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Technology & Systems


Ford's Red-Hot, Supercharged Lightning Concept
By Ford Media
Mar 26, 2003, 15:27 PST
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Fordís bold vision for a third-generation SVT F-150 Lightning sport truck emerged [January 6th] from a powerful new-product cloudburst at the 2003 North American International Auto Show.

The SVT Lightning concept was a surprise during Fordís unveiling of the all-new 2004 F-150. Launching a "Whole New Era of Built Ford Tough," the new F-150 is an all-new full-size pickup architecture designed for more power, refinement and unprecedented driving dynamics capability. It is the star of Ford Motor Companyís biggest-ever wave of new-product introductions at the dawn of its Centennial year.

"We are excited about the new F-150, because it will provide an outstanding platform for the next-generation Lightning," says Tom Scarpello, marketing and sales manager for Ford Special Vehicle Team (SVT). "The SVT F-150 Lightning concept hints at what we could do with Lightning and sends a signal that we donít intend to give up our dominance of the sport truck market."

The SVT F-150 Lightning concept features a six-speed manual transmission, independent rear suspension and a 500-horsepower supercharged V-8. It is a powerful combination aimed at extending SVT Lightningís supremacy into the future.

Since it was introduced in 1993, the Ford SVT F-150 Lightning has been the undisputed sport truck king, making a name for itself as the "Worldís Fastest Production Pickup." Ten years later, competitors are finally bringing Lightning imitators to market. John Coletti, director, SVT Programs, welcomes the challenge.

"It will be nice to finally have a little cross-town rivalry," Coletti said. "But we have no intention of being overshadowed on our home turf. The SVT Lightning Concept showcases technology weíre developing to meet the competition head-on."



Cool Technology Takes Power to New Levels

Colettiís team fit the SVT Lightning concept with an all-aluminum, 5.4-liter DOHC supercharged and intercooled V-8 engine conservatively rated at 500 horsepower and 500 foot pounds of torque (SAE net). And while they were at it, they invented and patented a speed secret for those times when even that much power just isnít enough.

Fordís patented SuperCooler technology cleverly provides a special burst of power for the SVT Lightning concept. Traditional intercoolers dissipate heat from the supercharged air by circulating coolant through a front-mounted, air-cooled radiator. With the SuperCooler system, the vehicleís air conditioning system is used to chill a small storage tank of coolant to about 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

On demand, the SuperCooler system switches the intercooler flow from its normal circulation and dumps the chilled coolant into the engineís intercooler. In turn, the intercooler dissipates up to 20 percent more heat from the charge air - resulting in a denser air charge.

A green light on the instrument panel indicates the systemís readiness. SuperCooler is activated automatically when the driver depresses the accelerator to a wide-open-throttle position.

"This technology plays directly into the hands of the enthusiast," Coletti says. "The SuperCooler provides the edge for the driver, and it is done simply by taking advantage of the hardware that already exists in the vehicle."

As a result of this cool technology, the SVT Lighting concept can give its driver as much as 50 transient horsepower for short bursts of 30-45 seconds and regenerate within 2 minutes under normal driving conditions. While its effect is similar to that of an aftermarket nitrous oxide system, the SuperCooler is completely self-contained, environmentally friendly and regenerative.

The SVT Lightning concept engine features a Lysholm, screw-type supercharger, paired with both an intercooler and the new SuperCooler system. The 32-valve, double-overhead-cam powerplant boasts Manley connecting rods, two fuel injectors per cylinder and high-performance heads similar to those on the limited-edition 2000 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra R.

Exhaust gases escape through free-flowing headers and dual side pipes, producing a classic American V-8 rumble. Power is delivered to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. The same Tremec T-56 transmission is used in the 2003 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra. In keeping with the performance nature of the SVT Lightning, the short-throw, console-mounted shifter is more like that of a sports car than a traditional pickupís long-shaft, floor mounted shift lever.



SVT Lightning Conceptís Driving Dynamics

The SVT F-150 Lightning concept features an independent rear suspension and SVTís famous attention to every detail of the suspension, steering and braking systems for driving dynamic capabilities that match the sport truckís awesome power.

The concept truckís handling potential is immediately apparent, evidenced by massive 22-inch cast aluminum wheels that convey power even standing still. The wheels are wrapped in hand-cut Goodyear P295/40R22 tires in front and P325/45R22 tires at the rear.

Visible through the six-spoke wheels are equally impressive Brembo brakes - six-piston calipers in front, four-piston at the rear - mated to platter-size, 380-millimeter, cross-drilled ventilated discs.

SVT engineers chose to fit an independent rear suspension (IRS) system to the Lightning concept in lieu of F-150ís standard Hotchkiss type solid rear axle with leaf springs and outboard shock absorbers. The IRS unit was adapted from the Ford Expedition.

"The new architecture of the F-150 made it easier for us to adapt the independent rear suspension system," says Jeff Feit, SVT Lightning chassis and powertrain engineer. "This allowed us to reduce unsprung weight even further and fine-tune the handling in true SVT style."

The front suspension is derived from the new F-150, with the upper control arms modified to accommodate the oversized wheel and tires. The new rack-and-pinion steering system of the F-150 contributes to the SVT Lightning concept truckís steering precision.



