10th Anniversary Particulate Matters

Looking Back, Leaping Forward

Diesel Power Staff
Jun 12, 2015
Photographers: Diesel Power Archives
Every spring, for as long as I can remember (and eons before that, probably), conventional time in the United States has been getting “pushed ahead” by one hour, at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March (2 a.m. immediately becomes 3 a.m.). For some of us, this change to a space that’s better known as “Daylight Saving Time” supposedly takes away an hour of our sleep time, among other things (it doesn’t affect me at all—I get up at 3 a.m. no matter what “time” it is), and remains in effect until the top of November.
I believe the purpose of this whole “spring forward” deal—a concept that was supposedly cooked up by Benjamin Franklin, of all people (that guy thought of everything)—is to give us better opportunities to get more stuff done during a day, as DST figuratively moves an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. I don’t really know much more about the phenomenon beyond those basics, but I do know that if you’re not careful, missing the dates and times of the transition can put your daily schedule deep in the woods.
The spring-forward concept’s equal-but-opposite counterpart in the fall gives us the hour back. A lot of us look forward to this return to “Standard Time,” mainly for the extension it puts on our nightly slumber.
Let the record show that the whole springing-ahead idea took a new meaning in March 2015. Why? How? Well, if you haven’t already deduced, there’s something a little different about this issue, and it might be just a bit more “special” than previous editions of the magazine. Let me tell you, it really is. This month, we proudly celebrate 10 YEARS of Diesel Power magazine, and we’re doing it with the launch of a slick, new look—from cover to cover.
The magazine’s redesign is the awesome result of the collaborative efforts of TEN’s EVP, Chief Creative Officer Alan Alpanian, Diesel Power Art Director Mark Snyder, Motor Trend Creative Director Alan Muir, and Truck Trend Art Director Andy Mock. Together, the trio has given us a long-overdue, cleaner, fresher appearance that’s—in my humble and biased opinion—a lot more in tune with the new era of diesel performance, as well as the rigs we feature. I’m really excited about the makeover, because it will forever represent our strong move into another decade, which is happening while I’m at the helm.
As a still relatively new member of the team, I know many other great things have happened to, for, in, and by Diesel Power in the 10 years before me. So, as part of our observance of this anniversary, I’ve asked several of the magazine’s pioneers to contribute to this extended version of my column by sharing their memories, insights, anecdotes, and thoughts about the brand and the diesel hobby from 2004 to present.
I really hope you all enjoy this special issue (and maybe consider it a “collectible”) and our look back at some of the magazine’s and the diesel lifestyle’s history, as Diesel Power leaps ahead into its next decade with a brand-new look and my confidence that there are a lot more good things in store for and from “The World’s Largest Diesel Magazine.”
Photo 2/16   |   Kj Jones
KJ Jones (Editor, July 2014 – Present):
As the person with the shortest tenure at Diesel Power thus far, I can’t say I’ve had much personal involvement with any landmark happenings for the magazine or the diesel scene, save for making a few content calls that in the past might’ve been considered unconventional for this book (presenting the rolling coal debate head-on or dedicating the majority of an issue to the annual SEMA Show—both as cover stories) and witnessing the public unveiling of Nissan’s Cummins-powered ’16 Titan XD diesel at the North American International Auto Show in January…if that even counts.
However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t watched the things this group has been doing in the last decade. While I won’t claim to have been a “loyal” reader, I would occasionally pick up a copy of the magazine and give it a once-over, especially if its cover indicated there was Ford 7.3L Power Stroke content inside that issue.
Having just purchased Big White in 2005, I considered myself kind of lucky that I worked for a company that had this type of magazine and enjoyed the thought that as a fellow employee (Diesel Power and the mag I worked for are both part of the same family) I had a direct connection to the diesel experts if and when I had questions about my ’95 F-350.
While I didn’t ask too many questions (of course, I asked: “What can I do to give my truck’s 7.3L more power?!” And I also quizzed the experts about using propane as a power-adder, which was the “in thing” at that time), I did meet then-Editor David Kennedy and, ironically, I had my first professional reunion with DP’s own Trevor Reed. You see, this isn’t my first go-round with our staff editor.
