Posted on June 24, 2015
If there’s one single beautiful thing about the Gen 2 Lightning’s, it’s that you can just bolt on and go fast. Yeah yeah those stock Lightning’s are fast from the factory, but most of us want to take them to the next level. And whether you’re looking for 50 or 100 extra horsepower, better traction, or flashy looks, every part and piece you need is just a keystroke or a phone call away. To some extent the dirty work has been done – all you need to do is get the parts and have them installed.
Ford Motor Company was kind enough to package these F-150 Flyers with a solid go-fast foundation such as a supercharger, a beefy transmission, and a heavy duty rear. The aftermarket took over from there and produced some outstanding bolt-on parts that really work. After all real bolt on performance parts are supposed to be simple, the price should be affordable, and the performance outstanding. But when it comes to car “and truck” parts we know that sometimes the claims are stronger than the gains.
Luckily in our world of Supercharged Ford Lightning Trucks, we’ve been fortunate. Not only has the aftermarket risen to the occasion much quicker than it did for the 4.6 Mustang GT or even for the 5.0 Liter Mustang for that matter, but the performance gains seem to come by the truck load.
Lightning owners can slap on different combinations of parts and unlock upward of 100HP or more in an afternoon. Actually it’s not unheard of for a stock block Lightning to pump out upward of 500HP at the tires and run well into the 11’s. And these trucks do so with a race weight of 4500lbs. or more. That’s sensational, especially when compared to most other Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, and even Vipers that weigh much less.
Here in Houston , TX , at Ford Lightning comrade central, we have both feet solidly planted in the Lightning Revolution. We have our own project Lightning, a 2000 model dubbed “the Bolt”. It has many bolt on modifications and it runs well. But we’ve also paid close attention to plenty of other Lightning owners and the performance gains they’ve made.
If your still not convinced of the huge potential locked in Ford’s heavy hauler, take a trip to your local race track, to a NMRA or Fun Ford Event, or dare to battle one of the freeway and you’ll see the true potential these F-150 Screamers have. It’s not uncommon to find Lightning’s running 12 and 11’s to see their owners drive them home after the event.
As we predicted some years ago, a revolution has evolved from these fine SVT Machines, one that mimics the late model Mustang movement of the ‘80s. And that friends is way cool. Lightning Parts are everywhere and there is no end in sight. So in order to get you up to speed, we compiled this list of popular Lightning Modifications, tricks, and tips. All of which can be found in ourFord Lightning Parts section on our website.
There are many basic tricks to unlocking horsepower from your Lightning. One of them is run with the engine coolant as cold as possible and to cool the upper intake manifold with ice. Chilling the stock manifold or the aftermarket Lightning Power Plenum makes the air entering the engine dense and helps to increase power. Remember to remove the ice before racing and to soak up any water so it doesn’t make a mess on the track or get under your tires. Running with a cool intake and with the engine temp cold can be worth 2-tenths when compared to making a pass with the engine at full operating temperature.
One of the oldest paths to quick elapsed time is to remove weight from the vehicle. Items on a Lightning that can be easily removed include the passenger seat/center console, the tailgate, and the spare tire. In all, you can easily remove about 200 pounds, and that will shave about 2-tenths of a second off your ET.
Here’s another freebie. Yanking out the front antiroll bar will save weight (about 20 pounds) and also allow the front end to rise quicker and higher, which helps transfer weight and plant the back tires on launch.
One of the common problems with supercharged Lightning trucks is that the engine sucks oil through the valve seal during heavy deceleration. Because of this, oil can work its way into the intake manifold and even contaminate the mass air meter. Simply installing a breather cap in place of the oil filler cap will help to prevent this from occurring
The stock air inlet system on the Lightning is quite restrictive. Most high-performance engines will benefit from better breathing, and your Lightning is no different. Therefore, by removing the stock air box and filter and replacing it with a free-flowing Lightning cold air kit, you can notice gains of 1-2 pounds of boost and 15-20 hp.
F-150 Lightning trucks like air, and by sapping your stock twin-bore throttle body for a big mouth single blade unit, you can improve the airflow entering the engine. The LFP Single Blade Lightning Throttle Body will bolt directly to the existing upper manifold and can be worth about 10-16hp at the wheels. This unit can flow over 1,000 cfm.
