Richard Lays’ Ford F150 Lightning may not be everyone’s style of show car, but there’s no denying it stands out in a crowd.
When you mention the words ‘show car’ many different images can be conjured up. Some, like NZV8’s very own Ad guy, Ash, think of cars in better condition than when they rolled off the factory floor, but in the exact same mechanical spec. For others, like NZV8 contributing writer Ricki Wood, the term show car conjures up images of cars customised beyond recognition; the more modifications the better. Somewhere in-between these two and possibly a little left of centre is Richard Lay.
When Richard first purchased his 2004 Ford F150 Lightning, he never intended for it to become a show vehicle. Little did he know, the influence of his son was going to have a huge effect on the style of the vehicle. Perhaps Richard is a little obsessive compulsive, or perhaps he knows a good thing when he sees it. Either way, there is no denying that over the past two years, the F150 has been turned into a standout vehicle. What originally started as a simple audio install at Hastings’ Big Noise Car Audio kick-started the whole project.
“There is no point having wheels this size and not telling the world about it, so a set of diamond-encrusted badges let the public know what size the wheels are”
As Wiremu at Big Noise imports and distributes Chassistech airbag suspension products, Richard was promptly talked into a full set-up. Not wanting to destroy the ride quality of the near-new truck, the suspension was kept relatively simple. Chassistech airbags are fitted in each corner and run 0.375-inch lines and valves for slow, but controllable, ride height changes. Supplying the air is the task of twin compressors that have been hooked up to twin tanks mounted below the vehicle. Instead of taking the easy option and running plastic push lock lines, Richard opted to run with metal braid, both for looks and to ensure the system is completely airtight.
To maintain ride quality, Bilstein shocks have been fitted both fore and aft. Usually, air suspension gear is tucked up below the vehicle out of sight, but with a bit of Kiwi ingenuity, it has been hooked up to an air ram, so the whole lot drops down to become visible. If you’re thinking that airbag suspension should have made the vehicle lower than you see here, then you obviously haven’t taken into account the size of the wheels the F150 is rolling on. Measuring 24-inches tall and 10-inches wide, you can bet the rims come with a price tag equally as large. The rubber that is wrapped around the enormous rollers is also top shelf; Pirelli P-Zero at a size of 315/40R24. There is no point having wheels this size and not telling the world about it, so a set of diamond-encrusted badges let the public know just how big thay are.
Before Richard started getting carried away, the main reason for the trip to Big Noise was not suspension, but audio, which has now become the focus point of the vehicle. Richard’s son, Richard Junior, who has one of the highest ranking import show vehicles in the country, was the encouraging force behind what started out as a small audio install. Two years on, the truck has had more gear chucked at it than most movie theatres. These days, the set-up starts with an Alpine multimedia touch-screen headunit that sends output to three amplifiers. One of these amplifiers is the largest car audio amp produced in the world: a JBL GTi6000, weighing a massive 85kg. This huge amplifier outputs 7500W rms and easily powers the rear half of the truck.
The current install includes six 15-inch JBL GTi subwoofers that sit in a large one-inch thick Perspex box. When driving, a hard deck lid covers the entire tray, but with the flick of a switch, four air rams lift the entire cover to reveal no less than ten 6×9-inch speakers. These are mounted five-per-side in custom carbon fibre enclosures. At the front of the tray is a TV screen that most people would be proud to have in their lounge, let alone in the back of a vehicle; a whole 32-inches of flat screen. Unless you’ve seen the truck on display, it’s hard to imagine the amount of noise this set-up produces. Not only is it amazingly loud, but it’s also clear — the perfect thing to have at the beach during summer!
Understandably, the car is still driven and quite regularly completes trips from Napier to Auckland and back, so the audio system extends into the cab.
“To finish off the stunning two-tone look, Richard found a set of genuine Californian police car lights on American auction site Ebay”
Shane from Carbon Kustoms was the man responsible for creating a custom carbon fibre centre console that has been fitted with a further two JBL 6×9 speakers. Mounted to the top of the superbly-finished carbon fibre work is a JBL 10-inch subwoofer. Each door has also been fitted with a carbon fibre door skin and a JBL audio logo has been molded in to each side. Carbon Kustoms were also responsible for constructing a full carbon fibre dashboard. To finish off the interior look, Richard has added billet air conditioning knobs, pedals and a flame shaped rear vision mirror.
