Diesel Swap Mayhem Gone Wild: Rat Rods To Monster Trucks

You can take virtually any diesel built in the last 15 years and add some tuning, maybe a turbo, probably a transmission, and you will come up with a 500 to 700 horsepower street stormer. It’s a recipe that’s literally been done a thousand times over. There are a few though who choose to take a different path, and these folks have built some pretty wild creations involving a diesel swap. From oddball show-only vehicles to monster trucks, to lightweight purpose-built dragstrip rides, the diesel spectrum is filled with interesting creations. We see a lot of different rides and thought you guys might like to see some as well. So here’s just a sampling we’ve compiled from the past few years of roaming around the diesel industry.

diesel swap

Richard Brown’s ’32 coupe is definitely an eye-catcher. Built within the confines of one of the most iconic of all street rods, the 2,700-pound rod is motivated by a diesel swap consisting of a Cummins 4BT engine that has cranked out more than 740 rwhp on a chassis dyno. The ’32 isn’t just good looks either, it’s been deep into the 6s in the eighth-mile, making it possibly the quickest 4BT-powered ride in the nation.

diesel swap

This giant diesel-powered Ford mud truck has been helping promote Florida’s once-popular “Diesels in the Swamp” event, which promotes tug-of-war trucks, swamp and mud trucks, as well as other wild diesels. Many of these trucks have a full tube chassis and when you think about it, diesel torque is the perfect platform to churn the giant tires most of these trucks ride on. While most of these 12-foot-tall trucks are located in the south, they can occasionally be seen at shows across the nation.

diesel swap

If it’s a Jeep, then why is it dwarfing the pickup in the background? Well, that’s because it’s BigWilly, a replica of an old Army Jeep that has been upsized by a scale of 1.648:1. While the body and interior are fairly accurate, some liberties were taken with the powertrain. After all, the 40 to 50 horsepower from a stock Jeep needed to be upsized as well didn’t it? A 2.8-liter Cummins swap was chosen to power the Willys, which can normally be found roaming the woods, crawling over rocks, or a car and truck show.

The “highest boost of the group” award goes to Steve and Merit Royalty’s “Climate Change” Dakota, which creates more than 160-psi of boost with a triple turbo combination. What’s interesting is that all three turbos are mounted in the bed! The drag truck has a Lenco and a clutch, and has been a best of 4.54 at 162 mph in the eighth-mile. That’s what an estimated 2,500 horsepower will get ya!

diesel swap

It’s weird to see a diesel mixed in with exotic cars, but then there’s nothing about Scott Birdsall’s Old Smokey F1 truck that’s ordinary. The road-race rat-rod truck features a full custom frame, Winters rear axle, and currently holds the Pike’s Peak record for diesel-powered vehicles. He also holds the half-mile diesel truck record with a 161.29 mph pass. he is probably going to tackle the mountain again this year to try and beat his own record.

diesel swap

It’s safe to say that WelderUp’s Steve Darnell put diesel-powered rods on the map with his wild D-Rod creation, which is ever-changing in a decade-long build process. It’s also pretty fast, having run 10s in the quarter-mile. Steve has literally done everything with his D-Rod, from sand drags, to shows, and even drifting, which goes to show the versatility of a diesel swap.

A drag racing semi? Yep, they exist. The 1988 Peterbilt still has an 18-speed transmission and is powered by a C15 Caterpillar engine. The turbo on top is a 118 mm charger from Turbonetics, and the big rig has rocketed down the track in the 9-second realm in the eighth-mile. While that may not sound incredibly fast, c’mon it is a semi!!

If your goal is to haul people in style instead of hauling down the dragstrip, then this six-door Excursion is for you! Built by Diesel Performance Specialties (DPS) the Excursion is a combination of a 6.7-liter King Ranch truck and a Ford Excursion SUV. With an insane 20 inches of lift, six doors, and a wild paint job, the 10 to 12-seater has the benefit of diesel swap with 440 horsepower and is completely emissions legal! That’s good when you’re trying to move 11,000 pounds.

We have to say that this California-based Chevy truck is just about the only old-school ride that we’ve seen that has a mammoth 8.3-liter Cummins engine crammed into it. Talk about torque! Built with a P-pump and compound turbos, the lightweight classic brings a new meaning to torque-per-pound!

Yes, Chevy did make a Chevette diesel, and yes some do still exist! We spotted this neat little turbocharged Argentinian version at an Oregon dragstrip. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get much info on it, other than it ran about a 20-second quarter mile. Of course, at 50 mpg with current fuel prices, who cares if it’s slow?

If you’ve never seen a diesel-powered two-wheel-drive ’50s panel truck pulling a sled, we’re not surprised. There aren’t many around. We spotted this cool creation at a California pull and heard that it’s even street legal.

A Mercedes Sprinter Monster Van? That’s exactly what it is. Though at first glance you might notice the huge tires (they’re 44s), the Cliffride Icelander is a pretty extensive build, with a four-link suspension, cut interior sheetmetal, and steering, engine, and transmission upgrades. It definitely can go anywhere, and take the whole family there too.

The next time someone tells you that diesels can’t be used to make cool hot rods and other badass rides, now you have proof that they really don’t know diesels.

About the author

Jason Sands

Jason Sands has owned everything from an 8-second Nova to rat rods. His claim to fame is setting the Guinness World Record for the fastest speed towing a trailer at 141.998 mph in a diesel-powered GMC Duramax. He's also known to write on occasion.
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