Halley’s Comet, monster eclipses, and finding your one true love – these are the sorts of things that happen only once in a lifetime. In November 2016, we added one more to the list – meeting the Diesel Brothers, David Sparks and David Kiley (better known by their sobriquets “Heavy D” and “Diesel Dave”, respectively).
These two are the frontrunners of the hit reality TV show Diesel Brothers on the Velocity Channel, which we’ve grown to love since its debut in early 2016. Alongside the Sparks Motors crew, the duo have brainstormed and built some of the craziest and most amazing diesel vehicles seen in the world, educating millions about what it takes to turn these trucks into outstanding creations and having fun all the while.
We got the chance to meet with the Davids at the Shell Performance booth during this year’s SEMA Show, sitting down to discuss the beginnings of their friendship, the ins and outs of diesel projects, and more.
How did the two of you first meet?
David Sparks: We met at a church for a single-people gathering. We were supposed to go there and find girls, and we found each other. It was a match made in heaven.
David Kiley: Almost a decade ago.
DS: Yeah, about ten years.
And where are you all headquartered?
DS: Salt Lake City, Utah.
We’ve looked at your operation before and it seems to involve at least three distinct entities – Diesel Power, Diesel Sellerz, and Sparks Motors. Could you shed some light on how they interweave?
DS: It all heads the same direction. We’ve created different entities, obviously to have different brands, and to have protection from certain businesses.
Sparks Motors builds the trucks. Diesel Power Gear is our lifestyle brand, where you can buy apparel and parts for your trucks. And Diesel Sellerz is strictly an online marketplace, and acts like a Craigslist for trucks.
DK: And we give away trucks.
DS: Yeah, we do give away trucks. But so does Diesel Power Gear. Pretty much, any time we do a giveaway, all of our companies participate and sponsor it.
We noticed you had the BroDozer parked outside. What makes you guys so pumped about it?
DS: Man, I mean, the BroDozer. You’ve really got to ride in it to know why we’re so pumped about it, but the truck. Just. Flat-out. Works. It just kicks ass.
You point it in the direction that you want to go, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a hill, a ravine, or a river; it just goes. It’s a very capable vehicle, and uses a lot of military components, and that, combined with the incredible new Ford 6.7-liter diesel engine, just makes the truck unstoppable.
Speaking of military components – we’ve seen in a lot of your builds that you include them, like 2.5-ton axles and six-wheel-drive systems. What is the reason for that?
DS: We don’t do it just for fun, we do it because we want components that work. Everything that we build has to work.
DK: Yep, and it has to be able to take a beating.
DS: Right. Our trucks are designed to deal with harsh environments, and from a cost standpoint, I mean, I can go buy one of these military axles for $500 surplus brand-new, where the government paid 50 grand for it originally. We’re just picking up Uncle Sam’s leftovers.
Are either of you former military?
DS: No, but everyone in our family is. David tried, I think he wanted to be a helicopter pilot.
DK: I did try, but they denied me. I had a shoulder issue. My father was Air Force, my grandpa was Army, my brother is in the Marines.
DS: For me, I don’t think I had the patience to be told what to do that much. I would love to serve, but I think we’re serving in other ways.
Getting back to the military components – those are a pretty alien concept to most diesel enthusiasts. Jumping from a Dana 60 to a 2.5-ton axle is not something most people do, right?
DS: See, to me, a Dana 60 is like a toothpick. You can spend ten grand to build a Dana 60 the right way, and you’re still going to break it. To break one of these military axles, you’ll need a lot of bad luck.
People say that we use military axles on all of our builds, but that’s not true. This upcoming season, we’re doing a C10 on air bag suspension and a Peterbilt semi. Those will both be straightforward builds. The military axles only go on the builds that demand it.
When can we expect the next season to come out?
DS: Very early next year. We’ll have some great projects going on in addition to the C10 and Peterbilt. We’ll have a stunt truck that’s designed to do stunts – flips and somersaults, stuff like that. You’ll see a monster truck from Monster Jam. A new tow truck for the company. There will be a giant overlanding, camping-type vehicle. We have some cool stuff coming.
You probably get asked this a lot, but how much of Diesel Brothers is real, and how much is… you know?
DK: 100-percent real.
So did it actually happen spontaneously in the first episode, when the Duramax’s cab caught on fire?
DS: It did. That truck caught on fire. However – it was set up to have potentially more fire, and then it got out of hand and it actually became fire.
The thing is, sometimes, you have to recreate things in reality TV because the cameras aren’t always there and set up. So with the Duramax, we were recreating something that had truly happened, and during the recreation, it got out of hand. Fire safety is one thing that we have to get better at, because our guys live in the shop, and they’re like family to us.
How many guys work at the shop?
DS: Between the shop and our other businesses, we have about 50 people. Business is growing like crazy.
Do you do custom builds for other people?
DS: On a limited basis, yes, we do. We don’t have a ton of time. Every episode requires us to build one and a half vehicles (one to gratify the viewers, and one to keep them tuned in for the next episode). We’re working on 18 episodes right now, so that’s 27 new vehicles. With our strict timetable and doing original builds each and every time, it puts a lot of weight on our shoulders. It would be easy just to churn out cookie-cutter trucks, but reinventing the wheel every single time takes longer than the average build.
We follow you (David Sparks) on Instagram, and we’re aware that you are building a trophy truck to go out and do desert racing in. Could you give us some background on that?
DS: I grew up on desert racing, I’ve been desert racing pretty much my whole life. I got seriously into it about four years ago, when I raced Class 3000. We did a couple of races, had fun, wrecked the car, and sold it. I waffled over doing Class 1450 or 8100, but I decided on a trophy truck because, why not?
So, Racer Engineering is building us a truck with a diesel powerplant. I can’t share too many details, but there’s a good chance it’s the Cummins 5.0-liter.
I've been playing around with off-road racing for a few years now but I've finally decided to step it up a notch...I'm pumped to announce that @racerengineering is building me a Trophy truck chassis and we will be fitting it with a diesel powertrain. There are a lot of big names involved with this build including @kingshocks @cummins @trbeadlocks @prpseats @wilwooddiscbrakes @suncoastperformance and many, many more
Diesel Dave, where do you fit in with everything?
DK: I’m lucky, since I’ve got pretty much free reign on whether I want to help out with the build, make videos, sell the trucks, do the giveaways. I also handle a lot of the social media. I try and draw attention; the people hear me, and then they see the truck.
DS: Dave is the cheerleader, he gets everyone excited about what we do.
What does the SEMA Show mean to you guys?
DK: This is everything. This is our Super Bowl, our time to come and see what’s going on in the industry and show off what we can do.
DS: This is our senior prom, our bar mitzvah. It is a huge pain in the you-know-what, but it is always well worth it.
So went our interview with these celebrities of the diesel world. Fun-loving yet focused, these gentlemen will go far, farther than they’ve already gotten, thanks to the hard work and sweat they pour into their efforts.
We can’t wait for Diesel Brothers to come around again in 2017. We’ll be right back watching to see what happens! Will you?