Oil-Burning Behemoths: 5 Diesel-Powered Monster Trucks You Need to See
We all love monster trucks, right? Bigfoot, Grave Digger, Maximum Destruction, you know the names. But what about the blown-alcohol competition’s long-lost brethren—the oil burning behemoths of both yesteryear and today? They do exist, you know. In fact, diesel power has held a presence (be it minimal) in the world of monster trucks ever since they were first contrived. For the lowdown on one of the first, check out Jeff Dane’s “King Kong,” a ’75 Ford High Boy with a Deuce and Half influence, below. Where would diesel performance be without the screaming Detroit two-strokes of the mid-to-late 20th century? Jim Oldaker campaigned one successfully in “Rollin’ Thunder,” his ’72 Dodge Tradesman van.
In what became the first diesel monster truck in the modern era, the Hushpower Dodge, a Cummins-propelled Ram driven by Dave Radzierez, blasted onto the scene in 2008. A few short years later, Radzierez would sign up to pilot an ’08 F-250 under the XDP nameplate, and currently drives a recently freshened up and re-powered version of it along the MTRA circuit, attending upward of 40 shows per year. Then we have the “BroDozer,” the Duramax creation driven by Dave Sparks (a.k.a. Heavy D) from the Discovery Channel’s Diesel Brothers TV show. It made a huge splash during its Monster Jam debut in the summer of 2018, performing well enough to land a fourth place finish in its respective free-style competition.
For the full scoop on each of the diesel-powered beasts mentioned above, keep scrolling.
1. King Kong
Around the same time Bob Chandler was planting the seeds for what would become the legendary Bigfoot franchise, Jeff Dane was busy building a colossal Ford of his own. At the time, and as is still common today for off-roaders, military surplus equipment was the most common means of obtaining the heavy-duty components required to survive what he planned to do with the truck. Therefore, five-ton Rockwell axles, a 2.5-ton Rockwell transfer-case, a six-speed Allison automatic transmission and an inline-six, turbocharged Continental diesel engine (rumored to displace 600 ci) were obtained, and the ’75 F-250’s body was sent skyward. A hydraulically operated tilt hood and bed were also eventually added.
The Exhibition King
You could justifiably consider the late ‘70s and early ‘80s the Triassic period for monster trucks, but while they were primitive in nature, these trucks proved to be effective multi-taskers. Case in point, Dane’s King Kong competed in various competitions such as mud bogging, sled pulling and tug o' war, in addition to the obvious car crushing spectacles that caught on like wildfire. In case King Kong needed to be freed from the bog or dislodged from a stubborn section of mangled metal, dual electric 8,000-pound, front-mounted Superwinches could be employed, if not the 45,000-pound Garwood PTO-driven winch in the rear. In the above photo, taken at Great Lakes Dragway in the summer of 1980, King Kong and Dane can be seen doing what they did best.
2. The Monster Van: Rollin’ Thunder
There is nothing quite like the sound of a two-stroke Detroit, and perhaps Jim Oldaker knew that before dropping one into his monster van, a ’72 Dodge Tradesman he fittingly named Rollin’ Thunder. While not the first diesel-powered monster truck, it was the first “monster van” on the scene. Primarily used to transport dirt bikes for motocross, the van accumulated 100,000 miles before the Redondo Beach, California native decided to convert it to four-wheel drive and eventually join the ranks of monster truck mania with something truly unique. You can see Oldaker’s Rollin’ Thunder in action on the famed “Battle of the Monster Trucks,” the first major monster truck event sanctioned by USHRA (the organization behind present day Monster Jam).
12-Feet High, 20,000 Pounds
Rollin’ Thunder was powered by a 1970 model 6V-71 Detroit diesel out of an abandoned industrial water truck—a 426 ci two-cycle V6 rated at 238hp. Surprisingly, it was backed by a five-speed Fuller, a manual transmission. The van body was spring-mounted to a truck body (because the one-piece van would’ve likely twisted in half), 66-inch tires were used to claw on top of cars and the rig sat 12 feet high. At what was rumored to be 20,000 pounds, Rollin’ Thunder was known for being one of the heaviest vehicles on the monster truck circuit. Despite the obvious hindrance of 10 tons of heft in a race, Oldaker’s bright orange behemoth arguably inflicted the most damage upon the cars it rolled over.
