Muscle Truck Showdown: F150 Lightning Vs. Chevy SS

 

This 1990 Chevrolet 454SS pickup is clearly a tired example, but these trucks are still considered desirable collector’s items as vestiges of an era when Chevy and Ford went toe-to-toe with high horsepower haulers. Low mileage unicorns show up with some regularity, but the project-grade Chevy 1500 here on eBay is still commanding a high opening bid of $5,000. Is it worth the premium over the cheaper F150 Lightning found below? You decide. 

 

Looking more like a storage bin on a crowded lot than a treasured garage queen, the 454SS is lacking its original wheels and looks ungainly with a bed cap attached. The factory graphics are heavily faded and the paint overall is suffering from clearcoat peel and too much time in the sun. The listing says it’s been sitting for ten years, and it looks like it could have been even longer since it last turned a wheel. It does run but is not roadworthy; thankfully, the seller is keeping the bed cap.

The 1993 F150 Lightning found here on eBay looks a bit more promising, with decent paint and running/driving condition. The seller has addressed several significant maintenance items, including new ball joints, a rebuilt transmission and rear end, a new A/C system, and hell, even the motor is said to have been recently rebuilt. However, there are a few visual cues that indicate this Lightning has some stories to tell.

The first is the wheels; they are obviously not original, and we’d want to OEM rollers included. Then there’s the rear bumper: the first-generation Lightning had two tube-style rows for the rear bumper, and this truck has what looks like an ordinary F150 rear bumper. The original F150 had a dual-outlet muffler that exited out the passenger side rear, and this truck has what looks like two straight pipes exiting beneath the incorrect rear bumper. Could this be a regular F150 that received the Lightning treatment? Let us know your thoughts and which one you’d choose.

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Comments

  1. Giediprime

    Neither. From this era, make mine a Syclone please!

    • Jay M

      I absolutely agree. Syclones rule.

    • The Walrus

      Agreed. My Uncle had a 454SS. It was less than impressive even when new. The Syclone is by far the most desirable. In order, I would rate the sport truck desirability of this era as:

      1: Syclone/Typhoon
      2: Shelby Dakota
      3: Lightning
      4: 454 SS

      • gary

        I was a general sales Mrg for GM and later Ford. I have driven the SS454 and the F-150 Lighting many times and I can tell you that the F-150 351 runs away from the SS454 EVERY time. My brother still has his first Lighting that came out ,and I can assure you that the SS 454’s are NO MATCH for the F-150 Lighting!

        Like 1
  2. Jay

    ss #1409/17348

  3. Rob'sGT

    Tubular bumper was optional!!! I bought a new one in 93 with it. I raced it stock against an SS454 on the interstate from ~55 – 100mph and walked away from him a bit before backing out. Miss that truck!!!

    • Rocco

      Rob,
      You’re absolutely right about the tube bumper.
      @ Jeff,
      Also, the exhaust was a stainless steel(never rust) true dual exhaust system that did exit the pass side behind the tire with both tail pipes, not a dual-outlet muffler with two tail pipes. Also, I don’t think F-150’s have ball joints(sellers note).

  4. John T

    The Ford seems to be the better buy even if it is possibly a Lightning clone although I would be concerned about the very low AutoCheck score. The Chevy appears to need a lot more work and even though it is stated to be a one-owner vehicle it is missing the title. Both would be OK at the right price which in my opinion is less than $5000 but let the bidders decide.

  5. Art M.

    It’s a real lightning, note the R in the number eighth position of the VIN. Not bad performance for the time. I prefer the later models with the supercharger myself.

  6. Todd Fitch Staff

    I’ve never driven either but I know sometime during this era Jackie Stewart helped Ford tune the suspension on the Lightning pickup and had it lapping a road course within two seconds of that year’s Cobra Mustang. I’m working from memory, here, but it was something like that, so I’d go Lightning just so I could tell that story when people got in the truck Of course if I tried that it would end in a spectacular barrel-roll, doors-flying-off wreck.

    • Reed Densel

      Jackie Stewart drove the original Lightening around the Dearborn test track and supposedly said it was the best handling North American Ford he’d ever driven.
      Interesting to hear a similar story.

