Ford’s now defunct SVT division produced some of the coolest performance vehicles of the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Vehicles like the many Ford Mustang SVT Cobras, SVT Focus, and of course the Ford GT immediately spring to mind. But one of the most iconic is the Ford F-150 Lightning. Both generations were some of the greatest muscle trucks ever produced, and have inspired the current crop of off-road super trucks. So while Ford was ahead of the times with the performance truck market, why weren’t they in the same position for the performance SUV? Interestingly, they almost were with the Ford Expedition Thunder, but it never saw production. They guys over at Donut Media uncovered the fascinating story on this SUV mirroring the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck.
The concept was simple: take the frame and engine out of the Ford F-150 SVT Lightning, and drop it in the Expedition SUV to create the Thunder. And the team at SVT did, as there was a running prototype that could run the quarter mile sub-14 seconds. In the early 2000s, that was seriously quick. It also would have been very cost effective to produce, as the F-150 and Expedition of the time shared many parts.
Donut Media managed to get ahold of John Coletti, who led the SVT Division in its heyday, to contribute to the story. He said it wasn’t accountants or management that struck down the Ford Thunder, but rather timing. The team started working on the SUV after the Lightning was already on sale, but the Expedition’s life cycle is what really put the nail in the coffin.
Coletti said by the time the Ford Thunder would have gone on sale, the current generation Expedition only had two more years in its life cycle before the next model was set to come along. If the Expedition had just two years longer, there would have been a case to put it on sale. And as we know, the Lightning died with that generation too.
Interestingly, timing was an issue for more than just the Thunder. Coletti said Ford and SVT had also built a performance Thunderbird in 1995 and a turbocharged Escort coupe that simply didn’t have enough time to go on sale. In the end, the Ford Thunder would have been a great idea if that idea had come a few years sooner, but it’s a fascinating story Donut Media was able to uncover.