1999 Ford F-150 Work Series Photo
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Does the idea of a "sports" pickup seem absurd to you? It might not if you understand the pickup’s role in the U.S. market.

These aren’t just America’s workhorses anymore. They’re also purchased as personal and family transportation, or even as a styling statement. Pickups appeal to a broader cross-section of buyers in the U.S. than any other type of car or truck, and come in an astonishing variety of forms and sizes to meet the demands of those buyers.

Last year, pickups accounted for 19 percent of the entire U.S. vehicle market of 15.5 million cars and light trucks. With such sales, there’s more than enough room for a high-performance pickup or two.

A streak of hi-po trucks

The idea of a sports pickup isn’t new. In 1989, the Dodge Shelby Dakota, with a 175-horsepower 5.2-liter V-8, was the first. GM followed soon after with the GMC Syclone, a compact S-15 pickup with four-wheel-drive, low-profile tires, and a 280 horsepower turbocharged V-6. Full-sized hot-rod pickups, though, never got that wild. In the early-1990s, Chevy, with its 454SS, battled Ford, with its first F-150 Lightning, but both of these trucks were half-hearted attempts, with slightly warmed-over V-8s and special paint jobs. Neither truck sold very well.

But Ford is about to introduce another SVT Lightning based on the full-sized F-150, and no one will label this one a half-hearted attempt at performance. Developed by the Special Vehicle Team (SVT), Ford’s in-house performance group, the SVT F-150 Lightning is the first production truck of any kind (pickup or otherwise) that can compete with a performance car on a racetrack..

SVT’s work began under the hood. Ford’s 5.4-liter truck V-8 was fitted with an Eaton Roots-type supercharger making 8.0 psi of boost, blowing through an air-to-water intercooler. The compression ratio was lowered with new forged pistons, and a forged crankshaft and connecting rods were added. SVT decided against using the DOHC 32-valve heads of the Lincoln Navigator V-8 because the SOHC 16-valve heads fit under the hood better. Still, engineers fitted a large-capacity air cleaner to the engine, and a dual-bore 57mm throttle body similar to that in the Mustang Cobra. The result is an impressive 360 horsepower at 4750 rpm, and 440 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm.

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