiorgio's Lightning since 1996. Gone is the normally aspirated 351W combo and in its place is a tough-as-nails, 383-inch stroker, which was assembled by Dan's Engine Shop in Brooklyn, New York. The small-block wears a pair of Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads (tuned up by Fox Lake) and is helped along with a ProCharger F1 supercharger and intercooler.

LaRocca is a master of tuning the FRPP EPEC (Extreme Performance Engine Controller) computer system and used a Pro-M Univer mass air sensor for accurate and precise boost readings. A Dynamic Racing Transmissions Ford C6 transmission replaces the original E40D and connects to a trick ladder bar rear suspension system and Ford 9-inch rear courtesy of CJM Chassis in Staten Island, New York.

This was the very first outing for the Sangiorgio/LaRocca Lightning. It has been completed for about a year now, but time constraints and other issues kept it off the track until our shootout. According to LaRocca, the truck should be good for mid 9s when all the bugs get sorted out but, for now, he commented he would be happy just to make a complete run or two.

On the first attempt, LaRocca stormed into the burnout box and laid a patch of sticky rubber all the way up to the line. At the flash of green he mashed the loud pedal and blistered the first 60 feet of racetrack in 1.48-seconds, but experienced some engine popping and wisely lifted.

After a generous engine cool down and a few strokes on the laptop to alter the EPEC tune, he made a second attempt. The 60-foot time improved with a Lightning (pun intended) 1.43, but he again felt something was not right and aborted the run with a coasting 13.825 at 69.74 mph.

After taking some time to cool down the supercharged Windsor, LaRocca laid into the throttle hoping to pull off the first 9-second blast and almost did with a best-of-the-day 1.42 60-foot time. Unfortunately, though, the blower belt had plans of its own and decided to rid itself from the engine at the 1,000-foot mark.

With no boost at the top end, LaRocca still coasted to a stunning 10.743 at only 99 mph. It was later diagnosed that the supercharger bracket was flexing just enough to hamper the alignment of the belt arrangement. With the belt issue repaired 9-second times should be effortless from this wild machine.

STRIP SPECS

Owner: Tommy Sangiorgio
Hometown: Staten Island, New York
Driver: Jim LaRocca
Year/Model: '94 Lightning
Weight w/driver: 4,020 pounds
Engine: 383ci Windsor
Built by: Dan's Engine Shop, Brooklyn, New York
Intercooler: ProCharger
Power adder: ProCharger F1 with cog belt
Maximum boost: 22 psi
Intake manifold: FRPP GT-40 lower with Downs Ford upper box
Cylinder head(s): Edelbrock Victor Jr. ported by Fox Lake
Compression ratio: 8.5:1
Camshaft(s): hydraulic-roller by LaRocca's Performance
Ignition: Crane Cams Hi 7
Exhaust: Kooks headers, Dr. Gas X-pipe, Magnaflow mufflers
Transmission: Dynamic Racing Transmissions C6
Converter/clutch: Dynamic
Rear type: Strange-equipped, Ford 9-inch with 3.89:1 gears
Wheels: Bogart
Tires F/R: Goodyear, M/T 29.5x10.5W slicks
Suspension front: drag springs, Koni shocks
Suspension rear: Ladder Bar by CJM Chassis in Staten Island, New York
Best Ever E.T./MPH: 10.743/99.68 mph

STRIP LOG
Run # 60-FootE.T./MPH
1 1.48 12.195 @ 77.32
2 1.43 13.825 @ 69.74
3 1.42 10.743 @ 99.68

 

 

Second place

Jamie VanAcker Jr.
Jamie VanAcker Jr., a sheetmetal worker came out to E-town to represent the factory long-block crowd and showed what he was made of with his '94. The truck was sporting a virtually untouched long-block (with the exception of 1.7-ratio roller rocker arms), but was wearing a Paxton Novi 2000 supercharger pumping out 15-pounds of boost.

The supercharger kit was pieced together by Dave Pickrel of Pickrel Performance in Ohio and, according to VanAcker Jr., he was one of the first Lightning owners to adapt a supercharger kit to the Gen Is. He now has Vortech, Paxton and Powerdyne supercharger kits available for these trucks.

Other modifications included an MSD Digital 6 Plus ignition system and Kooks long-tube headers breathing through 3-inch Flowmasters, but other than that, the ride was surprisingly mild. The factory 4.10:1 gears in the stock rear remain and helped VanAcker Jr. leap from the starting line with a 1.74 60-foot time, but light tire spin prevented him from seeing those numbers again. The second and third runs came with traction-limited high 1.9 60-foot times.

Factory 351W Lightnings were good for low 15-second times, but with the addition of a supercharger VanAcker Jr. was able to muster a very impressive 11.786 at 111.91 mph. His other two runs were an 11.962 at 111.08 mph and a slowing 12.184 at 112.14 mph.

