Homegrown Highboy: The 7.3L-Powered ’73 F-250

Classic Blue Rig

What do you get when you combine a ’73 F-250 with an early Super Duty? How about a one-of-a-kind Highboy with modern creature comforts, a stouter frame and axles, and a 7.3L Power Stroke under the hood? As a fan of both the ’73-79 Ford body style and the robustness of the Super Duty platform, Steve Burris set out to create something truly unique when he embarked on his Highboy build. “I’ve had my fair share of Highboys in the past as well as Super Duties—and this is my hybrid,” he tells us. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

Having already helped his son, Jack, perform a Cummins swap on his ’77 F-250 Custom, Steve Burris knew his ’73 had to be diesel, but he also wanted to do something different. “I always loved my 7.3Ls and had really good luck with all of them,” he tells us. So he picked up this perfectly healthy, 201,000-mile, late ’99 engine at a hard-to-beat price and left it completely alone—for now. The future will likely bring a set of bigger injectors into the equation.
Keeping the injectors in tip-top shape is a fuel rail crossover (FRx) from Riffraff Diesel Performance. The FRx kit links both heads together to eliminate fuel from dead-heading in the cylinder heads, and also provides a metered return. Burris keeps fuel pressure set at roughly 60 psi.
Never one to pass up a good deal, Burris got a smoking one on this Garrett GTP38R turbocharger. The popular turbo was a direct drop-in replacement for the factory charger, incorporates a 66mm compressor wheel, and utilizes a ball bearing center cartridge. To eliminate a weak link, the 38R was bolted to a blank turbo pedestal (void of the exhaust back pressure valve rod and spring) when it was installed in the valley.
Here you can see the custom driveshaft that had to be made to accommodate the added length of the frame (eight inches). Also notice the Super Duty fuel tank, which—with its original application being on a long bed truck—holds 38 gallons of diesel.
The ZF-6 transmission, the section of floorboard above it, the firewall, and the NV271 transfer case on Burris’s ’73 F-250 were all sourced from a ’99 donor truck. To ensure he never had any problems harnessing the torque of the 7.3L Power Stroke, a dual-disc South Bend clutch with a 3,250-pound plate load rating was installed, which is capable of handling 650-hp and 1,300 lb-ft.
Keeping the rear Sterling 10.5 and front Dana 50 axles under the Super Duty frame was a no-brainer for Burris, and both axles sport 3.73 ring and pinions. In the near future, a set of traction bars will make their way onto the truck to eliminate rear axle wrap.

What did it take to pull off the feat? Try 10 donor trucks (six ’73-79s and four Super Duties), smart parts hunting, and six months of spare time. Luckily, as a self-taught auto body guru, a competent fabricator, and being an electrician by trade, Burris was able to perform all the work himself—literally from the ground up.

Solid Foundation

With plans to outfit the truck with a diesel, a heavy-duty transmission, and eventually tow with it, Burris chose to use the Super Duty frame, axles, and suspension for the Highboy’s running gear. But because the ’99 chassis he’d obtained was of an extended-cab, long-bed configuration, making the four-door cab and 8-foot bed work meant that another 8 inches had to be added to the frame. Burris opted to stretch the frame between the fourth and fifth cross members, just behind where the cab sits. The frame, axles, and suspension were glass bead media blasted and wear a coat of semi-gloss black undercoating.

Custom Crew Cab

As you can imagine, more than 40 winters combined with years of abandonment weren’t very kind to the sheet metal on the ’73 model year crew cab, but Burris felt everything could be salvaged aside from the floor. As the truck sits now, the floorboard forward of the front seats is out of a ’99 Super Duty (with its transmission tunnel facilitating the use of a ZF-6 transmission), while the rear half is a custom piece Burris fabricated. Other modifications made to the original cab include the utilization of a Super Duty firewall to accommodate the clutch pedal and hydroboost brake system, and the dilapidated A-pillars being replaced with sections from a rust-free donor truck.

’73, ’74, and ’79

Parts To keep the truck’s body as close to original as possible, Burris sourced most of his rust-free replacement pieces from southwestern donor trucks. A post-Highboy-era bed (’79) was chosen due to minimal modification being required to make it line up with the contour of the Super Duty frame. The front clip and tailgate came off a ’74 model, the front doors were derived from a ’79 while the rear units once occupied a ’73, and the rust-free core support (which was modified to accommodate the Champion radiator, intercooler, and A/C condenser Burris planned to run) was also sourced from a ’73. The final touch called for the use of ’79 model year frame horns, which once welded to the inside of the Super Duty frame allowed the front bumper to sit as tucked in as possible.

