Frank H. Cicerale
August 10, 2007
Photos By: Michael Galimi

In 1993, Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) unveiled a unique performance vehicle that would change the face of hot rodding. SVT offered up the F-150 Lightning, and in doing so gave us a sharp-looking pickup truck that could kick the you-know-what out of Chevy's SS454 pickup, among other vehicles. Prior to the SVT rig, pickups were mainly used to tow race cars and haul parts and other stuff. But the Lightning, in its Gen I and Gen II iterations, changed that notion forever.

In case you're unaware, the Gen I models were produced from 1993 to 1995 with a 351-inch Windsor packing 240 hp, which was potent for the early '90s. Then, as quickly as it came, the Lightning went away, only to return after a five-year hiatus. For 1999, SVT brought back the nameplate with the second-edition production run, which lasted until 2004. It was worth the wait.

The Gen II Lightnings packed a nasty wallop, thanks in part to the Eaton blower sitting atop the 5.4-liter Triton modular engine. Starting off at 360 hp (1999-2000), the power output was boosted in 2001 to 380 hp, making the Lightning the fastest production truck at the time. Stock Gen IIs could run low-13s, and a revolution began to see who could run 12s, 11s, and then 10s.

The Lightning was a viable alternative for the Mustang, and with a few bolt-ons it could be turned into a Camaro or Vette killer. Even though production stopped in 2004, the appeal of the heavyweight hauler is still going strong.

To prove it, we gathered some of the bad-dest street-legal Lightnings and cut them loose on the quarter-mile strip at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. Eight trucks made the trek, and after the ground rules were laid down (as far as streetability and safety equipment), it was time to take it to the track. We had an even spread of trucks and combinations, as First and Second Gen trucks ripped up the track with boost and laughing gas. When it was all said and done, there were eight trucks that flat-out hauled the mail.

Amazingly, a few of these 4,000-plus-pound beasts ran quicker than any stock suspension Lightnings ever had, despite being forced to breath in some of the hottest air the '06 summer had to offer. In the end, we saw killer burnouts, great runs, and a nine-second elapsed time.

1st Place
David London
Browns Mill, NJ
'00 Ford Lightning
David London made only two passes down the track, but he really made them count. London first ripped off a 10.12, 135-mph pass that could have been quicker had the truck not laid down at the top of the 1-2 gear change.

He then came back and opened up a serious can of whoop-ass when he recorded a 1.44-second 60-foot time and lit the scoreboards to the tune of a 9.99 at 136. According to the Lightning experts on the grounds and our records, this was the first time a Lightning with a completely stock suspension (stock steering box and all) broke past the 10s.

London did this, mind you, with a 335 Johnny Lightning Performance engine that, according to the team, lifted the head gasket slightly, which caused some coolant to make its way onto the inner fenderwell and hood of the truck.

London's giddy-up comes from the JLP-tuned mod motor. The Ford mill features JLP heads, a JLP tune, and a 150hp shot of direct-port nitrous (which they were dialing in) that added to the boost generously provided by the Kenne Bell blower. Johnny Lightning stated the direct-port nitrous was far more efficient than spraying through the blower, and that attributed to the added power to get the truck in the nines.

{{{Truck}}} Talk
Owner David London
Hometown Browns Mill, NJ
Driver David London
Year 2000
Weight w/Driver 4,436 lbs
Engine 335ci modular
Built By Johnny Lightning Performance
Power Adder Nitrous oxide, 150hp shot
Blower Kenne Bell
Heads Johnny Lightning Performance
Camshaft Johnny Lightning Performance
Exhaust Johnny Lightning Performance
Best E.T./MPH 9.992/136.40 mph
Log Book
Run # 60-FT E.T. MPH
1 1.50 10.127 135.05
2 1.44 9.992 136.40

2nd Place
Don Justus
Hendersonville, NC
'01 Ford Lightning
This shootout was such a big thing, we even got the current Fun Ford Weekend Tough Truck points leader to show up. After competing in the FFW event in Bristol, Tennessee, just days before (and with his next race a week and a half after our shootout), Don Justus made the tow to New Jersey and ended up in Second Place.

Justus' shiny white hauler features all of the goodies from the JDM Engineering shop, including a JDM aluminum Ford GT block, ported aluminum heads, a JDM exhaust, a JDM fuel system, and JDM-spec Crower camshafts. The engine was designed from the ground up by Jim D'Amore of JDM, and is topped off with a Whipple supercharger injecting 17-18 pounds of boost.

After making three consistent runs in the low-10s, Justus and D'Amore found the best combination of traction and nitrous application off the line on the fourth run, just missing low e.t. by fifteen hundredths of a second with only a 75hp shot of the go juice. Recording the best 60-foot time of the shootout (1.43), Justus yanked the front wheels off the tarmac with ease.