Quick-Out-of-the-Box Design

The new SVT Lightning concept isnít just built for speed off the line. It was designed to be quick out of the box, thanks to a new F-150 modular design architecture thatís geared

to flexibility. That made it possible to show off the new SVT Lightning concept as a possible derivative of the new F-150 immediately at the truckís public unveiling.

"Modular design lends itself to special editions like this," says Craig Metros, F-150 chief designer. "Changing details such the front grille, the side body panels and interior trim transforms the truck. The result is a specialized, high-performance model, far from being just a wheel-and-tire package."

The SVT Lightning concept is based on the new Regular Cab F-150 Flareside model, finished in Liquid Silver Metallic and dripping with performance character. In keeping with SVT Lightning tradition, the concept only has two doors. The rear access doors on the new Regular Cab F-150 are replaced on the concept with longer front doors and fixed B-pillars. Other SVT design cues include electro-luminescent gauges, side exhausts, clear taillights and round foglights.



Stunning Performance Interior

The stunning interior of the SVT Lightning concept perhaps best illustrates the benefits of adapting F-150ís modular design architecture. It builds on the craftsmanship and meticulous detailing of the all-new 2004 F-150, according to Jim Smithbauer, F-150 design manager.

"The luxurious Lariat interior was a perfect starting point for the SVT Lightning concept," Smithbauer says. "The color and trim emphasize the SVT Lightning conceptís aggressive character, while the seat bolsters and console-mounted shifter make the perfect cockpit for the performance enthusiast. The dash and center console are accented with Liquid Silver Metallic to match the exterior. The seats are covered in Mustard Yellow leather, complemented by Ebony carpet and door trim. Even subtle changes emphasize performance, like the red engine start button and the electro-luminescent gauges - an SVT trademark."

Another emphasis on performance is the manual gearbox instead of the top-of-the-line F-150 Lariatís automatic transmission. Most pickups with a manual transmission have shifters mounted on the floor. The SVT Lightning concept employs a flow-through center console, enabling a short-throw shifter reminiscent of a sports car.



Electrifying Exterior

The profile of the SVT Lightning concept is dominated by 22-inch tires mounted on Gunmetal Gray alloy wheels. The work of F-150 designer Michael Trump, the wheels feature a sculpted, flush face and positive offset for aggressive strength resonating the F-150 "Built Ford Tough" character.

The roofline is slightly chopped for a streamlined, aggressive look. The panels below the waterline (a horizontal character line that connects the front and rear bumpers) are sharply sculpted to give the sport truck a more purposeful profile. Integrated into these lower panels on both sides are dual exhausts.

The 61/2-foot Flareside bed has smoothed side steps, a hard tonneau cover and an aerodynamic spoiler at the top of the tailgate. Aerodynamics also influenced the rear of the SVT Lightning concept, where twin venturi tunnels wrap under the rear bumper. The tunnels are designed to increase stability at high speeds by reducing turbulence and generating rear downforce.

Above the rear bumper, the SVT Lightning concept has unique taillights featuring a three-element design and a complex reflector showcased under a clear lens. Unlike the production F-150, the grille of the SVT Lightning concept is separate from the hood, creating a continuous arch from headlight to headlight. The effect, according to Ford Tough Truck designer Damon Depeyster, is an "aggressive, menacing brow." To further accent the aggressive visage, Depeyster created a new lower fascia that incorporates SVTís trademark round fog lights, and a new hood with functional air induction vents.

The design detail doesnít stop on the exterior of the SVT F-150 Lightning concept hood. Inside, the engine bay is meticulously detailed. The engine is topped by a Performance Red air intake, in homage to Ď60s American muscle cars. The supercharged, aluminum 5.4-liter V-8 is completely chromed and polished and capped with "Powered by Ford" valve covers.

"This is a performance truck," says Metros. "So the engine bay had to be all business, all performance. It had to be clean and sophisticated, with an unobstructed view of the engine. It had to be the ideal of the perfect engine, like that of a custom hot rod."



Adding Voltage to SVTís Sport Truck Heritage

The Ford SVT Lightning concept marks the coming of a future third generation of the "Worldís Fastest Production Pickup." It arrives as the Ford Special Vehicle Team celebrates its 10th anniversary and Ford Motor Company is kicking off its Centennial year. Since its introduction as a 1993 model, the Ford SVT F-150 Lightning has dominated the sport truck market. By the end of 2003, about 36,000 SVT Lightning pickups will be on the road.

The SVT Lightning has been constantly improved since its introduction, as output has jumped from the originalís 240 to todayís 380 horsepower. Acceleration has improved accordingly, with official 0-60 mph times dropping from an impressive 7.6 seconds to a scorching 5.8 seconds.

The Ford SVT Lightning concept making its world debut at the 2003 North American International Auto Show hints that the next-generation SVT Lightning will raise the bar even farther, and continue to dominate in the sport truck arena.

As it celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2003, SVTís lineup currently includes the SVT Mustang Cobra, SVT F-150 Lightning and SVT Focus. With more than 100,000 vehicles sold, the Ford Special Vehicle Team has become a leader in factory high-performance vehicle development, marketing and sales.


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