Trucks & SUVs

Why Was the Mysterious Ford SVT Thunder Killed and Hidden From You?

These days a muscle truck or muscle SUV is not a very strange concept. Hell, Dodge made a Hellcat-powered Dodge Durango, and people actually bought it. We have Ford Raptors, Ram TRX, and Henessy exists. However, in the ‘90s, the idea of a muscle SUV was something that Ford thought might not work, which is why the Ford SVT Thunder was hidden away in shame for so long while the Ford SVT Lightning lived in glory. 

Animation of the long-lost Ford SVT Thunder
Ford SVT Thunder | Donut Media

The Ford Lightning had a long-lost brother; the Ford SVT Thunder

The Lightning was quite the head-turner when it debuted. It was an F-150-based muscle truck powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 that makes 360 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. For the time, this thing was genuinely gnarly. 

The lads at Donut Media did a deep dive into the history of this long-lost sibling to the SVT Lightning. After a conversation with an unnamed insider, the folks at Donut Media learned that Ford SVT had plans to make the Ford SVT Thunder the counterpart to the SVT Lightning. The Thunder was based on the Ford Expedition, but like Lightning, this was not a normal Ford. 

What is Ford SVT?

SVT stands for Special Vehicle Team. This division was meant to exist within Ford to essentially build hotrods with OEM Ford models. There were many different SVT cars like Cobras, the Lightning, Focus, and the Ford GT. However, there was also supposed to be a mysterious SUV. 

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John Coletti, SVT’s Chief Engineer from 1994 to 2004, mentions that SVT wasn’t just slapping turbocharges or Superchargers onto production cars with bigger brakes. It really wasn’t that way at all. SVT cars were made special with special interiors, suspension systems, brakes, power upgrades, and even special salespeople at dealerships. 

What is the Ford SVT Thunder? 

Ford not only wanted to make an SVT SUV, but the SVT folks picked the biggest SUV in the lineup, the Ford Expedition. This big boi made 360 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque. That means this rear-wheel-drive SUV could bust a 0-60 sprint in 5.6 seconds. Coletti said that the SVT crew packed eight people in the beefy hotrod and could still run a sub-14-second quarter-mile. The Ford SVT Thunder got the fancy bumpers and wheels from the Ford SVT Lightning. 

The death of the Thunder is a massively anticlimactic story that simply can down to running the numbers making a boring adult decision. As Donut Media reports, the story is simply not a good one. Several different models like the Thunder that never saw the light of day, like the SVT Thunderbird and the SVT Escourt Coupe.

Coletti’s point is that SVT wasn’t some raggedy division that was actively fighting against Ford. When Ford said the generation that the Thunder was based on was going to be phased out for the new generation, SVT knew that it wouldn’t make sense to put the Ford SVT Thunder into production with so little time. 

Ford was pretty far ahead of the curve with the Thunder

As we now know, people absolutely lose their minds for fast trucks and SUVs. The Lightning and Thunder were a pairing that could only have existed in the ‘90s, and although we came close, we didn’t quite make it.