Frank Cicerale
August 28, 2006
Photos By: Michael Galimi

The firstborn child is usually the one that has the hardest time out of all the children in the family. He or she is the one that paves the way for the rest of the brood. The same thing can be argued in the world of performance vehicles. The vintage Mustangs paved the way for the newer iterations, and in the case of the Ford Lightning, Shawn Fuss' '94 edition not only made the road ahead easier for it's future siblings, it paved the way a quarter-mile at a time.

When you think of Ford's tough truck, the first image that comes to mind is the '99-'04 body style. In a sense, the '93-'95 version, the first attempt by Ford to create a truck to compete with the SS 454 put out by the Bow Tie group, is a bit forgotten. For Fuss, however, he wanted something different than a Mustang or the more commonly seen '99-'04 Lightning.

"I guess like most Lightning owners, I bought the truck for a different purpose," he explains. "After owning a couple of Mustangs, I was looking for something different. The truck worked, so it became the hot-rod toy."

After seeing the truck in a newspaper ad for a local dealership, the 31-year-old from Raymore, Missouri, plunked down the appropriate sum of green, got in the white Ford, and drove it home. After going to a few Ford events and striking up friendships with fellow Lightning-owners Donald Whitaker, Vernon Jones, and Dave Patterson, the group began a friendly competition to modify their respective rides.

Fuss left the short-block alone with the only change to the 351 Ford internals coming in the form of a Ford Racing oil pump. Fuss even left the stock camshaft in the truck. Featuring 266/272 degrees of duration and 0.472/0.487 lift on the intake and exhaust sides of the flat-tappet cam, Fuss threw all of his effort into the upper part of the engine. He took the Ford Racing GT-40X aluminum heads to Precision Crankshaft. There the crew installed Manley stainless 1.94 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves. After performing a Stage 3 port and polish job, the exhaust valves were given a standard three-angle valve job before the Ford Racing E-351 1.72-ratio rocker arms were bolted on.

With the heads offering improved airflow into the cylinders, Fuss knew he needed to improve the air and fuel flow that goes into the heads. He improved fuel delivery to the motor by installing an Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump that supplies 32 psi of fuel through 60-pound fuel injectors that are kept in check by an Aeromotive 13101 regulator. An Accufab 65mm throttle body lets the air to the stock GT- 40 intake manifold and ultimately the modified GT40X heads, while an MSD 6BTM ignition box, MSD Blaster coil, stock distributor, Ford Racing plug wires, and NGK plugs make sure the air/fuel mixture is lit. A full Bassani exhaust system featuring 1 5/8-inch headers, an x-pipe, mufflers, and a 3-inch pipe evacuate the spent gases.

Gobs of power come in the form of the Vortech blower sitting on top of the allbusiness small-block. The SQ-trim huffer runs 10 psi of boost thanks in part to the 3.15 blower pulley and 8.0 crank pulley. The forced air is run through an air-to-air intercooler, then taken off a Power Stroke diesel engine, before it makes it's way through the Pickrel Performance plumbing to the throttle body. The entire package is good for 463 hp at the rear wheels with a stump-pulling 560 lb-ft of torque.

Getting all of the power to the asphalt requires a bulletproof driveline and a tuned suspension. Fuss took the stock E4OD trans and turned it into a full race piece; then backed it up with a PI Stallion 9.5-inch, 2,800- stall converter. Under the bed, the 8.8 inch Ford rear spins 4.10 gears and 31-spline Ford axles, and the truck rides on Raceline Torque- Star wheels all around, with 235/75/R15 Kelly tires up front and Hoosier 30/10.5/15 drag slicks out back.

An Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump supplies 60- pound fuel injectors. Fuel pressure is maintained at 32 psi at idle and with the vacuum line disconnected off of the Aeromotive 13101 regulator.

Fuss utilized Competition Engineering drag shocks and Eibach springs up front to transfer the weight to the rear end, which showcases Monroe shocks, a Ford Racing rear end girdle, and Rancho traction bars. The stock disc/drum setup slows the truck after each pass. To keep an eye on things from inside the truck, Fuss installed Auto Meter gauges and a wideband commander. Other than that, the Cervini's cowl hood, and Downs Ford roll pan, the truck looks stock in and out, which is just how he wanted it.

"On the street, the truck has stock manners, but at the track, it has enough to go fast but remain easy to drive."

Fuss' Lightning was the first generation of the truck, and it surely paved the way for the others after it. Fuss says it best, though, when he talks about Lightnings and their owners: "Lightning owners are one big family, always willing to help each other."

Maybe being the firstborn isn't so bad after all.