In this industry, four simple letters can instantly turn a good build into a great one. What are those letters? S E M A! The Specialty Equipment Market Association formed the SEMA Show in 1963 and it has become the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place, the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Any ideas on what truck will be on display for thousands to see in November? Yep, you guessed it. My 2010 Ford F350 Super Duty is heading to the big show and I couldn’t be more excited! Having my personal truck parked at SEMA this year is better than having sideline passes to the Super Bowl. However, as excited as I am to get the news, a wave a panic has flooded over me and left me with just one thought: I need to make sure my build is SEMA-worthy!
In Part Three I went a little overboard with exterior upgrades, but after earning my Willy Wonka Golden Ticket to Nevada, I know I must push my 6.4L Power Stroke even further. Those upgrades included Hostile 20x90 EXILE Blade Cut wheels wrapped in Discoverer A/T3 tires from Cooper Tire. The techs at PowerTech Diesel in Idaho Falls, Idaho, helped me install Road Armor’s Stealth Winch Bumper with a Pre-Runner Guard that included built-in Rigid lights and a WARN ZEON 12 Platinum Winch. There was also a full light transformation from AnzoUSA that included headlights, taillights, a third brake light, mirror lights and even a 60-inch L.E.D. Tailgate Lightbar.
In the bed we added SwingCases from UnderCover Bed Covers and then installed Pace Edwards Full-Metal Jackrabbit retractable bed cover that rolls up like a soft cover, yet it’s aluminum so it’s extremely durable.
Finishing touches in Part Three included custom side vents created by Status Grilles to include the Diesel Tech magazine logo, SuspensionMAXX 2.5-inch leveling kit with KYB MonoMax shocks and Powerboard NX, a drop-down step from Bestop that automatically deploys when you open the door. Plus the final install included the X-Metal Series grille from T-Rex that perfectly tied in our black and white theme.
As extensive as Part Three was, the first two parts in this series were just as impressive after buying the truck from Autos 4 Less in Idaho Falls, Idaho, just a few months earlier.
In Part One we teamed up with Bullet Proof Diesel in Mesa, Ariz., and upgraded the EGR Coolers as well as added its BDP Oil Cooler System Half Kit with the Bypass Oil Filtration system. Also at this time we upgraded to the BD Power Xtruded Charge Air Cooler (CAC), added front and rear differential covers from advanced FLOW engineering (aFe), as well as a deeper transmission pan, and changed all the fluids using Royal Purple products.
In Part Two we installed an Edge Evolution CTS tuner with backup camera, aFe Momentum HD intake and MBRP black exhaust. Additional upgrades at this time also included the FASS fuel system, OPTIMA YellowTop batteries, WeatherTech FloorLiners and of course the Conductor’s Special Nightmare Edition 244K model train horns from HornBlasters that I’m still enjoying more than I probably should be.
The latest round of installs had us back in Shelley, Idaho, working with the techs at Adrenaline Performance. A few months earlier the diesel performance shop helped with the Part Two installs and this time around they were excited to see what else we could do to this 6.4L project truck dubbed Editor’s Pick.
Before getting under the hood, Adrenaline owner Cam Hulse first strapped the truck down on his dyno when it was still stock to get an idea of what he was working with. Back then the Power Stroke put up some quiet numbers of 343.9hp and 631.1 ft/lbs. of torque. As low as those stock numbers were, it at least gave us some incentive to help this truck unleash its true potential.
When I was still compiling my wish list for my build, a friend of mine suggested I look into Swamps Diesel for injectors. As luck would have it, I already had a trip planned to Tennessee so I decided to look this shop up and see for myself. All it took was a quick peak into the “injector room” and I had seen all I needed to see. Swamps is truly a hard-core diesel shop that is serious about its injectors that are all machined and built in-house by over 30 employees.
They’re known for their work with Fords after first getting started with 7.3L trucks, but this shop works with all three brands and does plenty of service work as well. Swamps Diesel sends out over 50 sets of injectors a week, but admits they have had some 70-set weeks too. Clearly this La Vergne, Tenn., shop that was founded by Dave Armstrong in 2002 knows how to get the most out of your truck. So right then and there I made the call and placed my order.
