Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsProject Vehicles
1999 Ford F150 Lightning Whipple Supercharged - Whip it, Whip It Good - The Fridge Project Truck
When 10.90s aren't enough from your 4,500-pound F-150, add a Whipple-and hold on!
The Fridge, our resident '99 Ford F-150 Lightning, has been one of the best project vehicles a magazine staffer could ever wish for. Fashioned in Oxford White, our truck blends into society with sleek styling and the utilitarian appeal only a pickup truck can provide. It hauls all things necessary for magazine work, such as slicks, cameras, ladders, tools, humans, and, of course, parts. Its bed has provided a nice spot to eat pizza during track rental days, too. Since that exciting day when we picked up the SVT beast in Dearborn, it has served us well.
Over time, we've thrown cutting-edge performance parts its way, and most of them performed amazingly well. Who could complain about having 579 hp under your right foot for the daily commute? And 10.90s on slicks aren't bad, either.The Fridge has been in hibernation lately, though. It's not that we don't use it; it just hasn't graced these pages in a while. But the Lightning community is hungry for tech, and we want to keep up with the Joneses, so it's time to shake the cobwebs off our workhorse.
Bigger Is Better
When it comes to building horsepower with the latest Ford powerplants, nothing beats forced induction. These 4.6 and 5.4 engines are relatively small (in displacement) when compared to the competition from GM and Dodge, which sell 6.0L and 6.1L V-8 engines in their performance cars and trucks. Ford's 5.4 equals only 330 cubes, where those guys have small-blocks with up to 427. Compounding the problem for truck owners is the poor aerodynamics and heavy load we must carry, with most street Lightnings weighing 4,600 pounds or more. That's why we traded the stock Eaton huffer for a Magnum Powers unit a couple of years back-but now we want more power and that means more boost.
For this exercise, we looked to Whipple Superchargers, which sells the Whipple/Ford Racing Performance Parts '99-'04 Lightning Supercharger Upgrade kit.
The major improvement comes from the stout 2.3L W140ax (140ci capacity) twin-screw, axial entry (meaning the air inlet is located on the axis of the screws, not on the top or bottom) com-pressor. Whipple says the blower can produce from 8 to 25 psi, which is enough to make over 700 at the wheels on a modified Lightning with a built engine. The screw design is incredibly efficient, which means the unit can make boost without a tremendous rise in inlet air temperature. It's also quieter and features a double-angular front bearing and sealed rear roller bearing for improved reliability.
Up front is a clear sight glass for easy oil-level inspection. The Whipple requires only 100,000-mile oil changes (in the blower) and is 50-state emission legal, too.
Better still, Whipple's Lightning kit comes complete and is a direct bolt-on system, including all the hoses, clamps, hardware, an S&B filter, and an air inlet box. In addition, the Whipple's large inlet comes already mounted to the blower, and can accept stock and aftermarket throttle bodies. Because of the axial inlet at the rear, it will fit under the stock hood. The kit is also offered with or without a Ford Racing flash programmer, and a polished or satin finish.
Another benefit is the air bypass valve, located under the blower in the midplate. According to Whipple, "It's the best-kept secret in forced induction. That's because when properly installed between the supercharger and the throttle body, it allows the supercharger to become extremely efficient in terms of economy and parasitic power loss. The bypass is operated by a vacuum actuator control unit that is normally closed. When vacuum is high (during idle, when cruising, or on deceleration), the actuator opens the valve, equalizing the pressure throughout the inlet system. When boost is required, vacuum is decreased and the valve instantly closes, causing pressure to increase in the cylinders."
What began as a stock '99 Lightning running 13s has become a serious street brawler capable of 10s, even though it only did it once-a 10.999. Still, it sounds better than 11.0. Over time, the Fridge has had many of the popular Lightning modifications, from shorty headers to long tubes, from chips, to pulleys, to air-intake systems, and more.
