A 6.0L-powered Florida Mega Truck—and an owner with a lead foot
Nearly 30 years old and still playing with trucks… Justin Hildebrand may never grow up. But that’s OK. The Bradenton, Florida, shop owner is a regular on the local mega truck scene, partaking in chest-high mud bog slogs, tire-shredding tug o’ wars, and even sled pulls with his sky-high ’04 Super Duty. What’s more—given all the wild engine combinations that often grace these types of trucks—Hildebrand’s F-250 is still equipped with a 6.0L Power Stroke.
Rebuilt for Reliability
Being that his company, JH Diesel & 4×4, is heavily involved in diesel repair and performance, Hildebrand knew that he could make a 6.0L work in the mud—and that it could be reliable. After obtaining a used 6.0L for $800, he tore it down and rebuilt it with a Ford overhaul kit. Other than adding a Stage 2 Colt cam to drive the turbo harder, the short-block is void of upgrades. A few reinforcements were necessary up top. To prevent valve float and reversion, performance valve springs from Hamilton Cams replaced the stockers. To eliminate deflection and any loss of lift at the valves, a set of Manton pushrods got the call. And to keep the resurfaced cylinder heads from lifting, ARP studs fasten them to the block.
190/75s & Stock Oil
While shopping for a set of injectors, Hildebrand settled on the perfect combination for his needs: Full Force Diesel’s 190cc units fitted with 75% over nozzles. Capable of supporting more than 600 hp, the 190/75s can conveniently be run at their full potential without the need for a higher volume HPOP or an aftermarket lift pump. However, Hildebrand did add a regulated return system from Driven Diesel for a bit of insurance on the fuel side of the injectors. The job of wringing every last drop of power out of the injectors by way of custom PCM tuning is left in the hands of Gearhead Automotive Performance.
Because it was imperative he find a turbocharger that could spool adequately in the mud yet not run out of steam at 4,000-plus rpm, Hildebrand opted for an S364.5 SX-E unit from BorgWarner. Thanks to a T4 turbo mounting system from Irate Diesel Performance, the fixed-geometry charger sits directly in place of the factory VGT, and it even accommodates an OEM-intended S&B cold-air intake. The truck’s exhaust system consists of a custom-built downpipe feeding a 6-inch CAT stack in the hood.
Factory 5R & SCS Drop-Box
As for the transmission, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach led to the factory TorqShift automatic being retained. After all, the five-speed slushbox has proven capable of harnessing 550 hp and 1,000 lb-ft or more for extended periods of time in stock form, and its retention required no additional integration work. The one reinforcement the 5R did receive was a billet input shaft. Once power makes its way through the TorqShift, an SCS Gearbox quick-change transfer case transfers it to the front and rear military axles.
The 12-Day Hustle
Believe it or not, Hildebrand’s Super Duty went from daily driver to mega truck in less than two weeks’ time. During the speedy build, Hudson’s Welding fabricated the sub-frame, cradle and four-link suspension, 18-inch-travel F-O-A coilover shocks and limit chains were added, 5-ton Rockwells replaced the factory 10.5 and Dana 60, and 66-inch tractor tires mounted to 34×18-inch 10-lug wheels were bolted up. From start to finish, the entire build consumed just 12 days.
Just like the quick turnaround time employed during the course of the build, Hildebrand doesn’t waste a second behind the wheel. When it’s his turn to get in on the action, he never hesitates to bury the throttle—and keep it there. Whether it’s hooked bumper-to-bumper with another mega truck or blasting through the swamp, you can always find his 6.0L running wide-open. In an age where far too many folks spend obscene amounts of money on toys they never use, it’s refreshing to see a budget-built vehicle living up to its full potential. If you ever find yourself at a Trucks Gone Wild event, Cowboys Orlando or Diesels in the Swamp, Hildebrand’s Super Duty won’t be hard to find. It’ll be the one making all the 4,000-rpm racket.
2004 Ford F-250
Owner: Justin Hildebrand
Hometown: Bradenton, Florida
Odometer: 200,000 miles
Engine: 6.0L Power Stroke V8 with ARP head studs, Hamilton Cams performance valve springs, Manton chromoly pushrods, Stage 2 Colt cam
Fuel: Full Force Diesel 190/75 injectors, stock high-pressure oil pump, factory lift pump, Driven Diesel regulated return
Air: Irate Diesel Performance T4 turbo mounting system, BorgWarner S364.5 SX-E, S&B Filters cold-air intake
Exhaust: Custom-built downpipe to 6-inch hood stack
Tuning: Gearhead Automotive Performance via SCT X4 programmer, Power Hungry Performance FICM tune
Transmission: Factory 5R110 TorqShift with billet input shaft, BD Diesel TapShifter
Transfer Case: SCS Gearbox quick-change transfer case with 12.66-inch drop
Horsepower: 550-600 hp (est.)
Torque: 1,100-1,200 lb-ft (est.)
Tires: Titan 18.4-34 V-tread (66-inch)
Wheels: 34×18-inch L&W Fab and Machine shells with center sections welded in at JH Diesel & 4×4
Suspension/Chassis: Hudson’s Welding fabricated four-link suspension, cradle and subframe, F-O-A 18-inch travel remote reservoir coilover shocks with custom limit straps
Axles: 5-ton Rockwell with locker (rear), 5-ton Rockwell with open differential (front), front and rear pinion brakes with Wilwood calipers and brackets, Red Barn Customs rotors