The injectors from Swamps Diesel arrived shortly after and came individually wrapped and numbered so each one could be specifically placed. Each one was created for a specific place on the engine, which just goes to show how far injectors have really come.
The new Swamps Diesel 15 percent over injectors should increase the horsepower by 60 to 75. With this truck we’re not trying to win any dyno competitions, but rather just to create a dependable daily driver with a little bit of attitude. The stock injectors were then sent back to Swamps as cores so they can be rebuilt in-house for another 6.4L.
While we were already doing the injectors, we figured this would be a good time to also replace the glow plugs. Throughout this build whenever we’ve needed a miscellaneous or hard-to-find part, RockAuto.com has been our first stop.
For something as simple as glow plugs we really could have gone anywhere, but we like how RockAuto is the ideal one-stop shop that seems to have an unlimited supply of parts and typically at better prices too!
We went with NGK glow plugs and for fun Performance Tech Manny Rodriguez checked the old ones and found a couple of them needed to be replaced so it was a good thing we planned ahead.
There are a thousand different ways to add power to your diesel, but one of quickest and most efficient ways is to start with BD Diesel Performance. Located just over the Canadian border, this performance company has proven itself year after year by always looking for ways to improve its products. I recently took a tour of its 60,000-square-foot building with BD Power owner Brian Roth who runs a tight ship that includes managing over 120 employees.
Right off the factory floor my 6.4L comes with twin turbos. This explains why most dyno events have a separate category for these trucks. But this truck is all about ditching stock and upgrading to better and that’s why we called up BD Diesel.
One of BD Power’s popular upgrades is its Turbo Thruster 6.4L Twin kit. “To achieve good EGTs with more than a 100hp increase, our upgraded twin set comes with larger billet compressor wheels, new design compressor housing, 4-inch intake velocity stack and a custom intake system, all of which will support/cool 600 to 750hp,” said Roth. The stock primary turbo compressor wheel is 61.5 mm with a 54.5 mm secondary wheel. BD’s upgrade twin turbo set comes with a 73.0 mm billet compressor wheel and a 58.5 mm secondary.
Some trucks just want to fight you every step of the way and for whatever reason that was the case with this install. When replacing the injectors we didn’t give it much thought, but knowing we were adding the turbos, manifolds and up pipes too, Adrenaline Performance Tech Josh Maldonado considered lifting the cab to make this job easier. Instead he decided to just pull the transmission and it ended up taking him a little more time than expected. In talking to others, this was rare and not common for other 6.4L owners so I guess I have the Ford engineers to thank.
That is one mean-looking wheel!
BD Shopping Cart
Once we got online and ordered the upgraded turbos, we did a little research to figure out what else we needed from BD Power to get the most out of this install. The more we looked, the more we found that we just had to have.
BD Diesel offers a 6.4L UpPipe & Manifold Kit and this is a must after upgrading the turbos. This kit replaces the exhaust manifolds and turbocharger feed piping, which is prone to burning out at the thin-walled elbows due to high exhaust temperatures.
[Ed Pick—1B Manifolds]
BD exhaust manifolds have heavy-walled elbow connections preventing burning out, plus hold in exhaust gas temperatures, enhancing turbine pumping efficiency while the runners have been optimized to improve velocity and evacuate the cylinders. Manifolds are coated to resist corrosion and are pre-drilled for pyrometer probes, which is on our list.
The 304 Stainless Steel feed pipes are mandrel bent flow designed to improve exhaust velocity and turbo response time. The kit comes with exhaust manifold gaskets, turbocharger pipe gaskets and A/C offset adapter to eliminate damaging the A/C hose and it all fit perfectly back into place.
Another must-have from BD is the 6.4L Exhaust Brake. The variable vane turbocharger design used in diesels today to reduce turbo lag, emissions and increase power can also be used to slow you down. BD utilizes this technology by electronically closing off the turbine vanes which can create up to 130, retarding horsepower. This braking force will help to maintain your speeds on descents and curves, giving you better control of your truck and load.
