When Ford introduced the F-150 in 1997, the company took a big step towards modernizing their truck line with a more car-like appearance and plenty of convenience features. However, it wasn't until the release of the F-250/350 in 1999 that the Super Duty platform truly came to life. Ford sought to create a dedicated heavy-duty truck platform to cater to commercial buyers, and the all-new Super Duty was born. Along with a heavier-duty chassis and suspension, the Super Duty was equipped with a new 7.3L Powerstroke diesel engine, which became the industry standard for modern heavy-duty diesel pickups.
The 7.3L Powerstroke engine used a cast-iron block and a cast-iron cylinder head, providing long-term durability and reliability. Six head bolts were used at each cylinder, better securing the heads to the block. To improve performance, Ford added an intercooler to cool the compressed air from the turbo, increasing the horsepower potential of the engine while reducing exhaust gas temperatures (EGT). The cam-driven mechanical pump was replaced with an electric lift pump to provide better fuel system performance, and a wastegate was added to the upgraded Garrett turbocharger. Additionally, new higher flowing split-shot 140cc injectors were larger than the 120cc injectors used on previous generations and were also significantly quieter.
A new 17° swash plate High-Pressure Oil Pump (HPOP) was introduced, providing increased oil volume, better supporting performance modifications in the aftermarket. 1999-2000 trucks continued to utilize forged-steel connecting rods which were replaced by weaker powdered-metal rods from 2001-2003. Horsepower and torque were continually bumped up over the years, starting at an initial rating of 235 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque across the board and ending with a peak of 275 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque in the later manual transmission trucks.
New automatic and manual transmissions were also introduced for the Super Duty lineup. The transmission options available were the new 4R110 Automatic and the ZF S6-650 6-Speed Manual Transmission. However, like many older diesel truck offerings, the automatic transmission had its power limitations, especially when the power levels were raised.
The Ford Super Duty's 7.3L Powerstroke diesel engine was a true game-changer for the heavy-duty diesel pickup industry. It set the standard for modern diesel pickups with its long-lasting durability, reliability, and impressive towing capacity. Even though the 7.3L Powerstroke engine was eventually replaced by newer engine offerings, it remains a fan favorite among diesel enthusiasts, with a reputation for being one of the best engines ever built.