June 16, 2006

With so many hot, supercharged Lightnings and Harleys on the scene, the aftermarket manufacturers and speed shops continue developing new products to maximize the performance and fun factor of these factory hot rods. Recently, Ford Truck Performance had the opportunity to test and evaluate a number of these new parts on some of our trucks. This story summarizes the initial installation of the parts and some quick results from the latest gear in the marketplace.

We first visited Ken Bjonnes and Brandon Alsept, owners of MD Motorsports and Apten Performance, a Cincinnati-based speed shop specializing in all sorts of high-performance late-model vehicles, but especially Modular-powered Fords. They handled the install and chassis dyno-testing of the Dynatech headers, Johnny Lightning Performance aftercooler water reservoir, and Afco Heat Exchanger upgrade. Justin Burcham of JPC Racing, Glen Burnie, Maryland, handled the installation of the Reichard Racing Belt Tensioner. With hundreds of customers from around the country, these guys have seen good parts and some not-so-good parts. Their experience will keep our readers on the cutting edge of technology as we test the best the aftermarket has to offer.

AFCO Double-Pass Heat Exchanger with Fan Kit
PN 80249N-FS $749.95

We all know that keeping the big, supercharged 5.4 filled with cool, dense air is critical to maximizing the power potential. Once you take boost levels over stock, you face the harsh reality of your pride and joy quickly becoming heat soaked, killing power and potentially costing you a critical race. This is especially true for street-driven Lightnings that don't have the benefits of a cool-down period like the race-only trucks. Aftermarket manufacturers offer all sorts of different ways to keep the intake track cooler, but nothing comes close to investing in a bigger, more efficient heat exchanger.

Located at the very front of the truck, the heat exchanger catches outside air, while circulating intercooler fluid is cooled off after flowing through the intercooler. This vital piece of the engine system can max out quickly under full-throttle runs or just regular street cruising. It's like a radiator or transmission fluid cooler for the intercooler fluid.

The folks at Afco recently told us about their answer to this problem: the new Pro Series double-pass heat exchanger. It utilizes Afco's new dual pass-through design, which promises to enhance coolant flow and thermal stabilization. Its Pro Series heat exchanger takes this technology one step further, combining the increased efficiency of its heat exchanger with an optional pair of high-output fans to draw more air through the it, dramatically decreasing inlet temperatures. The fans generate 800 cfm across the heat exchanger, and Afco claims a 40-degree drop in inlet temps.

We noticed the high quality of the welds on this unit right away. All associated hardware was present and accounted for, and full-color step-by-step directions were included.

Our installation at MD Motorsports went smoothly. In less than 20 minutes, the heat exchanger fit easily in the space where the less efficient stock unit once resided. The wiring for the fans takes some time, but they go a long way toward keeping your high-boost Lightning cooled.

AFCO Racing Products
Dept. FTP
977 Hyrock Rd.
Boonville, IN 47601
(800) 632-2320
www.afcoracing.com

A billet piece that not only looks good but serves a useful function, Reichard Racing's blower-belt tensioner is worth several pounds of boost in some applications.

Reichard Racing Blower Belt Tensioner
$299.95, $319.99 for spring-loaded tensioner

The Gen 2 Lightning F-150s are great performers, due in large part to the powerful 5.4L engine under the hood. The Two-Valve, modular engine gets a huge boost in performance thanks to supercharging. One of the first modifications new owners perform is throwing on various sizes of upper and lower blower pulleys to speed up the supercharger. An increase in blower speed results in more manifold boost. When properly tuned, the increased boost level leads to more horsepower and torque at the rear tires. "Turning up the boost" is the common statement often heard from hot rodders, and it's easy on supercharged Lightning trucks.

The theoretical and casual turning-up of the boost using different pulley sizes is sometimes easier said than done. A negative byproduct of turning up the boost with pulley swaps is belt slippage. An 8-rib belt setup is standard on these trucks, but when belt speed is increased dramatically, the ribbed serpentine-style belt can start to slip thanks to its design. There are a few different remedies, such as adding larger idler pulleys and a better belt wrap around the upper pulley. These help, but when the going gets tough for the 8-rib belt, more tension is the most effective technique for greater belt traction.

This screw is used to apply tension as needed. If you tighten it too much, you can actually snap the belt. That is an extreme case, but it shows the effectiveness of this tensioner.

Reichard Racing offers a billet belt tensioner that helps prevent belt slippage, ensuring proper blower speed is achieved at high rpm. Two versions are available from Reichard Racing; spring-loaded and manual-adjustable. This belt tensioner is different than others on the market because it offers a wide range of motion. It has 180-degrees of swing, making it useable with a variety of belt sizes. As another added bonus, there is a built-in force multiplier, which makes it easy to adjust tension. Reichard Racing starts with a chunk of 7075 billet aluminum and a CNC machine cuts each part precisely. Roller thrust bearings are used throughout. The tensioner mounts in the factory location with a slight modification to the OEM bracket.

