The FReak-O-Boost

Part 3: SEMA Ford F-150 EcoBoost FX4

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This article documents the transformation of our 2013 F-150 FX4 SEMA project from “EcoBoost’ to “FReakoBoost” !

EcoBoost (Before):

FReakoBoost (After):

Working with Ford Motor Company we brought together a team of OE quality Made in the USA partners, to assemble a comprehensive aftermarket build spec. Our objective was to amplify the Ford F-150 EcoBoost 3.5L V6’s best performance attributes without sacrificing durability, comfort or utility. Truck owners need a tough vehicle with multiple personalities: a fuel efficient family hauler/grocery-getter that can run 12s, powered by a torquey and fast responding powertrain that can effortlessly tow a heavy load up a steep grade. All of these mods must easily integrate as a system and be able to get installed in stages by EcoBoost enthusiasts in their home shop or driveway.  Every part we upgraded had these targets in mind and our focused approach using well-rounded high quality Made in the USA bolt-ons was a success.  Our debut at SEMA drew huge attention with fresh matte-finish paint (BASF paint applied by SlickShot in Phoenix, AZ) and the menacing Front Mount Intercooler behind the grille.

The project began in February 2010, when Ford engineers asked Full-Race to design prototype EFR turbo kits for the soon-to-be-released 3.5L V6 F-150 and 2.0L 4cyl EcoBoost engines. Full-Race received the test engines then built prototypes for Ford’s CFD (computational fluid dynamics) department to use for a thorough analysis and to calculate performance. On paper, the turbo kit delivered as promised, with our manifolds scoring a 96% on the gamma index (flow uniformity) and realizing full boost by ~2000rpm. We were given the green light to finish the turbo kits and get them ready to be put to the test in their engine-dyno room and prove real-world durability. The systems passed the testing and once finished, we put the engines and kits on display at BorgWarner’s 2010 SEMA and PRI booths – coinciding with Ford’s public debut of their EcoBoost engines.

Fast Forward to 2011 and Ford welcomes our idea to build an F-150 EcoBoost with top-tier aftermarket partners. The decision was made to Target SEMA 2012 with an updated 2013 F-150. Up until this point all work had been done on the bare engines and computers – finally we could turn all of this hard work and planning into reality!

Being a 2013 model that we needed to build and display in 2012, meant we would be receiving one of the first trucks made, and very close to the SEMA show. With deadlines looming, and considering our ambitous plans to upgrade all aspects of the vehicle (full color-change paint job, upgraded Twin-turbo kit, big brakes, upgraded suspension and increased fueling and data) – we got to work the minute the truck arrived!

Useful Links: The Ford Factory Service Information can be found here:Here

There is no other manual you can get with this level of detail – not Chiltons nor Haynes. This disc is filled with vast amounts of useful data – everything from torque specifications to fluid callouts and sensor info. If you have to install, remove or troubleshoot anything on your truck – this $170 investment is worth every penny and pays for itself the very first time! Full-Race buys these for every build we do, due to the massive time savings incurred.


Cat-Back Exhaust System

Anybody with experience on turbocharged engines can tell you the importance of a good flowing exhaust for more torque, increased HP and improved response. Equally important is a tough sound with clean exhaust note (no rasp!) and no cabin drone. Full-Race’s 3″ exhaust does just that: it’s silent at idle, stealthy at cruising rpms and has a throaty growl under boost and wide-open-throttle. 100% handmade in the USA from 3″ stainless steel, this mirror-polished catback has no drone or rasp associated with small displacement engines with oversized mufflers, while increasing flow compared to the highly restrictive stock 2.5″ exhaust.


Intercooler AKA CAC aka Charge Air Cooler

The next area we addressed is an easy bolt-on installation that’s important for any turbocharged vehicle: the addition of a high performance air-to-air intercooler. Also known as the CAC (charge air cooler), the stock unit is located below the radiator, in the lower front bumper. This stock ecoboost intercooler uses a thin aluminum intercooler core crimped to plastic endtanks. The design is low cost, easy to manufacture, and offers adequate cooling for the stock turbos. However high performance and larger turbos can over-work the stock core, causing intake air temperatures to rise and a corresponding loss in power. In addition, in high humidity the stock intercooler position can lead to condensation water building-up inside the stock cooler. Upon sudden acceleration and boost, this water can be introduced into the engine, causing a misfire event. Some drivers report that driving in boost consistently helps to keep the IC core up to temp and eliminates condensation from accumulating (read: floor it and use the boost!!)