Trevor and I were teammates at www.Edmunds.com back in 2000, and we lost track of each other after both of us left that company—him before me. So, you can imagine my surprise when I walked onto the “truck floor” at Primedia (TEN’s former incarnation) for the first time and saw Trevor was on Diesel Power’s staff! Despite the fact that we worked for different magazines, we still reconnected. I thought that was pretty cool…until he once again fell off the radar in 2008.
Who had any idea that in 2014 Trevor would come back to Diesel Power as a full-time staff editor (I learned that although he had taken a break from the regular grind, he still supported the magazine as a freelancer during that 6-year timeframe), or that I would move up through the ranks at TEN and become the magazine’s editor?!
I certainly didn’t foresee any of this happening. But our reunion as coworkers and friends throughout the 10 years makes me very happy, and I truly am looking forward to all of us having many more successful years ahead.
Steve VonSeggern
“The Father of Diesel Power” (Advertising Director/General Manager, 2004 – Present):
During the summer of 2004, we were having some success with themed sections that were inserted or bagged with the parent magazines on the newsstand. We would create a 20-page buyer’s guide, sell ads for it, and then add it to whichever magazine had similar content.
Photo 3/16   |   Steve Vonseggern
We had done inserts for suspensions, wheels, tires, calendars, SEMA guides, whatever we thought we could sell ads into. I had been pondering the idea of making a diesel-themed buyer’s guide for a long time, but I couldn’t find the time to sit down and work out the details. We thought we were already garnering all the possible diesel advertisers in our existing truck enthusiast magazines, so there wasn’t much thought or time put into finding more.
When I finally did some research, I stumbled onto Turbo Diesel Register and Power Stroke Registry, which were full of ads I’d never seen before, but these titles were not for sale in any store. I could see from our contact management system that all the manufacturers had contacted us in the past for advertising information but never bought an ad. By this time, I realized there was huge demand for a magazine on the subject—not just a buyer’s guide—and I sent the following email to my superiors:
From: VonSeggern, Steve Sent: Friday, September 17, 2004 10:52 AM To: Hoeck, Robert Subject: Diesel Power!
Hi,
I have a great idea for an SIP called Diesel Power! (we can use one of Truckin’ SUV’s bi-pads for 2005).
The market for aftermarket upgrades for Ford Power Strokes, Dodge Cummins, and Chevy Duramax engines is exploding, and none of the manufacturers have a magazine to advertise in. We already have a relationship with most of these companies because they run scattered ad schedules in all the truck books.
This would be a great way to get more ad revenue into our group for 2005.
I propose we have an art director create a mock cover, build a 1-page sell sheet, and go pitch it.
Steve VonSeggern
Advertising Director, Off-Road Group
So, we had a meeting, approval was secured immediately (amazingly, nobody challenged the name), and we went to the SEMA Show that fall with a 1-page “sell sheet” to pitch the idea. We were blown away by the response and were able to secure more than $50,000 in advertising for the first issue.
What I didn’t expect was the circulation success. We were flooded with subscription request calls as soon as the first issue hit newsstands. Barnes & Noble even reordered copies of that first issue because the chain had sold out.
Diesel Power quickly became the best-selling truck magazine on the newsstands and later went on to be the Number 2 selling magazine (at the newsstand) for TEN, and the Number 1 automotive seller at Walmart.
Since the launch, I’ve gone from advertising director of two magazines to general manager of a group with eight truck-enthusiast magazines and associated websites, events, and video channels here at TEN.
“What I didn’t expect was the circulation success. We were flooded with subscription request calls as soon as the first issue hit newsstands. Barnes & Noble even reordered copies of that first issue because the chain had sold out.”
David Kennedy (Editor, 2005 – 2012):
In the late ’90s, there was an interesting trend: rather than have a ½-ton pickup— real truck owners drove ¾- or 1-tons with eight-lug wheels. Owning these trucks and SUVs meant access to larger engines, stronger transmissions, heavy-duty axles, and massive cooling systems. Though we may not have realized it at the time, what many of us did with those vehicles was turn them into hot rods. By basing our builds on tow rigs, we could still use them every day, they were durable, and you couldn’t really outgrow them—unlike other kinds of hot rods.
Photo 6/16   |   David Kennedy, now Hot Rod editor.