Stock Lightning engines are equipped with a large clutch-type cooling fan that’s driven by the serpentine belt. This creates a parasitic loss and robs about 10-15 hp from the engine. By installing the LFP Electric Fan kit, you can free up horsepower and also have a remote switch so you can cool the engine quickly between runs. We’ve installed the very first E-fan on our 2000 project truck in 2002 and have had great success on the street and the track, not to mention the fan still runs and operates like new 7 years later.
LFP Offers this trick new Intercooler Heat Exchanger to cool down your intake charge temperatures. The stock Lightning Intercooler is very small and does a poor job cooling your blower. When you’re running your Lightning hot and heavy down the track, sometime the blower will experience “Heat Soak” and lock-up. It’s very simple, if your blower is hot, your SVT Lightning loses power. That’s why LFP designed a new Lightning Heat Exchanger to help keep your intercooler fluid cold so you can keep the power you make and say goodbye to heat soak.
Boost equals power, and one way to increase boost is to change the drive ratio of the pulleys to spin the blower faster. In order to increase the boost by a few pounds, you’ll find that the upper blower pulley needs to be slightly smaller than stock, while the lower crank drive pulley needs to be larger in diameter. LFP machines aftermarket Lightning pulleys in lightweight aluminum (vs. steel for the stock pulley), which also reduces parasitic drag on the engine. Please be sure that you properly adjust your ECM when adding an aftermarket pulley, this can be done with a SCT Handheld Programmer or at your local Lightning certified dyno-shop.
If there is a key to unlocking hidden power of the Lightning engine, it is most certainly the aftermarket performance tuner and reflash. There are a few manufacturers offering tuners such as SCT, Diablo Sport, and Sniper. The tuners have the ability to write custom program files specific for your Lightning by your local dyno-shop or by our team of specialized LFP Tuners. They change the fuel curve, timing advance, shift points, and shift firmness and can show a gain of 30-70hp at the wheels or as much as 4-7 tenths of a second in the quarter mile.
Don’t really know where to start? Let LFP do the work for you. With our selection of Lightning Power Packages, you can select what power level you’re comfortable with. Whether your wanting to add just a few ponies or go all out balls to the wall, the LFP Power Packages have what you need. The packages are the best bang for the buck combining all the most popular and biggest gaining parts in one low price.
Most will agree that the optimum gear ratio for the average Lightning is 3.73:1. If you have a 2001, 2002, 2003, or 2004 FordLightning you’re in luck because the 3.73:1 is the stock ratio. However if you own a 1999 – 2000 Lightning, the stock gear ratio is 3.55, and you can find some off-the-line acceleration by installing the 3.73’s. BUT don’t rule out the 4.10’s either. A common misconception is that if you install 4.10’s your RPM’s will skyrocket while your cruising 70 – 80mph on the highway. Not so with the Lightning. Because you have a huge 9.75’’ rear end, (and not an 8.80’’ found in Mustangs and GM trucks) the difference at cruising speeds between the 3.73’s and 4.10’s are only a few hundred RPM’S. So if you’re looking for an even quicker launch, 4.10’s may be the way to go.Pick up a set of Lightning Gears today.
If you’re into finding low elapsed times, one of the quickest and easiest ways to get them is with a pair of sticky rear tires that will grip the street or the track. We’ve been successful with Mickey Thompson’s 16-inch ET Street Tires, though others have used 28-inch slicks and we’ve seen one racer using a set of 10.5x30-inch radial slicks (not drag radials) which, due to their stiff sidewall construction, can lower ET by a tenth or more.
If you’re not into swapping tires at the track, we recommend you go with a set of drag radial tires from Nitto or BFGoodrich. These sticky radials hook extremely well, yet maintain all the handling characteristics of a typical radial tire.
One of the oldest drag racing tricks is to toss on a set of skinny front tires. The benefits include reduced rolling resistance and lighter weight. Generally, replacing the stock tires with a set of skinnies will be worth about 1-tenth second or more and a 1-2 mph increase in the quarter mile.
If you are looking for maximum traction at the strip, we highly recommend installing a set of aftermarket Lightning Shocksby QA1. Due to the massive torque of the 5.4, the rear axle housing reacts quickly, and this can cause the tires to plant and then unload. By installing stiffer-than-stock rear shocks, the action of the rear housing is slowed down and the tires stay hooked up. Bilstein sells nonadjustable shocks, while QA1 sells adjustable units that can be set up for a soft ride on the street and then tightened for track use.