It sports a 0.020-inch-over long-block from JDM Engineering with ported heads, Crower cams, JDM/Kook's headers, a JDM electric fan kit, a Level 10 transmission, 3.73 gears, and Metco traction bars. Topping the package (until this article) was a Magnum Powers blower and single-blade throttle body, which provided excellent power and reliable service. Heck, it got us in the 10s. We use the truck virtually every day, yet it remains docile and a quick commuter with catalytic converters. Did we mention it passes New Jersey emissions?
While few could argue the Fridge "was" near perfect, there's always room for improvement. That's where the Whipple came in. For the most part, we knew we could increase the power-but could we do so without wrecking the awesome driveability?
In our quest for power, we considered spraying the 5.4-but to what end? We could run low-10s or even 9s with nitrous, but then, no matter how quick we went, people would always assume we were on the gas. While there's nothing wrong with nitrous, we think we can run mid- or low-10s without it. With that, we decided the Whipple was the way to go. We placed our order and received a giant box with a bad, black Whipple Charger inside. We then made our way to JDM Engineering in Freehold, New Jersey, for the install and tune. While the kit included all that's necessary to complete the install, we did not use all the components. Instead, JDM went with its Racer Kit, which uses a different air filter system, different routing on the intercooler hoses, an EGR delete valve, and relocated power steering reservoir.
Installation was straightforward, so we began by disconnecting the negative battery cable and draining the coolant from the intercooler and radiator. Then, the Magnum Powers unit, which served us well, came off and the new blower went into place. Shaun Lacko performed the operation, and by the following afternoon The Fridge was makin' noise.
Jim D'Amore took the reins and strapped our rig to the dyno rollers. That's when the fun began. As we mentioned earlier, the 5.4 produced 579 hp with the Magnum, but with the Whipple, we'd be pumping more boost, which would hopefully translate into more power.
The tank was filled with VP C16, which would allow us to go for broke with boost. But first we used the largest pulley, sized at 3.375 inches. D'Amore began feeding the beast by making easy pulls to be sure the air/fuel ratio was in check, then he cut it loose. He revved the Triton to 5,800, and we saw 18 psi of boost. With that, power peaked at 627 at 5,500 rpm for a gain of 48 hp. Torque was 661 lb-ft at 4,000, up from our old mark of 620 at 4,000. This was our street tune, with timing and boost levels designed for 93 octane.
Next, we installed the 3.00-inch pulley and added a few degrees of timing, which produced 22 pounds of boost, an impressive 653 hp, and 709 lb-ft of torque. While that was stout, we were itching to toss on the smallest pulley, the tiny 2.750-incher. D'Amore was happy with the state of the tune and gave the go-ahead to go for maximum boost, so we swapped pulleys and cooled down the engine.
The swap to the small pulley required a smaller belt, and D'Amore also knocked a degree of timing from the curve before lighting the fire. There was a lot of energy in the shop as everyone stopped to watch. D'Amore then eased the gas down, the Lightning upshifted to Third gear, and he rolled his right foot to the floor. In doing so, the Whipple made a howl and you could hear the rush of air pouring into the intake tract-only to be compressed, burned, and expelled into the atmosphere from which it came.
In a flash, the boost gauge pegged at 24 psi, the engine screamed, and the tach needle flashed across the gauge. At 5,800 rpm, D'Amore clicked Neutral and killed the ignition. Meanwhile, the Dynojet crunched the numbers and spat out figures of 661.22 romping, stomping horsepower and 732 lb-ft of Earth-rotating torque-at the wheels. Mind you, this is with 2 1/2-inch exhaust and catalytic converters. Horsepower could be as high as 700 with 3-inch exhaust and the cats removed.
With this level of power, the truck was simply insane-so insane that we decided to go with the largest pulley and yank timing for the street. Even with the soft setup, the Lightning can smoke the tires at quarter-throttle or from a 40-mph roll.
To say we're pleased is an understatement. The truck is as docile as before, maybe even more so. We haven't checked the fuel consumption yet, but it doesn't seem to be sucking down any more fuel, either. It gets about 15 mph when the driver keeps his foot out of it-but that's really hard to do.