Lightning Name Reignites Spark from the Past for Tool and Die Maker

Flashback to the year 2000 and Gary Wise, a tool and die maker at Kansas City Assembly Plant’s integrated stamping facility, had recently started with Ford at the company’s Rawsonville, Michigan, plant. Wise, nicknamed “Paw Paw” by the apprentices at Kansas City Assembly Plant, was in the market for a fast new pickup.

A year after his hiring date, Wise had his eye on a fire engine red F-150 SVT Lightning he had seen at a dealership. “I knew I just had to have it,” he said. “So, I told the sales manager that I’d check my A-Plan and be back later with my wife. At first, he didn’t believe me, but then we showed up and took care of business. My daughter, Amanda, came along, and she is the one who drove it off the showroom floor and out the door. That was a very proud day!”

Wise was overcome with enthusiasm when he heard Ford named its all-new electric F-150 Lightning. “I was shocked,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if the name would ever come back, but with the electric era approaching and new developments coming, it is so cool that the name is resurfacing with a whole new spin.”

Wise said his F-150 SVT Lightning is completely original, from the 5.4-liter super-charged engine to the factory tonneau cover. Even the original Ford Motor Company battery lasted 17 years. The only modification he’s made is to the muffler. “Having spent time at Flat Rock Assembly Plant and hearing that signature Mustang sound, I knew I wanted to put some special mufflers on it so that it would really growl,” he said.

With only 58,000 miles, Wise often features his truck in car shows around the Kansas City area. “I get a lot of compliments on it,” he said. “Many times, when I drop by the dealership to have service done, I’m asked by the sales staff if they can buy it from me, but I am always telling them it’s not for sale.”

Years ago, on a family road trip through Oklahoma, Wise recalls an interesting conversation he had with his grandson Dylan, who was around 10 or 12 years old at the time. “He mentioned to me how he would soon be approaching driving age, so he asked if I would consider giving the Lightning to him,” said Wise. “I explained that this truck was a little too fast and too furious for a first-time driver, so that was not going to happen anytime soon. I did say that if I ever decided to get rid of it, he’d be first on the list. He is now 21, and that is not happening anytime soon.”

At car shows, a little Hawaiian dancer figure in a grass hula skirt, given to Wise by his granddaughter, sits on the dash along with a framed print of his Lightning given to him by his brother. “I never once thought I would have my Lightning for so long,” said Wise, “but now it’s almost a member of the family.”