A SOLID AXLE, FLARESIDE ’97 F-250
We all have that one friend with a creative flair who does things differently. And we all know a guy with a lead foot. If you’re friends with J.D. Donohue, you know that both of these traits can coexist within the same person. A commercial painter by day, J.D. is no stranger to dabbling in body work in his free time. Add to that a lifetime worth of exposure to all things automotive, and you start to see why his ’97 F-250 turned out the way it did. His eye-catching OBS Ford sports a flareside bed, atomic orange paint, a solid front axle, and a fresh 7.3L Power Stroke that’s ready for another hard-earned 300,000 miles.
Built for 400HP—and 400,000 Miles
After playing the big horsepower, stock bottom-end 7.3L game and losing (a rod left the block), J.D. decided to get back to basics with the current engine powering his F-250. First and foremost, the truck had to be rock-solid reliable. However, to suit J.D.’s driving style, it also had to have more giddy-up than stock. Starting with a good core block from a ’95 parts truck, 0.010-inch overbore pistons, forged-steel factory rods, and the truck’s original heads were installed during the 7.3L’s assembly at Maximum Diesels. To stand up to higher rpm and elevated boost, a set of Comp Cams’ shimmed 910 valve springs, Smith Brothers chromoly pushrods, and ARP head studs made the cut, too.
AC Codes and Electric Fuel
Like any 7.3L, bigger injectors help wake them up considerably. For J.D.’s fun-yet-reliable approach to the build, a set of factory-spec AC-code injectors from Alliant Power got the nod. The single shot units flow 160 cc’s and are supported by a brand-new, 17-degree high-pressure oil pump from a ’99.5-’03 Super Duty application. A homemade fuel supply system revolves around a Super Duty-intended electric lift pump, which sends a steady 65 psi the injectors’ way. On top of the engine, the fuel bowl was scrapped, and a regulated return system installed to keep fuel delivery consistent and air-free.
T4 Turbo System and Super Duty Intercooler
Thanks to Irate Diesel Performance’s complete T4 turbo mounting system, a BorgWarner S364.5 SX-E crams 35 psi of boost into the 7.3L’s lungs at full-tilt, while also providing superb all-around drivability. The high-flow S300 forces compressed air through an aluminum factory Super Duty intercooler, 3-inch diameter intercooler piping, and 3-inch aluminum intake plenums. With the S364.5 SX-E said to be capable of supporting 300 to 500 rwhp on 7.3L’s, J.D.’s 400 hp combination nestles it perfectly in between. Exhaust gases pass through a two-piece, 3-inch downpipe that transitions into a 4-inch, stainless steel system from Diamond Eye Performance.
While the parts list on J.D.’s freshly-built 7.3L seems more than sufficient for surviving 400 rwhp, the billet-internal E4OD from John Wood Automotive is pure overkill. Retained from a time when the truck was dishing out well over 600 rwhp, it makes use of billet shafts, a billet forward drum, and a billet intermediate planetary, along with a reengineered center support and CNC-machined pump. The four-speed slushbox is topped off with a billet stator, triple-disc converter and a performance valve body. Further fine-tuning of the transmission, and especially the engine, comes by way of custom PCM tuning from Gearhead Automotive Performance.
A Forever Truck
As a successful business owner, J.D. has the means to drive any vehicle he pleases—and in fact he owns several new trucks—yet he always seems to find himself behind the wheel of his OBS. After 30 years of playing with lifted trucks, J.D. can unequivocally say that this project has been his favorite. Once the thrill of 350/200 injectors, an S400, and 70 psi of boost left his system, he pieced together a truck that still makes more than twice the power it did from the factory, but that will last hundreds of thousands of miles while doing it. After all, the engine only sees 35 psi of boost (and has head studs), the pyrometer never tops 1,200 degrees in the hottest tune, the transmission is built to handle north of 1,500 lb-ft, and the fuel system is almost completely made up of OEM components. Despite frequent offers to sell his pride and joy, J.D. maintains that the bright orange, flareside, solid axle-converted ¾-ton will be titled in his name for a long time to come.
“…FLARESIDE BED, ATOMIC ORANGE PAINT, A SOLID FRONT AXLE, AND A FRESH 7.3L POWER STROKE THAT’S READY FOR ANOTHER HARD-EARNED 300,000 MILES.”