THE DISSIDENT - Diesel World


Campaigning a 7.3L Power Stroke in the world of truck pulling isn’t easy. No matter what you do, the HEUI injection system will always hold you back, and turbo rules—often designed for smaller displacement engines—will constantly impede your power potential. Still, there are certain niche areas where the 7.3L still has its day in the sun. For Dan Gilbertson and his ’02 F-350, that area is southern Wisconsin. Over the years, even the slightest chance of winning has given him all the motivation he needs. “I’ve really enjoyed doing the things they say you can’t do with a 7.3L,” he told us.

Bedplate, Billet Rods, and Fire Rings

To hold up to 60 psi of boost, extreme EGT, and big torque production, Dan amassed a well-researched parts list to ensure his 7.3L would never let him down. The factory-based crankshaft is secured via a Hypermax bed plate, H-beam billet rods connect to cast-aluminum Arias pistons, and the heads are  re-ringed and anchor to the block by way of H-11 tool steel head studs. A custom-grind camshaft from Crower Cams also made it into the build in order to help drive the turbo harder.

Fire Hoses and Dual HPOP’s

With the goal to inject massive amounts of fuel in the shortest window possible, Dan turned to the injector experts at Full Force Diesel. When all conditions are met (adequate ICP, pulse width, and fuel pressure), the Full Force units flow 500 cc’s of fuel, and they do so through 400-percent over nozzles. On the high-pressure oil side of the equation, a Gen3 pump from Swamp’s Diesel keeps oil supply on the up-and-up, with an Adrenaline HPOP from DieselSite residing in the factory location.

S400 Windstorm

Other than the HEUI system’s inherent fuel and oil delivery flaws, turbo regulations also tend to handicap the 7.3L in a big way. Luckily for Dan, the outlaw style classes he pulls in permit the use of any size single charger—hence the S482 located near the firewall. Modified for higher flow and improved responsiveness at Colberg Hi-Performance Tractor Repair, the big BorgWarner squeezes 60 psi of boost through a Hypermax Tapercore intercooler. A turbo mounting system from Irate Diesel Performance, complete with T4 collector, stainless up-pipes, pedestal, and intercooler tubing, facilitates the use of the S482.

Proven Transmission and Tuning

Never parting ways with the truck’s automatic transmission, Dan relies on a BTS-built 4R100 to get him down the track. The Brian’s Truck Shop four-speed contains a 300M input shaft and cryo’d intermediate and output shafts, among select other internals. A triple disc torque converter from Precision Industries was spec’d with a 2,400-rpm stall to accommodate the big single charger. Tying every modification together in the form of custom PCM tuning is handled by Gearhead Automotive Performance—a company renowned for its ability to tame large 7.3L injectors.

Consistently Competitive

So being that he’s often pitted against trucks making nearly twice the power, what drives Dan to continue to compete with the 7.3L? Well, for starters his suspension and driveline configuration has yielded remarkable consistency, and as such, has remained virtually unchanged the last five years. As proof that the truck’s overall setup is effective, Dan grabbed a handful of wins in the summer of ’17 despite only hooking a dozen times. And finally, he still believes the 7.3L can be competitive. “They are the unsung hero of the bunch,” he tells us. And of course, while winning is never a forgone conclusion, “It’s always nice to go to a pull somewhere and surprise people.”DW


Pieced together at High Velocity Diesel Performance, the 7.3L Power Stroke in Dan Gilbertson’s ’02 F-350 sports a Hypermax bedplate, billet H-beam rods, Arias pistons, a re-ground camshaft from Crower Cams, fire-ringed heads, and Extreme Studs head studs. The big V-8 produces somewhere in the neighborhood of 750-to-800 hp at the crank.


Competing in outlaw-style classes and brush pulls, Dan is exempt from adhering to the restrictive turbo sizing rules that usually keep the 7.3L from living up to its full performance potential. Thanks to a T4 turbo mounting kit from Irate Diesel Performance, an 82mm S400 dwells in the valley. After a trip to Colberg Hi-Performance Tractor Repair, the S482 received a ported compressor housing, a lightened and micro-polished turbine wheel, and was precision balanced for quicker spool up and higher flow. The big single produces 60 psi of boost and 75 psi of drive pressure during the course of a pull.


With the HEUI injection system being the 7.3L’s biggest performance hindrance, Dan opted for the largest set of injectors Full Force Diesel would build him: 500/400’s. The 500/400 designation means they’re capable of flowing 500 cc’s of fuel through 400-percent over injectors. The injectors’ oil demands are met thanks to a Swamp’s Diesel Gen3 high-pressure oil pump working in conjunction with a DieselSite Adrenaline.


Ensuring a steady stream of diesel makes its way to the injectors, Dan designed a fuel system that incorporated an Aeromotive Marine A1000 pump and larger fuel lines into the truck’s existing DieselSite CPRx system. The customized fuel system also makes use of a fuel cooler, Dahl pre-pump element, and a post-pump inline filter.


