Classic Repower

A Cummins-Powered Ford High-Boy—Built on a High School Budget

“I paid for everything and did almost all the work, with some guidance from my dad.” —Jack Burris”

What were you driving in high school? Was it a muscle car, one of the classics, or a lifted truck? Maybe it was something you built with your own two hands. In an age where a lot of teens are shying away from car culture and many diesel enthusiasts are writing checks to have their trucks built by someone else, 17-year-old Jack Burris is the exact opposite. After obtaining a two-wheel drive ’77 F-250 at the age of 14, he began making the truck his own. With the help of his father, Steve, he would learn the tricks of the auto body trade, how to fabricate the parts that couldn’t be bought, and eventually experience the satisfaction that comes with turning an automotive dream into reality.

With both the drive to do something different and having access to a 5.9L Cummins, Jack Burris said fare-thee-well to his ’77 F-250’s original 351M V-8 in the spring of 2015. While firewall clearance was essentially a non-issue, securing the Cummins to the High-Boy frame required a set of modified first-gen mounts. The ’91 model year 5.9L has had its top-end resealed, along with a valve job, new valve guides, and 60-ppi valve springs installed in the head. ARP studs fasten the 12-valve head to a 170,000-mile factory bottom end.
By the winter of 2016, the factory Bosch VE injection pump was in need of an overhaul. However, instead of rebuilding the fuel and rpmlimited rotary pump, Jack opted to perform a P-pump swap. A ’94-’96 model year P7100, its respective injection lines, and front cover were purchased from local truck puller and farmer, Joe Wiltse, while the throttle linkage and shut-off solenoid were sourced online. In its current state, the P-pump’s timing is set to stock, but it does benefit from a #0 fuel plate, 4,000-rpm governor springs, and supplies fuel to a set of Diesel Auto Power 5×0.013 injectors.
The job of cramming 45 psi of boost into the 5.9L is left to a 66mm S300 turbo from BorgWarner. The S366 breaths courtesy of a Donaldson BHAF, a 0.91 A/R exhaust housing, and a 4-inch diameter HX40 downpipe that was modified to clear the Ford’s firewall..


Conversion As a fan of Ford’s iconic, high-riding, four wheel drive F-250’s produced from ’67-’77, Jack set out to transform his truck into an authentic-appearing High-Boy. Starting from the ground-up, he sourced a rust-free, early ’77 High-Boy frame, axles, and suspension to serve as the project’s foundation. But before the body could be swapped onto the frame, considerable sheet metal repair was in order. With four decades of northern Illinois winters under its belt, the cab’s floor pans were gone, the front cab mounts were all but deteriorated, the wheel wells needed replacing, and the floor of the bed had rusted through. “And that’s how I learned how to weld,” Jack told us, with his father showing him the basics of fabrication and auto body work and then turning him loose on the project.

A first-gen-derived Getrag G360 five-speed manual transmission was chosen for its ability to bolt right up to the 5.9L. To harness the torque created by the Cummins, South Bend Clutch got the call. A street-friendly, 3250 dual disc clutch—rated to handle 650 hp and 1,300 lb-ft—allows for efficient engine-to-transmission power transfer.
An AirDog fuel system keeps a constant 25-to-30 psi of fuel pressure on tap for the P-pump to use. The 150-gph system pulls fuel from a 40-gallon tank mounted at the rear of the truck. Originally intended for an ’02 F-450, the high capacity tank just fits between the High-Boy’s narrow frame rails.
Because the ’91 engine was a non-intercooled version of the 12-valve Cummins, Jack tracked down an aluminum intercooler from a 7.3L Super Duty to satisfy his cooling needs. While the original radiator was retained, the core support had to be reworked to accommodate the intercooler. Additionally, the length of the 5.9L necessitated the use of an electric fan.

The Cummins Collecting Dust

While Jack wanted to keep his High-Boy creation as original-looking as possible, he added an irresistible twist to the project: The original 351 ci V-8 would be scrapped in favor of the 12-valve Cummins sitting in the corner of his dad’s shop. The 5.9L was a take-out engine from a ’91 first-gen with 170,000 miles on the clock and the Bosch VE injection pump hanging off the side of it. Getting the Cummins to work in conjunction with the High-Boy frame called for significant trimming of the front cross member and fabricating new motor mounts. The only other clearance issue entailed the HX40 downpipe requiring modification in order to clear the firewall.

