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Ford’s F-150 Lightning performance one-off is for extreme off-roading

Ford’s F-150 Lightning performance one-off is for extreme off-roading

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The automaker’s promised high-performance demonstrator was created in collaboration with drift racer Vaughn Gittin Jr.

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Ford F-150 Lightning Switchgear
Image: Ford

Most electric vehicles are built for the prim streets and highways of cities, never to sully their tires in anything dirtier than a mud puddle. And then there are the EVs that like to gobble gravel, take flight over a dirt ramp, or generally wallow in the mud. Ford’s new one-off electric truck, the F-150 Lightning Switchgear, falls firmly in that latter category of plug-in vehicle.

A year ago, Ford teased a high-performance demonstrator based on its F-150 Lightning, with the company’s CEO Jim Farley tweeting a photo of himself pulling back the cover to show a portion of the truck’s front end.

Now the company is finally ready to pull back the entire cover. The F-150 Lightning Switchgear is a high-riding, high-performance, all-electric demonstrator created in collaboration with champion drift driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. and his aftermarket tuning company RTR Vehicles.

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For those who aren’t intimately familiar with demonstrators, think of it as a one-off vehicle designed to showcase Ford’s racing and performance bona fides. Ford sees it as a “testbed” to demonstrate its capabilities handling extreme off-road conditions. Often these demonstrators are creative collaborations with outside groups — in this case, Gittin Jr., who also worked with Ford on its F-150 RTR Ultimate Fun Haver project in 2016.

The Switchgear sits alongside other demonstrators, including the SuperVan 4.0 and 4.2, the Mustang Mach-E 1400, Cobra Jet 1400, and F-100 Eluminator. The performance truck will make its public debut at the King of the Hammers off-road racing event on January 25th in Johnson Valley, California.

Think of it as a one-off vehicle designed to showcase Ford’s racing and performance bona fides

The look of the truck is really defined by the carbon composite add-ons to the exterior, like protruding front fenders and front and rear bumper covers, as well as the livery that pays homage to Ford Performance, the automaker’s in-house racing and motorsports division.

Ford created two versions of the truck: one for surface roads and the other for off-roading. The street configuration sports 33.23-inch Nitto NT420V 305 / 55R20 tires, while the off-roader rides on massive 37-inch Nitto Ridge Grapplers. Also found on the off-road version are extra tires mounted on a rack in the truck’s bed, and steel fabricated bumpers, skid plates, and rock rails.

In developing the Switchgear, Ford focused primarily on two areas: chassis and suspension. The independent front suspension relies on a double-wishbone configuration with coil-over shocks, stabilizer bar, and droop limit straps. The rear suspension also has a stabilizer bar and droop limit straps but swaps the double-wishbone for semi-trailing arms.

The front and rear track width are both 80 inches, a “significant” increase over the regular F-150 Lightning, which Ford says is needed for track stability. The suspension uses Fox three-inch diameter internal bypass shock absorbers, “plus unique front and rear bumpers to improve approach and departure angles,” Ford says.

Ford doesn’t have any immediate plans to put the Switchgear into production, but it’s entirely possible — and even expected — that some of its features could be made available to truck owners somewhere down the line.