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Project Big White: Performance Improvements on a Budget Photo Gallery
Trent Riddle –
Dec 13, 2016
Photo 1/50 | Project Big White Lead
Photo 2/50 | Project Big White Lead | Our early ’95 OBS F-350 is equipped from Ford with essentially the same 7.3L Power Stroke diesel engine as the one introduced in the ’94 model. However, small improvements were made to the engines throughout the OBS era from ’94 to ’98. Additional engine enhancements were introduced with the new-body-style Super Duty rigs for the ’99 model year. The aftermarket also jumped in to offer power-improving parts for the Super Duty. Sadly, not all of them are simple bolt-on upgrades for the 7.3L-powered OBS trucks. With help from the team at ATS Diesel Performance in Arvada, Colorado, we’re modifying Editor KJ Jones’ OBS truck, Big White, with an ATS Aurora 3000 turbo system and several ancillary pieces that will make the old F-350 run better, thanks to more horsepower and torque than it had when it rolled off the assembly line.
Photo 3/50 | 002 Project Big White | While largely stock from an engine perspective, Big White has received a few upgrades in the years prior to this experiment. The exhaust brake is visible in this before shot, but since it is not compatible with the new ATS Diesel Performance Aurora 3000 turbocharger, it is being deleted.
Photo 4/50 | 003 Project Big White | Here is the original Garrett turbine housing and compressor. This old hardware is fine and it gets the job done, but, it’s time to say goodbye and step up to the Aurora 3000.
Photo 5/50 | 004 Project Big White | Mark Sanders, one of two Race Shop technicians at ATS, removes the stock turbo setup to prepare to pull the engine. Unlike the Super Duty, the cab on an old-body-style Ford truck can’t be removed to make deep engine work easier.
Photo 6/50 | 005 Project Big White | Mark also removes the engine fan and fan shroud before taking the engine out.
Photo 7/50 | 006 Project Big White | Removing the 7.3L engine is a two-man job; Mark and Devin Dahlin use a forklift to pull the Power Stroke out of Big White.
Photo 8/50 | 007 Project Big White | This is the ’95 F-350’s original 7.3L engine. While it has almost 150,000 miles on it, it still runs strong and does not leak a drop of oil. “We usually don’t see 7.3Ls this clean,” Mark says.
Photo 9/50 | 008 Project Big White | This is the complete ATS Diesel Performance Aurora 3000 turbo system, which was actually developed for ’99-to-’03 Ford Super Duty pickups with 7.3L diesel engines. While this kit is not a direct bolt-on for OBS trucks, it only requires a little ingenuity and a few custom pieces to fit perfectly in the early rigs.
Photo 10/50 | 009 Project Big White | The Aurora 3000 turbo offers a great power improvement for stock 7.3L engines.
Photo 11/50 | 010 Project Big White | Here is a comparative look at the Aurora 3000 (left) and the stock Garrett turbocharger. While very close in physical size, the Aurora 3000 features upgraded impellers that move more air than the original unit.
Photo 12/50 | Project Big White New Turbo Compressor Side
Photo 13/50 | 012 Project Big White Old | This photo details the difference in the compressor side of the ATS Aurora 3000 and stock turbochargers. The non-wastegate Aurora 3000’s 55mm compressor impeller features two additional blades (seven versus five), an 83mm/14-blade exducer, and slightly different blade angles for greater efficiency.
Photo 14/50 | 013 Project Big White New Turbo
Photo 15/50 | 014 Project Big White Old | On the exhaust side, the ATS turbo’s 74mm impeller carries one more blade (11 versus 10), and its housing features an .085 A/R, which helps promote quicker spooling than the Garrett.
Photo 16/50 | 015 Project Big White | This is the ATS turbo pedestal (bottom) compared to the stock 7.3L turbo mount. The new, larger piece flows more air, thanks to its slightly bigger diameter and markedly longer runners.
Photo 17/50 | 016 Project Big White | The Aurora 3000 kit includes new up-pipes that feature flexible bellows to help prevent the tubes from cracking and true welded flanges and stainless steel gaskets instead of stock-style doughnut connectors, which are prone to losing their seal and creating exhaust leaks.
Photo 18/50 | 017 Project Big White | Although installing head studs is a great upgrade for any Ford diesel, it isn’t something that is an absolute must for 7.3L Power Stroke engines. However, for peace of mind, as we know the turbo upgrade brings greater cylinder pressures, we’re adding ARP’s fasteners to ward off blown head gaskets.
Photo 19/50 | 018 Project Big White | The stock head bolts (right) are torque-to-yield fasteners. This means they are one-time-use items, as they stretch when torqued down. ARP head studs are not only reusable, they also maintain consistent torque for the life of the engine.
Photo 20/50 | 019 Project Big White | Mark uses ARP’s Ultra-Torque bolt lube and antiseize to get more uniform torque across the head studs.
Photo 21/50 | Project Big White Studs
Photo 22/50 | 021 Project Big White | Studs can be installed one at a time on engines with good head gaskets. By starting at the inside of the heads and working outward, Mark is able to replace all the original bolts and properly torque the new studs while keeping the original gaskets in service.
