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  • Being Different - Under Pressure

Being Different - Under Pressure

Different diesel performance

Jason Sands
Feb 22, 2014
Photographers: Jason Sands
It’s a big world out there in terms of diesel performance, and I’m continually seeing stuff that’s new and different. Just a few weeks ago, I saw Thailand’s fastest diesel make a quarter-mile pass at the NHRDA World Finals, an 8.22-second sprint at 164 mph. When I took a closer look at the truck, I was surprised at the fact that I could identify almost all the parts on it. Sure, the engine was a 3.0L inline-four I was unfamiliar with, but there was an air-to-water intercooler, second high-pressure pump, ECU, nitrous, and massive wastegated turbo that I could recognize. The tube chassis was similar to the Pro Stock drag trucks I was used to seeing, as were the slicks and the Liberty five-speed transmission. Even though the truck was very out-of-the-box thinking compared to what we have in the United States, nearly all of it was relatable to what I’ve been seeing for years.
There are a number of people working on a diesel cylinder head for gasoline engines. Why, you ask? Well, most diesels found in pickups are limited to about 400 to 450 cubic inches, which is a big small-block in the gasoline world. Get a bigger engine, like a DT466, and the sheer size and weight makes them almost impossible to put into a ½-ton or ¾-ton platform. So, the idea is to take an existing, relatively inexpensive, high-performance racing engine (for instance, a 632ci Chevy-based engine) and turn it into a diesel, with the use of different pistons and cylinder heads. Again, the thinking is out of the box, but it doesn’t need to be that obscure. I’m willing to bet when such an engine does get produced, I’ll be able to see visually how it was done, without much help. I’m also sure that hearing one run will get my blood flowing.
"We build 2,500hp pulling engines all the time, but I never thought I would see 275 hp from a naturally aspirated, rotary pump, 5.9L Cummins.
—Dan Scheid"
Mazda has been racking up the wins with its little Mazda6 diesel race car, and when I recently attended a track day with Mazda, again, I was surprised at what I could recognize on the car. As I talked to the engineers, the familiarity increased. Head studs and fire-rings were used, just like the big truck engines. The turbos? The larger turbo was a Garrett ball-bearing—similar to one that had been designed for use on performance 5.9L Cummins engines. Again, even though the engine was a completely different platform than I was used to, it was still awesome because it used all sorts of well-designed tricks using parts common to all diesels.
As a final reminder that different doesn’t need to be kooky or lame, I recently talked to Dan Scheid from Scheid Diesel while he was preparing to run his 2,500hp dragster. We ended up getting on the subject of the 14mm VE (rotary) pump he had built for me a few years ago. “Hey, I have something you’d like,” he said. “We actually built a VE for a guy running an antique tractor class, where he had to run naturally aspirated. Even with no turbo, we still got the engine to make 275 hp, and I never thought I’d see that. You have to build stuff like that sometimes to keep you sane.”
As odd as it sounded hearing someone get excited about 275 hp while standing next to a 2,500hp engine, I knew what Dan meant. After all, things like compound turbocharging and common-rail injection were once out-of-the-box thinking, too, proving that you never know what will hit the mainstream. And that’s why being different is cool.

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