JUMPING JACK FLASH

THE P-PUMPED 7.3L SHAKING THINGS UP IN THE PULLING WORLD

In truck pulling, there is no mistaking the sound of a mechanical V-8 diesel building rpm at the starting line—and there is nothing quite like a P-pumped 7.3L. It’s an engine combination that invokes nostalgia, captivates crowds, and gets Ford fans fired up in a sport that has long been dominated by Cummins and Duramax mills. Since 2003, lifelong Blue Oval loyalist and former DHRA member Ferenc X Vegh Jr. had been dreaming of one day campaigning a P-pumped version of the 7.3L instead of his HEUI-fired ’99 F-350. By 2016, Ferenc’s 16-year-old son Nathan was itching to go truck pulling, and Ferenc began to rekindle the P-pump idea. To make the dream a reality, a new truck had to be built. For that, Ferenc enlisted the same talented mechanic and fabricator responsible for keeping his old 2.8 Ford competitive a decade earlier: Will Hardesty. Working as a team, the trio has pieced together one of the most eyecatching trucks on the current Pro Stock circuit: a ’16 Ford F-350 coined Jumping Jack Flash.

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Driver Nate Vegh (right) and Will Hardesty, builder of the truck, have known each other since Nate was a young boy—back when Will used to turn wrenches on his father’s ’99 F-350 puller. When the trio reunited for the Jumping Jack Flash project in 2016, the truck pulling world was far different than it was back then. So far, these guys have relished the opportunity to campaign a Pro Stock 7.3L in one of diesel motorsport’s most elite, Cummins-dominated pulling classes.

Turnkey 7.3L

With more than a decade worth of testing behind its P-pump 7.3L program, Hypermax Engineering has established itself as the unofficial headquarters for transforming the 444 ci HEUI V-8 into a mechanically injected monster. The company’s rigorously-tested engine package performs just as well in the dirt as it does on the engine dyno—and one drag racing customer has even used one of these mills to carry his Mustang into the 7s. Needless to say, Ferenc, Nathan, and Will knew exactly who to contact for a Power Stroke capable of keeping pace with the fire-breathing Cummins mills they’d be competing against.

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Put together by Ferenc X Vegh Jr., his son Nathan Vegh, and Will Hardesty, the Jumping Jack Flash Ford is one of the freshest faces on today’s Pro Stock diesel truck scene. In addition to being lifelong Ford fans, Ferenc, Nate, and Will were partially inspired by the “Trailblazer” Massey Ferguson campaigned by Dan and Travis Kuhns—a V8 Pro Stock tractor that holds its own against the nastiest John Deeres in existence. If you’re fortunate enough to catch Jumping Jack Flash on a long track, it can top out at 33 mph while carrying as much as 5,400 rpm.

Winning Innards

From oil pan to turbo, the entire engine is Hypermax. This includes a factory-cast block, the company’s bedplate, forgedsteel rods with fly-cut pistons, and custom grind camshaft. A set of factory-based, cast-iron heads no longer make use of the HEUI injectors, but instead accept mechanical units that operate according to pop-off pressure. The heads also make use of Hypermax’s triple wire rings to seal combustion, bigger valves, extensive port work, billet rockers, solid lifters, Hi-Rev valve springs, and anchor to the block via ARP head studs.

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Under its detachable steel hood, the Jumping Jack Flash Ford boasts a full-on, mechanical 7.3L Power Stroke from Hypermax Engineering. While the P-pump at the front of the valley and the massive turbo at the rear beg for most of the attention, it’s the hardparts underneath that allow the engine to survive more than 1,800 hp. A factory-based crank is anchored in place via a bedplate that ties the mains in with the oil pan rails, solid forged-steel “beef cake” rods with ARP rod bolts connect to valve-relieved Mahle Motorsport pistons, and a regrind cam (specific for this application) resides in the stock location.

13 mm P-pump

The Bosch P-pump, the heart and soul of the engine, can be spotted in the lifter valley. Courtesy of Hypermax, it’s been fitted with 13 mm plungers and barrels, a quick-rate cam, and an Ag governor. According to Ferenc, the pump is set extremely conservative for Pro Stock, yet at the same time supports more than 1,800 hp. Accommodating the P-pump is a billet-aluminum front cover, intermediate plate, and adapter plate, along with the corresponding pump hub and gear. A belt-driven transfer pump supplies adequate fuel pressure to the P-pump while eight oversize injection lines carry diesel to the injectors.

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To provide much-needed airflow, the factory 7.3L heads were filled and then opened up by way of larger valves and some serious porting. A competition-ready valvetrain consists of Hypermax’s Hi-Rev valve springs, billet rocker arms, chromoly pushrods, and solid lifters. Triple wire rings in the heads keep cylinder pressure contained, and ARP studs clamp them to the block. Also notice the polished-aluminum valve covers, the injection lines, and the custom-fabricated exhaust manifolds.

