I’ve been pretty fortunate to get seat time in some great cars over the years. I don’t drive nearly the amount that our chief blooger does, but I remember most of the ones I do get to experience pretty fondly. Of those dozens of cars, there are only two that I’ve ever fallen head over heels in love with. Like, really in love. Only two cars were special enough to make me dream about them on a daily basis many months and years later. These are cars that I need to own no matter what drawbacks or compromises there are.
The first one is the BMW E92 M3, the first fast car I’ve ever driven and is still my benchmark for what a performance car should be.
The other one is my Hooniversal Car of the Year nominee for 2017. It’s the Pioneer Ford F-150 SVT Lightning Tribute, the 650-horsepower monster that shattered all of my expectations for what a truck can be. It was also our most popular story of the year and one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do, so my nominee couldn’t be anything else.
In case you missed the original piece I did on this, the world-first drive review, and the short video, it’s a dealer-installed package created by a manager and true enthusiast at Pioneer Ford in Bremen, GA to honor the awesome F-150 SVT Lightning from the turn of the millennium, the same truck he fell in love with as a kid.
They take a single cab, short bed F-150 with few options (like the original) and the factory-issued 5.0-liter V8 and add a Roush Phase II supercharger and cooling kit, MBRP side-exit exhaust, and new wheels which mimic the style of the original SVT five-spokes. Because they can’t do a custom front bumper, clear-lens tail lights, and flare sides to truly match the original, they call it a tribute and just give it 650 horsepower instead.
650 horsepower isn’t uncommon these days, but to have this kind of power in a short cab/short bed truck is about as uncommon as it gets. It’s silly, pointless, and 1 in every 4 internet comments will state the obvious in saying there are faster cars you can buy for $50,000 and I can do all these mods to my truck for a thousand dollars and my male reproductive organ is superior to yours. But it being silly, pointless, and a trigger for a quarter of the internet is exactly why I love it so much.
This thing only exists for the sole purpose of having fun in a way that we haven’t been able to enjoy since the sport trucks died years ago. Actually, it’s better to think of this as a muscle truck more than anything because like muscle cars of yesteryear, it’s best suited for lighting up the rear tires at will and making lots of noise with little effort required.
Leaving work? Do a 30-second brake stand in front of your boss’s window. The light just turned yellow? Floor it and leave a 100-foot trail of rubber behind you. Life got you down? Whip some donuts in your pickup and feel better about the world. It doesn’t matter what mood you’re in or where you are, you won’t be able to resist finding new ways to be irresponsible with it and it’ll leave a smile in your face every time.
The sky is the limit and the truck will happily comply on a moment’s notice. And as long as you aren’t going deep into the wilderness or towing yachts, it can still do every truck thing you need it to, like carrying all the tires you’re gonna burn.
To cap it all off, it comes with a 3 year/36,000 mile powertrain warranty from Roush (which is included in the truck’s cost) to replace the Ford warranty that went up in tire smoke. Any authorized Roush installer can service it if you hoon too hard, but from where I was at an empty airport on a summer’s day in Georgia, I don’t see it being needed any time soon. It didn’t overheat and it didn’t feel like we were really abusing the thing, even though we kind of were… for about 3 hours. Straight. It took every command in stride.
So there you have it. It’s a silly truck that’ll make you want to do silly things until you’ve run through your tire budget for the year. It’s my HCOTY nomination because it shows how much fun a modern sport/muscle truck can truly be and it proves that too much horsepower is too much fun, no matter the package. But above all else, it’s a worthy tribute to a legendary truck.
[Images © 2017 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]