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April 2005 Willies Workbench Diesel Drags

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on April 1, 2005
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I just got back from some drag races. Not one of the big national meets, but just a local event where it was a "run what you brung" type of thing. It's probably been close to 20 years since the last time I've been to the drags. Not that I have anything against them. Quite the opposite-I used to go to them a lot, both as a spectator and participant. For those of you who have never been to one, or never driven in a drag race, you're missing a real automotive experience. There's a lot more to it than just pointing your vehicle toward the finish line and standing on the throttle. There's the reaction-time factor to the starting lights, the ability to transmit the power through the wheels to the asphalt, picking the proper point to shift, and the plain thrill of using maximum horsepower.

Not much had changed. The starting lights, or "Christmas tree" as they're called, were the same. There still was the assortment of stockers and modifieds, high-school students and grandpas, all racing each other just for fun.

But then again, things were different this time. I was the guest of Edge Products (800/360-EDGE, www.edgeproducts.com) and this "local track" was 600 miles from my home. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention there were 85 diesel trucks also racing. You see, Edge makes these little black boxes that modify the computer programs on diesel trucks for more horsepower and torque output. I'm not talking about a 20hp or so increase like that gained from an air filter and exhaust change, but rather real horsepower and torque improvements. How about a Duramax that puts 125 more hp to the rear wheels? I watched this 7,200-pound, four-door truck consistently make 94 mph passes with an inexperienced driver.

I watched and rode in trucks that by day hauled fifth-wheel travel trailers, construction equipment, landscape supplies, or kids to school. But this night, some of the faster ones were doing four-wheel-drive burnouts to the tune of time slips that read 12.5 and trap speeds of 109! Impressive? You're damn right! Wonder how your young neighbor feels when you can blow the doors off his Camaro or Mustang in your "truck" with six people on board and still knock down a consistent 18 mpg?

The next day Edge put on Dyno Days, where, for a minimal fee, truck owners got to gain bragging rights on what kind of torque and horsepower their trucks put out. Edge has a full-on research facility, and not just one, but two, of the very latest dynos, along with skilled technicians running them.

During the day I saw truck after truck-be it Ford, Dodge, or Chevy-make horsepower figures in the 360-450 range and an awesome 700-800 lb-ft of torque to the wheels. A Duramax led the pack with a scary 572 hp and 1,015 lb-ft of torque. Remember, this is from an engine with 6.6 liters or 396 cubic inches. And keep in mind, these are real-world, rear-wheel horsepower/torque figures, not just estimates. Best of all, these trucks still maintain a stock idle, stock dependability, and close to the original fuel mileage-or in some instances-even better than stock mileage. The main reason for these improvements just isn't to play on the dragstrip but to improve towing ability. Those steep grades where the sign says, "Slower traffic keep right"? Well, forget about reading them anymore.

How's it accomplished? Aaron Stewart, director of technical support for Edge, says "It's all in the proper fuel and air management, with the emphasis on fuel. It's done by electronically controlling the fuel curve map with both timing and duration of the injectors."

Edge employs 17 engineers to make it occur, plus some 70 other employees to make it all happen right. Not only that, they have 17-yes 17-test trucks in their fleet to make sure nothing is left to chance.

Move over, "rice rockets," subcompacts, and those so-called sporty cars-there's a big diesel truck on your tail wanting to pass.

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