Diesel-heads come from far and wide every year for the NHRDA World Finals in Ennis, Texas. Over the course of two days, the Texas Motorplex becomes an epicenter of rolling coal and looking rad.
We gave our readers an inside view at both Day One and Day Two of the World Finals, but now, we’d like to focus purely on the trucks. Whether Cummins, Power Stroke, or Duramax, we didn’t care – these were just some of the well-built or beautifully cared-for specimens that deserved the spotlight.
Lifted or lowered, black or white; hundreds of trucks came out to Texas dressed to impress – and perform!
#5 Zachary Marceaux’s 1996 Cummins Dually
Some trucks don’t need to be super-tuned, super-suspended, or super-anything; they can just look really amazing for their age. Such was the case of Zachary Marceaux and his 1996 Dodge Ram dually.
Zachary, himself a young buck born around the same time his dually was, nevertheless was steeped in diesel culture from childhood to today. “My dad bought this truck back in 1997, and I grew up with it,” he said. “I always liked it and never wanted to see it go away.”
Zachary left the engine stock except for the fuel pump, which now runs full-bore for more power and torque.
Age did a number on the truck, but the day that Zachary got his driver’s license was the day when everything got turned around for the better. “It was an old rust bucket and nobody else wanted it, but it was the only thing I wanted,” said Zachary.
The young man did as much as he could do to spruce up the Cummins. Headlights, grille, wheels, drivetrain, and so forth took a long time to complete, but the results were well worth it.
“I turned the fuel pump all the way, and that’s really where all of the power comes from,” said Zachary. “I rebuilt the transmission two years ago with a billet torque converter and input shaft, as well as an upgraded clutch. That was it for performance.”
The rest, as Zachary told us, was “all for looks.” He painted the roof and replaced the hood in high school. Following graduation, he used a portion of his gift money from relatives to buy stacks, a leveling kit, and tires.
From the exhaust stacks to the interior decoration, Zachary has left his mark on "Ol' Red."
“I did the bumper, the mirrors, and the most recent addition has been the wheels,” he said. “They’re Alcoa wheels that I bought from a friend.” Zachary hopes to soon pair them with tires that don’t throw rocks at the truck and eat up his professionally done paint job.
Zachary Marceaux and his 1996 Cummins hail from Vinton, Louisiana.
#4 Kyle Rochell’s 2015 Chevrolet 2500 High Country
Kyle Rochell, of Gainesville, Texas, was one of the few GM fans representing his vehicle there at the World Finals, but he didn’t mind; he was just there to have a good time and show off his 2015 Chevrolet 2500 High Country.
“It’s a truck I’ve always wanted, and I picked it up at a really good price,” said Kyle. “It already had the lift kit installed, so all I had to do was slap on the American Force wheels, the Nitto tires, and the Retrax tonneau cover.”
The CTS lift kit gave the Duramax an extra eight inches of lift. Kyle sang its praises during our interview, saying the kit retained a comfortable ride with its Fox shocks. Meanwhile, he made good use of the extra space to install a set of 22-inch American Force SS wheels and 37-inch Nitto Trail Grappler M/Ts.
Some may lament the bought-not-built nature of Kyle’s Bowtie pickup, but it didn’t bother us at all, nor should it have. The heart of the matter is that no matter how we come to be in the diesel community, we can all appreciate one another and respect each other’s lifestyles.
“I love coming here every year and seeing the turnout,” commented Kyle. “There is always a great deal of trucks and nice people. It’s a must-see for me.”
Kyle plans on keeping the truck for at least 300,000 miles or more, and will do an EGR delete as soon as the warranty expires.
Kyle does have some cards up his sleeve, as far as future mods are concerned. “As soon as the warranty goes out, I’m doing an EGR delete,” said Kyle. “I’ll take good care of the truck for as long as I own it – hopefully 300,000 miles, at least.”
#3 Brian Fields’ 1989 Dodge RamCharger
Brian Fields really brought a shocker of a rig to the World Finals. His was one of the relatively few diesel SUVs (we could probably count the amount the we saw on one hand), but boy, was it a star in its own right.
“I bought it off of the original owner in 2007,” commented Brian. “He was an older gentleman who used it as a parts service vehicle at the Dallas Love Field airport. I stopped him one day and asked if it was for sale, and he said ‘Yes, and I’ll take $1,200 for it.'”
With a total frame-off restoration, the RamCharger took Brian and his son almost nine months to complete.
At first, Brian didn’t have serious intentions of building up the truck. “I was just going to use it as a deer lease vehicle,” he said. “It just had a two-barrel 318 V8 in it, nothing special.”
Brian switched gears and went into build mode in early 2013 after the RamCharger was involved in an accident. “It got totaled, so I tore it all apart, gave it a new frame, and then did the Cummins install.”
Brian has a 3.56:1 gear ratio axle setup. The rear also has a Spicer locker to give him extra traction when off-roading.
RamChargers like this never had an option for a diesel motor, but that didn’t stop Brian from transplanting one anyway. “I took a 5.9-liter 12-valve Cummins out of a 1990 truck and made it work,” he said. “It’s paired with a 727 transmission and has a DennyT Performance AFC delete and grid air heater delete.”
Supplementing the engine are electric fans and an AirDog 150 air-fuel separator to keep it running smoothly. Downstream of the motor is an NP231D transfer case sending power to axles with 3.56:1 gear ratios. The rear has a Spicer locker for added traction when off-roading.