Photo 23/50 | Project Big White Old Oil Pump
Photo 24/50 | 023 Project Big White New | Before we started this upgrade effort, the engine’s original high-pressure oil pump was replaced with DieselSite’s Adrenaline HPOP. The pump offers both the volume and pressure needed to feed larger injectors, but even stock diesels will see a difference (improved starting, throttle response) compared to the original pump.
Photo 25/50 | 024 Project Big White | The ATS Arc-Flow intake bridge (left) is pre-drilled and tapped with 1/8-inch NPT holes to accept water injection nozzles, as well as a boost gauge. Of course, the original sensors are also accommodated. The Arc-Flow is designed for use with the larger intake plenums on the late ’99-to-’03 7.3L engines (right). Fortunately, the later plenums are a virtual direct replacement for the earlier powerplants.
Photo 26/50 | 025 Project Big White | The later intake plenums have two extra holes in one end, which are not found on the early 7.3Ls. While some diesel technicians say you can leave these open, Mark recommends welding them closed and grinding the mating surface flat.
Photo 27/50 | Project Big White Plenums
Photo 28/50 | 027 Project Big White | After modifying the plenums, Mark uses silicon sealer on each one before installing it. The manifolds for ’94-to-early ’99 7.3Ls have a 2-inch opening. The later engines were updated with 3-inch plenums.
Photo 29/50 | 028 Project Big White | The Aurora 3000 turbo system features a T-3 pedestal, which uses studs as opposed to bolts for securing the turbocharger. A stainless steel gasket is included in the kit.
Photo 30/50 | 029 Project Big White | Mark bolts the new turbo to the engine and prepares it for reinstallation in the truck.
Photo 31/50 | Project Big White Engine
Photo 32/50 | 031 Project Big White | Before buttoning up the engine, we installed a set of Performance Injection Systems’ 160cc 30-percent-over Tow Master injectors. To clear up confusion about what this means, the “160/30” reference that’s commonly used in dieselspeak stands for 160 cc of fuel per 1,000 shots (firings) of the injector. The “30” refers to the 30 percent increase in fuel flow compared to stock. What this means is the maximum capacity is increased from 98 cc to 160 cc, a 60 percent increase in available fuel. The 30-percent nozzle can inject this larger amount of fuel in the required amount of time. Too long of an injection event creates poor performance, high EGT, and excessive smoke. The faster fuel is injected, the better—to an extent. Fast injection events can also cause poor atomization, which can can lead to the same unfavorable conditions if the engine is not tuned properly. Finding the sweet spot makes the biggest difference, and we’ll do that with Power Hungry Performance’s Hydra Chip.
Photo 33/50 | 032 Project Big White | Mark guides Big White’s refreshed 7.3L into the engine bay.
Photo 34/50 | Project Big White Exhaust
Photo 35/50 | 034 Project Big White | ATS doesn’t offer downpipes for its 7.3L turbo kits. While ATS Fabrication Shop foreman Zach Stapleton created a 4-inch tube for our project, your local diesel or exhaust shop is the best source for having a new piece created for your application.
Photo 36/50 | 035 Project Big White | The Aurora 3000 fits the OBS truck as if it was made for it—and, essentially, it was.
Photo 37/50 | Project Big White Fuel System
Photo 38/50 | 037 Project Big White | A frame-mounted, low-pressure, high-volume lift pump and dual-filter water-separator setup from Bean’s Diesel Performance is replacing the stock cam-driven, low-pressure pump.
Photo 39/50 | 038 Project Big White | While OBS Ford F-250s and F-350s didn’t receive intercoolers until the ’97 model, Big White is upgraded with an air-to-air unit. Since the Aurora 3000 kit’s cold-side tubing is technically designed for new-body-style (’99-to-’03) Super Duty Ford pickups, Zach modifies our tubes accordingly so they will work with the Arc-Flow bridge and repositioned turbo.
Photo 40/50 | 039 Project Big White | The Bean’s return-style electric fuel system includes lines, fittings, and a Fuelab pressure regulator and gauge.
Photo 41/50 | 040 Project Big White | The EGT probe from the original setup is retained.
Photo 42/50 | 041 Project Big White | With the engine back in the truck, we were ready to begin dyno testing and see what the power improvements are.
Photo 43/50 | 042 Project Big White | Here is the Power Hungry Performance Hydra Chip set. Unlike traditional piggyback chips or handheld ECM tuning devices, this programming system features software that is manipulated using a laptop PC. The chip stores 17 custom tunes that can be changed on the fly.
Photo 44/50 | 043 Project Big White | In some cases, the stock ECU chassis requires slight modification to create sufficient clearance for installing and removing the Hydra Chip.
Photo 45/50 | Project Big White Usb | Project Big White USB
Photo 46/50 | 045 Project Big White | The Hydra Chip has a USB lead that creates communication between the ECU and laptop and facilitates data transfer from the computer to the chip, without having to remove the chip from the truck.
Photo 47/50 | Project Big White Controller
Photo 48/50 | 047 Project Big White | This dash-mounted controller allows drivers to select from as many as 17 custom tunes on the fly. Here you can see the Power Hungry Performance sheet for our 7.3L rig. It provides lots of options and more usable power than we had before.