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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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