Fuel was relatively cheap in the early ’00s, and at the time there were almost no diesel emissions regulations that restricted what enthusiasts or the aftermarket did. For the first time since the turbocharger was fit to the Buick Grand National, the performance market had vehicles it could sell chips and tunes for that actually made a noticeable increase in the engine’s power. Our laptops came out and our tools stayed in the toolbox—and modifying diesel trucks was easy.
As performance improved, our trailer hitches were used just as much for sled pulling as they were for trailer towing, and more time was spent on the track. Traditional dragstrips were witness to turbo-spooling times and four-wheel-drive launches that laid waste to Mustangs and Camaros.
I became exposed to diesel performance through Bryan Kinney, who was known as “Psychostroker” online. He had a 7.3L Power Stroke in a Super Duty that made 500 hp, and I couldn’t even comprehend that. Remember, at the time, diesel guys were still proud of their torque—and horsepower numbers were rarely spoken about.
After meeting Bryan, I witnessed all the tricks and technologies he was driven to innovate, as he says, “to prove the Fords could run with the Dodges.” In 2001, he was creating his own intake plenums, high-pressure oil systems, and regulated-return fuel systems, and working with Steve Cole of TTS Power Systems on new calibrations every week.
Diesel Power Challenge
The idea for Diesel Power Challenge came from seeing trucks like Bryan’s—vehicles that were purchased for utility purposes and evolved into pseudo-competition rigs that could still be driven on the street. All these years later, I still maintain the best hot rods and performance vehicles are machines that win in competition but can still be driven home equipped with a license plate. These vehicles gave way to the idea of a Diesel Power Challenge, essentially an Olympics for diesel trucks.
Photo 7/16   |   Bryan Kinney’s 2000 Ford F-350 was the first diesel I’d ever seen make 500 hp. It was the motivation for what a Diesel Power Challenge event should be—and allowed me to see grassroots hot-rodding first hand.
Thanks to a horsepower war that was being waged by Ford, Dodge, and Chevy, all three trucks and engines seemed to offer their advantages in our Diesel Power Challenge event. So it was a surprise when Nick D’Amico’s Duramax truck won the first event and Micheal (it is “ea”) Tomac’s Duramax truck won the second event.
I had known Nick D’Amico personally and was impressed by his efforts— but it was Micheal’s winning combination and discipline that I’ve always wanted to emulate ever since—as he made the competition look easy. Micheal showed up to the second Diesel Power Challenge in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with his LB7 Duramax truck from Michigan and a crew of his wife and newborn child. Micheal came back the following year (alone) to defend his title in Utah—a feat no one has been able to repeat since.
After the second Diesel Power Challenge, I asked Micheal, “Are you surprised the Cummins guys haven’t been more successful at the Challenge?” He answered, “I thought the Cummins guys should have given the Duramaxes a bigger challenge. I think I could win the Challenge with a Dodge.” When I asked him, “Could a Ford ever win the event?” he said, “Man, I don’t know if I could win it in a Ford.”
Technology
In the car and truck guy world, diesel is thought to be both old and new at the same time. Diesel injection is arguably as old as the carburetor; yet modern direct-injection common-rail diesels are still more advanced than even their direct-injection gasoline counterparts.
Photo 8/16   |   Let no one tell you otherwise, what you do with diesels is hot-rodding.
While I’m convinced the diesel and gas engine architectures are headed toward a singularity, I still think the gasoline guys can learn a lot from what the diesel industry has been through in the last 10 years. I once wrote in these pages that emissions regulations have driven every performance technology we like about our diesel engines: direct injection, turbocharging, intercooling, four valves per cylinder, variable-geometry turbos, common-rail injection, and compound turbos. Diesel guys took those technologies, mastered them, and extracted incredible performance. I ask that you keep working on that mastery and share what you’ve learned—especially with the hot rod world.
Sean P. Holman (Editor, 2012 – 2014/Network Content Director, 2014 – Present):
At the time of Diesel Power’s inception, I was an associate editor for our company’s largest truck magazine, Truckin’, and its sister publication, the now-defunct Truckin’s SUV Performance. One of my jobs at the time was to put together vehicle comparisons, and I had just completed a Big Three ¾-ton diesel shootout between the Ford Super Duty F-250, GMC Sierra 2500HD, and Dodge Ram 2500, in which we declared the F-250 to be our Truckin’ winner.
