The Single [Turbo] Life
As we’ve spotlighted in the past with our technical diesel escapades, it’s hard to beat the bling factor, performance gains or the overall glamor that comes with compound or even triple-turbo arrangements. But what about the truck owner that can’t afford compounds, the guy that doesn’t need to make huge horsepower or the enthusiast that doesn’t want to add a host of piping and complicate things under the hood? The latter question is exactly why most of the diesel industry revolves around single turbo applications. Be it the factory turbo that came on the engine, a modified stocker, a mild aftermarket upgrade or a sizeable snail that hits hard once it roars to life, a properly spec’d single turbo is one of the hottest sellers in the diesel market.
No longer are big singles reserved solely for sled pullers or drag racers. In fact, when correctly sized, they can be very well-mannered in daily driver applications, along with being capable of supporting as much power as the owner wants to pursue. To showcase a few different trucks that pull off the “big single turbo” thing extremely well, we’re profiling five daily drivers below. They’re not slow, overly laggy or a chore to drive—and they all make respectable power. From a do-it-all, 665hp 7.3L Power Stroke to a 10-second ’11 F-350 crew cab to a stick-shift ’07 5.9L Dodge 3500 sporting a 75mm charger and laying down four-digit horsepower, these guys have absolutely nailed it. Enjoy!
1. Tyler Brancifort: 2011 Ford F-350
Tyler Brancifort is one of our most extreme examples of someone enjoying the big single turbo life. With a ground-up engine build performed on the 6.7L Power Stroke, he could’ve easily forked over the coin to run two turbos (and goodness knows the engine would’ve handled it like a champ) but he chose to go with a single BorgWarner S400 instead.
When everything was tidied up under the hood, he proceeded to drive the truck everywhere, crushing dyno’s, making 10-second quarter-mile passes (10.9’s, but still damned impressive for 8,300 pounds) and even towing Street Diesel Performance’s tandem axle enclosed vendor trailer to industry events (the company he worked for at the time).
Competition-Ready 6.7L Power Stroke
Centered around the use of an S475 from Barder Turbo Service (the 75 referring to the size of the compressor wheel’s inducer), Tyler used an S400 turbo kit from Maryland Performance Diesel to get the sizeable charger mounted.
From there, the combination of ported heads, dual injection pumps, 100-percent over injectors, custom PCM tuning and a 2,200-rpm stall torque converter no doubt helped bring the S475 to life quickly. With the giggle gas turned on we witnessed this setup facilitate his Super Duty’s making 1,242rwhp and 1,918 lb-ft of torque on the dyno. On fuel, we also watched it clear 900rwhp.
2. Keith Burwinkel: 2007 Dodge Ram 3500
Due to the boost loss that inherently occurs during the upshifts made with manual transmission trucks, running a big single in conjunction with a hand-shaker is typically thought of as a no-no in the diesel game. Well say hello to Keith Burwinkel and his single rear wheel ’07 Dodge Ram 3500.
His 5.9L Cummins sports a single BorgWarner S475, dual CP3’s, 70-lpm injectors and (you guessed it) the original G56 six-speed manual. He’s been living the big single dream for more than seven years now and his Dodge makes a dyno-proven 1,000rwhp on fuel. But how does it drive?
Keith’s Key to Quick Spool Up
While automatic transmission trucks have the luxury of re-stalling the torque converter to aid spool up, manual transmission owners are stuck. Or are they?
To help bring his big single to life in a timely fashion, Keith employs a turbine diverter valve from BD Diesel. By closing off one volute in the T4 divided turbine housing (until a preset boost level is reached), the diverter valve allows the S475 to act like a much smaller turbo at lower boost levels. Once a predetermined level of boost is reached, the valve opens, allowing both volutes to flow exhaust gases. The addition of the diverter valve made Keith’s stoplight to stoplight drives much easier.
3. Michael Corsilli: 2009 Ford F-250
Sometimes compounds are ditched for a big single with stunning results, and Michael Corsilli’s ’09 Super Duty is one such truck. After an S472/S483 compound arrangement did a number on his 6.4L Power Stroke’s factory pistons, Michael built the engine and went back to the single turbo system he ran before playing with twins (it’s a long story, but he spent the better part of a decade chasing horsepower with this truck).
The result was a setup that produced less drive pressure than before but that still allowed the truck to make more than 1,000rwhp aboard the dyno. In fact, Mike’s Super Duty was the first single turbo 6.4L-powered truck to break the 1,000rwhp mark on fuel.
Big Snail + Loose Converter = 11-Second Daily Driver
Designed to support big power and high rpm, the Forced Inductions S476 dwelling in the lifter valley featured a billet 76mm compressor wheel, a 92mm turbine wheel and a loose 1.10 A/R exhaust housing. But how did the truck drive?
Surprisingly well thanks to a triple disc torque converter from Sun Coast with a 2,600-rpm stall speed. For any chance of getting the dark blue pearl F-250 to hook up on the street, Michael put full faith in a set of Nitto NT420S tread. At the track, he was able to make a best trip through the quarter-mile in 11 seconds flat.
4. John Guyton: 2003 Ford F-250
Some engines are simply ripe for running a big single. Due to its large displacement allowing it to drive a big turbo relatively effortlessly, compound turbo setups are seldom employed on 7.3L Power Strokes.
Of course, cost factors into most 7.3L enthusiasts’ sticking with a single charger, too, but for most ’94.5-’03 Ford gurus a 67mm to 75mm turbo suffices in daily-driven 550 to 700rwhp applications. John Guyton’s ’03 Super Duty falls into that category. His big ¾-ton Ford makes a dyno-certified 665rwhp and he drives it every day of the week.
S472, Added Fuel and Good Tuning
Thanks to a T4 mounting system from Irate Diesel Performance, the BorgWarner S472 John runs sits close to where the factory turbo once resided. However, the S472 (which features a loose, 1.10 A/R exhaust housing) flows more than twice as much air as a factory turbo (the 60mm Garrett GTP38).
To make the turbo come to life quickly, John relies on extra fuel from a set of 350cc hybrid injectors with 200-percent nozzles, a Gen3 high-pressure oil pump mounted above the stocker and custom tuning from Jelibuilt Performance and SDK Performance.
5. Jake Bosie: 2012 Ram 2500
If ever there was an engine meant for a big single, the 6.7L Cummins is it. Even with stock fuel still in the mix (i.e. the factory Bosch CP3 injection pump and injectors), an S400-based turbo will light quickly.
Case in point, the box BorgWarner S467 in Jake Bosie’s ’12 Ram 2500 comes on line just a smidge later than the tiny VGT he replaced it with. Better yet, it didn’t take anything but optimized ECM tuning and a high-flow Steed Speed second-gen Cummins style exhaust manifold to get him there. The best part is that in switching to the bigger, fixed geometry S467, Jake sacrificed nothing. The truck is very responsive, gets used to commute to work and also haul a camper on a regular basis.
Ready to see some truly wild turbo combinations? You’ll find everything from triples to compounds to gigantic singles here!