We wanted to see the team go for the 9s, but Justice was content running in the low-10s because he wanted to be certain he could finish the FFW season, and they had not done any testing with more than a 75hp shot.

Truck Talk
Owner Don Justus
Hometown Hendersonville, NC
Driver Don Justus
Year 2001
Weight w/Driver 4,444 lbs
Engine 331ci modular
Built By JDM Engineering
Power Adder: Nitrous oxide, 75hp shot
Blower Whipple 2.3 with JDM pulley system
Heads JDM Engineering
Camshaft JDM-spec Crower
Exhaust JDM/Kooks headers, MagnaFlow mufflers
Best E.T./MPH 10.14/133.94 mph
Log Book
Run # 60-FT E.T. MPH
1 1.43 10.149 133.94
2 1.45 10.254 132.69
3 1.45 10.322 132.08

3rd Place
Bob Walker
Upper Black Eddy, PA
'01 Ford Lightning
Bob Walker had the second Johnny Lightning Performance-tuned truck to make it in the top three, missing a 1-2 JLP sweep of the top spots by a scant seven thousandths of a second. The key to Walker's success was the JLP-built 335 mod motor. Featuring JLP heads and Stage 3 camshafts, Walker bolted on a juice kit to go along with the squeeze provided by the blower.

Walker's truck was the lightest of those competing in the shootout, and after curing tire-spin woes experienced on the first pass, he clicked off three consecutive laps well into the 10-second zone. Walker routinely sees action with his Lightning on the NMRA circuit and in local bracket racing events in the Pennsylvania/ New Jersey area.

{{{Truck}}} Talk
Owner Bob Walker
Hometown Upper Black Eddy, PA
Driver Bob Walker
Year 2001
Weight w/Driver 4,340 lbs
Engine 335ci modular
Built By Johnny Lightning Performance
Power Adder Nitrous oxide
Blower Kenne Bell
Heads Johnny Lightning Performance
Camshaft Johnny Lightning Performance Stage 3
Exhaust Johnny Lightning Performance
Best E.T./MPH 10.15/134.91
Log Book
Run # 60-FT E.T. MPH
1 1.52 10.156 134.81
2 1.61 10.364 134.91
3 1.63 10.476 134.43

4th Place
Jody Wilk
Trumball, CT
'94 Ford Lightning
When Jody Wilk enlisted the help of Dave Gagnon Racing Enterprises to bolt together the Windsor small-block Ford for his Lightning, he went down a different path from most Lightning owners. Looking for a combination that looked neater and was simpler to work with, Wilk ditched the conventional fuel-injected setup and bolted two Holley Dominators on top of a BDS 8-71 Stage 2 AirLoc huffer. The truck looked downright mean, with its tail up high and the blower poking through the hood-it was part truck, part Nitro Funny Car.

The air/fuel charge is pushed into the TFS R heads at 13 psi, and power makes its way to the 9-inch Moser rear. While the suspension may have been a bit soft all around, Wilk's hauler truly hauled major tail while doing it in an unconventional manner. His Lightning's suspension was a bit soft in the back, and that caused some traction and handling issues. Once that issue is resolved, the truck should run even quicker.

{{{Truck}}} Talk
Owner Jody Wilk
Hometown Trumball, CT
Driver Jody Wilk
Year 1994
Weight w/Driver 4,392 lbs
Engine 438ci Windsor
Built By Dave Gagnon Racing Enterprises
Power Adder None
Blower BDS 8-71 Stage 2 AirLoc
Heads TFS R ported
Camshaft Custom Dave Gagnon Racing Enterprises
Exhaust Hooker headers, Flowmaster mufflers
Best Best E.T./MPH 10.33/130.23
Log Book
Run # 60-FT E.T. MPH
1 1.49 10.336 130.23
2 1.51 10.380 129.28
3 1.52 10.413 129.16

5th Place
Russ Nichols Jessup, MD
'02 Ford Lightning
Not only did Russ Nichols' heavyweight hauler look good, but it moved down the track just as well. Featuring a Johnny Lightning Performance 335ci fire-breathing mod motor, Nichols' truck ran well until it mixed up a couple of cylinders on the last pass.

Nothing major was broken, however, and Nichols was able to start it up and make sure the engine ran fine. He uses JLP parts to move the 4,440-pound truck down the track. In addition to the blower moving air into the JLP heads with 19 psi of boost, Nichols put the engine on the sauce, adding an extra 150 hp.