STRIP SPECS

Owner: Jamie VanAcker Jr.
Hometown: Atco, New Jersey
Driver: Jamie VanAcker Jr.
Year/Model: '94 Lightning
Weight w/driver: 4,351 pounds
Engine: stock long-block
Built by: stock
Intercooler: N/A
Power adder: Paxton Novi 2000 installed by Pickrel Performance
Maximum boost: 15 pounds
Intake manifold: stock FRPP GT-40
Cylinder head(s): stock
Compression ratio: 8.8:1
Camshaft(s): stock
Ignition: MSD Ignition Digital 6 Plus
Exhaust: Kooks long-tube headers, 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers
Transmission: Stock E40D
Converter/clutch: Art Carr Performance Products 3,000 stall non-lockup
Rear type: Ford 8.8 with 4.10:1 gears
Wheels: Raceline
Tires F/R: M/T Sportsman, Hoosier Quick Time Pro DOT
Suspension front: stock
Suspension rear: stock with two leafs removed
Best ever E.T./MPH: 11.786/112.14

STRIP LOG
Run#60-FOOTE.T./MPH
11.9912.184 @ 112.14
21.9811.786 @ 111.91
31.7411.962 @ 111.08

 

 

Third place

Ralph Voorhees
Ralph Voorhees, a 30-year-old salesman, came out to play with his super-clean white '95 and, just as with VanAcker Jr., his engine was mostly stock. With the exception of the stock GT-40 heads being ported with a Stage I port job and a Cam Motion .574-inch lift replacement bumpstick, the long-block was the way it came from Ford.

In order to run in the 11-second zone, Voorhees elected to add a Powerdyne BD-11A supercharger pumping out a conservative 10-pounds of boost and the ignition system was upgraded with an MSD Ignition 6BTM system. Pickrel Performance out of Ohio supplied the custom exhaust system and Sal Mennella of Power Surge Performance (www.powersurgeperformance.net) tuned the supercharger with one of its custom computer chips. During his last visit to the chassis dyno, Voorhees' Lightning pumped out a whopping 507-rear-wheel horsepower, which was needed to get the 4,625-pound behemoth up and moving during our shootout.

Voorhees' first attempt at the quarter-mile resulted in a conservative 12.054 at 113.81 mph, but on the second attempt he stalled the converter as high as it would go and blistered the E-town racing surface with a fine 11.864 at 114.29 mph. At close to 5,000 pounds, his 1.72 60-foot time was extremely impressive and no doubt helped generate the 11.86.

STRIP SPECS

Owner: Ralph Voorhees
Hometown: Hamilton Square, New Jersey
Driver: Ralph Voorhees
Year/Model: '95 Lightning
Weight w/driver: 4,625 pounds
Engine: stock
Built by: stock
Intercooler: N/A
Power adder: Powerdyne BD-11A supercharger
Maximum boost: 10 pounds
Intake manifold: stock FRPP GT-40
Cylinder head(s): stock, Stage 1 ported
Compression ratio: 8.8:1
Camshaft(s): Cam Motion .574-inch lift
Ignition: MSD Ignition 6BTM
Exhaust: Pickrel Performance
Transmission: stock E40D
Converter/clutch: Level 10 3,000 stall
Rear type: Ford 8.8 with Eaton differential, 4.10:1 gears
Wheels: stock front, 8-inch steel rear
Tires F/R: Firestone Firehawk, M/T ET Drag
Suspension front: stock
Suspension rear: stock with 2-inch dropped shackles
Best ever E.T./MPH: 11.86/114.29

STRIP LOG
Run # 60-FOOTE.T./MPH
11.8812.054 @ 113.81
21.7711.864 @ 114.29
31.7214.765 @ 64.36

 

Fourth place

Dennis Macho
Sporting the lone red Lightning at our shootout was Dennis Macho, who was at the wheel of his low 12-second, 108,000-mile '95. Macho and his friends have a club known as the Delaware Valley Lightning Owners Club (www.nloc.net) and host a ton of gatherings at different locations across the East Coast.

Macho, an ex-motorcycle-turned-truck racer, stated that in June of 2003, he had a gathering of 27 Lightning trucks at his quiet home in Bridgeton and after contemplating it for about a minute, he decided to host a killer burnout contest right in front of his house. Can you imaging 27 Lightnings roasting the hides on a public thoroughfare?

Macho's ride was the slowest of the four Gen Is, but he still managed to dip into the 12.0s with a 12.014 at 110.03 mph being his best. His other two attempts at the racing surface saw a 12.185 at 110.41 mph and a 12.276 at 106.45 mph.

Macho also stated when he is not busy tearing up the quarter-mile in his Vortech SQ-equipped Lightning, he can be found putting it to good use by taking advantage of the bed and hauling items all over the state. He even commented that days before the shootout his red rocket was buried in mud up to the floor. Now that's what we call a multi-purpose machine.

STRIP SPECS

Owner: Dennis Macho
Hometown: Bridgetown, New Jersey
Driver: Dennis Macho
Year/Model: '95 Lightning
Weight w/driver: 4,480 pounds
Engine: stock
Built by: stock
Intercooler: N/A
Power adder: Vortech SQ supercharger
Maximum boost: 11.5 psi
Intake manifold: stock FRPP GT-40
Cylinder head(s): stock
Compression ratio: 8.8:1
Camshaft(s): stock
Ignition: Crane Cams HI 6
Exhaust: Bassani equal-length headers, homemade H-pipe, 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers
Transmission: stock E40D with Level 10 shift kit installed by Kasper's Korner
Converter/clutch: Level 10 2,600 stall
Rear type: Ford 8.8 with Eaton differential, 4.10:1 gears
Wheels: Centerline Raceline
Tires F/R: 275/60 R17, M/T 10.5-inch ET Drag
Suspension front: Eibach springs
Suspension rear: 2-inch lowering shackles
Best ever E.T./MPH: 12.014/110.41

STRIP LOG
Run #60-FOOTE.T./MPH
11.6812.014 @ 110.03
21.8212.276 @ 106.45
31.9512.185 @ 110.41

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