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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A blue 2020 Ford F-150 is shown from the side kicking up dust on the way to a Ford F-150 dealer.

Looking Back at Unique F-150 Models

As America’s best-selling truck, there is no shortage of Ford F-150s to be found on the road today. The popular model is not only the king of pickups but all vehicles in general, having outsold every other car, truck, and SUV on the market over the last 30 years. While that sort of ubiquity means you’re likely to spot an F-150 every time you leave the house, some models can be a little harder to spot than others. The entry-level XL and XLT are two of the most common trims on the road today but just take a look around. You’ll soon be able to pick out some less common models, including the luxuriously appointed Platinum, Texas-centric King Ranch, off-road-ready models like the Tremor and Raptor, and of course, the newest addition to the lineup, the all-electric F-150 Lightning.

With so many unique models on offer, it can be difficult to narrow down your choices next time you’re browsing your local Ford F-150 dealer, and that just covers the current lineup. Look a little further back into the F-150’s history, and you’ll discover no shortage of unique, one-off models that not only showcase Ford’s ability to push the envelope forward but have a little fun along the way. These run the gamut from custom-built models and concept vehicles like the recently unveiled F-150 sedan mock-up to actual F-150s that have entered widespread production over the course of the pickup’s 40-plus years. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most eccentric models from the F-150’s past and see how a passion for creativity and invention has kept the popular model at the top of the pickup podium for so many years.

Hennessey Motorsports’ F-150 VelociRaptor 6×6 (2018)

Packed with all the heavy-duty off-road equipment you could ask for in a high-performance off-road truck, the Ford F-150 Raptor is a true beast in harsh, unpaved environments. Designed to withstand the rigors of grueling desert races like the Baja 1000, the Raptor is a study in excess that also happens to be a blast to drive. In 2018, Ford upped the ante with the Hennessey Motorsports’ F-150 VelociRaptor 6×6.

Based on a 2018 F-150 Raptor crew cab pickup, the Hennessey team added a third axle and two more wheels for a six-wheel drive pickup that can navigate virtually any terrain. Engineers loaded the souped-up Raptor with a stretched frame and bed, longer fender flares, and, most importantly, a twin-turbocharger that gave the already powerful truck some 600-plus horsepower. Those modifications might have upped the VelociRaptor’s curb weight to a hefty 7,000 pounds, but the performance upgrades mean it can still get from zero to 60 in less than five seconds.

The pickup kept its 3.5-liter V6 engine but added a cold air intake, larger intercooler, and Borla factory exhaust to max out the F-150 power credentials. Adding a third axle presented a real challenge for Hennessey engineers, but a custom nine-inch axle from Ford with a pass-through differential served as a worthy replacement for the stock Raptor axle, which was pushed to the rear while retaining its locking differential.

Harley-Davidson Edition (2000 – 2011)

When America’s favorite truck brand teams up with the undisputed leader in the motorcycle scene, the results are bound to turn some heads. The Harley-Davidson Edition wasn’t its own standalone model but rather an optional package for the F-150. The pickup was loaded with Harley-Davidson-specific styling, including a monochromatic black trim, a one-of-a-kind grille, large Harley-Davidson badges, and even the iconic Harley-Davidson shield logo splashed across the windshield.

Leather seats featuring the same type of material used in Harley-Davidson biker jackets are probably the truck’s most unique feature, but it’s the F-150 upgraded engine that elevates the Harley-Davidson Edition above the standard appearance package. Ford replaced the truck’s stock engine with a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 pulled from an SVT Lightning, giving the F-150 a considerable 340 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque.

SVT Lightning (1993 – 1995, 1999 – 2004)

First hitting the streets in 1993, the SVT Lightning was a high-performance F-150 designed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT). Designed for speed above all else, the pickup received numerous upgrades to its front and rear suspension and frame in an attempt to improve handling on the body-on-frame truck. The early SVT models included a 5.8-liter V8 producing 240 horsepower and a heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission that’s normally only paired with larger-displacement engines. The engine’s heads were replaced with components from the Ford GT40 high-performance endurance race car, while the intakes, camshaft tuning, and throttle-body injection system were overhauled for maximum power.