  7. Todd Zuercher

    The step bumper shown was standard on the first gen Lightnings. The tube bumper was optional.

  8. Troy

    Those are dumb looking rims on the ss454. If I remember, the first year SS454’s had a 3 speed automatic ,no overdrive. Love the first f150 lightnings, great handling with strong accelleration for them days plus they sounded pretty good off the showroom floor. A lot of those got thrashed.

    • Rocco

      @ Troy,
      The SS454’s came with the 4L80-E overdrive trans. as standard equipment.

      • Tyler

        The 90 models had a turbo 400, 91’s got the 4l80.

        A friend of mine had a 90 model SS454. I had a 90 single cab short bed with a 5.7 & mine was faster, but his truck would melt the rear tires off of it.

      • Rocco

        @Tyler,
        Didn’t know GM made a ’90. I just remember rebuilding a 4L80-E in a ’91 SS454, the first year for the 4L80-E. Learning something new every day is good.

      • Tyler

        I’ve kept my eyes open over the years for one with a bad engine but in otherwise good condition. Keeping with the big block theme, a 8.1 Vortec would cure most of the ills of the anemic 454 they came with. A supercharged LSA would be even better. With some modern suspension tweaks, these trucks can be fun.

  9. Howard A Member

    Never a fan of those year Chevy trucks, not much appeal there, nice new, but such junk as they age, what, the castrated 454 might put out 190 hp? Now the Ford, different story. Ford trucks, to me, are always good. I like the Ford, the Chevy, pull the engine and send it on it’s way down the conveyor belt.

    • Rocco

      My cebby buddies tell that a stock same year 350ci cebby truck was faster than the 454 version.

  10. Coventrycat

    Neither seem to have the OEM gun rack, either.

  11. jw454

    I drove the Chevy a few times when it was new. It was nice but, considering it was supposed to be a sport truck it was kind of a slug. I’ve never driven the Ford so I can’t really say much about it. Both these trucks will need quite a few bucks thrown their way to be nice again.

  12. JimmyJ

    Back in those days SS meant “standing still”

  13. Chris

    Hurts to look at the 454 now. That thing was badly abused in its life. Trucks! the TV show did a series where they hopped up the Lightning and the SS454. They started with better ines than these. Both took to mods well but the Lightning was faster I think.

  14. Jeffro

    Can I have a Lil Red Express please?

  15. Matt St

    300k miles, needs everything, no title, 5K, and the seller seems like a douche. They aren’t that desirable, guy is crazy.

  16. Doug Towsley

    The Chevy would be excellent donor materials for the parts on it for a hotrod project. (Nicely seasoned block) but cant imagine anyone restoring it, and donor car is all its good for in my opinon, but the price is delusional. $800-1500 is about right. Seller does have some interesting other items on auction right now though.
    That Ford does nothing for me

  17. Tyler

    I always liked both of these trucks, as well as the Cyclone & Typhoons. But I’m not a fan of them at this price.

    If I remember correctly, the 454SS came with a 5 lug 14 bolt full floater rearend, which if infinitely stronger than the stock 10 bolt, & practically bolts right into a square bodies as well as other OBS trucks.

  18. Clay

    That’s not the original location for the Lightening decal. It’s a conversion.

    • Rocco

      That IS the right location. One on each side of the bed where these are located, and one on the lower right side of the tail gate as shown (on ’93-’94’s). The ’95 had the side of the bed, and just an SVT chrome emblem on the tail gate in place of the decal.
      Where do you think they should be?

  19. erikj

    Makes me remember the 73 454 stepside 2wd. I just sold off a year ago. Should have kept it. Big rear with option # 2 4:11 posi. Factory tack ,Tilt wheel and more. Plus numbers matching. Very well optioned truck. Life!!!

    • Rocco

      Was that a 3/4 ton with 8 lug wheels?

  20. Graywolf

    LS in the SS! That will fix it!

  21. Rob S.

    Ford lightning all the way! Had a 94, whooped on a few of these 454 SS. Really cool truck! Handled great, rode great and nice power from the 351. Loved that truck! Now have a 2001 lightning with 8K miles. Even faster and better than the earlier ones.
    Both of these are kinda rough….plenty of good ones available to choose from.

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