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Ford F-250 5.4L Turbo Upgrade

When Ford unveiled the Super Duty truck platform in 1999, it forever changed the landscape of the modern fullsize truck. Equipped with a spacious and refined interior, solid axles and available with an assortment of engine and trim options, the then cutting-edge ¾- and 1-ton trucks moved rapidly off of dealer lots. While the 7.3L diesel engine was the powerplant that the brand championed the most, it was a pricey option.

The Bugdet-Friendly 5.4L Triton V8

This led many to opt for the more affordable 5.4L Triton V8. Originally appearing in the 1997 F-150, the 5.4L single-overhead camshaft engine was the only part to be shared between the ½-ton it’s much larger Super Duty siblings. For the early Super Duty models (’99-’04), the 330ci V8 produced 260 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. In 2005, the 5.4L got a bump to 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque. While horsepower figures were not far off from the diesel option, the torque figures lacked significantly by comparison. For those looking to tow with the heavy-weight pickups, this would be felt at the pump and on the road.

Thankfully, you don’t have to live with the poor performance. In fact, we’ve seen more than a few 5.4Ls put down serious power after some gracious aftermarket support. More often than not, this jump in power is thanks to forced induction. This is either by way of supercharger or turbo. With so many options, it can be a little challenging, and expensive, to determine which is right for you.

Growing Support for Turbo

While the supercharger options are more plentiful for the 5.4L, the turbocharger support is gaining momentum so to speak. One of the biggest advantages of turbocharging is that it utilizes wasted energy. This is one of the reasons so many OEMs are moving towards turbocharged engines. Recently, we caught wind of a turbo-powered 5.4L under the hood of a 2001 Ford F-250 crew cab 4x4.

National Speed Performance Shop

It turned out that the rig belonged to John Faldzinski, a veteran technician and fabricator for the performance shop National Speed in Wilmington, North Carolina. Tired of the poor performance and fuel economy, Faldzinski put together a simple turbo kit to make commuting and towing more tolerable. To get a better look at what it took to turbo the 5.4L, we peeled back the layers of the setup at National Speed one afternoon. Here’s what we found.

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Providing the extra air density is a Borg-Warner S200 turbocharger. This turbo is popular among import car enthusiasts for its performance potential and compact size. The quick-spooling S200 also helps deliver power down low where the 5.4L is known to lack.

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To mount the turbo, Faldzinski fabricated a bracket that uses existing studs on the front of the 5.4L engine. This custom design supports the 2½-inch up pipe by resting the flange’s weight atop the bracket. By doing so, it supports the weight of the turbo and tubing more effectively, thus reduces the chance of cracking any stress cracks.

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In order to moderate the air flow, a 50mm TiAL Q blow-off valve and TiAL 38mm MVS wastegate were used. Inside the wastegate is an 8 psi spring.

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Since all of the available diesel options were equipped with an intercooler on the ’99 to current Ford Super Duty, packaging an intercooler was extremely easy. This front mount cooler from Godspeed was one that was hanging around the shop at the time that kit was installed. While we’re told that intake air temperature readings remain low, the truck’s owner is considering moving to the large OE intercooler.

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Speaking of keeping things cool, special care was taken to insulate nearby under hood components with custom heat shields. The stainless pipe you see fished alongside the turbo is actually channeling air from behind the grille. The limited space for an air filter was solved with compact one from Injen technology.

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With more air, comes more fuel. To compensate for this, the stock injectors were replaced with a set of 42-pound Ford injectors. The stock spark plugs were also replaced with NGK TR6 units.

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For simplicity and cost savings, the 5.4L stock exhaust manifolds were left intact. The custom 2¼-inch tubing gets routed cleanly and jumped to 2½ inches as it unions at the up pipe flange. Expelling the exhaust is a custom TIG-welded three-inch pipe that feeds a Gibson muffler.

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To get oil to the turbo, a line was T’d off of the filter feed on the side of the block. To accept the return, the stock oil pan was tapped into.

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The finished product is one of the cleanest DIY examples we’ve come across. Special car was taken to not only build a reliable setup, but do so in a way that the truck remains easily serviceable.

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Tuning the truck to handle the turbo required purchasing a SCT tuner, which was loaded with a custom tune that National Speed created. Along with the new tune came the necessity to now run high-test octane.

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To see just what kind of numbers the truck was putting down at the rear wheels, we strapped it to National Speed’s Dynamometer. The truck put down an impressive 345 whp at 3,500 rpm and 524 lb-ft of torque at 3,300 rpm. To add some perspective, the truck was originally dyno’d in its stock configuration and produced 193 hp and 257 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.

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The owner of the truck will be the first to tell you that he’s mindful of the 5.4L’s short falls, and keeps a close eye on the air-to-fuel ratio and boost numbers. We’re told the fuel economy didn’t improve, but the performance of the truck is significantly better.

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With over 15,000 miles of mixed use, it’s safe to say that the DIY turbo upgrade has proven to be a sound mod. The Super Duty platform remains as one of the best-selling trucks on the road today. With so many 5.4Ls on the road, we hope to see more conversions such as John Faldzinski’s ’01 F-250 to show there’s plenty of potential to be had out of one of Fords most mass-produced V8 engines.

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(Source: National Speed, nationalspeedinc.com)

Next, learn why two turbos are better than one.

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