After years of being involved in the truck pulling game, Dave Radzierez piqued the interests of the powers that be at Flowmaster with an idea of building a Cummins-powered monster truck. Just half a year later, Radzierez found himself sitting behind the wheel of the first-ever 5.9L-propelled monster truck in 2008. Though obviously less audible than the blown-alcohol competition, the truck garnered attention through the plumes of black smoke and its ability to cause massive destruction during freestyle shows. The Hushpower monster truck (as many came to refer to it) sported a compound turbocharged 5.9L 24-valve that was fueled via P-pump.
Even bigger than the Cummins-powered Ram’s presence was the fact that it offered Radzierez and his sponsors a platform to thrust modern diesel performance in front of the masses. Unlike the days of old, the engine packed north of 1,000hp, and traditional monster truck fans accepted it immediately. Shortly after its debut, AirDog—a major player in aftermarket fuel supply systems—gained primary sponsorship of the truck and Radzierez continued to excel in freestyle competition. Though the Hushpower/AirDog truck was a step in the right direction, Radzierez’ next ride would bring him closer yet to competing with the blown-alcohol competition.
4. Xtreme Diesel Performance Enters the Game—and Changes It
Built in just 33 days in the rush for SEMA 2011, XDP’s Super Duty marked the beginning of a whole new path for both diesel-powered monster trucks and driver, Dave Radzierez. Aboard this ’08 F-250 bodied, Cummins-powered ride, Radzierez would see more freestyle competition success than he ever had, and also complete three (of three) successful backflips. This time, propulsion came in the form of a rock-solid reliable, compound turbo’d and P-pumped 12-valve Cummins pieced together by Mass Diesel. Thanks to the engine’s making somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500hp and with the help of an all-new, Patrick Enterprises Inc. chassis, this first version of XDP’s monster truck went where no other diesel-powered monster truck had gone before.
XDP II: An Indoor-Friendly 1,800HP
In 2017, the XDP monster truck was treated to several major changes, the biggest of which was the switch to a ’17 Ram body and a cleaner, more powerful Cummins. Now graced with a 6.7L-based engine with common-rail injection, the D&J Precision Machine-built Enforcer series engine brings 1,800hp to the table in a manner that is virtually smoke free. Already a household name at Monster Truck Racing Association (MTRA) outdoor events, the XDP truck’s newfound power and especially its clean-burning image will hopefully be the final catalyst in making it a regular along the Monster Jam circuit as well.
Blasting onto the Monster Jam scene last summer, hit TV show Diesel Brothers star Dave Sparks paraded this creation coined “BroDozer” in front of the masses. In an eye-opening performance for many, Sparks finished fourth in the freestyle competition, tenth place in the two-wheel skills challenge and also put up one of the quickest times during a racing practice session the day before the show. No matter which way you slice it, BroDozer looked impressive. Even better yet, the fans present in jam-packed Nissan Stadium loved what they saw. Although the engine would see 300-degree coolant temps during its inaugural performance, resulting damage was almost non-existent and easily rectified.
A Duramax With All the Right Stuff
About the engine… The BroDozer packs the first-ever Duramax to infiltrate the monster truck scene. Pieced together by one of the most renowned Duramax builders in the industry, Wagler Competition Products, the 6.6L sports a girdle, billet main caps, a Callies crank, billet Wagler rods and Ross pistons below the head gaskets, and a set of ported, LBZ-based head above them. S&S Diesel Motorsport 200-percent over injectors and dual 10mm CP3s provide the fuel and a compound turbo arrangement made up of two Precision chargers facilitates more than 1,100hp being realized. The potent 6.6L is backed by a Powerglide transmission.