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Yellow 2000 Ford Lightning - Standing Out in a Crowd
Getting noticed in a field of Gen 2 Lightnings is a hard thing to do-or is it?
While traveling the grounds of the World Ford Challenge 9 event at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis, Missouri, we rolled up on what we would call the "Lightning Compound." It's a corner of the facility reserved specifically for Lightning trucks competing in the Street Lightning or Pro Lightning categories. Unless you have a Lightning, there is no way the WFC officials or members of the National Lightning Owners Club would even dare let your vehicle roll a tire in that section.
There is no denying that compound belonged to the Lightning trucks: There was an army of them camped out there, sitting in rows in the usual SVT uniform of specific colors. The Gen 2 trucks were only offered in a handful of colors, and that is quite apparent when you stuff 35 or so Lightnings in one corner of the track. But there was one truck that stood out amongst the white, black, silver, mineral gray, and red: Mike Williamson's '00 Lightning was a contrast in color to its Gen 2 brethren. The bright yellow paint proudly broke up the normalcy of SVT color codes.
As we moved closer to Mike's hot rod, the details came into focus. The Bogart wheels are distinctive, and the rubber accumulated on the rear quarter-panel shows he isn't afraid to beat on the truck at the dragstrip. Tribal ghost flames have been applied to the yellow paint, and a Cobra-SS fiberglass hood covers the supercharged 5.4L engine. A roll pan replaces the rear bumper, giving this sport truck an even sportier look. The bed cover is also painted to match the body color. The overall stance is lowered, but not in the weeds, giving this Lightning a great street/strip appearance.
The rubber on the rear quarter-panels was put there in large part due to the 456-rwhp/522-rwtq engine under the hood. Achieving such output was relatively simple for Mike. He relied on a few key components; mail-order parts from JDM Engineering and a ported Eaton from Stiegemeier Engine Airflow. A JDM 6-pound lower pulley ups the blower speed to increase boost to 16 1/2 pounds. Channeling air to the supercharger is an SCT 2400 MAF sensor, Accufab throttle body, and C&L intake plenum and elbow. The factory water-to-air intercooler was replaced with a custom Garrett unit.
The ported Eaton blower does a great job of stuffing the factory 5.4L mill with boost, and with the added inlet air comes the need to expel the spent gases rather efficiently. It's a combination of free-flow and reasonable backpressure-no overkill in the exhaust department. It's easy to pick out the largest headers, monstrous x-pipe, and obnoxiously large cat-back system. The headers remain stock but blow into an x-pipe and a 3-inch Magnaflow exhaust system. It's just the right balance for the type of mods done to the engine.
The fuel system remains stock save for eight 60-pound injectors. JDM Engineering did the custom tuning via mail order and shipped an SCT XCalibrator so Mike could reflash his computer in his driveway. The XCalibrator is a great way to upload a custom tune into your '96-up Ford using the OBD-II diagnostic port as the gateway to the computer system. The XCalibrator also allows the end-user to fine-tune the program to better tailor it to their specific combination. Using aftermarket chips is becoming a thing of the past these days.
The transmission has been upgraded to handle the spruced-up, supercharged engine up front. Bob's Transmissions of Creve Coeur, Missouri, added Kevlar bands to the 4R100 transmission. The shifting firmness was upped in the custom tune from JDM. A 2,000-rpm-stall-speed torque converter out of an F-350 truck was used to help get the Lightning off the starting line quicker. The factory driveshaft spins inside a Lightning Force Performance (LFP) safety loop keeping this truck NHRA/IHRA legal at the dragstrip. The 9.75-inch rear is stock save for the 4.10 gears, which Mike installed himself.
The suspension setup is fairly straightforward with Eibach shackles, JDM traction bars, and adjustable QA1 shocks handling the rear suspension action. The rear wheel/tire package consists of Bogart D-10 wheels and Mickey Thompson 28x10.5-inch slicks. Up front, the nose-heavy truck gets help transferring weight through a pair of adjustable QA1 shocks and Eibach springs. Bogart D-10 skinnies and M/T rubber help get more weight off the front end. The best 60-foot time to date has been 1.71 seconds.
The heavy hauler is primarily a street-driven beast, but Mike makes sure the truck hits the dragstrip fairly often. The best time on a quarter-mile track has been an 11.95 at 113.47 mph. Not bad considering this is a full-weight Lightning. The only changes Mike makes when he gets to the track is to swap the big and little tires, stiffen the rear shocks, loosen the front shocks, and leave the starting line under full throttle.
Mike's '00 Lightning is yellow, runs into the 11-second zone, and is driven home at the end of the day. Standing out in a field of SVT Lightnings was an easy thing to do.