Author: Jordan Powell Photos: Boyd Jaynes
Dale Dondel has been serving up beautiful machines to countless happy customers for many years through his company, Racer Engineering. While his profession keeps him heavily involved in the off-road racing scene, he still manages to sneak away from it all to have some occasional fun; whether that is out on the river on his boat, or at the sand dunes in the southernmost part of California.
The Imperial Sand Dunes, commonly referred to as Glamis, have played a huge role in Southern California’s off-road scene. Even if you’re not into off-road trucks, dirt bikes, quads or any sort of fun for that matter, there’s a high probability that you’ve heard of this historic place. Year after year, off-road enthusiasts from all over the USA have flocked to this diamond in the rough to share their experience with one of Mother Nature’s beautiful gems. The same goes for Dondel.
If you’ve ever been to Glamis though, you’ll agree when we say that people are always trying to get the top bragging rights award from the weekend. It’s all about having the most pimped-out ride and the fastest sand dragster. If you have both, well, you’ll rule the dunes for the weekend, and everyone will bow down to you. Now, in front of your eyes is the mother of all Glamis machines, but as you can see, it’s not your typical sandrail.
“A lot of our clients are addicted to Glamis and other sand dunes around the world,” explained Dondel. “We wanted to provide them with a different way of navigating around the dunes, which is why we created these sand trucks. The basic idea behind these trucks is that we wanted them to turn like a short-course truck, and they needed to have big enough wheels and tires to float on top of the sand. We thought that was enough, but everyone has gotten crazy with horsepower, so we gave our trucks enough ponies to wheelie at 100 miles per hour. You can head down Glamis’ Sand Highway in fourth or fifth gear, drop the clutch, and get that thing upright if you wanted to.”
Since the design’s first introduction to the dunes over five years ago, Racer Engineering has made it their mission to make the next one bigger and better. In doing so, though, the popularity of their design has gained the public’s attention, as well as that of their competitors. Dondel considers himself the innovator of these fine machines, but admittedly said their design is no longer unique, due to other companies producing similar vehicles. Still, Racer Engineering is able to produce many of these dune monsters a year, including this one, which just so happens to be Mr. Dondel’s personal ride. With features like a twin-turbo LS7 and an eardrum-blasting sound system, it’s safe to say that Dondel’s ride will have many Glamis enthusiasts filled with envy as he wheelies down the sand drag at top speed.
Even though the soft desert sand is a little more forgiving than your average racecourse, you still want to have the most comfortable ride possible. This is why Dale Dondel elected to use a set of King 3.0 five-tube, remote reservoir 10-inch stroke bypasses, which were mounted up to these articulate center-mounted A-arms. Altogether, they were able to squeeze out 20 inches of travel, allowing Dondel to tackle Sand Highway with the greatest of ease. When it’s time to bring the beautiful truck to a halt, 12-inch Racer Engineering rotors and Wilwood four-piston calipers are called into action, all of which are attached to a pair of Jamar Pro-X billet hubs.
Keeping the back end under control is a set of heavy-duty Racer Engineering trailing arms. Those beautifully crafted arms were powder coated a deep gun metal grey, just like the rest of the chassis, and then outfitted with a set of King 3.0 five-tube, piggyback reservoir 14-inch stroke bypasses and 2.5 coilovers. With this combo, Racer Engineering was able to produce 22 inches of bump-soaking travel. Hidden in the back of this photo is a Fortin FRS five-speed sequential transaxle, which sends power to the 934.5 CVs and Racer Engineering hubs through Fortin 33-spline 300M axles. A set of Tatum Motorsports four-piston calipers and 12-inch Racer Engineering rotors complete the braking package.
Little details like this Racer Engineering logo on the rear shock tower make this truck stand out.
Racer Engineering went all out with their custom aluminum work, and formed this whole back cover. Although it does take a few minutes to access the engine, their efforts were well worth it.
Horsepower isn’t necessarily a must out in the sand dunes, but it is a feature that many people want to have. What’s an eye-catching machine without a few hundred ponies backing it up? Not much. So, to keep up with the horsepower craze, Dondel tossed a twin-turbo Turn Key Engine Supply LS7 with 16 lbs. of boost into the rear of the chassis. This fire-breathing dragon produces an amazing 1,100 horsepower and 980 lb-ft of earth-shifting torque. An R2C Performance air filter allows the engine to breathe freely, and a custom Racer Engineering exhaust and header system transports the exhaust out the back.
This isn’t your average sand toy. Neon lights illuminate the cab as well as the cup holders in the center console. Four speakers and two subwoofers keep the party going at Oldsmobile Hill, and the iPad that rests in the middle of the dash serves as both a music playlist and navigation aid. Speaking of the dash, all of the aluminum work you see here, and on the rest of the truck, was beautifully formed by the talented individuals at Racer Engineering. Four Jet Trim seats with MasterCraft Safety harnesses keep the passengers and driver comfortable and safe, while a communications system by PCI Race Radios keeps them talking freely. You’ll also notice that the passenger side features a small glove box.
If you have spent some nights camping out in the desert, you know how dark it can get. Being miles away from the city’s light pollution can leave you with almost zero visibility. To combat this darkness a collection of Rigid LED and HID lights were mounted to the front of this stealthy-looking machine. You can also see the blue neon lights illuminating the custom Racer Engineering logos embroidered in the seats.
Weight can be a huge factor in the dunes, so keeping this truck as light as possible was the goal for Racer Engineering. In order to do so, a minimalistic chassis design was fabricated and a carbon fiber Chevy body was crafted to dress this sand truck. With all of this done, the truck tips the scales at a mere 2,900 lbs. Completing the exterior of this Masterpiece In Metal is a stunning paint job by Streight Edje.
POWERTRAIN Engine: Twin-turbo LS7
BUILDER: Turn Key Engine Supply
MAX Horsepower: 1,100 horsepower
MAX Torque: 990 lb-ft
MODIFICATIONS: Custom Turn Key heads and block INDUCTION: Tuned MEFI ECU and fuel injection system, R2C air filter TRANSAXLE: Fortin FRS five-speed sequential transaxle
SUSPENSION Front: Racer Engineering center-mount A-arms with 20 inches of wheel travel, King 3.0 five-tube bypass, Jamar Pro-X hubs
REAR: Racer Engineering trailing arms with 22 inches of wheel travel, King 3.0 five-tube bypass and 2.5 coilovers, Racer Engineering hubs
Cooling CBR Peformance Products radiators Plumbing Brown & Miller Racing Solutions/Racer Engineering WIRING TRH Wiring BRAKES: Front:Racer Engineering 12-inch rotors with Wilwood four-piston calipers REAR: Racer Engineering 12-inch rotors with Tatum Motorsports four-piston calipers WHEELS/TIRES WHEELS: Ultra 17x8-inch beadlocks TIRES: Sand Tires Unlimited Razor Master and Sand Masters
BODYWORK: Chevy Silverado carbon fiber body
INTERIOR: Jet Trim seats, MasterCraft Safety harnesses, Momo steering wheel, PCI race radio and intercom system, iPad, Racepak digital display, Fortin shifter
CHASSIS: Racer Engineering Sand Truck DIMENSIONS: Wheelbase: 120 inches Overall Length: 192 inches Overall Height: 52 inches Track Width: 92 inches Overall Weight: 2,900 lbs.