It easily installs by plugging into existing factory ports, tapping one wire and then mounting the rotary three-position switch (stock, vane control only and vane control with aggressive downshift). I love that it saves my brakes when I’m towing and heading down a steep hill. I wouldn’t want to tow without it.
Just Give It A Tap
Another towing lifesaver is BD’s new 6.4L TapShifter. You can access all five gears and control Overdrive with a tap of your finger, just like the new 6.7L powered trucks do. Utilizing factory connectors, the TapShifter gives you the ability to select the gear you want. It controls your converter lock-up clutch for pulling heavy loads up and down hills or dyno testing, and controls overdrive for in-town driving or towing.
Unlike the GM tap shifter that does not alter shift strategy (only limits maximum gear), the Ford tap shifter is in full control of the transmission shifts, which gives you some more flexibility when it comes to shift strategy and lockup strategy. When you activate the TapShifter, the display unit that we mounted on our dash lets you easily see which gear you’re currently in.
Rounding out the BD Diesel upgrades was the Throttle Sensitivity Booster. This reduces that laggy pedal feeling for snappier in-town driving so your performance curve will occur sooner to achieve quicker turbocharger spooling. It’s easy to install with factory connections and you can adjust boost throttle signals by 50 or 100 percent.
Putting Her Back Together
As the techs at Adrenaline Performance were putting the truck back together following some major surgery, we figured this would be a good time to add a couple of other upgrades to our build as well, starting with an MBRP intercooler pipe that we went through Thoroughbred Diesel to get. Thoroughbred is another one of those great resources for us because they always seem to have in stock exactly what we need. Back in Part Two of this build we added a MBRP exhaust, so we went back to this brand for the intercooler pipe.
The difference between stock and the MBRP intercooler pipe is night and day. The stock one looks like it would be a lot more restrictive, to say the least.
Adrenaline Performance Tech Josh Maldonado did a little modifying on the frame so the intercooler pipe would fit.
Really this is something we should have done back in Part One when we added the BD Power Intercooler, but the important thing is we’ve got it on now.
The Turbo Thruster 6.4L Twin turbo kit includes an aFe intake. With the larger wheel, our current aFe intake wouldn’t work so it had to be swapped out.
Here Maldonado finishes installing the aFe intake as he continues to put our project truck back together.
Before closing the hood there was one other install we wanted to do at this time and that’s to add a Fluidampr Harmonic Balancer. A diesel damper provides premium, broad-range control of destructive crankshaft torsional vibration for optimum performance and durability. We’re adding some power to our build and knew this CNC-machined, high-quality, long-lasting damper would be a good fit. Plus it’s computer balanced with no tuning or maintenance required.
They say with great power comes great responsibility, but I look at it a little differently. With all the power we’re adding to this truck, my responsibility is to make sure I can tow with it too. Nothing is worse than a trailer princess that’s not really built to work. Yes, this truck will be at SEMA this fall, but I’m not afraid to use my daily driver too.
Air Bags are becoming more and more common and this is where Air Lit comes in. We’ve used this manufacturer on other builds in the past, so it was an easy choice to go back to them when we know their products work.
For this build we went with the LoadLifter 5000 ULTIMATE adjustable air spring kit that features all of the benefits of its heaviest rated air spring with the addition of an internal jounce bumper inside the spring for the ultimate in ride comfort.
LoadLifter 5000 ULTIMATE will work with my truck’s leaf springs to provide up to 5,000 pounds of load-leveling capacity and I love that it provides a stable, level and comfortable ride whether loaded or unloaded.
Air Lift Company has developed dependable air spring suspension products since its inception in 1949, but what has helped make them known world-wide is their commitment to developing new products like the WirelessONE.
WirelessONE is an affordable wireless onboard air compressor system that provides one-touch control of your air springs from inside or outside the truck. My days of searching for a gas station with a working compressor are over! The wireless remote simply clips on my visor when I’m not using it.
Hellwig is one of those companies that instantly pop into your head when you need a sway bar. They’ve done a great job not only branding their products, but also ensuring their products hold up over time.
It varies from vehicle to vehicle, but for our 6.4L we did have to drop the fuel tank to install the rear sway bar. We ended up taking the driveline off too so we could reach the top of the fuel tank to disconnect.
