This SVT Lightning Is Recharged With A 760HP GT500 Engine Swap

This SVT Lightning Is Recharged With A 760HP GT500 Engine Swap

When it debuted, the SVT Lightning set the standard for performance trucks, but Rick Stanton had higher hopes. He really wanted a more potent powerplant under the hood, but decided he didn’t want to miss out on owning a second-generation Lightning. His endgame included enjoying its Two-Valve 5.4-liter engine until it was worn out, before making the jump to the engine that he wanted all along.

The Lightning spins the tires through First gear from a 20-mph roll. Rick Stanton

“I just finished installing a 2009 Shelby GT500 5.4-liter engine in my 2004 Lightning,” Stanton tells us. “In 2003 Ford came out and said that they were going to build Lightings with the new Shelby GT500 DOHC engine in it, so I ordered one. Three months later, I got a letter stating they canceled the idea. I decided to continue to purchase my SVT Lightning with the intent to put a Shelby GT500 engine in it as Ford originally intended. I just had to wait until my original SOHC died. The swap is done now with only a few hurdles left to overcome.”

Disappointed by the Two-Valve 5.4-liter modular engine that Ford selected for the 1999-2004 SVT Lightnings, Rick Stanton recharged his ’04 example with a 760-horsepower 5.4-liter engine from an ’09 Shelby GT500. Topped by a Trinity TVS blower and supported by the necessary airflow, fueling, and exhaust mods, this engine transformed the performance of his classic Lightning. (Photo Credit: Rick Stanton)

Of course, installing in the Four-Valve 5.4-liter engine was anything but a direct swap. Stanton had to install the GT500 rack and pinion in the truck to clear the alternator mount on the new engine. He also had to install dual electric cooling fans, as the GT500 water pump shaft wasn’t up to spinning a mechanical fan at higher rpm. Moreover, installing the GT500 powertrain control module wasn’t an option, as it couldn’t account for the Lightning’s automatic transmission.

“I rewired the whole engine to work with my factory SVT Lightning computer. I could not use the Shelby GT500 computer as the Lightning computer also runs the 4R100 Transmission and the instrument cluster,” Stanton explained. “All the emissions equipment is installed as it was on the SOHC engine.”

If you are going to the trouble of swapping in a high-performance engine, why let it remain in factory form? To squeeze more power from the stock long-block, Stanton installed the larger TVS supercharger from the Trinity 5.8-liter engine found under the hood of the 2013-2014 Shelby GT500. Teamed with 72 lb/hr fuel injectors, a larger mass air meter, an Accufab single-blade throttle body, and Kooks 2-inch stainless steel headers, the truck was able to make 780 horsepower and 750 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. This far exceeds the factory 380 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque delivered by the original Two-Valve 5.4-liter.

As you might imagine, the driving experience of the truck is completely transformed by an additional 400 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.

Stanton also rewired the GT500 engine to connect with the Lightning computer so it would retain control of the factory automatic transmission and instrument cluster. Even all the Lightning emissions-control hardware remains functional after the swap.

“The Lightning spins the tires through First gear from a 20-mph roll — and that is with the biggest 13-inch Nitto drag radials mounted on 11.5-inch, widened stock wheels on the back. When it shifts into Second gear, it lays over because it’s spinning the tires so hard until it hooks up again,” Stanton enthused.

This sort of thrust provides the kind of driving excitement that makes Stanton’s recharged Lightning fit right in with his burgeoning collection of high-performance Fords, including a 1,054-horsepower ’71 Ranchero powered by a 429 SCJ and an 870-horsepower ’69 Talladega powered by a Boss 429. We can only imagine what he will build next to join that group!

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About the author

Steve Turner

Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge in the world of Ford performance, having covered it for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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