In 1991, Ford set out to assemble a group of driving enthusiasts paired with engineers, with the goal of crafting high-performance vehicles that perfected Ford’s regular production designs. These were intended to be the poster vehicles for enthusiasts everywhere, and for the most part, they achieved just that. The three letters “SVT,” signifying Special Vehicle Team, became deeply etched in the minds of Ford loyalists, including myself, as a future aspiration in car ownership. These vehicles included the Cobra, Cobra R, Lightning, Raptor, and even the sport compact Focus and Contour. Each model was bestowed with the distinguished SVT surname and a corresponding vehicle identification number (VIN).
Essence Of An Era
While the second-generation Lightning is an easy reference point for any supercharged F-150, adding forced induction simply doesn’t make it an actual Lightning. I get that, but the latest offerings from Ford Performance have me wondering if these new packages really embody what Ford’s SVT team had originally created from 1999-2004. They offer a lot of the same components including a supercharger, suspension, wheels, and more. So, we set out to dissect the details between the two.
Price And Power
In years past, well before the consideration of carbon footprints or the need to purchase credits, Ford had no reservations about boosting the power of a platform for specialty models. Take the 1999 Ford F-150, which, in its naturally aspirated 5.4-liter form, produced only 260 horsepower. In contrast, its SVT Lightning counterpart boasted an impressive 360 horsepower, a figure that would jump to 380 in later years. This represented a 38-percent increase in power for roughly $10,000 or a 52-percent increase in the overall price tag.
Meanwhile, the Ford Performance FP700 package is sold post-title — maybe due to carbon footprint concerns, maybe the enthusiast’s lead foot — but you will not find these coming from the factory with the package pre-installed. However, the included Whipple Gen-5 3.0-liter supercharger increases power by 75-percent in the 2021 and newer Ford F-150, elevating it from a standard 400 to a formidable 700.
The current price of the package, at $12,350, while still in the ballpark of changing the line item on the sales docket from XLT to SVT back in the day, represents a lower percentage increase in cost compared to the MSRP of a modern F-150.
Although the main focus of the SVT Lightning and Ford Performance FP700 package revolves around their superchargers, both go beyond just the forced induction unit. In the case of the Lightning, the entire suspension received an upgrade with Bilstein shocks on all four corners, a 31mm front sway bar up front and a 23mm one in the rear, along with unique SVT coil springs. The truck was lowered by 1.5 inches, sitting on top of 18×9.5-inch wheels.
The FP700 Package doesn’t delve as much into handling products, with its only suspension line item being the rear lowering kit to achieve the posture Ford Performance desired. However, the 2021 F-150 is four generations newer than the SVT Lightning and recently underwent a complete suspension overhaul from Ford, shedding weight and improving efficiency. A significant portion of this new technology went into the updated leaf spring setup, utilizing a single main leaf and a composite helper instead of a multipack.
So, while there is always room for improvement, the gains of a full suspension package on a modern F-150 would be minimized compared to those of a 1999 XLT becoming a Lightning at the factory. Additionally, the modern F-150 body size is considerably larger, leaving a much roomier wheel well to accommodate the 22-inch wheels from Ford Performance.
The current trends of modified trucks preclude much in the way of heavy aesthetic changes, something the second-generation Lightning based its image on. The SVT Lightning went even further in branding itself as something more than an F-150 with a complete body kit, side exit exhaust, and even an interior to continue the theme. It proudly displayed the SVT imagery in the gauge cluster, seats, and in a variety of other ways.
The Ford Performance FP700 kit offers a modest approach with Ford Performance bedside graphics, tailgate lettering, Ford Performance fender vents, a gloss black grille, and, of course, Ford Performance floor mats. It’s a far cry from the numerous changes the SVT-branded truck carried through its five-year run.
SVT Is Dead, Long Live SVT.
While SVT may have taken its final breath years ago, the reality is that what the Special Vehicle Team stood for is still alive and well. You won’t be getting a VIN with the special digit accolade or a letter of authenticity, but the performance gains will make you forget about that sheet of paper real quick.
As an owner of both generations of the SVT Lightning, I can confidently say that the Ford Performance FP700 will not transform your truck into a Lightning no matter what side badges and supercharger you add to it, but damn, does it make a good successor. I’m glad that Ford Performance, much like SVT did back in 1991, took note of the high performance sector and crafted a product to appease us, even backed with a warranty! SVT may be dead, but the spirit is still alive and well within the performance side of Ford. Long live SVT. Long live Ford Performance.