Blast From the Past, Part 2: 5 Big HP Diesels From Yesterday

While our first wave of influential diesel drag racers is required reading for anyone wanting to become acquainted with diesel’s pavement pounding past, there’s a lot more where that came from. In fact, we would be remiss if we failed to mention the iconic Pro Street trucks campaigned by TS Performance, “Idaho” Rob Coddens, Meacham Evins and Brian Carter, along with diesel motorsports’ lone Funny Car, driven by John Robinson. So, we’re doing it here! The following vehicles represent a time in diesel drag racing’s adolescence when things got downright serious. Super Stock sled pulling engines making north of 1,200hp were being tried, the Duramax was coming into its own against all the Cummins competition and many of the sport’s top-running trucks could (and often were) still be driven on the street.

1. TS Performance: Caged Fury

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If you’re looking for a diesel history lesson, the ’01 Dodge Ram 2500 owned by Dennis Perry of TS Performance is a great place to start. Named “Caged Fury,” Perry and his team (which consisted of Kevin Meredith driving and Craig Colburn managing) initially campaigned the truck with a VP44 injection pump (a pump that’s not exactly the favorite in diesel motorsports) and did some pretty amazing things. In 2002, their ¾-ton Ram became the first diesel truck in the 12s. In 2003, it was the first into the 11s and then, in 2004, it ran an incredible 10.96-second quarter-mile to become (you guessed it) the first diesel truck in the 10s.

Mid-9 Quarters, Low-6 Eighths

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A few short years later, the engine had been P-pumped, fed a healthy dose of nitrous and managed a 10.02 at 139 mph. Then, a thumping P-pumped 24-valve 5.9L Cummins from Scheid Diesel was placed under the hood and—after compound turbos were added to the equation—the truck eventually put together a 9.48-second pass at 141 mph. In order to quell the inevitable spooling problems that arise when you’re trying to light a big set of compounds on the starting line, Caged Fury made use of a 48RE equipped with a hand-operated hydraulic clutch in its later years. After debuting the transmission in 2009, the result was consistent low-6-second eighth-miles at 5,850 pounds. The truck even clicked off a best of 5.78.

2. Rob Coddens: Maxed Out

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While many enthusiasts know Rob Coddens as “Idaho” Rob Coddens, a mastermind of EFI Live tuning, many others associate him with this bar-raising Duramax-powered ’02 GMC Sierra. Fittingly coined “Maxed Out,” the truck was built in 2008 as a joint venture between Coddens and Ken Flory and went on to set records and win titles in the NHRDA, namely in the organization’s Super Street category. By 2011, the 6,000-pound regular cab rocketed to a 9.36-second quarter-mile pass at 149 mph and later trapped as much as 154 mph through the 1320. Translation: 1,400hp+ was being applied to the track.

Built LBZ, Compounds & a Duraflite

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With much of the SoCal Diesel catalogue thrown at it, Coddens’ 6.6L Duramax benefited from Crower connecting rods, 15:1 compression forged-aluminum pistons, a Hamilton camshaft and SoCal Stage 2 cylinder heads. For fuel, Wicked Diesel supplied the twin CP3 injection pumps, while F1 Diesel supplied the largest Duramax injectors it could make at the time. Maximized Performance Inc. spec’d and built a compound turbo arrangement around the use of a Garrett GT4202 in the valley and a massive, 115mm atmospheric unit from Turbonetics out front. For the quickest shifts possible, the Allison 1000 was ditched in favor of a 47RE/Duraflite from Sun Coast. Both the engine (ECM) and transmission (via PCS stand alone controller) were fine-tuned by Coddens.

3. Brian Carter: 2003 Dodge Ram 3500

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A street-legal dualie that runs 10s? Heck yeah! The world first began to learn of Brian Carter and his ’03 Dodge Ram dualie in 2006 when he competed in the first-ever Diesel Power Challenge. After that, Carter became a regular on the diesel racing circuit, taking his four-door work-and-tow rig from the 12s, to the 11s and eventually into the 10s. In 2008, Carter also took part in Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week, where he scored the quickest quarter-mile ever ran by a diesel up to that time: a coasting, 11.17-second pass. When things got real serious, he pulled the duals in an effort to grace each end of the rear axle with its own massive drag radial.

