Branden Smith’s Immaculate, 500-Plus HP 7.3L
They don’t build ‘em like they used to, reason enough for Branden Smith to hold onto his insanely clean, Florida-stationed ’01 F-250 as long as he can. The 21-year-old Super Duty has spent its entire existence in the sunshine state, and the rust-free chassis and sheet metal reflect as much. On top of that, just 97,000 miles have been logged on the odometer. But to keep a 7.3L Power Stroke relevant in the age of tune-only, 500hp common-rail diesels, Branden recently added all the right parts to bring his old Ford up to speed. A completely different turbo system, bigger injectors, more fuel supply, and a built 4R100 made the list—and he even updated the interior and added late model factory running boards and a tailgate to the mix.
A Low-Mile, Forged-Rod ’01 7.3L
By the skin of his teeth, Branden’s engine left the factory with forged-steel connecting rods, as opposed to the powdered metal versions that fail when subjected to excessive horsepower. With the forged-rod bottom end confirmed, he embarked on a goal of 500-rwhp. And with less than 100,000 miles on the 7.3L, the factory valve springs, pushrods, and even head bolts were left alone. In short, Branden’s low-mile Power Stroke is the perfect test platform for throwing a host of top-end power adders at a bone-stock rotating assembly and valvetrain.
Fuel And Oil Upgrades
The quickest way to wake up the sleeping giant that is a 7.3L is through the addition of larger injectors. However, a host of supporting mods have to be in place in order to get the most out of them. To guide him on his horsepower journey, Branden turned to his friends at LinCo Diesel Performance who sourced a set of 250cc, 100-percent nozzle injectors from Unlimited Diesel Performance, a DieselSite Adrenaline high-pressure oil pump, a 140-gph FASS lift pump system, a G&R Diesel tank sump, and Irate Diesel Performance’s regulated return system. Providing spot-on tuning for its injectors, Unlimited Diesel Performance supplied the Gearhead-tuned Hydra chip that makes at least 500 hp possible.
T4 Turbo Mount And S400
Stepping up his turbo game in a serious way, Branden ditched the factory-based Garrett GTP38 in favor of an S400. Hooking up with Irate Diesel Performance for one of its complete T4 turbo mounting systems, the popular (and proven) BorgWarner S467.7 was included. Stainless steel up-pipes and a T4 divided exhaust collector, a new pedestal, 3-inch intercooler pipes and intake Y, and a 3.5-inch downpipe helped make the turbo swap possible, and Branden also opted for Irate’s billet 3-inch intake plenums. At full tilt, the S467.7 sends 48-psi of boost through the factory intercooler.
Sun Coast 4R100
Because no stock 4R100 can hold up to a heavy, 7.3L-powered Super Duty on 35’s that’s turning out more than 1,000 lb-ft of torque, Branden turned to Sun Coast transmission mastermind (who also happens to be his co-worker), Ernie Davis, for a battle-ready rebuild. Davis’s valve body tweaks, BorgWarner clutches, a billet flex plate, and an Aermet input shaft were all part of the build—along with Sun Coast’s billet stator, triple-disc 4R100 torque converter. The stock intermediate and output shafts have been left alone for now, because in the words of Branden: “I know a transmission guy, if I break anything.” The four-speed was topped off with extra ATF courtesy of a Mag-Hytec deep pan.
“Thanks to the truck’s solid parts recipe, it’s much more than just a 500hp play toy.”
Fun Yet Fully Functional
Thanks to the truck’s solid parts recipe, it’s much more than just a 500hp play toy. On top of the obvious fun factor Branden enjoys, he can daily drive his F-250, tow his toy hauler with it, and can take a long distance road trip anywhere in the country in confidence. His deep blue Super Duty is the perfect example of how far the 7.3L aftermarket has come over the past two decades. Twenty one years since it left the assembly line, it’s making more than double the factory horsepower yet remains as functional as it was the day it left the dealership. Maybe O.G. Power Stroke fans are right—the 7.3L may never die.