Brian estimated he made around 430 horsepower with the 5.9-liter Cummins. He hopes to install a custom air plate, a custom billet valve cover, and a fresh set of ARP head studs.
“My favorite part about the truck is the custom exhaust,” said Brian. “We cut it into several pieces and fabricated it to run out from under the frame to make it work with everything.”
#2 Jason Pickel’s 2003 Ford F-250
With its three-tone paint and larger-than-life stance, Jason Pickel’s 2003 F-250 was certainly attention-grabbing. We had the fortune of talking to the man on Friday when people were still trickling in through the front gates, before any of the racing madness kicked off.
Jason’s F-250 was one of the lucky few of the 2003 model year, since this was the same year when Ford phased out the beloved 7.3-liter Power Stroke for the much smaller and less celebrated 6.0-liter Power Stroke. “I’m definitely lucky,” joked Jason.
Aside from a Bully Dog tuner, Jason has kept the stout 7.3-liter Power Stroke totally stock since buying it.
The truck was lifted over a foot and a half, and now wears 26×16 Fuel forged wheels and 40-inch Fuel Gripper M/T tires. “I started with just six inches, and then eight inches, and I thought, ‘Why not keep going?’ said Jason. “So now it’s got about 20 inches of lift.”
Looks-wise, Jason wanted his truck to stand out and went with a three-tone custom job done by a professional in Baytown, Texas. He also had the interior ripped out and redone in the style of a Harley Davidson Edition, turning it black and leather.
The truck sits 20 inches above stock ride height, giving the Fuel wheels and tires plenty of room to breathe.
Performance-wise, Jason kept everything stock, save for a Bully Dog programmer to run tunes through the V8 motor. He did have a five-inch exhaust system, and a honkin’ 12×36-inch exhaust tip peeked out from underneath.
The striking three-tone paint job was one aspect that we really liked about Jason's Super Duty.
All in all, Jason’s truck was a real deal in terms of style and flair. “I’d like to one day lose the leaf springs and go with a four-link system all the way around,” said Jason.
Our Friday was made great by the arrival of Gord Cooper and his epic beast, a 1968 Kenworth semi truck turned drag racer, also known as “Smokin’ Gun.” Gord was a neighbor from the Great White North (he lives in Calgary, Alberta) who had made the 2,000-mile-long trek down to Texas to close out 2016 with a bang.
“I’ve done a few modifications to it,” he joked. “For 35 years, I’ve been in charge of a hauling company, and for 15 years, I’ve been racing Smokin’ Gun here.”
This massive motor was built by John and Wayne Talking from TNT Racing in Fontana, CA. Gord estimates it makes between 3,000-3,600 horsepower, factoring in its turbochargers and nitrous injection.
Gord got the inspiration to get into diesel drag racing after watching a couple of Oregonians do it at a race in Vancouver, British Columbia. “I don’t know, I guess I got bit by the bug. It seemed like a neat thing to do,” he told us.
Gord was also a collector of classic Kenworth trucks, so it only made sense for him to merge the two passions into one and give the world Smokin’ Gun. “The truck used to be a water truck, and had independent front suspension put in before I got it, as well as hydraulic ‘show truck’ stuff,” he said. “After I took it, my friend, Jimmy Atwell, chopped 50 inches out of the frame and we did a few modifications to it. As it sits, I have it just as I want it.”
Despite weighing 10,000 pounds, Smokin’ Gun really scoots. “I have the record at 11.4 seconds at just a tad under 120 miles an hour,” said Gord.
“Just as he wants it” has served Gord very well, as it turns out. His best pass was 11.40 seconds at 120 miles per hour; not bad for a 10,000-pound semi truck. Even outside of diesel events, Gord continues to wow crowds.
“I’ve been to several air shows,” he stated. “There have been times when I would race a Lamborghini, and you know, everyone expects the Lambo to win. They all go crazy when I let loose and show that Lambo the back of the truck for about a half-mile!”
Has Smokin’ Gun ever had breakdowns? Definitely. Over the course of its 15-year racing career, it’s exploded no less than three intake manifolds and eight turbochargers.
The heart of Smokin’ Gun is a TNT-built 8V92 Detroit Diesel motor. “John and Wayne Talkington of TNT put the engine together for me and delivered it to me in Calgary,” said Gord. “That was 10 or 12 years ago, and it’s the biggest reason I can go so fast.”
All of the 8V92’s power obviously has a dangerous side. Gord was quick to admit that he’s seen at least two intake manifolds explode, as well as eight turbochargers. “You learn not to have stuff explode,” he joked. “It’s a learning curve and you can only learn by failing.”
Gord doesn't just do diesel events. He has also done several air shows with Smokin' Gun, racing against Lamborghinis. "I show them the back of the truck for about a half-mile," he said.
Mated to the 8V92 is a four-speed Allison transmission built by Jimmy Atwell. It deals with constant abuse from racing, shifting gears at 5,000 rpm, but it continues to serve Gord well.
Also working with the 8V92 are double 650hp shots of nitrous oxide. Gord has been told he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to the numbers, but he guesses his Kenworth must make between 3,000 and 3,600 horsepower.
In all honesty, Gord and his semi were something to behold. Both on and off the track, Smokin’ Gun was worthy of respect, and we were happy to have the chance to meet Gord and learn what made it all tick.
That concludes our Top 5 of the NHRDA World Finals. For more coverage, check out Day One and Two, and stay tuned for more features coming soon.
Gord made a spectacular showing at the World Finals, taking home the win in the Hot Rod Semi class with 11.5 seconds at 116.5 mph.