We watched Justin Burcham of JPC Racing install this tensioner on a customer's Lightning while we were hanging out at his shop one day. It went in quickly, and Justin reported an increase of a few pounds of boost at high rpm when the blower speed is greatest and the belt is most susceptible to slipping. The truck wasn't all that radical, just the typical lower blower pulley swap, computer tune-up, and exhaust. Despite its mild nature, the added belt tension helped peak boost, thus creating more horsepower.

Reichard Racing
Dept. FTP
5231 Apple Way St.
Leonard, MD 20685
(410) 610-5567
www.reichardracing.com

Johnny Lightning Heat Exchanger Reservoir
$299 (polishing is a $50 option; the street version is a $50 option)

Heeeere's Johnny! Sorry, we had to get that out of the way. Anyway, Johnny Lightning Performance (JLP) is a well-established force in the Lightning world, marketing products that deliver a bang for the buck. In our last issue, Johnny hooked us up with his cold-air/ram-air system, blower/crank pulleys, and other pieces to get our test Harley rocking at the back tires. This time around, we asked Johnny to help us control inlet temperatures on the street, but especially at the track. His answer is JLP's larger capacity heat exchanger reservoir.

This unit is designed to install in the stock windshield-washer reservoir location, taking the place of the wimpy, plastic heat-exchanger reservoir. Johnny sent us a street version, which adds a secondary reservoir for your windshield washer fluid, offered for an additional $50. And because we like stuff that's shiny, Johnny hooked us up with the polished version as well, another $50 option. The unit is quite attractive, fits exactly as it should, and took less than an hour for the gang at MD Motorsports to install.

The advantage of the larger reservoir is that it holds fives times the fluid capacity of the stock heat-exchanger reservoir. This has a huge impact on how much heat the entire system can absorb before it is heat soaked.

We opted for the street version, which means the windshield-wiper fluid reservoir is attached to the heat exchanger reservoir. We also chose to upgrade to the polished version to add a little flare under the hood of our Lightning. Installation was quick and easy and the results can be worth an increase in power and performance.

This thing acts like a big transmission pan," Johnny told us. "The more fluid you have, the cooler the intake charge. It also has the petcock drain on the bottom. You can drain out your intercooler fluid and fill it with ice water. That's how it works best for drag racing, with ice water. We've seen it drop the inlet temperatures 90 degrees. You can even wire it so that the cold water circulates while you're in the pits waiting for a run."

With just the regular fluid in the reservoir, Johnny reports a realistic 40-degree drop in inlet temperatures, which is still significant for street trucks that see late-night action or for those trucking around in the hotter areas of the country during the summer months.

At the dragstrip, Johnny routinely sees his customers drop two tenths off their quarter-mile e.t's. He says those with bracket Lightnings will love this product because the stock intercooler doesn't get heat soaked, and your Lightning stays more consistent for more rounds, giving you an edge on the competition.

Like we said, the install was a snap, and this piece is well made with good welds and a proper fit under the hood. We can't wait to fill it up, get cruising, and test how this increased cooling capacity affects the street (and strip) manners of our test truck.

Johnny Lightning Performance
Dept. FTP
25 Archery Rd.
New Providence, PA 17560
(717) 786-4670
www.johnnylightningperf.com

The Dynatech kit comes with long-tube headers and a set of high-flow catalytic converters.

Dynatech Long-Tube Headers
PN 122-842230 $1,495

Designed to fit '99-'04 Lightnings and '02-'03 Harley F-150s with the supercharged 5.4L Modular Ford engine, the Dynatech long-tube headers are a true work of automotive performance art. They come with a 151/48-inch primary, long-tube design that is optimized for power, torque, and improved economy. Out of the box, we were blown away by the quality of the Dynatech headers. They feature huge, tough flanges meant to last a lifetime; polished stainless steel; perfect welding; complete hardware; high-end metal gaskets for a perfect fit and seal; full instructions; and are wrapped and boxed so that they aren't scratched during shipping. We've seen some headers sold for Lightnings that weren't high quality. The Dynatech headers are the polar opposite of that. They look beautiful, promise big horsepower gains, and are built to take a beating.

Now for the bad news. Installing a long- tube header on a Lightning is not a fun job. In fact, it can be very frustrating. Take a look at that small, cast-iron manifold, and you start to realize why it's so hard to install a full race header on one of these trucks. It took the technicians at MD Motorsports the better part of a day to get our headers installed. Pulling the inner fender liners and wheels and moving the engine off the mounts is all part of the procedure. We can't imagine anyone trying this in their driveway on jackstands, although we know some of our readers will pull it off. But the payoff is so worth it. Depending on how much power your truck is making right now, you can expect 20-30 rwhp and at least that much in torque. Plus, with this Dynatech system, you'll never need another header for your Lightning. Put them on, and they'll work with your stock engine, a built 5.4, or that nasty, big-cam KB or Whipple-stuffed monster mill you're dreaming of.

Dynatech
Dept. FTP
P.O. Box 608
975 Hyrock Blvd.
Boonville, IN 47601
(800) 848-5850
www.dynatechheaders.com