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Off-Road Rant - Editorial - June 2010

Posted in Features on June 1, 2010
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I wanted to give a quick farewell to the 21st century hot-rod. They had a short-lived, amazing era of almost endless power, much like the late '60s and early '70s muscle cars. But the super-diesel trucks from the first part of this decade were more than just rockets on 4x4 frames; they were also getting better fuel economy than many passenger cars, were able to tow incredible loads, and were running almost as quietly as their gas brethren. This really seemed to be the heyday for diesels. But, similar to what happened to their muscle car predecessors, the super-diesel's glory days seem to have come to an untimely end, which has left many diesel owners scrambling to find old catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters that they had ripped off their trucks long ago. Tuners and programmers are being either removed from the trucks or tuned back to stock, emissions pumps are being reinstalled, and Big Brother is watching. If you don't own a diesel, then you might not be aware that most states, including California, are now regulating diesel emissions with smog checks. While I think it's is an excellent idea to keep the air clean, I believe that emissions testing should be based solely on what comes out of the tailpipe. And unfortunately, smog checks still leave you with the potential to fail a visual inspection-one that many modified diesels would not pass right now, even if their tailpipe emissions are kosher.

And as older diesel owners race to return their emissions systems back to stock, new diesel owners are being disappointed at the lackluster 10-to-12-mpg fuel economy of the Big Three's diesel trucks. Right now the gas versions of the same trucks are getting better fuel economy! Yes, this certainly seemed to be the end of the diesel's reign in ultra-powerful, fuel-economic trucks.

At least that's what I thought until talking with my close friend and editor of Diesel Power magazine, David Kennedy, who has informed me that diesel fuel economy will be back in 2011 models. The manufacturers have dealt with the new emissions standards and he expects the '11 Duramax trucks to get 20 mpg with 750 lb-ft of torque!

The days of unlimited modifications on diesels may be gone forever, but there is a light on the horizon for new diesel trucks. It will be a struggle for the diesel modders going forward, but the power and fuel economy combo that a truck owner wants out of a diesel truck will be there again soon. Wait for it....

This month:
We got bored taking on all these big projects that take so long, so we decided to go crazy this month with a bunch of little bolt-on installs that you can accomplish easily after work one day. We also were able to make it out to the King of the Hammers race in Johnson Valley, California, this month. Check out the coverage on Page 46 of one of the hardest off-road races ever endured!

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