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1928 Dodge Brothers Sedan - Rat Attack

This '28 Dodge Packs 700 HP Of Cummins Firepower

Jason Sands
Aug 1, 2009
Photographers: Jason Sands
Photo 2/17   |   1928 Dodge Brothers Sedan right Front Angle
"I wanted to build something wild and crazy and different," said Steve Darnell of Billings, Montana. "To me it's just too cool to take a vehicle that was designed to go 40 mph, and go 140 mph with it." While we may doubt Steve's sanity, we can't argue with his definition of cool. His diesel rat rod is one of the most unique diesel-powered rides to come down the pike in a while, and we're here to give you an in-depth look at this wild '28 Dodge Brothers sedan.
The project all began with a body. Steve found a mostly intact '28 Dodge shell that had been sitting in someone's yard for the last decade or so. After a short stint as a lawn ornament at his own residence, in late 2008 Steve bought some steel and started welding. The chassis was custom built by Steve and his friend Jake Scullen, who works as a fabricator. It's made out of 1 by 3-inch square tubing and features a chromoly rollcage that is certified for land speed racing at Bonneville.
With the frame and body in progress, it was time to get to work on the suspension, and here is where things get, uh, a little interesting. The front axle and spring that handle those 100-plus-mph speeds are out of a '29 Ford 1-ton dump truck. The rest of the wishbone suspension is all custom made, and Steve at least had enough sense to install some disc brakes, so he could bring his ratty rolling work of art to a quick stop if need be.
Now we'll get into what appeals to all you diesel fans out there--the drivetrain. A Cummins 12-valve engine was yanked out of Steve's pulling truck and installed in the rat rod, but not before it received a few upgrades. The engine was bored 0.080 over, and fitted with 14mm head and main studs. The head was also fire-ringed so it could withstand the 70 psi produced by the G&J Diesel-modified S300 and S400 turbos. The fuel side of the engine is handled by a custom set of Dynomite Diesel injectors and a Scheid-built P-pump. All this adds up to some of the most creative 698 rear-wheel horsepower we've ever seen. "On our first trial run, we had the boost cranked up to 105 psi on the dyno," says Steve. "But after it blew an intercooler boot and dented the body, we decided to tame it down a little bit."
Taming it down meant opening the S300's internal wastegate on the exhaust side to limit drive pressure, as well as installing a blow-off valve on the intake to limit boost pressure to the engine. Brad Makinen, owner of G&J Diesel and another co-conspirator in the project, just laughed when we asked about the blow-off valve. "It works for what we want it to do," says Brad. "And it looks really goofy there sitting on the front of the engine."
Moving on to the drivetrain, only the best parts were selected, due to the diesel engine's immense, 1,270 lb-ft of torque. A Coan-built TH400 Monster Truck transmission backs up the high-horsepower Cummins, while a custom-built Ford 9-inch rearend with 3.10 gears and 31-spline Moser axles gets the power to the ground.
While the rat rod was built specifically with "cool" in mind, it's still a multipurpose vehicle. Steve uses it as a grocery getter, runs it down the dragstrip (high 12s in the quarter-mile, letting off at half track), and even plans on taking it to Bonneville in a year or two to set some land speed records. For now, Steve's just happy with driving the wheels off of it, and hitting a few local car shows. "People just don't know what to make of it--it's great," he says with a grin.


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