For the front we went with the 7690 sway bar and the Big Wig 7268 in the rear from Hellwig. The skinny stock rear sway bar is a joke in comparison to the Big Wig. I feel a lot safer on the road now, knowing Hellwig has me covered.
Once we got it put back together it was time to fire her up. Right off I noticed the engine sounded a little deeper with a nicer rumble with the new up pipes, which put a smile on my face. With new injectors, upgraded twin turbos and everything else we had just added, we finally had the power we needed. But after a quick test ride it was clear we were in need of a tune.
Timing is everything and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be a little lucky too. Just as we were finishing up this round of installs, Chad Hall from Alligator Performance called the shop to see if Adrenaline was currently working on any 6.4L trucks. Hall was looking for a beta truck since he was in the middle of launching new tuning software and needed a truck to try it out on. Not wanting to rest on all this company has already accomplished, Alligator has compiled some of the brightest minds in the industry and is now offering tuning to help owners get the most out of their trucks.
It was nice to be in the right place at the right time for a change. I quickly jumped at the opportunity and we agreed to meet at Adrenaline Performance in a couple of days.
Josh Sargent is the Ford brand manager at Alligator Performance and together with Rob Story they’re responsible for the Ford tuning on the SCT platform.
“With Rob’s extensive tuning expertise and my extensive real world knowledge and experience with the SCT products, I think we really re-created the ‘SCT Competition programmer,’” says Sargent.
The first time Rob, Chad and Josh started talking about this project, the thought was always on how they could make their programmer stand out where there are already multiple others that are very well known in the industry.
“To be honest, I think we really hit the nail on the head,” adds Sargent. “I will not speculate on whether our tuning is ‘better’ than the competitions, but I will say we offer a wider variety of tunes. From a modified stock file that is perfect for the guy who just wants to make his truck a little better to drive, all the way to our race file we have it covered. Plus our race tune not only makes some serious horsepower, but it also makes the transmission shift very smooth, and also locks the converter earlier to make sure 100 percent of that new found power is making it to the ground!”
At the time, the new Edge CTS2 Insight wasn’t available to the public yet, as those in the industry waited in anticipation for its release. I was happy with my Edge CTS, but I admit I was already starting to eye the new version. So when Story came walking in to the shop a couple of days later with the new CTS2 under his arm, he caught me staring at it like a little kid does when he’s wondering if that gift is for him.
This upgrade from Edge is long over due and I can’t believe how much has been improved. The all-new, full-color 5-inch touch screen has all the same great features the CTS has while adding a sleek, new exterior and cutting-edge screen. Not only is the display larger, but the higher resolution screen delivers a tremendous pixel ratio and zero glare. To complete the ground-breaking look, Edge’s engineers added one simple HDMI style plug for power and linking EAS accessories.
So when I added my EGT Accessory from Edge (pyrometer), it plugged in below instead of into the back of the monitor. The fewer cables on the dash the better, in my book. Chad Hall installed the new Edge CTS2. Chad and his business partner Jayme Hall have created a solid business in the diesel industry and are now adding tuning to their impressive resume.
You can now choose from five different custom gauge screens as well as multiple backgrounds so you set up your CTS2 exactly how you want it.
Alligator’s Rob Story is an enthusiast when it comes to diesel performance, so he feels right at home with the Idaho-based shop. “We’re an enthusiast-based company and this now gives us enthusiast-based tuning,” said Story. “The tuning capabilities are amazing.”
On The Dyno
Using a SCT X4 programmer to calibrate the Alligator tuning, Story dialed in our 6.4L. Our stock numbers from months earlier were 343.9hp and 631.1 ft/lbs. of torque and after Story got through fine tuning it on the Adrenaline dyno it is currently sitting at 703.8hp and 1213.2 ft/lbs. of torque with plans to add a bigger tune later this fall.
Special thanks to (from L to R) Chad Hall, Cam Hulse and Rob Story for custom tuning our project truck to make sure we got the most out of the performance upgrades from this round of installments.
With at least one more round of installs to go, where could we possibly go from here? Find out what we have planned next for Editor’s Pick when we release Part Five.