Ford discontinued the model for a short period between 1995 and 1998, but it roared back onto the scene in 1999 with the second-generation SVT Lightning. The approach was largely the same this time around, including the suspension modifications and robust transmission, although Ford did make a substantial improvement to the truck’s engine with the inclusion of a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 that produced 380 horsepower. That was enough power to land the second-generation lightning the title of the World’s Fastest Production Pickup according to the Guinness Book of World Records, with a stock 2003 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning reaching a top speed of 147 mph. While undeniably fast, the production model would be outdone in 2016 by a modified version that pushed the needle to 178.8 mph at the Texas Mile racing event.

Nite (1991 – 1992)

The predecessor to the SVT Lightning was Ford’s first attempt at producing a street race-ready pickup. While the design might look a little dated by modern standards with its blue-purple gradient accent strip and monochrome coloring and trim, it’s undeniably peak ’90s. The pickup also featured a tightened suspension and upgraded wheels, and while it paved the way for models like the SVT Lightning, it lacked any of the substantive power upgrades that would be the hallmark of the later model. A fun footnote in F-150 history, we included the Nite here as it shows how Ford has progressed in its approach to limited edition models over the decades.

NASCAR Edition (1998)

Available for a brief period in 1998, the NASCAR Edition combined America’s most popular motorsports series with the country’s best-selling truck in a match made in heaven. Designed to commemorate the racing series’ 50th anniversary and the beginning of Ford’s five-year sponsorship as the official truck of NASCAR, the NASCAR Edition was a limited model that saw only 3,000 units produced. Built at Ford’s Norfolk assembly plant in Norfolk, Virginia, the pickup was sold as a regular cab model, with two-wheel drive in the XL trim that featured a 4.6-liter, 231 horsepower V8 engine. Largely an appearance package that lacked any performance-related upgrades, the NASCAR Edition was a thing of beauty all the same with raised yellow letters on its tires, black NASCAR-style rims, a mesh grille, a one-inch drop, dual exhaust tips, and a front air dam for a track-ready look.

Tonka Edition (2020)

Some say that boys never truly grow up; they just get old enough to afford more expensive toys. That seems to be at least part of the genesis of the F-150 Tonka, which was actually designed by the same custom car fabrication company that brought us the one-off 2019 Harley-Davidson F-150: Tuscany Motor Co. of Elkhart, Indiana. Designed with permission from the Hasbro Toy Company, the Tonka-fied F-150 is instantly recognizable for the bright yellow paint scheme that will immediately transport any driver back to the sandboxes of their youth.

The Tonka Edition is built on the bones of a Lariat Crew Cab, with Tuscany Motor Co. charging $76,000 to give the pickup the full Tonka treatment. Upgrades include a six-inch Pro-Comp suspension lift, 20-inch Tonka wheel with BF Goodrich KO2 tires, high-performance shocks, hood scoops, and Tonka-inspired mods throughout, like striking interior accents, fender flares to the tonneau cover. The pickup’s engine wouldn’t make it seem out of place alongside some full-size construction equipment with a massive 700-horsepower supercharged Shelby American engine. Injectors, auxiliary cooling fans, and a Shelby-tuned Borla performance exhaust round out the model’s high-performance specs, and a blower and manifold finished in a yellow powder coating will make you feel like you’re a kid again.

An American Marvel

Never content to rest on the success that’s made the F-150 America’s best-selling truck for over 30 years, Ford is always going back to the drawing board to dream up unique, intriguing models that go a long way in retaining driver’s interest. The models listed above are certainly some of the most unique versions on offer, but a quick search of your local Ford dealer will undoubtedly turn up all sorts of intriguing models.

In many ways, it’s the F-150 success that’s allowed for these types of automotive experiments to exist in the first place, with Ford knowing that the truck’s reputation is bound to attract some attention no matter how far outside the box they might go when it comes to design and execution. From high-performance beats like the SVT Lightning to six-wheel Frankensteins like the Hennessey Motorsports’ F-150 VelociRaptor 6×6 and nostalgic favorites like the Harley-Davidson and Tonka Editions, each year brings the opportunity for an innovative new version of the F-150.

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