From the December 2022 issue of Car and Driver.
Ford’s performance-focused Special Vehicle Team (SVT) made its debut with two 1993 models: the SVT Mustang Cobra and the SVT F-150 Lightning, a revamped pickup truck that immediately became the Car and Driver staff in “Why?” and “Because!” camps. Enough buyers fell for the latter for the F-150 Lightning to get a follow-up with a big bump in power for the 1999 model year.
From 1999 to 2004, Ford produced just over 28,000 second-gen SVT F-150 Lightnings, dressed in the love-it-or-hate-it aero body (and Flareside bed) that came with the ’97 truck arrived Not enough to make them common, but enough to build a cult following so that, even today, owner forums flourish, and enthusiast meetups take place across the country.
Models from 2001 forward got a revised Triton 5.4-liter V-8 with more power, a shorter rear axle ratio and Bilstein monotube shocks. The best examples are 2003–04s, which benefit from factory updates that fix common problems. The abundance of mods requires careful analysis of potential purchases. Make sure work is done correctly and consider replacing any substandard parts.
A common problem with 10th-gen F-150s is the V-8’s tendency to eject spark plugs, and the Lightning is no exception. The 2003 and ’04 models got more threads in the cylinder heads to solve the problem, but it’s worth checking the plugs. Just be careful when removing them, as their two-piece design tends to break off in the head.
The arrival of the new electric F-150 Lightning has spurred renewed interest in yesterday’s supertruck, with prices jumping dramatically over the past two years. The days of second-generation Lightnings under $20,000 are largely over, although the occasional 1999 or 2000 example may stray close to that range. Low mileage and originality are valued above all else and drive most high-dollar sales, with the top end of 2001–04 models ranging from $40,000 to just under $50,000.
F-150 Lightnings for the 1999 model year featured an Eaton supercharger mated to a 5.4-liter V-8 that produced 360 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque. The 2001 model got a revised air intake opening and mass air flow meter, plus a higher-flow intake, increasing output to 380 horsepower and 450 pound-feet. Some final tweaks for 2003 included heavier rear leaf springs that increased payload capacity from 800 to 1350 pounds, in case you plan to use your Lightning to tow more than hole.
2001 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning
380-hp supercharged 5.4-liter V-8, 4702 lb
60 mph: 5.2 sec
100 mph: 12.8 sec
1/4-mile: 13.8 sec @ 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 185 ft
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