Rather than leaving the interior trim standard, Richard had the seats recovered in white and black leather. What really sets the seats apart is the small piping that has been stitched in. The piping is actually a tiny tube of light that glows blue when switched on. A similar effect has been added to the edges of the tray-mounted audio install. From the factory, this generation F150 is a good looking truck, and the Lightning model is probably the pick of the bunch. However, that didn’t stop Richard adding his own touches.
Originally, the front was air brushed with red and orange flames. But, as the car started becoming more competitive in the Auto Salon Show Series, he knew the flames just didn’t cut it. AJ from Whenuapai Auto Refinish (WAR) did a superb job of painting Richard Junior’s Honda Civic, so was given the task of coating the F150 too. What started out as a simple two-tone job ended up with two custom colours and a marble-like breaker in the centre. The top has been dubbed WAR Cherry Cola. It is a black base with crystal cherry pearl. The bottom is white with crystal silver pearl.
To finish off the stunning two-tone look, Richard found a set of genuine Californian police car lights on American auction site Ebay. Originally, these were to stay on just for one show. But, when fitted, they looked so good that it seemed like a shame to remove them. Completing the visual package is a set of aftermarket headlights, tail lights and a billet-style grill that Richard picked up when in the States. Although mechanicaly it is in standard trim, you can bet the truck is quicker than our New Zealand Ford and Holden police cars. Having been blessed with an Eaton supercharged 5.4-litre V8 from the factory, the truck produces around 380hp. This is enough to propel it down the quarter mile in a respectable 13.8-seconds. Of course, this is in standard trim, without the added weight of the audio gear. To help the truck carry the extra weight, a K&N filter has been added, as has a custom three-inch exhaust, which exits in twin tips to the side of the vehicle.
With the current set-up, the vehicle has risen to the top of the Auto Salon show series points table. It is currently ranked third, while Richard Junior’s car is ranked first. November 25 and 26 will see the final event of the year, at which time, all going to plan, the truck will not only come second at the event, but also rise to second in the series. Don’t go thinking that just because it’s doing remarkably well in the show scene that it’s a trailer queen though. Guess which car is used to tow the Civic to events? Yep, the truck is fully-functional and, come the end of the year, will be back in daily use. Now that’s my version of a show car; one that cleans up on display and then cleans up on the streets. How about we see the Mustang do that, Ash?
2004 Ford F150 SVT Lightning
Engine: 5.4L supercharged V8, K&N filter, Eaton supercharger, three-inch exhaust, twin mufflers
Driveline: Stock four-speed auto
Suspension: Chassistech airbags, 0.375-inch lines, twin tanks, twin compressors and Bilstein shocks
Wheels/tyres: 24×10-inch Esinem rims, Pirelli P-Zero 315/40R24 tyres
Exterior: Custom two-tone, genuine California police lights, aftermarket headlights, aftermarket grill and tinted windows
Interior: Re-trimmed seats, neon stitching, carbon fibre centre consol, air pressure gauges, carbon fibre dash, carbon fibre door cards, Alpine multimedia headunit, JBL GTi6000 amp, JBL GTi 15-inch subs x6, JBL limited edition 6×9-inch speakers x10, JBL 300.4 amp x 2
Performance: 380hp (stock) 13.8-second quarter-mile
Driver Profile: Richard Lay Senior
Age: Old enough
Occupation: Sales manager
Previously owned cars: Way to many
Dream car: Mercedes SLR McLaren in gloss black
Why the F150? I wanted to be different to everyone else
Build time: One year
Length of ownership: Two years
Richard thanks: My Son for encouraging me to keep going, AJ at Whenuapai Auto Refinish (09 416 7291), Tony at Slammed Kustoms (021 443 029), www.bignoise.co.nz, JBL Car Audio, Alpine Car Audio and Dean at Sign It Up (06 835 0896)