Will the Next Lightning
Have the Wattage To Win?

Ford seems poised to regain its supremacy as the number-one power-pickup in the world with the third-generation F-150 Lightning, but will it have what it takes to overcome the SRT-10?

The Lightning Concept shown at Detroit's 2003 North American International Auto Show (Truck Trend, July/August 2003) meets the SRT-10's horsepower rating, but falls short of the Ram's tornado-twisting 525 pound-feet of torque. The last thing Ford's performance guru, John Coletti, wants is to let his next supertruck take a backseat to Dodge's Viper-powered heavyweight. Coletti practically invented the recipe for modern performance trucks, and we're guessing he has a few undisclosed tricks up his sleeve to regain the throne from Dodge. Says Coletti, "...we have no intention of being overshadowed on our home turf."

The Lightning concept features a supercharged, intercooled 5.4-liter V-8 producing 500 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Yet don't be surprised if these numbers jump when the production Lightning hits showrooms. Also, Ford now has the option to meet Dodge cylinder-to-cylinder by using the recent Shelby Cobra Concept's 6.4-liter V-10. This engine's 605 horsepower would give the Lightning the muscle it needs to send the SRT-10 home with its tail between its legs.

Further upping the Lightning's ante is a switch from the four-speed automatic to the Tremec T56 six-speed, borrowed from the Mustang Cobra. Expect shifts to be short and precise. To reduce unsprung weight and improve handling, Ford may decide to ditch the traditional rear-axle and leaf-spring assembly in exchange for an independent rear suspension adapted from the Expedition. Special exterior aerodynamics increase high-speed stability and should help with Ford's quest to regain the "World's Fastest Pickup" title.

Ford has kept tight-lipped as to whether the next Lightning will be a 2005 or 2006 model, but if working overtime to beat the SRT-10 at the dragstrip has caused production delays for SVT, we're content with waiting patiently for FoMoCo's next supreme-performance truck. --B.V.