This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue.
Most truck projects are never finished. And when your project is a diesel truck, you’ve got plenty of life in it to tinker with for a long time. Rod Benesh of Benesh Electric based in Southern California has had his 2002 Ford F250 since it was just a couple years old and has spent nearly a decade and a half upgrading and perfecting his truck. His attention to detail and regimen of maintenance has kept the aging rig in pristine condition despite its transformation into his daily driving work truck.
Benesh volunteered his time, expertise, and his well-equipped truck to assist in relief efforts in the Florida Panhandle, yet even amid the chaos and carnage fresh after Hurricane Michael’s devastation in 2018, the mighty work truck stayed neat and clean as it brought aid to many in need.
But when Benesh first brought home the eBay purchased truck, it wasn’t intended to be used and abused as his primary work vehicle. Right away he jacked the truck 8 inches into the air and paired a set of 20-inch Moto Metal wheels that have stayed on it along with 37-inch Toyo Tires that he’s stuck to through the years. A performance chip was installed as well as a turbo back 4-inch exhaust kit and stage 2 aFe cold air intake. In this condition, the pickup served him well for years.
Work Truck Evolution
Later though, with the expansion of his business as well as streamlining of his personal life, the time came about ten years down the road for the F250 to undergo an overhaul and take on the role of a work truck. Benesh purchased a used utility box to replace the original bed and installed a ladder rack overhead. At that point, most would be satisfied at the transformation and ready to hit the job sites, but not Benesh. He went on to customize and install three sets of 12-inch wide, 5-foot deep slide out drawers: two sets in between the outer side boxes, and one set retrofitted into the front of the bed against the cab. With all this increased storage, surely the job was complete. Nope. Benesh, with his electrical expertise, wired in LED lights to each door and drawer with door switches set up to engage the lights when opened. He took it another step further with the addition of a photocell that keeps the lights off while it’s in daylight then allows the lights to come on in the dark when the doors are opened.
To protect the truck, tools, equipment, and supplies he also wired in a Viper alarm system linked to each door of the service bed as well as the rest of the truck. Finishing out his work upgrades were the LEDs attached to three sides of the ladder rack and vices welded onto the sturdy bumper of the utility bed.
Now with 12,000 pounds of weight to tote around, the stock 4R100 automatic transmission was upgraded with a 450 Road Ripper kit as well as a 6.0L trans cooler to keep temperatures in check. When Benesh began to notice the truck seemed down on power, and wanting a bit of a power upgrade for the F250, he turned to MDS Diesel Service in Ramona, Calif. Once they got him a diagnosis, as well as some recommendations from the team at Full Force Diesel Performance in Murfreesboro, Tenn., it was time to go ahead and begin an engine tear down and rebuild. Benesh’s entire mindset on the build was to bolster the block and all its components well beyond the intended performance level. The endgame was to be a solid work truck with some pep, but something that would last without pushing the Power Stroke diesel engine too hard.
Wholesale Automotive Machine in San Diego, Calif., cleaned and inspected every bit of the engine’s components, rebalancing the entire rotating assembly as well as Teflon coating all the engine’s bearings before machining began. The new pistons paired with forged connecting rods were sent out for ceramic coating on top while the camshaft was sent to receive a performance grind. The heads received a valve job complete with new guides, heavy-duty springs, keepers and retainers, high performance push rods, as well as replacement injector cups.
As the MDS Diesel team took over the reassembly of the motor, ARP main studs, rod bolts, and head studs were chosen as well as billet intake manifolds. For the lifeblood of the Power Stroke, a FASS fuel delivery system was outfitted along with a fuel return with a bowl delete system and Full Force Diesel Performance stage one injectors. When the assembly neared completion, all-new high-pressure oil lines were attached to a new Adrenaline high-pressure oil pump along with new fittings and exhaust manifolds. Further boosting the power was Full Force’s turbo upgrade with Irate Diesel exhaust tubing. A Mishimoto aluminum radiator and oversized transmission cooler were installed along with HPS silicone charge air cooler hoses and clamps.
All of this not only gave Benesh a lot more get up and go for his work truck, but it also gave him a ‘like-new’ engine built to withstand practically anything.
But just because the engine received so much attention doesn’t mean the chassis felt left out. While the engine was overhauled, the truck was regeared with 4.56 gearing front and rear and the drive shafts were completely rebuilt. The brakes were upgraded with SSBC rotors and their performance pads all the way around while the fronts received massive SSBC eight-piston aluminum calipers. The front ball joints were also upgraded to Dynatrac Prosteer heavy-duty joints, and a RedHead steering box was installed with ports for Performance Steering Components (PSC) steering ram assist along with a PSC power steering pump.
A Kelderman Kick
Benesh opted to ditch his traditional lift-kit suspension setup in favor of a Kelderman’s full air ride suspension system consisting of a 4- to 6-inch lift, four-link setup front and rear, paired with dual front and single rear FOX 2.0 Performance Series shocks. MDS installed these components as well as running the lines and electrical to operate the self-leveling system run by the Kelderman dual air compressor with a pair of 3-gallon tanks and air drier installed where the spare tire formerly resided under the bed. This system was also augmented with quick connect air hose ports in both front and rear bumpers to run air tools, aiding the workability of the already resourceful Ford.
Inside the rig, Benesh didn’t have to touch the Lariat interior that he’d worked hard to maintain, besides the addition of his Edge CTS digital monitor and Airlift Performance air suspension controller. And the outside didn’t need much attention either after the bed was painted to match the black F250, as it already exuded the looks of a rugged work truck hiding some special features.
With every component of the drivetrain and chassis restored and upgraded and the utility bed thoroughly customized and optimized, Benesh had completed the overhaul of his 2002 F250 and gone above and beyond any expectations for an average work truck. He not only crafted the perfect daily driving machine, but he also put it to the test, spending months in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael volunteering his talents and abilities out of the capable truck, helping Jehovah’s Witnesses Disaster Relief volunteers in the greater Panama City, Fla., area. No doubt Benesh will continue to tinker as he keeps this truck going for some years to come.
Adrenaline Truck Performance
Automotive Racing Products
Full Force Diesel
Irate Diesel Performance
MDS Diesel Service
Moto Metal Wheels
Performance Steering Components
RedHead Steering Gears
Wholesale Automotive Machine