The key component of any intercooler system is the “core”. With 70% more internal flow area, and over 1000cfm flow rate, our Full-Race intercooler is designed to maximize charge air cooling. We selected the bar and plate configuration with 10mm charge air and 10mm ambient air path (larger than the stock 6.5mm size) for <1psi pressure drop at 600+hp airflow levels. The F150 is a tough truck that will be subjected to work site and off-road abuse, so high strength and durability are mandatory. Our gussetted thickwall aluminum upper-bracket and hand made endtanks are expertly TIG welded in precise fixtures. We pressure test every intercooler to 50 psi on our test stand to ensure our customers never receive a leaking core (even small pinhole leaks can lose power). The lower support beam is hand-fabricated from high strength steel and powder coated black. Compatible with stock twin turbos and our EFR single turbo kit, or anything in between (V8 F150 centrifugal supercharger kits and some aftermarket turbo kits may work too). This intercooler has 3″ inlet / 3″ outlet and is available with AEM water/meth bungs on the cold pipe.

Click HERE to read our How to: Install a Ford EcoBoost F150 Intercooler / CAC Upgrade kit.


Winch

In addition to reduced charge air temps, Full-Race’s F-150 EcoBoost intercooler affords the ability to mount a winch or offroad prerunner bumper. In this case we wanted an understated OEM look and chose Rough Country’s F-150 V8 winch and bracket for an easy bolt-on installation. Designed to fit in the lower bumper cover’s opening, this was previously not compatible with EcoBoosts due to the stock low mounted CAC. With Full-Race’s intercooler in place the entire winch is hidden behind the front bumper with only the roller fairlead and tow hook visible. Be aware you will have to carefully wire the winch and ensure adequate clearance from shorting any +12V terminals to the metal intercooler


Cold Air Intake

Ford’s engineering team focused their efforts on designing a versatile airbox for the F-150 that works with 6.2L V8 and turbo 3.5L V6 applications. This simple OEM design efficiently filters and draws cool air from the front inner fender, into the turbo (not hot air from engine bay and radiator outflow). A simple upgrade is AEM’s drop-in panel filter

Increased Midrange TQ and HP gains are realized using (2) seperate filters, in a Cold-Air-Intake (CAI) airbox, which draws air from the front of the vehicle, behind the headlight (like the 2015+ F150.)


AEM Water/Methanol Injection System with Full-Race Bracket

Direct Injection means great performance, but also means we need additional fueling buffers for safely increasing boost. The limitations of the stock Fuel System are estimated around 450hp, (we will address the LPFP and HPFP later) so we wanted an easy to install and simple bolt-on solution for increased fueling: Water/methanol was the obvious choice. Popular for street turbo enthusiasts becuase water/meth effectively “intercools and increases the octane” at the same time, our partners at AEM were speed-dialed:

 

Using a simple progressive-rate pump and check valve + nozzle design, AEM’s proven 50-state legal Water/Meth Kit (for some light duty diesel trucks) uses a fluid level sensor and monitors for faults. If the water/meth senses a fault or a low fluid level, it gets wired to disconnect (interrupt) the boost controller circuit and keeps you at stock boost. Refill the tank, and the sensors will read fluid in the tank -> restart the car and full boost control returns. Plus, it has a built-in system test button for leak testing and priming.
The technology that really sets AEM apart from everyone else is in their controller and Water/Methanol FailSafe PN 30-3020. Using an inline flow sensor to log data, you can hook this up to many safety functions (we hooked it up to disconnect the boost controller) and an internal data logger. Very simple and easy to use – and very effective, it works best with Water/Meth Filter PN 30-3003 installed before the pump. Note: we will use 50/50 water/methanol for safety and to avoid any possible fire risk.  Some racers use straight methanol in this system with success – the materials can handle it just fine – but there is high fire risk associated with this and we do not recommend or use it in this way.
 