Along with the frame, axles, and suspension all being obtained from a ’77 model High-Boy, so was the Part-Time NP205 transfer case. In order to make the divorced transfer case work, Jack had to build a custom, 14-inch driveshaft to link the Getrag transmission to the NP205.

Getrag Five-Speed, Divorced Transfer Case

Backing the 5.9L Cummins is a two-wheel drive version of the Getrag G360 five-speed manual transmission. And, staying true to High-Boy roots, a divorced (and part-time) NP205 transfer-case is employed. Integrating the unmarried transfer case required a custom driveshaft spanning from the Getrag’s tail housing to the NP205, with original High-Boy NP205-to-axle driveshafts being retained. To ensure the clutch is never the weak link, a 3250 street dual disc unit from South Bend got the nod.

Improving the ride comfort of the leaf sprung, High-Boy suspension is a Skyjacker Nitro 8000 shock at each corner. The nitrogen gas filled units were chosen for their good ride quality and affordability.

P-pump Swap

Last winter, and with the original VE injection pump in need of rebuilding, Jack decided to replace the rotary unit with the venerable P7100. The P-pump was sourced from local truck pull guru, Joe Wiltse, along with the appropriate injection lines and front cover, while Jack hunted down a shut-off solenoid and throttle linkage online. During the P7100 conversion, and because Jack knew the P-pump would inevitably bring more power to the table, the cylinder head was pulled, checked out at a local machine shop, and prepped for higher boost. In addition to a valve job, 60-pound valve springs were installed and the head was re-secured to the block via ARP studs.

Once sporting 4.10 gears (as all High-Boys did), Jack recently swapped ring and pinions in both the rear Dana 60 and front Dana 44 in favor of highway-friendly 3.55’s. On the topside of the skid plate pictured, you’ll find the aforementioned 40-gallon fuel tank Jack pulled off of an ’02 F-450 Super Duty.

5×13’s and S366

Beyond the P-pump, added fuel comes by way of 120hp Diesel Auto Power injectors equipped with 5×0.013-inch nozzles and a 150-gph AirDog system. Plenty of fuel capacity exists courtesy of the 40-gallon Super Duty tank that Jack finagled between the truck’s rear frame rails. As for airflow, a non-wastegated BorgWarner S366 forces 45 psi of boost through a 7.3L Power Stroke intercooler. Jack tells us that, due to the truck being a five-speed, the 66mm charger can be a tad laggy down low—but admits it’s a blast once it lights.

At first glance, most folks would never believe Jack converted his ’77 F-250 from a two-wheel drive into a High-Boy. After tracking down a rustfree early ’77 High-Boy frame, axles, suspension and transfer case, he affixed the two-wheel drive body to its new chassis. But during that process, and with more than a month’s worth of auto body work performed on the body (most of which was done after school and on weekends), Jack was finally able to coat the truck in the Platinum Silver Metallic paint you see here.
Nothing says old-school like steel wheels and mud terrains—and Jack’s ’77 wears them both extremely well. Up front, you’ll find an original locking hub at each end of the Dana 44.
While not the original ’77 interior, for its age, the truck’s cab is in near-immaculate shape. Jack keeps an eye on oil pressure, water temp, and fuel level courtesy of three gauges mounted to a triplegauge pod along the bottom of the dash.

Built, Not Bought

To us, the finished product represents more than a one-of-a-kind Cummins-swap or a High-Boy-converted ’77 F-250. Instead, it confirms that the “built not bought” mantra is being practiced by today’s youth. A simple willingness to learn from his father, combined with one hell of a work ethic, allowed a high school student to turn a rusty, old Ford into something his peers envy. Along the way, Jack learned a lot more than how to perform body work, he learned how to be resourceful. The parts he couldn’t afford to buy new were sourced from donor trucks, junkyards, or Craigslist, and the parts that didn’t exist, he made himself. If that’s not the perfect example of American ingenuity, we don’t know what is. DW

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