Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) was busy in 1993, its debut year, launching the Mustang Cobra and Cobra R as send-offs for the Fox-body Mustang. Knowing that consumers wanted performance in other wrappers as well, SVT turned its attention to the F-150 pickup, producing the SVT Lightning, which Ford described as “For all intents… a Mustang GT with a cargo bed.” Has Ford’s ’93-’95 muscle truck (a response, of sorts, to the Chevrolet 454 SS pickup) appreciated in value in recent years?
In crafting the Lighting, the SVT team began with the lightest half-ton F-150 offering available, a standard cab 4×2 with the 6.75-foot Styleside bed. Power came from a 351W V-8, though this was most definitely not the same optional 5.8-liter engine found elsewhere in the product line. While the block carried over, SVT fitted high-silicon alloy pistons with low-friction rings, added GT40 heads with larger intake and exhaust valves, a GT40 tubular intake manifold, a specially profiled camshaft, a low restriction intake and tubular headers that exhaled through dual exhausts. Fuel injectors were high-flow, fed by a high-capacity fuel pump, and the ECU was reprogrammed for added performance.
As a result, the F-150 Lightning’s 5.8-liter V-8 was rated at 240 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque, compared to the 200 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque produced by “off the shelf” variants of the engine, untouched by SVT. The sole transmission offering was an E4OD four-speed automatic, programmed to allow full-throttle upshifts at 5,000 RPM, which sent torque via an aluminum drive shaft to an 8.8-inch rear, equipped with a Traction-Lok differential and a 4.10:1 axle ratio. Unique aluminum wheels, measuring 17×8 inches, were shod with 275/60HR-17 Firestone Firehawk GTA tires, then the largest rubber fitted to a production pickup.
According to Motor Trend, the Lighting was capable of running from 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds, on its way to a 15.6-second quarter-mile at 87.4 mph. While not exactly on par with a Fox-body Mustang GT’s quarter-mile capability (14.6 seconds at 96 mph), the numbers were impressive for a pickup, or for just about anything else with a curb weight of nearly 4,500 pounds. The pickup also had a payload capacity of 750 pounds and a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, something the Mustang couldn’t match.
The Lightning handled reasonably well, too, thanks to suspension tuning from SVT that included a drop in ride height (1.5-inches in front, 2.5-inches in rear), stiffer springs (and an added leaf in rear to prevent wheel hop), one-inch anti-roll bars in front and rear, and Monroe Formula GP shocks. Front brakes were disc, while rears were drum, with anti-lock brakes fitted to the rear wheels only.
Lightning models received tasteful graphics on the bed and tailgate, along with color-matched bumpers. The front bumper featured an integrated air dam, with fog lamps, while buyers could choose between the color-matched rear step bumper or the optional tubular bumper (also finished in the body color). For ’93, the Lightning was available in black and red, with white added to the list in ’94 for the remainder of production.
Inside, the truck received six-way power-adjustable sport seats in tasteful gray cloth, embroidered with the Lightning logo. A center console was used to fill the space normally occupied by a bench seat, while standard instrumentation included a tachometer, 120-mph speedometer, oil pressure and voltage gauges. The Lightning wasn’t luxurious (at least by modern pickup standards), but by all period accounts its cab was a comfortable place to spend time.
Over three years of production, Ford built a grand total of 11,563 first-generation Lightning pickups, with minor differences between years. Finding one that remains in good condition may prove challenging, as the last example rolled off the assembly line 24 years ago, and few buyers viewed these muscle trucks as collectible when new. As the supply has diminished, prices have risen accordingly. In 2015, NADA valued an average condition 1994 F150 Lightning at $5,700, citing a high retail value of $8,700. Today, NADA puts the value of an average 1994 Lightning at $16,500, with high retail examples valued at $25,600 (on par with Hagerty’s $24,600 estimate for a “concours condition” ’94 Lightning). No first-generation Lightnings are currently advertised in the Hemmings classifieds, though this link will take you to a search for the model (including second-generation Lightnings, produced from 1999-2003).