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  • Ford SVT Lightning Bolt Ranger Prototype - Performance & Road Test - Motor Trend

Ford SVT Lightning Bolt Ranger Prototype - Performance & Road Test - Motor Trend

Call it a toy. Call it wild and crazy. But don't even think about calling Ford SVT's V-8-powered Ranger Prototype slow or boring.

Chuck Schifsky
May 6, 2004
Photographers: David Freers
Call it a toy. Call it wild and crazy. But don't even think about calling it slow or boring. We're talking about one of the most monstrous small pickups we've ever driven: the Ford SVT Lightning Bolt Ranger prototype. The Lightning Bolt started life as a Flareside regular-cab Ranger and is the brainchild of Dave Dempster, an SVT Powertrain Systems engineer. Dempster's goal was to build a small pickup "that would get your full attention on those occasions when the accelerator pedal might get exercised aggressively."
Photo 2/5   |   2004 Ford Svt Lightning Bolt Ranger Prototype front View
While there are no plans to put the Bolt into production, Dempster's intent for the project was to use as many off-the-shelf hardware pieces to simplify the fabrication challenges and keep costs down.
In place of the stock 2.5-liter I-4 engine rests a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 transplanted from a 2002 SVT F-150 Lightning. This two-valve SOHC pumps out 380 horsepower at 4750 rpm and is backed by a 4R100 four-speed automatic transmission.
Photo 3/5   |   2004 Ford Svt Lightning Bolt Ranger Prototype wheel View
Obviously, the engine is much larger than the I-4, but, surprisingly, the V-8 fits in the Ranger nicely. The swap included the fabrication of new engine mounts, a new air intake, two-inch exhaust headers, and a three-inch stainless-steel dual exhaust system. The battery was relocated from under the hood to the bed, and the large HVAC plenum was replaced with a smaller unit from an E-Series Ford van.
Torque output is 450 pound-feet at 3250 rpm--more than enough to twist the stock frame into a pretzel. To counter these forces, the SVT engineers boxed both framerails and added cross-braces. This meant replacing the production plastic fuel tank with a fuel cell mounted in the bed (filled through a Bullitt Mustang aluminum fuel door mounted inside the bed).

Likewise, since the front suspension wasn't designed to handle the heavier V-8 powertrain, SVT Lightning front springs, lower control arms, and steering knuckles were fitted to the Ranger's front end, then dropped two inches so the engine would fit under the stock hood.
Photo 4/5   |   2004 Ford Svt Lightning Bolt Ranger Prototype gauges View
The Bolt uses a production Lightning rearend that's been narrowed almost 11 inches and fitted with 3.73:1 gears. The spring perches also have been relocated inboard to accommodate the massive 345/35ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport tires on widened 18x12.5-inch Lightning wheels (stock wheels are 9.5 inches wide). Up front, the rolling stock is 235/40ZR18s on narrowed 18x8.0-inch Lightning wheels. To be sure the modified Ranger has adequate stopping abilities, SVT engineers fitted Lightning brake components all around.
Photo 5/5   |   2004 Ford Svt Lightning Bolt Ranger Prototype top Engine View
We tested this prototype at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway--we weren't disappointed. Even though the Vegas dragstrip sits at 3000 feet above sea level, robbing engines of much needed oxygen, we recorded a 13.88 at 99.42 mph. Dempster's truck made several runs in the 13.60 range at 108 mph. The best part is that Dempster thinks it'll go even quicker with a few engine modifications. Not bad for a pickup truck that could outrun many modern-day musclecars.
While the SVT Lightning Bolt Ranger is designed only for straight-line action, it's still one of the most fun vehicles we've tested in a long time. As Dempster says, "We didn't want to create anything too loud, outlandish, or over the top." But, being that the Lightning Bolt can spin the rear tires for hundreds of feet at a time, this is one goal we're happy he overshot.



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