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2002 Ram 2500: Darth Vader Dodge

900hp, VP44-equipped— and Virtually Indestructible

Jason Sands
Aug 1, 2012
Photographers: Jason Sands
Everybody knows drag racing and sled pulling are very hard on diesel trucks. However, not everyone knows how to make their torque-heavy diesels last under the duress of such activities. Not only is TJ Bauer one of those people who can make his truck work, he’s confident enough that he’s willing to drive for hours to local events without a trailer. Inspired by his gumption, we dove straight for our camera to take some pictures.
Photo 2/16   |   With a quick switch of wheels and tires, the Dodge can move from dragstrip to sled pull trim, all within the same day.
From the Ground Up: The Chassis
TJ spent a lot of time on a few components most skim over: the axles. He reasoned that driveline breakage is a common weak link in both drag racing and sled pulling, so he started where the rubber meets the road. The front axles were upgraded to 35-spline units from Pure Diesel Power, while the rear Dana 80 received a set of 37-spline Haisley Machine axles. Detroit Lockers are also found both fore and aft, as well as 3.54 gears. A set of owner-made traction bars keeps axlewrap to a minimum, which is very important for reliability. The final step for TJ was to install heavy-duty 1480 yokes and U-joints in the driveline.
Photo 3/16   |   darth Vader Dodge 2002 Dodge Ram 2500 Rear Three Quarter
The Transmission
The transmission couldn’t be any weaker than the rest of the drivetrain, so TJ went to one of the best in the business: Dave Goerend. Goerend Transmission outfitted the 47RE with stronger 48RE internals, as well as a constant-pressure valvebody. The valvebody is kept at 180 psi all the time to ensure clutches aren’t a weak point during spooling, or on and off the throttle. The transmission also features 300M input, output, and intermediate shafts and an 1,800-rpm-stall triple-disc converter.
The Engine
There’s a reason the entire truck was built to handle gobs of power and torque, and it’s the 903-rwhp and 1,630-lb-ft dyno sheet that makes the reason a bit clearer. The engine was completely rebuilt, with 0.020-inch-over pistons, as well as main stud and rod bolts from Pure Diesel Power. A Hamilton Cams 188/220-degree camshaft was used as well, along with 110-pound springs. The engine also features an owner-ported common-rail head, which helps flow more air and keeps boost pressures mellow. Up top, a set of ARP 625 studs and a fire-ringed head make sure the engine’s coolant stays put. Rounding out the potent package is an S466 turbo, Industrial Injection fuel system, and Nitrous Express nitrous system.
Photo 4/16   |   The engine in TJ’s ’02 Dodge has been completely rebuilt and makes approximately 700 rwhp on diesel only—and more than 900 hp once the nitrous has been activated.
Built to Drive
TJ isn’t scared to put his well-engineered setup to the test by driving three, four, or even five hours away from home to drag race or sled pull. With a best quarter-mile time of 11.90 seconds at 113 mph without nitrous and multiple sled pulls under his belt (not to mention 18 mpg), we’d say this Dodge is one tough competitor.


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