{{{Truck}}} Talk
Owner Russ Nichols
Hometown Jessup, MD
Driver Russ Nichols
Year 2002
Weight w/Driver 4,450 lbs
Engine 335ci modular
Built By Johnny Lightning Performance
Power Adder Nitrous oxide, 150hp shot
Blower Kenne Bell
Heads Johnny Lightning Performance
Camshaft Johnny Lightning Performance Stage 3
Exhaust Johnny Lightning Performance
Best E.T./MPH 10.36/132.40
Log Book
Run # 60-FT E.T. MPH
1 1.51 10.365 131.51
2 1.59 10.520 132.40
3 1.48 10.557 128.71

6th Place
Mike Redden
South Plainfield, NJ
'00 Ford Lightning
Except for the block, Mike Redden's truck is a carbon copy of the Lightning driven by Don Justus. Using the stock iron Ford 5.4 block, Redden got Jim D'Amore from JDM Engineering to put some power behind the truck's punch.

D'Amore bolted on a set of JDM heads, camshafts, an exhaust system, and a fuel system. He then topped off the 330ci Triton with a Whipple 2.3 blower pushing 18 pounds of boost, and added a nitrous-oxide wet kit that provides an extra 75 hp. Redden's goal is to break into the nine-second zone with the Lightning. Once he dials in the suspension, that should be a reality.

We're from central New Jersey, so we can attest that this machine is driven often on the mean streets, though we doubt you'll see it in much street-race action. Nevertheless, you can find Redden at RP and Atco regularly. During our shootout, his truck got up on the slicks, hiked the front up, but broke traction, thus preventing him from reaching the potential of the 700-plus horsepower he had on tap. With some tuning, this should not be a problem

{{{Truck}}} Talk
Owner Mike Redden
Hometown South Plainfield, NJ
Driver Mike Redden
Year 2000
Weight w/Driver 4,640 lbs
Engine 330ci modular
Built By JDM Engineering
Power Adder Nitrous oxide, 75hp shot
Blower Whipple 2.3 with JDM pulley system
Heads JDM Engineering
Camshaft JDM-spec Crower
Exhaust JDM/Kooks headers, JDM exhaust
Best E.T./MPH 10.41/130.83
Log Book
Run # 60-FT E.T. MPH
1 1.51 10.414 130.81
2 1.54 10.504 130.83
3 1.61 10.615 129.29

7th Place
Joseph Jones
Woodbine, MD
'99 Ford Lightning
Joseph Jones rolled into Raceway Park with a customer's Lightning and ended up in Seventh Place overall. While he wasn't the quickest or the fastest, Jones was the most consistent as there was only a spread of around two tenths of a second between his quickest and slowest runs. Jones' shop, Woodbine Motorsports, specializes in engine/blower Lightning combinations, which meant his efforts were without the aid of juice.

Jones certainly did a great job representing the non-nitrous contingent at the shootout, ripping off mid-10-second times with ease. His truck was fashioned in bright red and had a nasty stance, with its nose down low and the rear at a slight rake.

{{{Truck}}} Talk
Owner Nuo Gomez
Hometown Woodbine, MD
Driver Joseph Jones
Year 1999
Weight w/Driver 4,370 lbs
Engine 330ci modular
Built By Woodbine Motorsports
Power Adder None
Blower Whipple
Heads Woodbine Motorsports Wicked Stage 4
Camshaft Woodbine Motorsports Stage 4
Exhaust Dynatek headers, Woodbine Motorsports exhaust
Best E.T./MPH 10.60/127.53

LOG BOOK
Run # 60-FT E.T. MPH
1 1.50 10.603 127.53
2 1.48 10.627 126.72
3 1.53 10.702 127.38

8th Place
Rich Penno
Howell, NJ
'95 Ford Lightning
Rich Penno owns the other Gen I Lightning that came to the shootout, and like the rest of the tough trucks there, it also featured a supercharger.

Unlike the rest which had Roots-style blowers, Penno went down the centrifugal path. After punching the Windsor motor 0.030 inch over, he linked up a Novi 2000 huffer and a ProCharger three-core intercooler that puffs in 22 pounds of boost. Unfortunately, Penno had a difficult time getting the truck to hook on the starting line, as he spun hard every run, but the combination he has developed is sure to be a winner when the tires bite. Penno wants to get the truck into the mid-10-second zone using only the blower, but first he'll need to make the suspension work.

{{{Truck}}} Talk
Owner Rich Penno
Hometown Howell, NJ
Driver Rich Penno
Year 1995
Weight w/Driver 4,472 lbs
Engine 357ci Windsor
Built By Alternative Car Care
Power Adder None
Blower Novi 2000
Heads Edelbrock
Camshaft Cam Motion
Exhaust JDM Engineering
Best E.T./MPH 11.63/116.33
Log Book
Run # 60-FT E.T. MPH
1 1.72 11.636 116.33
2 1.77 11.835 116.14
3 1.83 12.001 110.61