SEMA 2022: 1993 Ford Lightning Rocks 7.3-Liter Godzilla With Whipple

When you’re a mechanic by trade, you more than likely are going to want to keep a vehicle around for fun. However, sometimes fun is interrupted by family…and let’s be honest, a single cab truck makes a poor family hauler. Ethan Olsen knows this quite well after selling his 1993 Ford Lightning to start his family. It was during this departure from Lightning ownership that he was able to further his business adventure and end up redeveloping a love for building a Lightning above and beyond what he had before.


Olsen is more than just another gearhead. He decided to open up a diesel repair and performance facility named NW Diesel with his wife six years ago. The shop wanted to give a better experience to diesel owners and build some unique vehicles in the process. NW Diesel now boasts of having the ability to perform any diesel repair, but can also do performance builds with tuning on their on-site dyno. After the business grew, the Olsen family decided to open NWD Off-road And Performance to expand the services into the off-road and high-performance market.

While business was doing well, the previous Lightning lingered on Olsen’s mind. A hole had been left when the first one sold, but he continued to tell himself he would find another and do something fun. Three years ago Olsen ran across a Lighting that needed more than just love. “I purchased this ’93 model three years ago in shambles,” recalls Olsen. “The transmission was in the bed and the engine was in pieces. The paint would turn your hand pink if you touched it.”


Although it would appear to have been a poor purchase, Olsen’s knowledge in the automotive spectrum meant he had a headstart. Once reassembled, he found out the truck was actually quite healthy, albeit stock. It wasn’t long after that Olsen took the truck in to have it resprayed, but quickly spiraled into a full body-off frame restoration. The 351 Windsor was still running strong after returning back from paint, but Olsen knew he wanted to do something crazy. Unfortunately, the old Windsor wasn’t going to get him where he wanted to be.

Modern power and reliability was key for us in this build. Ethan Olsen

It was around this time that Ford Performance introduced its latest crate engine, a 7.3-liter behemoth that provided a modern take on a push-rod engine. Olsen immediately knew this engine was the route he wanted to go and decided to use a Whipple Gen 5 3.0-liter to add forced induction into the mix and help produce 625 rear wheel horsepower and 830 lb-ft of torque at only 2,200 rpm. The 445 cubic-inch engine is mated to a 6R80 transmission with a US Shift controller adjusting shift points. A Circle D converter transmits the power from the engine toward the driveline.

Although it took a few years to repurchase a Lightning, we’re extremely thankful that Olsen was able to get his hands on another. His ability to build not only a business, but an extremely beautiful and powerful truck at the same time has us excited for what it will do after the initial break-in tune is finished and he starts to really push the Godzilla engine.

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About the author

James Elkins

Born into a household of motorsport lovers, James learned that wrenching takes priority over broken skin and damaged nerves. Passions include fixing previous owners’ mistakes, writing, and driving.
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