The 650HP Daily Drivable Diesel Drag Truck
When you only live 20 minutes from Firepunk Diesel, the juggernaut shop behind the world’s fastest Pro Mod and Pro Street diesels, you’re bound to add a few go-fast goodies to your ¾-ton. Couple that with the fact that your closest friends are diesel drag racers and you’re handy with a wrench and you start to see why Trent Skinner, a 21-year-old Cummins mechanic from central Ohio, caught the diesel performance bug. Even though his ’06 Dodge Ram was built on a relatively tight budget, savvy parts hunting and turning his own wrenches yielded him a very well-rounded daily driver. At 650rwhp, Trent’s Dodge provides ample fun factor in his daily commute, serves as a drag racer on the weekends and can still be used to tow or haul anything he needs it to.
So how did Trent more than double the truck’s factory power level while keeping the 172,000-mile Ram reliable? While we won’t say it was easy, it didn’t require very much. It all starts with the robust, common-rail ISB 5.9L Cummins under the hood. Aside from the addition of head studs and larger injectors, the factory 325hp/610 lb-ft long-block has gone untouched. A direct bolt-in, factory-based turbocharger upgrade allowed Trent to avoid having to spend big bucks on a different charger and exhaust manifold. Then for utmost drivability, reliability and to glean the most power out of the stock injection pump, Trent had the truck tuned during one of his many visits to Firepunk. The biggest expense entailed having the 48RE transmission built to handle the added power—an inevitable part of campaigning a Chrysler automatic.
For the full scoop on Trent’s budget-built, 12-second third-gen Cummins, keep reading.
For 172,000 miles, Trent Skinner’s 5.9L Cummins has been doing what you would expect a Cummins to do: absorb all the power the owner throws at it without skipping a beat. Other than the valve cover being pulled in order to install head studs and replace the stock injectors with 60-percent over units from Exergy Performance, the seal has yet to be broken on the original long-block. The factory valve springs and push tubes still reside under the valve cover, and even a stock CP3 is being run, although a fresher (72,000-mile) pump sits in place of the original. With the factory fan clutch on its way out, and for essentially the same amount of money, Trent installed a Flex-a-Lite dual electric fan setup in its stead, which was probably good for freeing up a couple additional ponies.
Holding Down the Fort
To keep the 24-valve head anchored to the block with the engine producing 250 percent more power than it did when it left the factory, Trent ditched the OEM head bolts in favor of ARP 425 head studs. Instead of pulling the head, he replaced the head bolts with studs one at a time. This budget method of installing head studs has kept thousands of head gaskets alive over the years and saves time, labor and (of course) money.
Although Trent managed to make 515rwhp on the dyno with the stock Holset HE351CW turbo (and stock injectors) in the mix, he knew it would have to be upgraded if he wanted to push beyond that point. Turning to Tater Built Turbochargers & Machining, Trent decided on one of the company’s stock-appearing 67mm turbochargers for a direct, bolt-in replacement. As a result, the factory exhaust manifold could be left in place and Trent got the airflow he was after in complementing the 60-percent over injectors.
45 PSI of Boost
On the street, the Tater Built turbo builds 45 psi of boost, as measured by the Factory Match Auto Meter gauge shown above. With a 100-psi boost gauge sitting in the dual pod mounted along the A-pillar, we’re pretty sure Trent has plans to go bigger and better at some point in the future—possibly even adding a compound turbo arrangement.
Next Generation Fuel/Air Separation
Low-pressure fuel being supplied to the stock displacement CP3 begins with this AirDog II-4G system. It’s bolted along the outside of the frame rail under the driver side door and sends 12 psi of fuel pressure toward the CP3 at all times. Like the aforementioned Tater Built turbo and boost gauge, this mod also provides room for growth in the future, as it’s known to support up to 800rwhp.
Just to the left of the steering column lies a telltale sign that the truck has been tuned via EFI Live: the dial indicator of a CSP5 switch. Specifically, Firepunk Diesel created the ECM calibrations Trent runs on his 5.9L, and, thanks to their fine-tuning, the stock CP3 is able to maintain 24,000 psi worth of rail pressure on the hottest file in his arsenal. Although the truck hasn’t been on the chassis dyno recently, the kind of trap speed Trent sees at the drag strip indicates his Ram is applying roughly 650hp to the pavement.
When the stock transmission went south, Trent once again turned to the folks at Firepunk, this time for something they’ve specialized in since opening their doors: a built 48RE. Opting for a Competition Stage 1 build, a transmission that’s rated for 800hp, the track-ready four-speed has been fitted with a TCS Arizona billet input shaft, billet output shaft, Firepunk’s competition master clutch kit and high-pressure valvebody, an HD SFI-certified flex plate and is topped off with a billet, heavy-duty DPC triple disc converter.
Axle Wrap Delete
With 650rwhp and roughly 1,200 to 1,300 lb-ft of torque on tap, rear axle wrap would be a big issue if it weren’t for the traction bars found under Trent’s Dodge. Built by Firepunk, they employ weld-on mounts at both the frame and axle, and help the truck dig its way off the starting line during boosted, four-wheel drive launches. As for the rear AAM 1150 and front AAM 925, both are completely stock and equipped with factory 3.73 gears.
Nitto NT420S on 20s
To get him out of the hole and down the track (asphalt or dirt) as quickly as possible, Trent relies on Nitto NT420S tread. In running the 305/50R20 NT420Ss, Trent has less than $700 invested in tires, whereas a lot of truck owners end up with more than $1,100 wrapped up in all-terrain or mud tire combinations. Each NT420S has been fitted to a 20x12-inch 962 wheel from Moto Metal.
Optimum Traction on Any Surface
After asking Trent what he likes best about the NT420Ss, he said, “For what I use the truck for, they’re perfect. They hook up well on the track and, to be honest, they hook up just as good as an all terrain on the dirt.” He then added that he’d “buy another set in a heartbeat,” and that the price and ride comfort were hard to beat, too.
12 Second Bracket Racer
Tipping the scales at 7,100 pounds on race day, Trent’s Ram is no lightweight. But that doesn’t keep the full interior, full weight ¾-ton daily driver from running 12s at the track. After getting him to and from work all week, Trent regularly throws the truck in the E.T. Bracket category at diesel events or the Modified class at the dirt drags. With a best trap speed of 111 mph on pavement so far, by our calculations Trent’s budget-built Dodge is sending just over 650hp to the wheels. Even though he’s put together a solid all-around performer, Trent is quick to point out that none of it would’ve been possible without the help and support of his good friend, Isaac, his girlfriend, Kylie, and his family.