Casey Jones, you'd better watch your speed
Whoever said "less is more" never climbed aboard the Cannonball Express. This 1-ton Dodge dualie knows that too much is just right. We're talking heavy-duty diesel here, and we don't mean Vin. How does 750 lb-ft of foot-stomping, turbocharged torque sound? Gotta drag a barge full of gravel? Need to yank down a condemned condo? This rig wouldn't even know they were back there. Just crack the throttle and you could yank the molars out of a rhino with this baby. It's King Kong on wheels, with more than 11 tons of towing capability. Hey, if this were our truck, we'd cruise around town just to find things to hook up to the trailer hitch so we could pull it through the neighborhood.
Just what sort of person goes for this big bruiser anyway? It's an ideal truck for the working man, perhaps for a tuna boat captain who needs to tow his vessel over a mountain range. All he'd have to do is hook up that fifth-wheel hitch and step on the throttle pedal. The possibilities are mind-boggling. Whatever the application or customer, DaimlerChrysler worked in conjunction with Performance West Group to fire off this Cannonball. Diesels are in - about 70 percent of all 1-ton dualies sold have one under the hood - and the Cannonball Express was the star of Dodge's display at this year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas, put on display in an effort to promote this new model, and to show the ultimate capabilities of this reliable platform. It seems that some uninformed people think diesels are dull, but that is certainly not the case on this rig.
Cummins pulled out all the stops in polished parts and pure performance to give the new-for-2003 5.9L 24-valve inline-six some massive mojo. Normally, the stock High Output Cummins Turbo Diesel cranks out 305 hp at 2,900 rpm, and 555 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. That's nothing to sneeze at, since this engine does regular duty on a wide variety of boats, motorhomes, and freightliners. But there's still a lot of torque left on the table, which is a diesel's strong suit, so with some deft software manipulation, Cummins ratcheted as much as 370 horses at 3,000 rpm, and an incredible blowout of 750 lb-ft at 1,800 rpm. That's more grunt than two gasoline engines combined. Also added to the engine bay were numerous dress-up items, including a polished aluminum intake manifold cover, inlet elbow, and throttle linkage bracket. The exhaust manifold, Holset turbocharger, and Jacobs E-Brake exhaust brake were Cermachromed. The exhaust manifold heat shield is made of polished stainless steel, and the thermostat housing, alternator bracket, fan and accessory pulleys, and Fleetguard oil filter were doused in chrome. Finishing off the engine are a billet oil fill cap and dipstick handle, and breather and throttle linkage covers that were painted to match the truck.
It's not all work and no play, though. For storing your toys or other heavy cargo out of sight, the Cannonball has a new type of electrically controlled E-Z Power Tonno bedcover from Webasto that retracts or closes in seconds with the push of a key fob button. The company claims the unit can be installed in about an hour without any drilling. The E-Z Power Tonno is constructed of automotive-grade vinyl, reinforced aluminum struts, heavy-duty dual motors, and an interior light for cargo bed illumination. In addition, the E-Z Power Tonno eliminates the pushing, pulling, and yanking that are sometimes experienced with traditional tonneau covers.
The truck looks good while doing its work, too. This workingman's rig has been muscled up with a brawny Xenon front fascia that juts out its lower jaw like The Rock in the WWF ring. Custom fender flares and hood louvers add to the Cannonball's imposing stance. It also struts with some high-rolling flash: Spectraflair liquid-metal Cold Rolled Steel paint, licked with ghost flames expertly applied by Mike Face Custom Paint. And you could hardly miss those 6-inch, chromed exhaust pipes from Gibson that blast out the Cannonball's presence with a commanding rumble. You not only hear this rig rolling into town, you'll feel it when the ground shakes. Check out the supersized rims, too. Oasis supplied 22-inch wheels wrapped with a one-of-a-kind set of custom-crafted Goodyear 37-inch tires (LT315/60R22). A whole forest of rubber trees had to be drained to make these bands.
To match the glittering metallic Spectraflair finish, Katzkin created custom upholstery that looks like machine-turned metal plating. The high-output turbodiesel engine is significantly quieter than previous Cummins, making it much easier to hear the Clarion entertainment system that was put in the truck's cab. It uses an 8-inch LCD flip-down screen. The Dodge is also equipped with Sirius Digital Satellite Radio.
The Cannonball Express rules with an iron hand, consuming massive chunks of asphalt with relish. It is a force to be reckoned with that can do whatever is asked of it, with little difficulty and a lot of gusto. We still haven't decided just what we'd like to do with this rig, with all that juicy torque on tap, just waiting to be exploited. We do know that there is quite a buzz around this truck, and that many people want to go for a ride. We'll try to get to all of them, just as soon as we're done pulling that condemned building off its foundation.