60 PSI of Boost and Ice-cold Intake Temps

In order to meet Pro Stock rules, the 7.3L is forced to breathe through a single, 3.6-inch smooth bore turbocharger (i.e. no map groove to take advantage of). And while this airflow limitation definitely seems to hold the big displacement V-8 back a bit more than it does the Cummins competition, the Jumping Jack Flash guys have made the most of it. With data logs that show 60 psi of boost, EGT that rarely exceeds 1,700 degrees, and intake temps that stay below 80 degrees thanks to an efficient water-to-air intercooler, durability isn’t being sacrificed in order to run a little closer to the front. During Super Stock or exhibition hooks, the 3.6-inch charger gets ditched in favor of a 4.1-inch unit, and the 7.3L responds very well. “When we throw the 4.1 on there, this engine really likes it,” Ferenc tells us.

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Being legal in the Pro Stock class means that only a single, smooth bore turbo with an inducer no bigger than 3.6-inches (91mm) can feed the engine. With the Hypermax 3.6 charger onboard, the engine belts out more than 1,800 hp. Here, the engine has been fitted with a Hypermax 4.1-inch charger (like what you’d find on a Limited Pro Stock tractor). The 4.1-inch unit is the turbo that Ferenc, Nate, and Will turn to when they compete in the Super Stock class or make exhibition passes. Rumor has it that this turbo adds 25 percent more power to the equation.

Driveline & Suspension

Getting as much of the engine’s 1,800 flywheel horsepower to the Nichols cut tires begins with a four-disc Crower clutch inside a Custom Floaters bellhousing. From there, a Quick Change transfer case and Reverser combination from Pro Fab Machine transmits power to both axles. As for axles, the familiar 20-145 Rockwell can be found out back, while a Rockwell F106 resides up front. There is no suspension to speak of in the rear of the truck, but the front suspension incorporates a four-link system with a pair of adjustable coilover shocks on either side of the axle.

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Despite the cab being gutted and the floor almost completely gone, Ferenc wanted his young driver to be as comfortable as possible in the cockpit. Turning to the fabrication and chassis experts at Proformance Pros, a driver’s pod was built to Nate’s specifications, and topped off with a TS-R off-road seat from Simpson Racing Products.

Only the Beginning

After a full season with zero issues or breakage in 2018 and plans to do the same in 2019, the Jumping Jack Flash crew are definitely happy with how the truck turned out. But don’t confuse happy with content. Ferenc, Nate, and Will plan to continue accumulating data, seat time, and tweaking the truck’s setup until their Ford runs at the front of the pack. With plans to hook with PPL all summer—along with select NTPA, Xcaliber, and Full Pull Productions events (and even a return trip to the National Farm Machinery Show this winter)— they’re keeping a busy schedule on purpose. Sooner or later, they could be knocking on the doors of the best trucks in the business.

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From the captain’s chair, Nathan has plenty to look at with tachometer, boost, oil pressure, water temp, and fuel pressure analog gauges in front of him. However, a Racepak data logger system is the most vital tool in this workspace. Following every hook, the recorded data is reviewed and thoroughly analyzed to make sure key parameters are staying in check, to help improve the truck’s next performance, and sometimes even to find out what went wrong.

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Transferring power to the ground begins with a four-disc Crower clutch confined within a one-off bellhousing built by Custom Floaters. Instead of running a Reverser transmission in the conventional location directly behind the bellhousing, Ferenc and crew opted for Pro Fab Machine’s Ultimate Quick Change transfer case with Reverser setup, which combines the two components into a single, weight-saving package.

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A water-to-air system based around a Sandridge Custom intercooler and a belt-driven water pump (both of which were obtained from Haisley Machine) keeps intake temps entering the engine in the upper 70s. With the aforementioned 4.1-inch charger in the mix, intake temps jump up to roughly 100 degrees (along with boost checking in 10-psi higher at 70 psi). Additional cooling comes in the form of a nine-nozzle water-injection system, designed and configured to keep EGT from cresting 1,700 degrees.

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Up front, a Rockwell F106 fitted with a Detroit locker takes care of business, with forward bite being aided by a four-link suspension system. A pair of coilover shocks on each side allow for suspension pre-load adjustments to be made based on track conditions. Maneuvering the truck around comes easy thanks to a full hydraulic steering system from PSC Motorsports.

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Starting with a ’16 frame, Will set to work reinforcing the front section to handle 2,000 pounds worth of hanging, bouncing weight by bracing and then boxing it in. He then turned his attention to building the subframe, which spreads the load from the rear axle across the frame, toward the front of the truck. For optimum strength, the subframe was built using a triangular pattern, and from thick wall round tubing. For a clean overall look, Will even filled some 219 holes (per rail) in the factory frame prior to treating it to its matte black finish.

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A Rockwell 20-145 routes power to the rear 15″ X 18″ Real Racing Wheels and 34-inch Nichols Pulling Edge tires. Its aluminum center section was made by Advanced Chassis and conceals a spool and 6.17 gears. The components required for Will to build the A-frame style hitch arrangement were supplied by the folks at Proformance Pros.

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A team effort in every sense of the word, Ferenc told us “we all have our roles.” Nate is the driver, Will is the builder and mechanic, and Ferenc is in charge of all logistics and making the lives of the other two easier by being prepared. “During the build process, I tried to stay two weeks ahead of Will in keeping him supplied with parts to add to the truck.”