The No-Prep Diesel: Ethan Patterson’s Game-Changing 1,500hp 4x4 Cummins
For more than 15 years, diesel drag racing has been a “thing,” but for most of that time it has largely existed in its own corner of the motorsport world. In simple terms, diesels racing other diesels. However, thanks to the rapid growth in the popularity of no-prep racing, diesel racers are slowly venturing out of the shadows and into the latest racing craze—and some are even proving that diesel is a viable option to win with.
After acquiring his Pro Street third-gen Ram as a rolling chassis, many assumed Ethan Patterson would be a regular at the diesel-centric events that take place across the eastern portion of the country each summer. But rather than simply joining the ranks of traditional diesel drag racing, Ethan has taken a liking to no-prep racing. “I love the challenge,” he said, also implying that being the outcast at these types of events is part of the driving force behind doing it. “The publicity alone is amazing and the crowd goes crazy for the truck.”
If Ethan wasn’t already hooked on the adrenaline rush that is heads-up, no-prep racing, he certainly was after cleaning house at the Thaw Out event held at Darlington Dragway back in February. There, he showed up with his 4,400-pound four-wheel drive Dodge and proceeded to win every race at the “back of the track” affair. As might’ve been predicted, the truck was both instantly loved and hated, depending on who you spoke with. In the meantime, Ethan walked away with $8,000 and a perma-grin. For all the inside details on his game-changing, 1,500-plus horsepower Cummins, keep scrolling.
Pro Street Roots
In a previous life, Ethan Patterson’s Dodge belonged to longtime friend, Jason Lewis. It’s based on a 2006 model year 3500 series Ram, which believe it or not, left the factory in dual rear wheel form. The initial build entailed transforming the dually into a Pro Street candidate and Ethan—performing much of the chassis and powertrain work at his West Lafayette, Indiana business, Wilson Patterson Diesel—played a large role in that process. By 2018 the truck was a solid Pro Street contender, capable of grabbing 1.3-second 60-foots and putting up 8.60s in the quarter-mile. Fittingly for the mid-8-second timeslips it was collecting, the truck carried the moniker “Purple Haze.” In the fall of 2019, Ethan acquired the truck as a rolling chassis and got to work making it his own.
Dry Block & Deck-Plated Cummins
At the heart of Ethan’s horsepower recipe you’ll find a common-rail Cummins from Pine Hill Auto. The 6.7L block gained rigidity by having its water jackets filled and a 1-inch deck-plate utilized up top. A 5-blade S485 Godfather from Stainless Diesel—a turbo that’s arguably the highest-performing S400-based BorgWarner in the diesel industry—handles boost production (64-psi) and rests on one of Stainless’s T6 competition exhaust manifolds, which accommodates dual 40mm external wastegates. A spooling stage of nitrous is used to bring the S485 to life while staging, with a 2,400-rpm stall Sun Coast converter also helping in the effort. The transmission, a 48RE four-speed, is chock-full of Sonnax parts, along with a Sun Coast E618 valve body and being equipped with a PCS 2800 stand-alone transmission controller.
More Functional Bling
Big air calls for big fuel and S&S Diesel Motorsport provides plenty of it for Ethan’s Cummins. Extensively-modified injectors fitted with 500-percent over nozzles take care of in-cylinder fuel delivery, while dual CP3 injection pumps maintain sufficient rail pressure. Both CP3’s are gear-driven (as is the Waterman Racing fuel supply pump) thanks to a billet front cover manufactured by D&J Precision Machine. The big I-6 Cummins takes its orders from a factory CM849 ECM that’s been treated to calibrating from CTT Tuning. Also notice the billet side-draft intake manifold, a trick piece from Fleece Performance Engineering.
Driveline-Saving Race Weight
While 4,400 pounds sounds heavy to traditional drag racers, Ethan’s Ram is roughly a ton and a half lighter than it was when it left Chrysler’s assembly line. Part of the weight stripping lies in the tube-chassis, suspension and interior changes, but a fiberglass front clip, bedsides, front bumper and doors help the cause as well. Dropping weight without sacrificing strength, a 9-inch—complete with an aluminum third member—sits in place of the rear AAM 1150 axle. While it can be hard to lighten up a diesel given their intended purpose of performing work, doing so greatly reduces the strain on the truck as a whole—and especially the transmission.
A Dominating Performance In Darlington
Back in February, Ethan and his team hauled the truck down to South Carolina’s Darlington Dragway for the much-hyped Thaw Out no-prep event. The racing was conducted on a rocky, aggregate surface that had never seen any type of horsepower. And while virtually every big tire car struggled to find traction or apply any significant amount of power to the track, Ethan’s four-wheel drive Dodge was in its element. Rocking a 29.5 at each corner, the truck hooked and led virtually every race from A to B. And with no reason to change anything, Ethan never even had to move away from the lowest horsepower tune in his arsenal. That weekend he walked away with the big tire class’s $8,000 pot—which was followed by a sizeable debate on social media as to whether or not AWD/4x4 vehicles should be allowed to compete in the Big Tire class at future events. The awesome night shot shown above comes courtesy of Ten5 Life.
Consistent Racing Begins In The Pits
For a 20-minute turnaround between rounds, this is how Ethan cools down his dry block Cummins. Using an oil extraction system supplied by Hot Shot’s Secret, hot oil is quickly pulled from the engine, and filtered down to 2 microns in the process. Then, replacement oil that’s literally been on ice in a cooler fills the crankcase back up. How well does it work? “When we’re done it’s like starting the engine cold,” Ethan laughed. “So far, in a half hour we’ve been able to get the block down to ambient temp.” With that process and many more race day preparations getting closer and closer to being perfected each time out, you can bank on Ethan and his game-changing diesel to continue to shake things up in the no-prep world all summer.
More From Driving Line
- When Ethan isn’t spending his nights racing no-prep, he’s helping the guys at Stainless Diesel set records in their Pro Street Dodge.