Full-Race’s Bracket locates the 5 gallon tank under the bed for a sleeper install with plenty of fluid in reserve. (some people may prefer to use their windsheild washer fluid tank, which requires refilling more often).

Programming and Monitoring the Engine: SCT X4

The stock EcoBoost computer is calibrated for the average soccer mom, not performance enthusiasts with souped up turbos. With extreme fuel pressure of 2150psi, the Direct Injectors’ precise tuning along with calibrated ignition timing vastly improve horsepower, torque and engine response. Gains of fuel efficiency (mpg) and firmer gear changes from the automatic transmission can also be realized. SCT offers many different levels of “plug-in tuners” – we use and recoomend the X4 power programmer. SCT LiveLink Software and Pro Racer software is available for end-user custom tuning and any our experienced dealer network can help with making sure all the right settings are in place for an optimized engine performance calibration. Full-Race’s twin turbo F-150 kit is tuned with this system as well as stock-based twin turbo F-150s.

The stock EcoBoost computer is calibrated for the average soccer mom, not performance enthusiasts with souped up turbos. With extreme fuel pressure of 2150psi, the Direct Injectors’ precise tuning along with calibrated ignition timing vastly improve horsepower, torque and engine response. Gains of fuel efficiency (mpg) and firmer gear changes from the automatic transmission can also be realized. SCT offers many different levels of “plug-in tuners” – we use and recoomend the X4 power programmer. SCT LiveLink Software and Pro Racer software is available for end-user custom tuning and any our experienced dealer network can help with making sure all the right settings are in place for an optimized engine performance calibration. Full-Race’s twin turbo F-150 kit is tuned with this system as well as stock-based twin turbo F-150s.

Paint: BASF and SlickShot in Phoenix, AZ

We had a tight deadline to meet for the SEMA show, and thankfully Sean @ SlickShot knows how to get it done perfectly and on time. This truck originally started out as a gloss metallic black, and was to become a matte-finish grey. Being a SEMA show truck it had to be flawless and this meant pulling the doors, lights, weatherstripping, bed, and of course the glass too. Down to the wire for time, Sean normally sprays “another brand” of paint and 1st time using BASF he was blown away how well it went down – zero runs/streaks and no problems to fix! This helped keep us on track and SlickShot even got the truck done earlier than scheduled – unheard of for a complete color change on a vehicle of this size.
 

Upgraded Suspension: Fox Shox 2.5″ Coil-overs

When moving at increased speeds on and off the pavement, properly valved coilovers make a massive improvement to stability, braking and acceleration. Fox Racing Shox is the OE supplier to Ford for the Raptor program, so Fox’s 2.5″ Coil-Over shocks were the obvious choice to let our stock-bodied FX4 suspension do work. Utilizing the same components from their offroad Trophy Truck race-winning shocks these come equipped with Eibach springs, Teflon lined spherical bearings, redundant sealing pack system (main seal, wiper seal, scraper seal) and custom spec’d shock oil, formulated for performance at varying temps. These bolt-in direct replacement dampers give a plush predictable ride under normal driving conditions but can instantly ramp up damping for off-road abuse. Front Coil-Overs are equipped with remote reservoirs using -10AN hose for inreased cooling capacity and consistent damping by adding 60% more damping area over the stock shocks

 

Brake Upgrade

Ford’s OEM F150 comes standard with a 2-piston floating caliper with rubber brake lines – plenty strong and effective for daily duties, but an 11second pass means we need to slow this 6000lb beast down from 110+mph so there is ample room for improvement. Everyone in the auto industry knows Baer makes legendary brakes for domestic vehicles – check out any of the cars at Ford’s SEMA booth and you’ll see Baer brakes all over, for a reason. Using a massive rotor with 6-piston monoblock caliper (designed for extreme duty applications) stopping a 6000lb truck like this is no big deal.

Note: 6-piston caliper requires 20″ Rim with adequate caliper clearance. Pro-Comp 7032 20×9 highly recommended!

Stainless steel brake lines provide precision brake modulation, especially during critical ‘threshold’ braking. Our DOT certified Brake Line kit improves braking performance and feel over the OEM rubber hoses for a quicker, firmer and more consistent stopping force. The improvement in pedal feel is dramatic on F-150 EcoBoost due to the long factory rubber brake lines – which can soften and swell over time. Full-Race brake lines were a perfect fit to our F150 and gave a huge improvement in brake feel over the stock rubber lines.