A distribution Y along the frame rail allows fuel to be individually supplied to the rear of each head. Per this gauge, supply pressure checks in at roughly 80 psi and—according to the Auto Meter gauge in the cab—55 psi is maintained while blasting down the track.


Dan relies on a 4R100 from Brian’s Truck Shop to hold up to the rigors of pulling the sled—and the folks at BTS have never let him down. Internally, the four-speed automatic is graced with a 300M input shaft, and cryogenically treated intermediate and output shafts. A Precision Industries triple-disc torque converter with a 2,400-rpm stall speed helps get the big S482 spooled.


Custom PCM tuning from Gearhead Automotive Performance allows Dan to get the most out of his truck’s extensive modifications. Competition-ready tuning files are available on the fly thanks to a Hydra Chip from Power Hungry Performance. The red toggle switch on the right is Dan’s converter lockup switch, which he engages as soon as the transmission takes third g ear.


A set of Newton Lifts’ traction bars keep the rear axle from wrapping and the factory leaf springs from twisting. Aside from the fact that the truck is a dually, Dan believes its 172-inch wheelbase keeps it from becoming unsettled in the dirt.


After destroying a couple of center tubes, Dan had a bombproof center section added to the receiver hitch. The 4×6-inch tube is welded in place, and is made of ¼-inch wall steel.


Prepped for full-pull duty is a Dana 80 fitted with 37-spline axle shafts and a spool from Yukon Gear & Axle. Up front, the original Dana 60 was equipped with a spool and a Dynatrac Free-Spin Kit, complete with Warn locking hubs. A 4.10 ring and pinion is present front and rear, and—combined with the 33-inch tires—allows Dan to achieve his target rpm and mph while pulling.


Six Dick Cepek F-C II all terrains measuring 305/70R16 help Dan’s Ford make its way through the dirt. A pair of Weld Racing’s late 16×8-inch Evo Cheyenne wheels reside up front, while 16×7’s can be found in the rear.


Do any of you remember the “Lariat LE” trim level Ford offered? Dan’s ’02 was the first year you could order the limited edition package in conjunction with a solid exterior paint color. With less than 100,000 original miles on the truck, its unique interior is as expected: in flawless condition.


A quad pod filled with Cobalt series gauges from Auto Meter consumes the driver side A-pillar. As far as the pyrometer is concerned, Dan doesn’t use it to view peak exhaust gas temps—but rather to leave the line correctly. Once he sees 1,000 degrees (and 10 psi on the boost gauge) he lets the truck rip.up to Third, he locks the converter, which puts the engine right where it likes to be—3,300 rpm. On a good hook, 25-to-28 mph worth of ground speed is achieved before the truck is lugged to a halt and spins out.


During a typical pull, Dan leaves the line with the transmission in Second Gear, the transfer case locked in Low range, and eases out of the hole at roughly 3,800-rpm. After he bumps the transmission up to Third, he locks the converter, which puts the engine right where it likes to be—3,300 rpm. On a good hook, 25-to-28 mph worth of ground speed is achieved before the truck is lugged to a halt and spins out.


2002 FORD F-350

OWNER: Dan Gilbertson
HOMETOWN: Edgerton, Wisconsin
ODOMETER: 99,950 miles
ENGINE: 7.3L Power Stroke with Hypermax girdle bed plate, billet H-beam rods, Arias pistons, Crower cam, fire-ringed heads, Extreme Studs H-11 head studs
FUEL: Full Force Diesel 500/400 injectors, modified DieselSite CPRx system with Aeromotive Marine A1000, fuel cooler, regulated return
OIL: Swamp’s Diesel Performance Gen3 high-pressure oil pump over DieselSite Adrenaline, DieselSite high volume LPOP
AIR: Irate Diesel Performance T4 turbo mounting kit, BorgWarner S482 modified by Colberg Hi-Performance Tractor Repair, Diesel Innovations ceramic coated headers, Hypermax Tapercore intercooler
TUNING: Gearhead Automotive Performance custom tuning via Power Hungry Performance Hydra Chip
TRANSMISSION: BTS 4R100 with 300M input shaft, cryogenically treated intermediate and output shafts, Precision Industries 2,400-rpm stall, triple disc converter
HORSEPOWER: 650 to 700-rwhp (est.)
TORQUE: 1,200 to 1,300 lb-ft (est.)
TIRES: Dick Cepek F-C II 305/70R16
WHEELS: Weld Racing Evo Cheyenne 16×8 (front), Weld Racing Evo Cheyenne 16×7 (rear)
AXLES: Dana 80 (rear) with Yukon Gear & Axle 37-spline axle shafts and spool, Dana 60 (front) with spool and Dynatrac Free- Spin Kit with Warn locking hubs