A 550 hp 7.3L OBS Ford
You look back over the last 100 years of pickup trucks and there are a few models that will always stand out. Some just had that look—no matter how old they get, anyone can appreciate them when they’re kept clean and simple. The ’56 Ford F100 or a shortbed ’69 Chevy, they’ll just forever be classics. For a diesel enthusiast, it’s hard to argue that the ’94-97 Ford OBS won’t be a model to fit that “classic” category as the years continue go by. It’s been 20 years since the OBS body style was replaced by the Super Duty and finding a nice, low-mileage example is virtually impossible. Every once in a while you’ll cross paths with one that makes you wish you’d never sold the one you had 15 years ago. Sure the 7.3L Power Stroke is short on power by today’s standards, but it was a solid engine put into a great truck.
Zac Gibson of Morgan, Utah, just happens to have one of those timeless old body style Fords. After speaking with him for a bit about the truck, we’d almost bet his blood runs Blue Oval blue. Gibson bought this 1997 single cab F-350 from the original owner with 55,000 miles on it clear back in 2001. Shortly after it was sporting a 9-inch suspension lift and 38×15.50 Thornburg mud tires, and while it was not real practical as a daily driver, Gibson fell in love with the truck. He is obviously still nurturing that love affair 16 years later as he continues to put his passion for diesel performance into the old girl. Through the years the truck has been babied, only driven on the sunny days, washed anytime it saw rain or snow and has been through quite the transformation, in both looks and performance.
Around 2005, Gibson got hooked up with then Wide Open Performance of Sandy, Utah, where owner Zane Koch and his crew really started to amp up the performance of that 250-hp 7.3L Power Stroke. The stock engine was upgraded with some Stage II 180cc Hypermax injectors, a Hypermax high-flow intercooler kit and a custom turbocharger from Bell Turbo was mounted on a Hypermax T4I install kit. To ensure there would never be transmission problems from the stock automatic, it was rebuilt and upgraded by Brian’s Truck Shop of Lead Hill, Arkansas. Custom internals, performance valve body and triple-disc torque converter was going to be more than enough for whatever power level the truck ended up at. Wide Open also installed a bigger transmission cooler and lines from a V10 Super Duty truck. The truck made a very respectable 400 hp with that combo, but the massive lift and tires were killing the drivability and Gibson was ready to make some changes.
After removing the complete suspension and installing factory height front and rear springs, a Reverse Shackle kit was installed up front to help with the ride quality and give it enough height to clear the new tires. For rubber, those 38-inch mudders were replaced with a set of 305/55R20 Nitto Terra Grappler A/Ts wrapped in polished 20×12 Fuel Octane wheels. ProComp traction bars and Rancho shocks keep the rear end planted and riding smooth.
After Wide Open closed up shop a few years back, Gibson had to find another place to keep the old truck running perfect and he turned to Dillion Weston and Drake Dearden of Lawless Diesel in Ogden, Utah. In 2016, Gibson was ready to turn up the wick a bit more and really start pushing some power and improving his track times. Lawless Diesel tore in to it and started by upgrading it with hi-rev valve springs, chromoly pushrods and a set of H11 head studs and new head gaskets. The injectors were upgraded to 250cc Hybrids from Full Force Diesel with 200% nozzles. An old school stacked dual high-pressure oil system from BTS was installed along with a full electric fuel system from Driven Diesel that uses a high performance Fuelab pump and regulated fuel return kit. The Bell Turbo wasn’t going to be big enough for the new fuel so High Tech Turbo reworked it and updated it with the latest BorgWarner 69mm SX-E compressor technology, along with some custom machining to the exhaust side so it could be installed on that Hypermax mount kit without trouble. Tuning was revised by Tyrant Diesel and should have this truck making between 550 and 600 horsepower, while maintaining great drivability and fun street manners.
Cosmetically, the truck was just recently updated to all new lights up front with LED bulbs inside. The factory Ford cab lights were replaced with some sleeker Dodge cab lenses as well. You may also notice that front bumper, which came off a brand-new 2017 Super Duty truck. The chrome 2017 bumper was sandblasted and powdercoated in white to match the truck, and some custom brackets were fabbed to mount it. The factory 2017 high-intensity fog lights were wired right into the factory switch in the cab. Inside the cab you’ll find a simple set of triple gauges on the pillar and an old school CB radio under the dash. The HiFi Shop of Roy, Utah, did all the stereo work. A Kenwood head unit, 1600-watt Kenwood amp, dual 10-inch Orion XTR Pro subwoofers and Kenwood door speakers pump out plenty of sound in that little regular cab.
With just 113,000 miles on the odometer, the old truck is still in its prime and turns quite a few heads when it’s out cruising around town. From the paint matched grille and 2017 Ford bumper upgrade to the killer wide wheel stance, this truck just has a look to it we can’t explain. We’re not real sure how you can pull off that clean, classic look of a 20-year-old truck while keeping it fresh with today’s latest style, but Gibson has done it. It’s truly timeless. It runs pretty good too.
With just 113,000 miles on the odometer, the old truck is still in its prime and turns quite a few heads when it’s out cruising around town.