Combating Curb Weight With Nitrous

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As you can imagine, being a dual rear wheel truck meant Carter’s Dodge was no featherweight. To make up for his extreme weight disadvantage, Carter fed an obscene amount of nitrous into his common-rail 5.9L Cummins. As a result of combining 1,200hp with 7,500-pounds worth of truck, he ate his way through a lot of transmissions. However, there was nothing quite like watching his dualie run neck-and-neck with two-wheel drive, back-halved trucks. While we believe Carter’s quickest quarter-mile pass was a 10.52, his fastest eighth-mile pass of 6.42 seconds at a blazing 117 mph indicates his truck was capable of running a 10-flat.

4. Meacham Evins: Franken-Cummins

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When Meacham Evins unveiled his Pro Street-prepped ’02 Dodge Ram 2500 at the 2008 TS Performance Outlaw Drag Race—complete with John Deere tractor injectors (fitted with Komotsu 8x25 nozzles), a Sigma injection pump and the biggest Turbonetics turbos anyone had ever seen—it was a true freak of nature. The wild parts combination was put into action by the likes of Van Haisley, Keating Shelly and Evins, and everyone was anxious to see it go down the track. From day one, traction was hard to come by with so much torque on tap. In fact, the truck’s first pass called for Evins to pedal it four times—and it still ran a mid-11. The pass after that, he achieved a much cleaner 10.31 at 128 mph. Evins’ best eighth-mile pass in the truck was a 6.26 at 116 mph.

Mechanical Monstrosity

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The Haisley Machine-built 24-valve under the hood of Evins' ’02 Dodge sported factory rods fitted with heavy-duty rod bolts, 11:1 compression pistons, fire-rings in both the head and block and a Haisley camshaft, rockers and pushrods. In addition to machining the head to accept the John Deere injectors, the factory intake was milled off and a ZZ Custom Fabrication side-draft intake was added (and later reinforced to handle the 110 psi of boost it saw). Shifts were made at 4,500 rpm and courtesy of a Chrysler 46/47 fitted with select Sun Coast, DTT and ATS parts (and later a Lenco), while a Dana 80, equipped with an SCS mini-spool, was bolted in place of the truck’s original Dana 70 out back.

5. John Robinson: The Funny Car

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This Funny Car wasn’t John Robinson’s first rodeo in diesel motorsports (he had already piloted a rail), but it was the first diesel-powered Funny Car. Starting with a used Top Fuel Funny Car from the John Force stable, Robinson saved himself a lot of chassis work and instead got started on the engine: a P-pumped common-rail 5.9L Cummins. Using a 5.9L common-rail block for its improved oiling abilities, Robinson threw in a set of 12-valve rods and 15.5:1 Mahle pistons, ported the head and fed it air via a ZZ Custom Fabrications intake manifold. Following a lot of custom work and the addition of a 12-valve front cover, a 13mm Industrial Injection P7100 handled fueling, while an 80mm turbo from Industrial Injection forced air through a Hellmann Performance intercooler.

Nothing Funny About It

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The 2008 TS Performance Outlaw Drag Race in Bowling Green, Kentucky marked the first public appearance for the Funny Car, and it began to run high 8s at nearly 150 mph at subsequent races. Along the way, Robinson garnered the attention of Power Service fuel additives and secure an enduring sponsorship that still exists today. With Power Service onboard, Robinson’s car was soon packing a compound turbo’d Scheid Diesel 12-valve under the hood. As a result, the Funny Car quickly waved goodbye to the 8s and ran mid-7s on a consistent basis. Then, after a wreck in 2013, the car was rebuilt with a McKinney chassis and ’48 Fiat body, fitted with one of Scheid’s billet-aluminum block engines and went as quick as 6.72 at 212 mph.

Want to see how diesel drag racing got here? We have a list of 5 pioneers in the early days of diesel drag racing.

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