Built For Battle: Paul Cato’s Dominating Street Legal Race Truck

The majority of trucks that we cover are clean, street-driven machines. Then, every once in a while, we get ahold of some purpose-built “race cars” that are designed to do one thing; go really, really fast. Then there is Maverick Diesel‘s Paul Cato. Cato took a truck that was in dire need of help and transformed it into one of the toughest machines on a track today. We’re going to dive into it right now but first, let’s get a little of his background covered.

This Royalton, Illinois native has been into diesel trucks since the 2000’s and his passion for performance eventually developed into a business. As the workload continued to grow, Southern Ill Diesel was born. Cato quickly realized that he wasn’t ready to own a business and made a move to Ohio where he could learn the ropes from of our industry’s leaders in performance.

Making Moves

He then made the move to Plain City, Ohio where he worked for Firepunk Diesel. Maybe you’ve heard of them? That’s right, at one time, Cato was employed at Firepunk Diesel, responsible for sales helping to grow Firepunk to the diesel powerhouse it is today. After learning the industry developing lasting friendships, he decided it was time he moved back home to Illinois and try ownership once again.

Armed with knowledge, experience and passion, Cato would not be denied this time. Performance is a tough market but he and his family were determined they could make it happen. Maverick Diesel was born. To further grow his industry awareness and knowledge, on top of opening his own business, Cato started working for HP Tuners as well.

Although filling it up may be a chore under the bed cover, this truck still manages to cruise up and down the road. As a matter of fact, seconds after these shots are taken, the police stopped for a few questions. We went on with our day after proving this baby is legal.

“I entered the industry in 2009, I believe. I purchased a 2005 LLY Duramax truck and after some transmission issues, I traded my truck and my Harley in for what is now known as the Firetruck,” said Cato. “From there, it has snowballed into what you see today. We’ve gone nuts with the Firetruck competing in the 2013 Diesel Power Challenge and raced it at several NHRDA events. The truck was so much fun and we’ve done so much with it that it’s fueled me to want my own diesel business.”

The passion for diesel trucks was fulfilled daily as customers’ trucks came in for tuning, performance upgrades, dyno testing, and general add-ons, but there was still a void to fill. Cato wanted something that was his and something he could critique and tinker on during his free time but not the truck he relied on every day. That’s where this girl came from. This 1994 Dodge Ram 2500 truck was found in Florida as a project that was in need of some help. For $15,000, it came with an engine and some good parts that were sold to fund better upgraded parts.

Clearly represented on the side of this HP Tuners / Maverick Diesel wrap job, Cato makes sure that his sponsors on board are known to others around.

What’s Under the Hood?

After buying it sight unseen, Cato had the truck delivered, and the thrash was on. He wanted an all-out drag truck to market his business and this is its evolution. “I wanted something fast. Not like a street truck fast but really fast,” Cato said. “It’s been a roller coaster ride, but man, it’s been fun,” he said.

“This truck was purchased in December of 2017 and our first test passes were in April of 2018,” said Cato. “Now, just over a year later, the truck is still far from done but we’re still anxiously chasing that four-second pass after just two seasons of running it. The whole reason behind the build is I wanted something that could help promote our abilities and business in this industry. What started as a 5.90 Index project has since gone out of control.”

When you want to lose a bunch of weight, you sort of go crazy. That's exactly what happened. Now, with as serious as it's gotten, this truck is ready to do just about anything with this custom, fully-adjustable four-link suspension.

When Cato was asked what it would cost to replicate this build, his answer was unsure. “Honestly, I have no idea what it would take to replicate it. If I had to put a random number on it based on all of the different setups and upkeep for the last two and a half years, I would have to say something ridiculous like $150,000,” he said.

Once completed originally, or at least enough to race it, Cato explained that the truck has done a lot in its short life thus far. “We’ve got a total of four event wins in two years. We were the first diesel to win a round of eliminations and make it to the quarter-finals at Outlaw Armageddon, drove the truck 1,000-miles on the Hot Rod Power Tour in 2018, and we managed to beat the Magnuson Supercharger car in a grudge race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. On its seventh pass ever after all of its changes this winter it went a 5.14 with plenty still in the tank.”

When asked if he would change anything, Cato quickly exclaimed nothing. “Everything we’ve done to this point has either been redone because we didn’t like the way it was or modified it to match our needs. I really think the truck is just about as good as it can get. All it lacks are the finishing touches for the year.

“There was no order when putting this rig together,” Cato said. “At this level, it’s better to just make a list of things that need done and start knocking them out.”

How much nitrous? All of it.

Engine Modifications

Under the hood of this rocket is a combination of 1 Way Diesel Performance short-block and a KingSpeed Race & Repair cylinder head. Inside of this inline-six Cummins engine is a set of billet steel Wagler connecting rods and a 1 Way Diesel spec’d camshaft. This is all enclosed by a Maryland Performance Diesel valve cover and a beautiful Wagler billet aluminum timing case.

Behind the case is home to two CP3 pumps. One a stock 6.7 Cummins pump and the other a 14mm Exergy Performance race pump. These high-pressure pumps feed fuel into the 500-percent-over-stock Exergy injectors and that is what keeps each cylinder hot.

As for air, Cato relies on a monster 85mm turbo from Stainless Diesel. This 5-Blade unit measure out to 85/96/1.32 and is protected by a pair of 45mm Turbosmart wastegates. Sandwiched between this huge turbo and this engine is one of Stainless Diesel’s dual-wastegated T6 exhaust manifolds set up perfectly for this power level.

“This 1 Way Diesel Performance engine has been the turning point in this truck as it pushed it from a 5.60 truck turned up to a 5.1X truck with more in it. Between their short-block and this nasty Kingspeed head, we’ve got one bad hot rod,” he said. “Also, all of the passes we’ve been making, we’ve got more nitrous on tap for even more fun.”