Editors Note: We have Brembos and stainless lines fitted to all our project cars and these lines made the Baer brakes feel amazing! Due to long lengths of the stock rubber brake lines, the flex in the lines was surprisingly apparent and immediately upon installing the braided stainless/kevlar brake hoses we noticed a huge improvement in pedal feel and braking performance.

Wheels and Tires

We reached out to Pro Comp USA for a set of 7032 wheels in 20″x9″ with a 6-lug on 135mm bolt pattern. These wheels from Pro Comp are unbelievably affordable, strong and lightweight, while providing a high quality and rugged look for the FReak-O-Boost.

The wheel/tire package is an important selection which can be hard to get just right!  So many sizes, widths, offsets, tread shapes, and compounds to choose from it may feel overwhelming. One rule of thumb for good looks and maximum traction on anything we modify: use the widest rims you can fit!  We also wanted the tire treads to look tough and have great traction, but equally important was long tread life and light weight.  Reducing unsprung mass and rotating inertia at the wheels/tires is the most important area and we already knew a 20″ diameter wheel/tire combo was required to clear our massive Baer brakes.   After spending hours upon hours scouring the inter-web we came across Procomp’s 7032 rims in 20″x9″ with a 6-lug on 135mm bolt pattern.  Unbelievably affordable, strong and lightweight these rims gave our project a high quality rugged look.
Toyo’s brand new Open Country AT-II weighs in at just 43lbs for the 33″ OD 275/60/R20.  Using their new compound with integrated tie bars and sipes gives a remarkably quiet ride with great traction in many conditions.  Toyo claims this new compound offers 40% increased treadlife – although smokey burnouts were not factored into this.  We chose to use only 1″ larger diameter tires (stock is 32″) to suit our 3.55 final drive. This was the lightest weight, largest and most ideal rim/tire package that fit our application perfectly. We did not choose 10-ply load range E tires because they increase rotating mass ~20+ lbs per tire and will eat up MPG and acceleration… when trying to make power for occasion visits to the drag strip ~80+lbs of rotating mass is huge.

Safety

 

Hurtling a 6000lb truck down the quarter mile is a whole lot safer when you’re securely strapped in. Schroth 2″ street harnesses can clip into the stock belts and remove like they were never there. SFI approved 3″ race harnesses available too.

Bolt-on Chassis Stiffeners and Frame Gussetts

Ford’s fully boxed 9th generation F-150 frame is a massive improvement in strength and rigidity over their competitors (part of the reason these trucks can haul so much weight!). As some hardcore F-150 and Raptor off-roaders have found, there is one area of weakness at the factory bumpstop location: a harsh bottom out on the bump stops can cause the frame to distort at this open area. SDHQ’s solution is a simple bolt-in gussett that fortifies the area to prevent any problems later

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Driveline

Full-Race has years of experience with high horsepower and big torque from turbocharged AWD powertrains like Evo, STi and GT-R… so when we considered the goals for this build we decided to start with the FX4 model. Standard with 4WD for maximum traction and 3.55 final drive for great mpg with high speed top end, there were questions here whether the reduced weight of a 2wd FX2 EcoBoost would go faster on the drag strip (since there are some very fast 4×2 EB’s out there!). Because these are lightweight rear end pickups unloaded – AWD launching on street tires VS RWD wheelspin was a simple choice for us and we stayed with the FX4.
Ford’s burly 6R80 transmission with BorgWarner’s beefy transfer case powers all 4 wheels through a giant aluminum rear driveshaft and CV style front driveshaft. This is another area we didn’t have to upgrade (yet). The 6R80 trans is BEEFY with plenty of aftermarket support if needed. BorgWarner’s transfer case is proven and unbelievably stout. The 1-piece 4″ diameter aluminum rear driveshaft is the same as we run on 1000+hp race cars and with the high strength CV-style front shaft, there is little cause for concern re: driveline problems on these trucks. One other big benefit of the FX package is the addition of the electric rear locker (more on this later).