1999 Ford Lightning - Project Stealth Fighter: Part 2

We Balance Street Manners With Track-Ready Performance

Harley Camilleri
Mar 31, 2014
Photographers: Patrick McCarthy
Last month we upgraded our 1999 Ford F-150 Lightning’s power output by way of a Whipple supercharger, and by doing so, we were one step closer to building a THROWDOWN performance truck shootout competitor. Power is fun, but it was time to address the 15-year-old Ford’s suspension and drag our ’99 Ford Lightning into the realm of modern performance trucks. A simple drop designed for the ’97-’03 F-150 series trucks could have easily sufficed, but we were aiming to make this truck a solid middleweight fighter in our THROWDOWN shootout. What we came up with was a perfect blend of over-the-counter components that could turn in a realistic lap time on any road course or flatten out the corners on our nearby canyon backroads.
It’s extremely easy to lower just about any two-wheel-drive truck or SUV nowadays. Thanks to plenty of choices in the aftermarket, knocking a little, or a lot of daylight from under your ride can be accomplished with basic handtools in your driveway before lunch. What if your desires lean more towards real performance cornering, hard-core braking, and ride tunability too? It’s all possible with the correct recipe of parts, and we’re about to show you how.
We filled the bulk of the suspension conversion with a Hotchkis (TVS) Total Vehicle System. Consisting of 1 1/2-inch sport coils, 2 1/2-inch performance leaf springs, and tuned front and rear sway bars, the Hotchkis TVS is an all-inclusive kit designed and tested as a system. To really make our Lightning ready for the street, strip, and track, we chose QA1 Stocker Star shocks for the comfortable compression settings and extensive rebound adjustability. The Hotchkis TVS was simply not low enough to suit our vision, so we needed additional parts that would not alter the performance of the Hotchkis system. Belltech had just what we needed with its 2-inch drop spindles and rear 2-inch lowering hanger. To bring solid and repeatable braking results, we turned to Baer for its Extreme+ front brake system. Featuring a two-piece 14-inch rotor and 6S six-piston caliper, the Extreme+ arrangement will give our Lightning, peel-your-lips-off-the-windshield braking, with repeatable results.
To set off the new lowered suspension, we bolted on incredible 22-inch HRE TR-45 forged wheels mounted inside 285/35R22 Nitto NT-555 ultra high-performance tires. The HRE wheels add the high performance and luxury look we were going for, and because of their forged structure, they will hold up to the 4,680-pound truck’s extreme g-load during high-speed maneuvers. This month, we’ll show you the complete modifications for the front suspension and we’ll tackle the rear in next month’s issue. Check out the story to get your F-150 handling on rails and get ready to embarrass a few Mustangs along the way.
Photo 2/25   |   1. After fifteen years of street use and three years of sitting behind a body shop, our Lightning’s suspension was certainly ready for a makeover.
Photo 9/25   |   8. Installing the Hotchkis 1.5-inch performance coil spring was the opposite of removal. It slipped right into place with the stock rubber isolator attached to the top.
Photo 16/25   |   15. Baer’s rotors can be optioned a number of ways. For the Lightning, we chose to combine cross-drilling and slotting on the 14-inch rotor faces for maximum repeatable braking ability.


Hotchkis Performance
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Nitto Tire
Cypress, CA 90630
Baer Brakes
Phoenix, AZ
HRE Wheels
Vista, CA 92081
The Choppin' Block Kustom Fab
Fresno, CA 93722
Belltech Suspension



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