Gretel the 7.3L

December 2020 Power of Pink Colin Peterson

This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue.

It’s been a while since we’ve featured one of these old body style (OBS) 7.3L Power Strokes, and this one is special since it’s female-owned. This is one of the oldest Power Strokes out there, too! As always, as the years pass and emission laws become stricter, these trucks become harder and harder to come by. However, diesels do tend to last a long time compared to their gas counterparts, and the 7.3L Power Stroke (the rebranded Navistar International T444E) is one of the most venerable engines out there, so there are more of these old 7.3Ls still around than you might think.

This 1995 4x4 crew cab long bed Ford F350 is owned by Andi Pelkey of Knoxville, Tenn. It’s her dream truck, and she has owned it for two years now.

“Her name is Gretel like the character in the fairytale,” she says. “My husband bought her for me in 2018 as my birthday present because she’s my dream!”

The truck was previously a work truck, so it has some dents and dings, but that didn’t stop Andi from modifying it. The now quarter-century-old Ford has certainly cleaned up well. Andi has a long history with Ford trucks, as many on her father’s side of the family owned Fords while she was growing up.

“My first truck was a 1996 F150 that my dad built me, so my love of Fords came from him,” Andi says. “I always wanted a diesel and the OBS body was always my favorite. They’re just so slick and aggressive-looking.”

The Build

Andi’s main idea for her build was to keep something that was somewhat old school, but also put on a personal twist.

“The truck scene can be competitive and boring at the same time,” Andi says, “because as soon as a certain type of wheel or tire, or electrical steps, or something else comes out, everyone has to have it too!”

A certain design of aftermarket parts will have large crowds flocking to it as it becomes a big trend.

“Loretta Lynn said it perfectly: ‘To make it you have to be first, great, or different,’ so I try to be different, even though this truck is my daily driver so she’s far from perfect,” Andi proclaims.

Nonetheless, the truck is quite well built up already. While it doesn’t have a lift kit (at least not yet), the Mickey Thompson 16-inch wheels and Cooper Discoverer 33-inch M/T tires give Gretel a large stance. Not many custom truck owners rock that old-school look with the Mickey Thompson wheels and cab visors combined anymore, making this truck extra special.

Currently in lieu of a lift kit, the truck uses a SkyJacker steering stabilizer to dampen the harshness from rough pavement and going off-road. Gretel also had some other work done under the hood to keep her old 7.3L thriving, including replacement of the vacuum pump, fuel bowl, fuel pump and fuel filter housing. The truck even had its power steering
pump replaced.

“The fuel bowl was replaced by RBW Diesel in Powell, Tenn.,” Andi says. “Everything else my husband and I fixed up ourselves. The next thing to get replaced is the high-pressure oil pump (HPOP).”

The truck also had the transmission rebuilt at the beginning of this year at Economy Transmissions in Knoxville with beefier insides to put up with all of the boosted engine performance. Additionally, the truck is covered with LED lights, as it has LED headlights, taillights, and a third brake light; it also uses purple LED cab lights and dash lights. Although the lights are inexpensive and not the most fancy, they still give the truck plenty of personality.

“My lights were all eBay specials,” says Andi. Gretel doesn’t have a whole lot done to it, but it’s still a high-performance machine and also a great vehicle to have a tailgate in, thanks to its LED lights.

Truck Use

Gretel is mainly Andi’s daily driver, but it sees usage in various walks of life.

“A lot of the time, I’m using her as my grocery getter,” she laughs, “but I also take her when we go on road trips…I’ll drive her wherever I need to go.”

Gretel may be old, but it’s still a well-traveled vehicle. Last year, Andi drove the truck up to Maine to see family for a week and drove it back, and it handled the trip with ease. Andi also goes exploring regularly with her rig on the weekends in places much closer to home, such as Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Nashville.

“Really, we’ll take her anywhere,” Andi says. The truck is definitely not a pavement princess; if Andi decides she wants to have some fun, she’ll take the truck off-road even though it’s harder to go off-road in a crew cab long bed pickup. It’s plenty well built for off-roading with its Cooper M/T tires. Andi doesn’t live far from the mountains, so she’s also in a great setting for off-roading.

“We’ve driven her through some harsh gravel terrain, and she’s seen some mud here and there,” Andi says. “We went to see an abandoned train one time and we drove her through the mountain and into the woods through an abandoned coal plant here in Tennessee. I would take her anywhere if we had to. She does it all.”

The truck also received some local fame at its first truck show last year, the fall Smoky Mountain Truck Fest in Sevierville, Tenn.

Future Plans

Gretel is for sure a build in progress,” Andi says. “I still have a ways to go for her to be what I envision her but she’s mine and that’s what really matters.”

She envisions the truck having a 6-inch lift sitting on Cali off-road wheels and some brand of 35-inch M/T tires, though the OBS Ford is still quite attractive for its age and very capable of hardcore “truck stuff.” She also sees a classic two-toned Ford paint job happening in the future, along with an AOW octagon exhaust stack, purple underglow, a 2008-2010 bumper conversion, Hydrotune tuning, large Dodge “moose” mirrors, and tinted windows.

“I like the two-toned paint job with white and purple because purple is my favorite color,” she says. “So I’ll do white at the top, purple in the middle and white at the bottom, and then do purple wheels to match with white lug nuts. Wherever she goes, I know Gretel will be the best birthday gift I will ever have received!”


Cooper Tire

Economy Transmissions

Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels

RBW Diesel

SkyJacker Suspensions

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