Traction Bars are necessary on hard-launching trucks because the axle housing has a tendency to over-rotate, which causes the leaf springs to wind up and distort. This leads to two major problems. First, pinion angle becomes excessive, which can lead to a broken driveshaft, and second, you may find your Lightning has excessive wheel hop, which is a result of the leaf springs winding up and releasing repeatedly. LFP offers 58’’ Torque Arm Lightning Traction Bars that bolt directly to your front frame-rail and rear axle. The LFP bars offer no pre-load and 0 weight transfer time which means no delay in transfer and hook-up. In addition to preventing axle windup, the bars transfer the torque to the body of the truck, which helps to plant the rear tires to the track. Other types of bars, such as the Caltrack require a preload, or mount directly to your leaf springs causing a VERY uncomfortable ride. Because of the way LFP 58’’ Bars are mounted, you receive the benefit of 0 wheel hop at the track while maintaining a comfortable ride on the street.
Switching to a set of Bell-Tech Shackles will lower the rear of your truck 2 inches, but, more importantly, it will change the pinion angle from 0 degrees to 2 degrees negative (or down), which helps plant the rear on launch for better traction.
When horsepower is increased on Lightning trucks, it becomes necessary to shift the transmission quicker and crisper to minimize slippage. One simple way to accomplish this is by installing an Lightning Shift Kit Valve Body. The Re-vamped valve body functions by raising line pressure with a brand new line-mod-vale (pre-installed) and all upgraded internals causing quicker and firmer shifts. The LFP Valve Body also helps lengthen the life of your transmission clutches by absorbing the heavy torque loads during shifts at wide open throttle (WOT).
Installing a deep transmission pan, such as a LFP, B&M, Moroso, or Ford Factory 4x4 Pan will increase the capacity of fluid from an extra 1.5 – 3+ quarts. The additional fluid will help the transmission run cooler and live longer.
The standard Lightning transmission, known as the 4R100, is one tough mutha. It has full lock-up capabilities and can handle the torque generated by the strong 360hp and 380hp Supercharged V-8s. However, one you begin to modify your truck, especially with a chip and more boost, the transmission might not be up to the task. The common problem is the Second-gear clutches to slip and eventually fail. In addition, other internal failures in the front pump and the Overdrive band can occur over time. We had our 2000 Lightning Bolt transmission rebuilt some time ago by installing an LFP Stage 2 Rebuild Kit with new Raybestos clutch packs, Torrington Bearings, and packed full of upgraded rebuild components.
One of the many tricks to improving elapsed time at the track is to install a loose torque converter. Because of the monster torque, it is not necessary to have a loose converter, as in most drag racing applications. The stock Lightning converter stalls to about 1,800–rpm, so not much more stall is needed. A Lightning torque converter that is too loose will only serve to build excessive heat in the converter and the transmission, but it will not help acceleration. We recommend a converter that stalls to about 2,200 – 2,400 RPM for the street and 2,600 – 2,800 for street/strip on most applications.
There’s plenty of horsepower to be unleashed by installing an aftermarket Lightning Exhaust. Lightning owners have two options. They can choose Shorty headers or long-tube headers, just like you can with a Mustang. We’ve been down both roads with our project trucks and have had great success with long-tubes combined with Bassani Mid Pipes and Bassani Catback system. If you’re just starting out, we suggest just sticking with the Mid Pipes and Catback and work your way up to the headers. Shorty headers show no real gains on the dyno and long-tubes can get pricey, especially for installation. By Installing the mid-pipes and catback along with a pulley kit, you can see gains from 20-25hp. Not to mention you’ll wake your Lightning up with that American muscle sound.
Like the 3.73 gears, all 2001-2004 Ford Lightning’s have a huge 5-inch aluminum driveshaft underneath from the factory. Ford offers the same unit as a direct bolt-in for 1999-2000 Lightning’s. The aluminum unit is lighter than the steel and will improve performance by decreasing rotating weight.
Both the NMRA and the IHRA require a driveshaft safety loop to be installed no more than 6 inches away from the front U-joint in order to catch the driveshaft in case of U-joint failure.
Want to skip all the jabs and go right for the gut punch? Then get a Whipple Supercharger and bolt on an instant 400+rwhp! Lightning Whipple Superchargers produce twice the amount of horsepower per pound of boost than the stock Lightning M-112 Blower and operate with less heat. Lightning Whipple Superchargers have the capability to go up to 24psi on the 2.3L W-140ax and up to 30psi on the 3.4L W-210 ax (Not recommended for street use). With the ability to run cooler and produce over 600 horsepower to the wheels, Whipple Superchargers are becoming increasingly popular in the Lightning Community.
