No Spark Innovations’ F-100 Powerstroke Diesel Swap
Losing a beloved vehicle in a wreck is never an easy thing to process. As long as there are no major injuries to worry about, the next step is to determine if anything is left to salvage from the wrecked vehicle. Most of us have been in this situation before, but only a slim percentage have been able to bounce back from it like Craig Grisolia of Stillman Valley, Illinois.
Craig had to deal with this exact scenario a few years back after his ’97 Ford F-250 was totaled in a crash. While there wasn’t much he wished to save in the way of body panels, wheels, tires, or anything like that, there was one piece that he was dead set on extracting to hopefully reuse sometime in the future.
“The only piece I wanted to pull from that truck was the 7.3L Powerstroke,” Craig says. “Luckily, I was able to save that diesel engine. Once I got it out, it was stored in my garage for a while until I finally found another use for it.”
Now, with Craig being a seasoned heavy-equipment mechanic as well as the owner of No Spark Innovations (NSI), a diesel-oriented service shop, it was only a matter of time before he was able to put his engine back to good use. With a great deal of experience under his belt, Craig began to think of a pickup project that would be interesting enough to build around the Powerstroke.
“I was starting to notice an overwhelming demand for older Ford pickups powered by legendary ’90s-era Ford diesel motors,” he states. “I wanted to test those waters, and I had the perfect ’64 F-100 to utilize for a swap.”
Before anything else was put in motion for the project, Craig began building up the Powerstroke with a fully balanced rotating assembly from Hypermax Engineering, as well as performing some head modifications. He also would have to design a new fuel system and configure new engine- and transmission-mount ideas along with developing a new product.
“During the build, I developed my first custom wiring harness, which will allow other users to swap a 7.3 into any vehicle they desire,” he says with pride. “It wasn’t too difficult to do, but it was nerve-racking getting it to run. Once the engine fired up, you can only imagine how stoked I was.”
With the Powerstroke swap well taken care of, Craig moved on to address the F-100’s upcoming chassis overhaul. The truck’s factory frame would not be utilized in the process. Instead, a 2000 Crown Vic full chassis was selected to help promote much better handling and ride quality. Since the F-100 was equipped with a longbed, the new frame had to be stretched 14 inches to accommodate it. Factory Ford springs were used up front, and a set of KYB coilovers were positioned in the rear.
“I do like how the setup sits and operates so far, and the 7.3 fit surprisingly well inside the Crown Vic chassis,” Craig adds. “The trans crossmember even accepted the mounting pattern of the ZF5 transmission we harvested from an ’88 Ford F-250. The rear suspension does need to be dialed in, though. I’m already planning to add a Hutch’s Welding 4-link to reduce some wheel hop issues the truck experienced at the track.”
MAKING IT ROAD WORTHY
To handle the truck’s contact with the road, Craig scored a set of pretty cool 18-inch XXR wheels on Facebook Marketplace of all places, and wrapped them in high-performance Nitto NT555 rubber. A combination of factory Crown Vic brakes, slotted rotors, and a reverse-mount Wilwood triple master cylinder setup provide the F-100 with supreme-level stopping power that will prove valuable on the road and at the track.
A slight issue soon surfaced when Craig began the process of putting the F-100 body onto the Crown Vic chassis.
“Mounting the 7.3 to the frame was surprisingly easy, but dropping the body onto the chassis with the engine mounted was difficult and time consuming,” Craig shares. “But it was nothing that couldn’t be done with some determination and patience.”
While he wasn’t overly concerned about anything much more than correct fitment, the Ford shell was largely left alone. The bed did have to be customized in order mate with the chassis, but Craig had already anticipated that part. An Outcast Autoworks rear roll pan was then added to the F-100’s façade, as was a custom orange patina finish by Joe Filek at Captain America Designs, which suits the truck perfectly.
Inside the cab, Craig looked to follow the same approach as the exterior with some very mild yet noticeable upgrades. The factory F-100 seat frame was reconditioned and expertly rewrapped in black vinyl upholstery by Riggs Bros Auto Tops and Interiors in St. Charles, Illinois. Next, an Edge CTS2 monitor was stealthily positioned underneath the factory speaker grille—it easily flips up when it’s time to drive. This allows Craig to monitor all the vital diesel engine data while still retaining the factory gauges, which still all properly function. To further promote optimum performance as well as continuing to hide key components in plain sight, a Hydra Chip has been tucked away inside of the ashtray.
MODEL FOR OTHERS
While a project like this isn’t outside of Craig’s wheelhouse, this particular Ford truck was a great learning experience and springboard into developing an important element for F-100 builders also looking to incorporate a 7.3L Powerstroke to their build.
“I believe the truck is one-of-a-kind, and I hope it helps others who want to build a diesel powered hot rod truck that handles like a modern car—that combo is hard to find, but it can be done,” Craig states.