Updated Interior

Ushering the cab into the modern age, Burris bolted 40/20/40 front seats and a rear bench out of a ’99 Lariat model into place. The dash out of a ’99 XL model also made its way into the interior, which afforded Burris the ability to utilize a modern stereo, controls, and a 12-volt power outlet. The decision to go with the Super Duty dash was a tough one, but he told us it made the most sense, especially from a wiring standpoint. “As long as I kept all of the Super Duty electronics, I knew just about everything would go together,” he says. “In fact, the turn signals and taillights were the only thing I had to splice.”

7.3 Liters and Six Speeds

As for the powertrain, Burris wanted to keep things simple and reliable—hence sourcing a late ’99 7.3L Power Stroke, ZF-6 manual, and NV271 transfer case. Added power comes in the form of a Garrett GTP38R turbo, Power Hungry Performance Hydra Chip, and a 5-inch Diamond Eye exhaust system, complete with a 4-inch downpipe. For efficient power transfer to the six-speed transmission, a 3250 dual-disc clutch from South Bend is employed.

It’s a Keeper

Even though Burris has built and sold a host of Mustang and Ford truck projects in his day, we get the sense he’ll be hanging onto this one for a while. “Right now my intentions are to keep it,” he says—and then admits the truck would be his sole means of transportation (in fairer weather, of course). “That’s why I build them. To drive them and have fun with them.”

Relocating the fuel door to the front of the bed (to work with the filler neck location of the Super Duty tank) was just one of several areas that required Burris’s auto body expertise. Remember, due to using a ’79 bed, the in-cab fuel tank that was specific to the Highboy trucks was never an obstacle in this project.
New leaf springs, courtesy of a 4-inch Superlift suspension system reside above the front Dana 50 while 3-inch blocks provide the lift height in the rear. A quality ride is maintained thanks to a Superlift Superide shock dwelling at each corner.
The Lariat seats, dash, and firewall are all late ’99 Super Duty pieces, with the dash being robbed off of an XL model. Believe it or not, one of the more time-consuming aspects of integrating the dash into the ’73 cab was relocating the windshield wiper motor. The motor is out of a Super Duty, but had to be moved to the far passenger corner, along with its respective wiring harness and linkages being extended.
A Hydra Chip from Power Hungry Performance wakes the 7.3L up in the horsepower department and provides Steve with ten on-the-fly tuning options. EGT, boost, mph, and a host of other parameters can be viewed thanks to a CTS2 gauge monitor from Edge Products.
Completing the classic look of the Highboy is a set of 17×9-inch, 8x170mm bolt pattern Rockcrushers from Raceline Wheels. Nitto Trail Grapplers measuring 37×12.50R17 complement the polished aluminum rims, effectively providing the ultra-aggressive appearance that this truck deserves.
Crank windows and a power driver seat? You bet! As for covering up the new floorboard, Burris is not a fan of carpet, so he opted to spray the floor with Liner Xtreeme—the same bed liner epoxy he used to coat the inside of the bed.
Self-taught in the art of auto body, Burris handled all rust removal, necessary repairs, panel straightening, priming, and painting on the truck. While the technical name of the paint is blue flame metallic (a color offered on ’10 and newer F-150’s), Burris likes to refer to it as “Big Foot Blue.”


After being handed the keys, we thoroughly enjoyed our short stint behind the wheel of Steve Burris’s one-of-a-kind creation. Thanks to the 7.3L Power Stroke, ’99 chassis, and Lariat interior, the truck drives, handles, and feels just like an early Super Duty. But judging by all the looks it gets, it’s the classic lines of the Highboy body that command so much attention. DW


1973-1979 FORD F-250 BODY, 1999 F-250 SUPER DUTY CHASSIS

HOMETOWN: Maple Park, IL
ODOMETER: 201,000 miles (engine)
ENGINE: Late ’99 7.3L Power
Stroke FUEL: Riffraff Diesel Performance Fuel Rail Crossover (FRx)
AIR/TURBO: Garrett GTP38R, late ’99 aluminum 7.3L intercooler
EXHAUST: 5-inch Diamond Eye system with 4-inch downpipe (no muffler)
TUNING: Power Hungry Performance Hydra Chip with 10 positions (Stock to 140-hp)
TRANSMISSION: ZF-6 manual with South Bend 3250 dual disc clutch
HORSEPOWER: 330-rwhp (est.) TORQUE: 700 lb-ft (est.)
TIRES: 37×12.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler
WHEELS: 17×9 Raceline Rockcrushers
AXLES: Front Dana 50, rear Sterling 10.5, 3.73 ring and pinion
SUSPENSION: 4-inch Superlift system

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