There are many tricks to getting extra air into your Lightning engine. And one way is to trade your stock upper manifold for this ported unit from Lightning Force Performance. After the throttle body, the next restriction is the upper manifold. We’ve been able to Extrude Hone this part of the intake tract to straighten the airflow and increase air speed, adding 10-15hp and 20-25lb-ft of torque.
One of the easiest modifications you can make on your Lightning is to add an aftermarket mass air meter. Most tuners feel the stock 2001-Present 90mm meter is sufficient, and we agree, however earlier 1999-2000 model Lightning’s will gain an extra 10hp just by swapping the 80mm MAF for a 90mm MAF. Please note that tuning is required when swapping meters, and if you’re pushing a 6psi pulley we suggest upgrading the SCT Big Air meter to prevent pegging out.
Keeping your 5.4 supercharged Triton engine running cool is one of the keys to finding ultimate performance. And one way to stay cool is to swap the stock water pump for an aluminum water pump from the Cobra R. The Cobra pump is more efficient, lighter weight, and will dissipate heat better than the stock cast pump.
While many of the modifications you can make to your Lightning are inexpensive, others can cost quite a bit. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your dollars are well spent, so we recommend dyno testing or track testing after each major modification. The few bucks will be worth having the quantifiable results. Remember though, to use the same dyno and to chart the weather and track conditions if you are track testing.
Nitrous Oxide is not a mystery gas. It is 2 parts nitrogen and 1 part oxygen, and the heat from combustion causes the nitrogen molecules to separate from the oxygen molecules. The result is simply more oxygen for combustion. When mixed with the correct amount of fuel, massive gains in horsepower and torque can be had. LFP offers a complete kit for the Gen 2 Lightning that includes everything needed for a clean and safe install. We offer a complete Nitrous Express Wet EFI kit that is adjustable from 50hp to 150hp and your choice of Bottle sizes (10lb recommended).
There comes a time in virtually all high performance applications when more fuel is needed to keep the engine running in top form. Amazingly, the stock Lightning fuel system can handle upward of 450+hp without touching a thing. However, if you plan to go past that number or if you’re going to use nitrous, we recommend swapping the stock 155-lph pumps for a pair of Walbro HO 255-lph in-tank pumps. LFP Offers a kit complete with two new pumps, filter socks, rubber pump sleeves, hoses, clamps, new as tank gasket, and an optional Stainless Steel Y fitting and submersible Gates Fuel Hose.
Current Lightning owners may notice at times that after a hard acceleration or burnout, their truck loses power and slows drastically. This may be the cause of the boost bypass valve opening, which causes the boost to be dumped. Well, this is designed into the system to prevent over-acceleration of the vehicle or the engine. To prevent this from occurring, you can install the LFP Boost Bypass Kit. The kit installs easily and allows for full boost whenever it is needed.
If you pull off your stock air box, remove your blower, or open the intake system in any way you may have noticed a build-up of Oil collecting. This is because the tube on the passenger side going from the valve cover to the intake plenum manifold is transferring oil into your Lightning’s intake. Under WOT and high-rpm acceleration the supercharger suction is at its greatest which over time can cause a build up of oil-sludge in your intercooler and your intake track. The LFPLightning Oil Separator will stop the oil in its tracks by collecting the excess oil in a clear vile which can easily be discarded or poured back into your oil fill.
Last, but certainly not least are Lightning Spark Plugs. Stock spark plugs are great for stock Lightning’s. But who has a stock Ford Lightning anymore? With the additional of air intake and more boost the spark plugs become too hot and can pre-maturely burn up due to the extra heat inside your combustion chamber. Installing a colder heat range spark plug will not only prevent your spark plugs from burning up, but will perform more efficiently causing your Lightning to gain horsepower. There are many aftermarket choices for plug ranging from the inexpensive NGK TR6 and BR7 to the more efficient, cleaner burning Iridium and Silver Tip Style plugs offered by Brisk, Denso, and NGK. Don’t forget to pick-up a set of Stainless Steel Coil On Connector plugs to increase the amount of spark transfer to your plugs causing an overall better running truck while adding horsepower at the same time.
All prices are in USD.