Photo 9/16   |   Sean Holman
Diesel Power’s first editor, Carl Calvert, also happened to be one of my supervisors, splitting time between the editor chair at Truckin’s SUV Performance and performing managing editor duties at Truckin’. With Carl being tasked to put together the very first issue of Diesel Power, he chose my shootout as one of the anchor stories for Steve VonSeggern’s new magazine concept, making me one of the very first contributing editors to Diesel Power.
Throughout my professional career, Diesel Power has always followed me. In fact, not long after my promotion to the technical editor job at Four Wheeler magazine, I was approached to gauge my interest in becoming the new editor of Diesel Power upon Carl’s retirement. At the time, I didn’t feel I was ready to take over the chair at such a big magazine, so I decided to stay put and decline the opportunity.
As it turned out, my good friend David Kennedy, then the technical editor at Petersen’s 4-Wheel and Off-Road, was tapped to take over Diesel Power, and I couldn’t have been happier for him. In fact, I don’t think Diesel Power would be where it is today without the guidance, passion, and innovation David exhibited during his tenure.
My career and Diesel Power finally collided in 2012 when David was being eyed for the publisher job but needed to ensure his replacement was selected in order to make any transition as smooth as possible. After a few causal conversations, followed by some more serious ones, management signed off on the moves and David and I were placed in our new positions. With a friendship and mutual respect that defined our working relationship, David and I accomplished quite a bit as a team at Diesel Power, with this time period ranking as one of the favorites in my professional life to this day.
Photo 10/16   |   Rise Of Ram Cover
From being part of Diesel Power since the very first issue and following its upward trajectory to taking over the editor’s role, Diesel Power has always felt like home to me. Fortunately, a solid and knowledgeable staff constantly surrounded me. During my time in the chair, we said goodbye to some of our favorite editors, while also adding new voices, such as Jason Gonderman and Trevor Reed (again). The importance of having a stint at Diesel Power cannot be understated, as many staffers have moved on with promotions (myself to the network content director role, David Kennedy to the editor of Hot Rod, and Jason Gonderman to the editor of Truck Trend, to name just a few examples) or used their time at the magazine as building blocks to their current success.
Some of my favorite “wins” during my time were tweaking Diesel Power Challenge into a truly world-class event, being the first magazine to market with the 30,000-pound-towing-capable Ram 3500 on the cover (January ’13—still our best- selling issue of this time period), and breaking the information on the ’15 Ford F-450, also on the cover. Additionally, we took some risks, including a primarily Cummins issue (January ’14) that paid off big. I also made it a point to reengage the readership, really listening to your voices and what you wanted, while trying to personally answer every one of your emails.
Today, Diesel Power remains an industry leader and our company’s most successful truck title. I am still very much involved, now overseeing the print, web, digital, and social content for it and four of our other truck brands.
So far, it has been an amazing journey, and Diesel Power is a big part of why I have the best job in the world. Looking back and being able to say I helped launch a magazine that became successful and is still thriving 10 years later is something few can say and is a source of pride for others contributing to this story, as well as for myself. While I can’t tell you what the future will hold, I know I’ve left you in great hands with KJ and the current staff—and I know the next chapter of Diesel Power will be one good read.
Jason Gonderman (Digital Editor, 2006 – 2012 Feature Editor, 2012 – 2014 Interim Editor, 2014):
Being able to celebrate Diesel Power’s 10th anniversary means a lot to me. I started with the company in the summer of 2006, exactly one year after the launch of Diesel Power. This was right at the time when the magazine went from being just someone’s cool idea to a full-fledged, 12-issues-per-year magazine.
Photo 11/16   |   The Sprinter van, somewhere in the New Mexico desert. Foil hats are a must when venturing deep into such unknown regions, and there’s no rule that says they can’t be stylish. Jason Sands (left), John Cappa (center), Jason Gonderman (right).