As if they aren’t going fast enough, thanks to a dump truck load of Nitrous Outlet nitrous, this truck will be clear for take-off with somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000-horsepower.

Power Containment

When you see big power diesel trucks drag racing, the drivetrain has to be taking a beating, right? Yes. To combat that, and to not have to keep repairing transmission parts every weekend, Cato has equipped this RAM with some of the best parts the industry has to offer. This isn’t your ordinary 47RH transmission that came out of the box in the 1990s.

Inside is a combination the Santjer solid input shaft, Sonnax billet intermediate shaft, and a TCS billet output shaft. Other pivotal parts include the SunCoast billet direct drum and piston, transbrake valve body, and their triple disk torque converter. Fluid flows through the Raybestos GPZ clutches and the temperatures stay in check thanks to a Derale transmission cooler.

“Knowing we would beat this thing up, we knew we needed the best parts. Their new air shifter and four-speed transbrake valve body and working phenomenally and the freshly added Santjer solid input shaft is taking a beating and showing no signs of giving up.”

Drivetrain Upgrades

  • 47RH automatic transmission
  • Santjer solid input shaft
  • Sonnax billet intermediate shaft
  • TCS billet output shaft
  • SunCoast billet direct drum with billet piston
  • Billet 2nd gear band with billet strut/anchor/apply lever/piston
  • Raybestos GPZ clutches
  • Billet accumulator piston
  • Mag-Hytec Transmission Pan
  • SunCoast billet four-speed forward pattern transbrake valve body
  • SunCoast Fastback four-speed air shifter
  • SunCoast triple disk torque converter
  • Derale transmission cooler
  • Dana 60 front, Dana 70 rear
  • NP241DLD transfer case
A custom four-link rear suspension locates a Dana 70 rearend, which helps the 29.5-inch Mickey Thompson slicks bite the track. A Dana 60 resides up front, with QA1 coilovers at all four corners, which are largely responsible for the 1.2x sixty-foot times. An NP241DLD transfer case connects both axles.

On the inside, Cato has a Maverick Diesel-built 25.6-Cert Roll Cage protecting him as he sits comfortably in a Kirkey Series 55 seat. While behind the wheel, he watches and monitors the AEM Performance CD-5 data logger.

To compete at grudge styling racing events, Cato replaced all of the old panels with new, steel panels. They have been trimmed down to make it as light as possible. In some of these photos, the truck is wrapped and uncovered. Some of these photos were shot in the transformation period so we caught it from both ways. Now that it is uncovered, Cato mentioned it would probably be getting wrapped in a “Gloss Wicked” vinyl before it’s all said and done.

Suspension & Chassis Modifications

  • Tubular front-half
  • QA1 adjustable coilover shocks
  • Rack & pinion conversion with electric power steering
  • Maverick Diesel Custom four-link rear suspension
  • Bart Racing 15×10-inch wheels
  • Mickey Thompson 29.5-x 10.5-inch ET Drags
  • Stroud 430 Size 32 parachute

As you can see, this truck has gone through quite a transformation in its short drag racing career. The good news is, though, it's showing real promise in its new Pro Mod class.

Now, with the wrap off, you wouldn’t really expect much but in reality, beware what’s hidden behind the bushes.

Many Thanks

Racing in general, but specifcally at this level, it takes serious support. The cost of traveling, racing, fixing, and more adds up. Cato listed all of the companies that are on board and he appreciates their support. “Yeah, it takes a team for sure. We have so many sponsors and without all of them, it would certainly be a struggle to even keep it going,” he said.

“I’d like to personally thank all of my guy’s here at Maverick, 1 Way Diesel Performance, Kingspeed Race & Repair, SunCoast Performance, Santjer Performance, Nitrous Outlet, AEM Performance, Exergy Performance, Wagler Competition Products, QA1 Motorsports, and Gray’s Performance & Off-Road.”

Cato’s drag racing career is full of different sorts of events but most of his success in this truck was inside the circuit of the 2019 Outlaw Diesel Super Series’ Outlaw 5.90 Index class. After the long year traveling the United States hitting all seven events, Cato managed to pull off a second place finish in the points race. Just showing up to these events will not get it done. It will get you points but you’ve got to bring your A-game to collect those precious points and that’s what he did.

After hitting the Rudy’s season opener in North Carolina and taking home a victory, that just skyrocketed his confidence for the rest of the year where he would then pocket three more podium finishes that put him in a good range for the season-ending victory. Unfortunately, he came up just a hair short but Cato wasn’t as disappointed as you’d expect. Instead, he was hungry.

That’s when all of this transforming started and now you see what it is. It’s undergone virtually every surgery you could imagine. The internal organs of the cabin are different, the cosmetics of the exterior are different, and the chassis is working better too. As Cato moves on into this Pro Street class, he’s hungry for victory and hopes to be a constant threat to his opponents.

To be frank, the truck was just too fast for 5.90. Having to let go of the accelerator and/or get on the binders in an attempt to run the number just isn’t that fun. A tried and true setup that has been 5.40’s in previous years and now with some weight cut off this thing is sure to be knocking on the door of a four-second pass.

For more information about Cato and Maverick Diesel, be sure and check out their website here. If you’re wanting to see this truck in action, be sure and check out all of the Outlaw Diesel Super Series events in 2020 and beyond. Stay tuned to Diesel Army for the latest in diesel truck features and the latest in diesel performance.

About the author

Artie Maupin

Artie Maupin is from Southeast Missouri and has an extreme passion for anything diesel. He loves drag racing of all kinds, as well as sled pulling competitions.
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