The newest diesel engines and powertrains offered by GM, Ford, and Dodge have energized diesel-pickup enthusiasts and aftermarket manufacturers alike--for good reason. Performance has entered a whole new realm, and these current diesels have a lot of potential.

The Duramax 6600 diesel engine and Allison 1000 Series five-speed automatic transmission first became available in the 2001 Chevy/GMC 2500HD/3500 Silverado and Sierra. Since then, the Duramax and Allison have helped GM gain market share by establishing an excellent reputation for power and durability. While we know the Duramax can tow and haul, we're just beginning to learn about its true hot-rod capability.

The lightest diesel pickup available from GM would be a standard cab 2WD heavy-duty 3/4-ton, which weighs approximately 5800 pounds. Extended cab, crew cab, and 4WD models weigh proportionally more--approaching 7000 pounds. However, even these weighty diesels have produced quarter-mile performance in the 12-second range when using the right combination of aftermarket power products.

Taking performance to the next level involves shedding weight, which means if you want a lightweight GM diesel hot rod, you'll have to build it yourself. Our truck is a 1989 Chevrolet Silverado K1500 flareside 4x4, equipped with a new 2002 Duramax 6600 crate engine, an Allison, and an NVG263 pushbutton transfer case obtained from GM Powertrain. This project was created to explore the performance potential of the Duramax 6600 and Allison automatic when fitted to a lightweight yet street-legal full-size 4x4 truck, having a race weight in the neighborhood of 4700 pounds.