I was young at the time and very new to the publishing industry. So you can imagine my excitement when the first business trip I would be assigned to go on was Diesel Power Challenge. In DPC’s inaugural year, there were two events: DPC West in California, and DPC East in Kentucky. I was at DPC East. After that, I went on to attend eight out of the next ten Challenges.
My time at Diesel Power wasn’t completely spent as a writer. In fact, most of my tenure was spent managing our website, www.DieselPowerMag.com. From 2006 until 2012, I was the man behind the curtain pulling all the levers— editorially, anyway. I likely published any story that you read online during this time period, and the blogs were often written by me. Message forum and Readers’ Rides moderator? Yup, I did those jobs, too. It was a good time; I got out to attend races, test vehicles, and see some cool stuff.
In late 2012, I made the jump from the digital side to the editorial team when I took over the position of feature editor, which was left open with the departure of Jason Thompson. You see, at the time there was a two-Jason minimum at Diesel Power, so with Jason Sands being the only one left, we needed to act fast to restore the balance of the universe. Or something like that.
Then, in 2014, I spent a quick two issues as the magazine’s interim editor, tidying things up and getting the ship ready to hand over to the confident hands of her current leader, KJ Jones. It was at this point that I moved on to forge my own course, guiding Diesel Power’s sister publication, Truck Trend.
Photo 12/16   |   The Sprinter van, somewhere in the New Mexico desert. Foil hats are a must when venturing deep into such unknown regions, and there’s no rule that says they can’t be stylish. Jason Sands (left), John Cappa (center), Jason Gonderman (right).
Fortunately for me, it wasn’t a very far move. I still sit at my same old desk and still interact with the full staff of Diesel Power almost every day—or at least when we’re all in the office at the same time. This definitely made the transition from what I knew as normal for eight years a bit easier. And you better believe, God willing, you’ll still find me at every Diesel Power Challenge until they lock me out.
I have some great memories in those eight years with the team, and probably one of the most remarkable has to be the Area 51 Road Trip. It was 2007 and then-Editor David Kennedy had the brilliant idea to cram five of us into the new Dodge Sprinter, which was powered by a 3.0L diesel engine, and head off in search of aliens. We spent four days crisscrossing the California and Nevada deserts, stopping at military installations, government research and development centers, and any place that looked like it might hold the key to extraterrestrials and secret military aircraft.
The reality was that we all knew we weren’t going to find anything, but that didn’t matter. We eventually off-roaded the two-wheel-drive Sprinter deep into the desert where three of us five knuckleheads hiked up a hill to catch a glimpse of the mysterious patch of heavily guarded dirt in the middle of nowhere. It was glorious, and fortunately none of us died (it was 126 degrees in Death Valley, which sent the Sprinter into limp mode) and no one ended up in jail—though not for lack of trying.
Fast-forward six years, and it was time for another road trip. This time I was the one behind the lunacy. In what would have to be my other all-time-favorite memory from my time spent at Diesel Power, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to buy a very rare ’86 Ford Ranger, equipped with a factory 2.3L turbodiesel engine, sight unseen. And that wasn’t the crazy part. I then (somehow) convinced my innocent father to drive this thing with me, 1,700 miles from a field in Kansas back to California.
What was planned as a three-day trip quickly turned into a six-day ordeal. Fortunately, the truck actually existed, the seller had the pink slip, and it did run and drive. After boarding a 5 a.m. flight in Los Angeles, we had the truck in our possession by dinner time…and on the back of a tow truck by dark.
Two new brake calipers later and we were on the road, already a day behind schedule. However, someone was looking out for us that day, as leaving late kept us out of the path of the record EF5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20, 2013. We would have been right in the middle of it otherwise.
The rest of the trip was filled with the usual calamity, but we came prepared. I had shipped boxes of parts and manuals ahead of us and carried on my 50-pound luggage limit in tools, which were immediately searched by TSA. I guess people don’t fly with a toolbox these days, but I digress.
Thankfully, the plucky diesel made the trek and got us home safely before deciding to puke its radiator all over the DMV parking lot. After that, I did a little work to it and drove it around for a while. It now sits in the yard waiting on whatever is next. And no, it’s still not for sale.
It’s been an incredible ride for me at Diesel Power. I’ve seen a lot of change, most of it for good, some not as much. But, as with everything in life, times change, people move on, and we need to continually evolve if we want to succeed. Diesel Power is headed in a great direction, with a phenomenal staff, in an industry that is still growing at an incredible pace. I truly can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring!
