The Perfect Recipe

Doubling power without breaking the bank

September 2014 Feature Michael Deulley

Every diesel driver wants to push his pickup to the highest level of performance possible. A lot of these drivers move from one performance part to another in search of higher gains in horsepower and torque. In this endless pursuit, tens of thousands of dollars are invested, leaving most drivers with mere pocket change. For Kyle Spain, of Rapid City, S.D., a YouTube video was all it took to find the perfect performance recipe for his 2008 6.4L Power Stroke. The recipe nearly doubled both his horsepower and torque, also keeping Spain from emptying his bank account on excessive performance upgrades. If one thing is true about this deceptively powerful build, it's that power doesn't always mean a complete parts overhaul.

Spain is a diesel mechanic at Dixon Brother's Trucking and loves the power he’s getting now from just a few key upgrades.

Checklist: Engine & Transmission

The 2008 6.4L Power Stroke boasts roughly 350 horsepower with 650 foot pounds of torque when completely stock. These numbers are nothing to sniff at. Anyone who's looking for a powerful truck out of the gate has no need to look further. This kind of power was exactly what Spain was looking for in his daily driver. Being a diesel mechanic at Dixon Brother's Trucking in Rapid City, Spain has spent the last seven years of his life learning all there is to know about diesel engines.

Initially, Spain's Power Stroke purchase was a simple, practical buy.

"I thought I was going to buy it just to drive," says Spain. "But the power it had was too much fun and I wanted more of it."

Being inherently powerful, the Ford is temptation incarnate. Spain's practical buy was the result of a YouTube video posted by Rudy's Diesel Performance in Durham, N.C. In the video, taken during Rudy's Diesel Day event, a 2008 6.4L was showcased on the dyno pumping out huge numbers. Spain knew he had to have the truck he saw in the video and the first drive was all it took for Spain's hunger for power to grow.

Being a little on the conservative side, Spain didn't begin to throw higher performance into the Power Stroke until it became absolutely necessary. By chance, and possibly by a bit of fate, the overburdened stock engine gave Spain the perfect reason to begin his build.

"The truck cracked a piston in the winter,” recalls the owner. “I decided it would make more sense to do a complete engine rebuild. I bought a Ford OEM rebuild kit and went to work."

The Power Stroke was completely torn down and Spain began rebuilding everything from the cam bearing to the pistons. To mitigate the possibility of another piston from stretching past its tolerance, Spain removed the sharp lip built into each of them during manufacture, which made it more reliable and less prone to situations that could lead to cracking and ultimately failure.

When it came time to replace the heads, Spain used Elite Diesel head studs to allow the engine to expand while heated without cracking the stock bolts. With the engine completely rebuilt and reinforced, the next and equally important item to address was the Ford's transmission. Spain sent the tranny over to Elite Diesel Engineering to have it undergo a custom Stage 3 rebuild. With the introduction of billet parts, the transmission became virtually unbreakable and strong enough to take on whatever Spain could throw at it.

Checklist: Turbos

After the engine and transmission were rebuilt and ready to rock, Spain went after the stock twin turbos that had been spooling up since the Power Stroke rolled off the lot. Turbochargers can be a game-changing upgrade for any vehicle and Spain knew it. Deciding to go big, he bought a set of Industrial Injection's Phatshaft compounds to replace the inferior stock twins. With the first drive down the street, it became clear that the turbo swap played a key role in cranking up the horsepower and taking the Ford up a few powerful steps. With the new turbos in place, Spain's next step was to get a little more control out of his truck.

Checklist: Tuning

Complete control over the performance of a diesel is every owner’s dream and creating a set of tunes that can be changed by a simple switch on a touchscreen panel can turn the dream into a reality. Spain installed an H&S Black Maxx tuner and got in touch with Gearhead Automotive Performance in Bryan, Texas, and had them create a set of custom tunes to help him get the most power out of the Power Stroke as he could. For a while, the tunes worked out perfectly, but over time, Spain started to see a loss in rail pressure. To remedy this loss, Spain went on to install the next and final performance part to perfectly tie off the Ford.

Checklist: Lift Pump

To take care of his less than adequate rail pressure, Spain picked up a Fuelab 200GPH lift pump and utilizing his skills as a diesel technician, custom fabricated and routed the lines from the pump to the engine. After the pump was installed, the Power Stroke was back in the game and more powerful than anticipated. Spain then headed south to Colorado in August to participate in the ATS Dyno event, which is part of the Diesels On The Mountain weekend each summer. After a run on the dyno, Spain's 6.4L Ford racked up an incredible 655 horsepower with 1296 foot pounds of torque. Not much was needed to take the already powerful pickup and turn it into a high horsepower dynamo. Pleased with everything that the truck was able to accomplish, Spain could only think of one other thing to do to make the truck exclusively his own.

A Dash of Paint

Spain's brother, Eric, owner of Eric's Auto in Rapid City, has a professional paint booth at the shop; Spain had the Power Stroke custom painted tan. With a set of Bushwacker fender flares and 35x12.5-inch Toyo's wrapped around a set of Mazzi Hulk wheels from The Wheel Group that were already on the truck when he bought it, the paint was the perfect finishing touch that Spain was looking for. His ability to take a few key ingredients and nearly double the horsepower and torque of his Ford showed everyone that he had the perfect recipe for power and his staggering 655 horsepower on the dyno proved it. With all of that power at the tip of his hands, there was nothing left for Spain to do but enjoy his masterpiece and give the endless line of hungry onlookers a taste of what his Power Stroke could do.

For more information regarding the products used in this feature, please visit our Aftermarket.

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