As far as rat rods and rat trucks go, there are two categories: the true rusty heaps, and the show trucks masquerading as rough around the edges. When it comes to the ’46 Dodge truck of Premier Performance there is little patina to distract from the race-engineered powerplant and drivetrain.
Walking through the halls of SEMA 2015 we stumbled across this monstrosity of metal, turbochargers, and nitrous oxide. With several diesel-powered rat rods at the show, this one stood out as unique. Rather than a super-low chopped roofline, straight I-beam front axle, and a single turbo exiting out a stack, this 1946 Dodge truck takes a different approach.
As we stopped to look at the detail and engineering that went into this build our interest only grew. We tracked down one of the main contributors responsible for this build to get the inside scoop on how this creation came to life. Bobby Barney is the inside sales manager at Premier Performance and was a key individual among many who helped make this idea a reality. Barney was happy to answer our questions about their build.
Diesel Army: Walking around the off-road, and truck accessory halls at SEMA, we see a forgettable number of lifted trucks, mall cruisers, and show trucks, frankly they wear quite thin. It was nice to see something that broke the mold when we happened upon your booth. What was the concept for this build?
Barney: In our SEMA booth we normally have a Late-Model truck like everybody else’s there, with a new model lift, fancy shocks, etc. You kind of get immune walking around there. We wanted to do something that was just the opposite of that, from a distance you’re going to catch a glimpse of it and think what is that? It was a collective effort, everybody threw in their two cents. It morphed from a mid-engine thing like a nose-over, and went from being a ratty, ratty rat rod to a ‘rat mod,’ like a resto mod car.
Diesel Army: Where did you originally find the body?
Barney: One of our accountants knew somebody who knew somebody who had several of them out in a field. They went to Grace, Idaho to pick it up.
Diesel Army: With 20 pounds of boost, and gratuitous nitrous this little Cummins must be a handful. You told us the horsepower numbers were 1,300 on fuel only, plus nitrous on top of that. What went into building such a monster powerplant?
Barney: “The motor is a 12-valve Cummins, out of a ’94 Dodge pickup as a donor. It’s a full Industrial Injection-built motor. They’ve done all the machine work for us, it’s got oversized valves, a bigger cam, a ZZ Fab intake manifold, the head is ported and polished. Going down, it has Mahle forged pistons, Carillo connecting rods, and an Industrial Injection Gorilla Girdle kit, all Mahle race bearings throughout, just about everything Industrial can do. It’s a 13.5 mm P-Pump and it’s got 5×28 dual-feed injectors.”
Diesel Army: What sort of driveline do you have to support all the power?
Barney: The transmission is a full billet unit from BD Diesel, it’s their race setup, all billet shafts, and a full manual valve body. The rear end is a Duramax rear axle and it’s fully built by Yukon. It’s got their chromoly axles in it, Grizzly locker, everything Yukon in it.
Diesel Army: Tell us about the compound turbo setup.
Barney: Air-wise on top of that, we ran ATS chargers, it’s a 71 over a 91, basically an Aurora 5,000 over an Aurora 8,000. We did all the piping work ourselves here, there are obviously more efficient ways we could do it — more sleek and compact, but that wasn’t what we were going for. We didn’t have a hood to worry about fitting under, so we decided to make it loud and proud. We’re not running an intercooler on it right now, intake temps haven’t been terrible — they haven’t been as bad as we thought they’d be honestly. They’ve been manageable.
Diesel Army: It’s hard to miss the white cylinders sitting in the bed like a giant six-pack. With all that volume and a common manifold you must be able to flow a lot of spray without chilling down. Clearly the nitrous system is a defining part of the build what can you tell us about it?
Barney: Obviously with six bottles on the back, that extent of it is aesthetics. It’s all ran to a common manifold under the bed and we run one big line all the way up front and it splits at the manifold. The manifold is all hard-line plumbed — each runner is, it’s direct-port injection on the nitrous. We’re running two solenoids, one on each end of the rail, dual purge kits, it’s got 50-horse jets, so about a 300 horsepower shot.
Diesel Army: How difficult was tuning the combination of compounds and nitrous, do you have an in-house dyno or did you seek help in setting up this race-built engine?
Barney: We don’t have an in-house dyno unfortunately, but we went down to Industrial Injection and they helped us finish a few things on it, and we wanted the initial start-up at their facility. They really pulled through for us and helped us out a lot with the motor. We had a few issues and tweaks we had to do, and it’s not done by any means. We’ve got a long ways to go — there’s a lot on the table. We threw down some good numbers, and initially here everybody was happy with that, but we know there’s more to be had.
Diesel Army: We see the truck is supported by air-bag suspension, a nice resto mod touch for this modernized rat rod. The control arms and rear links are obviously customized as well, tell us about the suspension.
Barney: The front lower control arms are actually factory arms that we boxed with plate to help tie-in the look with the rest of the truck. The upper arms are from Icon, and are for a Ford Raptor. It’s got McGaughy’s two-inch drop spindles for a Duramax, and Icon 2.5-inch remote reservoir shocks all the way around with external compression dampening adjustment. For brakes there are SSBC billet tri-power calipers all the way around. For wheels the truck rolls on American Force 20×14-inch Heros.
Diesel Army: Carrying through with the modernization of your rat mod, you included modern lighting in the form of VisionX headlights and other LED trim lighting. This subtle touch goes almost un-noticed in the original headlight buckets, tell us why you chose to update the lighting.
Barney: We sell LED lighting so we wanted to show everybody some of the stuff we can get for different applications. VisionX is a big supplier of ours and the headlights fit right in those old buckets. We modified the little lights on the side of the cab to accept the little VisionX Solos, and they’re pretty discreet. The lights on the back, and the ambers on the front are from Truck Lite.
Diesel Army: What are your plans for the future, any updates, or plans to race the truck?
Barney: I think we’re going to change a few — maybe a combination of a few things, and see if we can get a little more power out of it. We’re going to haul it to several of these shows and some of our dealer events. They’re building an 1/8-mile track a half-hour south of us, hopefully it will be finished this summer so we might take it to that. There’s a lot of dyno events here within a few hours driving distance, we’ll probably take it to a bunch of those type of things.
Diesel Army: It was a pleasure to see an example of enthusiasts who work together and collaborate to build something unique and exciting for the diesel market. This 1946 Dodge was a star at the SEMA show and we hope to see more rat mod-style builds in the future. The nostalgia of an old patina body, combined with modern systems and technology, is a relatable and attractive direction for hot-rodders everywhere. We hope the folks at Premier get this thing on the track, and continue to build vehicles to break up the monotony of Late-Model custom truck culture.