Trevor Reed (Staff Editor, 2006 – 2008 Freelance Contributor, 2008 – 2014 Staff Editor, 2014 – Present):
I got my first chance to work for Diesel Power back in 2006 as it quickly grew into a thick monthly magazine after becoming a breakout hit during its experimental first year. At the time, I was working as an online editor for the company and used every passing in the hallways as an excuse to bug the new editor, David Kennedy, for a spot on his team. After a while, it worked, and I was blown away by what I saw while covering the sport. I had always liked trucks and torque, but this was ridiculous in all of the right ways.
Photo 13/16   |   The USS Dolphin was the last diesel submarine in the U.S. fleet.
During the mid-’00s, right off the dealer lots, diesel trucks were making more than 650 lb-ft of torque, and it wasn’t hard for owners to add a programmer (or two stacked together) and double that output with just the twist of a dial. It was also like the Wild West when it came to the lack of emissions controls and enforcement of laws. At the time, diesels were your only choice to avoid the smog test police in many states unless you had a classic car or truck from 1975 or before. As long as drivers didn’t roll coal in public, chances were good they would never have to pop their hood for an official inspection.
That began to change once emissions laws became strict enough to require the use of cooled exhaust gas recirculation and diesel particulate filters. My first experience driving a DPF-equipped truck was while testing out the LMM Duramax-powered ’07 Chevrolet 2500HD that came with the new GMT900 platform. Although the first cutaway we saw of the DPF looked impossibly restrictive, the truck performed seamlessly. You could feel every bit of the 660 lb-ft of torque as it ran the quarter-mile in 15.429 seconds, and there wasn’t a wisp of smoke coming out of the funky “bazooka” tailpipe. This gave us a lot of hope for the future that would inevitably include more restrictive emissions laws.
Photo 14/16   |   Saliors enjoy a meal in the sub’s mess as Diesel Power’s former copy editor, Phil McRae (green shirt), looks on. Phil is now managing editor of Hot Rod magazine.
Now, all the diesel engines of the Big Three manufacturers are saddled with diesel exhaust fluid injection systems, but the stock power and torque levels continue to climb each year. The current king of the torque hill is the 6.7L Cummins, with up to 865 lb-ft, while the horsepower crown is worn by Ford’s 6.7L Power Stroke, which makes 440 hp—and we’ve been told the upcoming generation of Duramax engines will be “very impressive.” Although the EPA has seriously cracked down on “emissions deletes,” we still believe the hobby of modifying diesel trucks is going to continue to grow.
Just imagine watching an emissions-legal truck pull off a 10-second (or quicker) quarter-mile time without producing smoke—we think that could happen in the near future. In fact, with the aftermarket embracing emissions-compliant ideas such as water-methanol injection and high-flow performance DPFs, diesel-based racing and pulling could possibly evolve into the cleanest of all motorsports.
Photo 15/16   |   Twenty-four hours at a truck stop with (left to right) Editor David Kennedy, Art Director Mark Snyder, JP and Four Wheeler Editor John Cappa, and Staff Editor Trevor Reed. John Cappa always seemed to wind up going on these types of excursions.
While it’s bound to be more complicated to make big power with diesel in the coming years, we think it’s going to be exciting to watch as people innovate and find new ways to advance the engines, vehicles, and lifestyle we’ve all come to love.
Some of my favorite memories from my time with Diesel Power include getting a tour of the last diesel-powered submarine in the U.S. Navy fleet, the USS Dolphin (AGSS-555); attempting to spend 24 hours at a truck stop in a Dodge Ram; witnessing the evolution of the Diesel Power Challenge; and watching the 5.0L Cummins V-8 transform from a government research project into a powerplant for the ’16 Nissan Titan XD.
