Story and Photos by Justin Frank, E3xtreme Staff Photographer
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Mike James and photographing his awesome Procharged 1995 F150 Lightning. Now to be a little honest I fanboy'd a little bit. You see I've known of Mike and his Lightning for almost a decade now as we travel in similar circles. Mike races his Lightning at quite a few local grudge events. He has raced in all but two of the Real Street Drags (RSD) events at Wisconsin International Raceway (WIR). The two he missed are when he broke his foot.
Some of you may remember World Ford Challenge (WFC) event. This was an event that was a staple on Mike’s schedule for years. Mike said the reason he runs a lot of grudge events is because his truck is too heavy and his budget too small to be competitive in class racing which is something I can greatly identify with and that is what makes it so awesome. It's a badass street legal truck with a great story that was built by family and friends (some made through racing) in a 1 car garage! Mike has over 1000 passes in the almost 20 years he has owned this truck.
Mike bought his 1995 F150 Lightning back in 1997, not with the intent of making it a performer, but as a work truck (complete with ladder rack mounted in the bed). Not wanting just another plain white F150, the white F150 Lightning caught his eye. The fact that in ’95 there were only 600 White Lightnings made, may have factored into it as well. Mike told me that it wasn't long before he started racing it against the other muscle trucks of the time, like GMC Syclones and 454 SS Silverados (still with the ladder rack on the truck of course). The Lightning has gone through several combinations over the almost two decades Mike has owned this beauty.
So how about some specs on what is one of the baddest Lightnings in the country. Currently it sports a Dart block 427 built with Howards billet rods and steel crank, JE pistons, along with Brodix Track I 214cc cylinder heads. A Comp cams solid roller specked by Brian Freezy makes work together. What everyone wants to know is what helps this truck sound like a freight train. A Procharger F2 with a Supercharger Store gear drive is the supercharger used to force all that air into the engine. Everything under the hood is controlled by a Big Stuff 3 tuned by Larry Stauner from LRS/ASSC.. The truck currently puts down 1085hp and 1002ft.lbs at 7100 rpm at the rear wheels. You didn’t read that wrong either…1000+/1000+ to the rear wheels!! All that power is fed through an ATD TH400 trans and an 8.8 rear end with 31 spline axles and a Strange spool. Putting 1000 horsepower to the ground is handled by 29.5x10.5w tires controlled by the factory 4 link rear suspension with QA1 shocks on the rear which is enough to propel this 4289 lb Lightning to 9.0 at 152mph in the 1/4 mile with a super soft 1.46 60'. The truck has been 1.38 in the 60' leaving at idle before, and while Mike does have a transbrake in the truck, he has never used it.
Most would think that this truck is pretty well gutted to get it down into the low nine second quarter mile range and most would be wrong. The Lightning is not gutted in any way shape or form (which is why I love it) and still sports the factory I beam front suspension, all steel body (minus hood), and almost all the interior. He still has the factory wheels too. As Mike puts it "It's a stock truck with a racecar engine". While we were talking, Mike told me about a dyno competition a local shop put on a few years ago saying they would pay $1000 to any street vehicle that can make 1000+ rwhp. Mike said he put the factory wheels on and drove it down and after 2 pulls they unhooked the truck and forked over the $1000. When you own something as awesome as Mike's Lightning for almost 20 years it's hard to not have some good memories.
Mike said over the last few years it has been a tad difficult to stay motivated to continue and if it wasn't for the excitement of his kids along with the great racers and spectators he would have retired a long ago. I for one am very glad he hasn't, as Mike and his Lightning have been big inspirations for me keeping me motivated. I'm also happy to see him passing his love for the sport onto his children (one of whom recently purchased a nice little fox body Mustang for his first car). Mike would like to give a shout out to Jim (Dr. Ford) and Jimmy Plimpton as well as Stevie Fast and I personally would like to give a huge shout out to Roger at WIR for letting us take pictures there and on such short notice.
*Editor Note by Damon*
E3xteme would like to thank Mike for allowing us the privilege of photographing the truck and to Justin Frank for capturing these great photos.
I also wanted to share a personal story I have with this truck. As some know, I grew up less than two hours from Mike. The first time I ever saw this truck on the street was some years ago when I was up there for a party with our friend Eric. I was sitting in the driveway with Eric and I asked Eric where the train tracks were. He said there aren’t any. That’s when I saw Mike’s truck coming around the corner and straight at the driveway. This truck sounded like a damn freight train to me. I was absolutely in love. I know that there are a lot of you out there in the Lightning community that know who Johnny Lightning, Ralph Voorhees, Jason Brown, and some others are. The fact is that Mike is one of the most well respected racers in the Lightning community. If he is ever at a race you are at, make an effort to say hi. He is a great guy with an amazing family as well. I have had the privilege of calling him, along with his brother Mark, friends for more than a decade.