Jason Sands (Staff Editor, 2006 – 2014 Freelance Contributor, 2014 – Present):
It’s been a long time since I first started writing for Diesel Power magazine, and before then I was a reader. After I left the magazine, I continued to freelance, a task I enjoy to this day. I always considered myself the low-buck guy, a down-to-earth dude, and a true enthusiast to the core. The fact that I ended up with the two highest-horsepower project trucks (601 hp for Triple Threat and 972 hp [somehow] for Rust Bucket) just reaffirmed my belief in living diesel performance—not just writing about it. I am proud to have the only World Record (that I know of) for any magazine in the company, with the 141.998-mph trailer tow.
Photo 16/16   |   Jason Sands checks out a diesel dragster as his fan base looks on.
But, I get bored talking about myself. I really got into this gig to try and promote all the wicked rides everyone else is building across the nation. I don’t have the money for 2,500 hp or to build a $100,000 one-off show truck, but other people do—and those are always the projects I’ve tried to seek out. Still, the lifeblood of the industry relies on everyday folks who just want a little bit more than the factory can give them. I’ve noticed a few solid changes over the years, and diesel performance is definitely different today than it used to be.
Then: Mechanical
When I first got into diesel performance, the 12-valve Cummins was all I would hear people talking about. The simple and indestructible nature of the engine, combined with its awesome power potential, meant it was the powerplant to have and was the main reason I bought a ’97 Dodge Ram as my first diesel truck. Sure, there were rigs out there that had computers controlling them, but who cared? Mechanical fuel injection was where it was at!
Now: Common-Rail
Thanks to rust in the Midwest and outrageous performance parts for the common-rail crowd, mechanically injected trucks have become dinosaurs, outmatched and outdated by newer models. While this might sound strange coming from me, even I have to admit that common-rail trucks are a large part of the industry and, arguably, common-rail performance is what keeps driving it. Yes, I’ll always love my 12-valves, but it’s a common-rail world now. And based on the number of 600 to 800hp rigs out there, it’s not that bad.
Then: Twins
There was a time when nobody gave your truck a second thought (especially those in the Ram crowd) if you didn’t have “twins” on it. Compound turbos gave the response people were looking for yet could make much more power, thanks to the greater airflow capacity of a second large turbo. The fact that airflow through the diesel engine itself still relied on mostly factory hardware (upgraded cylinder heads weren’t available yet, and camshafts were mostly factory re-grinds), meant twins could compensate with big boost.
Now: Singles
Today, I’ve seen a box-stock BorgWarner S475 turbo survive more than 60 psi of boost, and that was the $600 cast-wheel version. With better flowing engines and more advanced turbo designs, diesel enthusiasts have now made the overwhelming switch to single turbochargers and have lived with the extra 500 to 800 rpm or so it takes to spool them. I still see trucks with compounds, of course, but most are making some pretty impressive power—not the 500 to 600 hp “twins” used to make back in the day.
Then: Smoke
When I first got into diesels, I’d never heard about blowing smoke on purpose. To me, if a diesel blew some black smoke, I knew to watch out, because it was probably fast. I’d raced Dodges and Chevys on more than one occasion (with the Mustang I owned at the time) that led to virtually dead-even races. When I started with the magazine, smoke was just seen as a side effect of having a hopped-up diesel…that some “green” folks happened to care about. My, how times have changed.
Now: Smoke
The “diesel smoke” phenomenon has exploded in the past few years. No longer just a nasty side effect of slow turbo spooling, “rolling coal” has been all over the media and press, including shows like The Colbert Report, which was watched by millions. Unfortunately, much is missed by simply saying “smoke is bad,” namely horsepower. The stoichiometric air-fuel ratio for diesels is firmly planted in the smoke zone. However, diesel tuners are discovering they can manage fueling to a point where engines are now making just as much smoke-free power as they do when more fuel is added. While I personally think the fans of smoke and the no-smoke crowd can come together someday, I don’t know if we’re there yet.
Then and Now: Good People, Good Times
Whether it was 10 years ago or yesterday, the people I’ve befriended in the industry have had a very large impact on my life. The diesel crowd is a tight-knit bunch—much like a family—and I hope it’s a family I get to be a part of for a long while.

POPULAR TRUCKS

MOST POPULAR

Subscribe Today and Save up to 83%!

Subscribe Truck Trend Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truck Trend
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Diesel Power Magazine

Subscribe to:

Diesel Power
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Truckin Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truckin
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
SUBSCRIBE TO A MAGAZINE
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS