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2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT - Cadillac EscalaDiesel

Or Maybe It's A Duramaxillac-But By Any Other Name, It Would Still Run As Sweet

Photography by Steve Temple

Thirty years ago, Cadillac's experience with diesels was not a happy one. Back in 1978, Cadillac offered a diesel V-8 as an option on the Seville, which became America's first production passenger car so equipped. Unfortunately, the engine was basically a dieselized version of Oldsmobile's 350ci gasoline V-8, rated at a paltry 125 hp and 224 lb-ft of torque. While relatively smooth and quiet for an indirect-injected diesel, it encountered, to put it politely, reliability issues. Despite this debacle, Cadillac has recently added a new diesel to its lineup, notably a V-6 in the '08 Cadillac CTS. Sadly, this advanced engine is available only in Europe for the time being, probably because diesels are still far more popular on that continent than they are here in the United States.

That doesn't mean you can't have an oil-burner in a Caddy, though. Just ask Joe Komaromi of Pacific Performance Engineering. An automotive electrical engineer by trade, he founded PPE back in 1987 when electronics started to become more popular on cars and trucks. Today, Komaromi's company makes a wide range of computer tuners and diesel engine upgrades and is known for building a Duramax-powered Hummer H1 that's claimed to be the quickest on the planet, pounding down the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds. Due to customer demand, PPE now offers a Duramax conversion wiring harness, which simplifies installing an '01 to '09 Duramax engine in a wide variety of vehicles-everything from boats, to trucks, to well, a Cadillac.

The Diesecalade was originally built by Jonathan Goodwin at H-Line Conversions for Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel producer that wanted to showcase its name on a high-profile project truck. From the factory, this '08 Escalade was powered by a 6.2L Vortec gasoline engine. Once the crew at PPE got its hands on the Caddie, during a two-month buildup they stripped off the front fenders and fascia and lifted the body a bit to make room for an '06 Duramax and Allison 1000 transmission.

The suspension stayed the same, but the engine mounts had to be modified, and the gauges were replaced with Auto Meter units. That was the easy part, though. "Lining up the drivetrain was the most difficult aspect," admits PPE's Komaromi. That process required adding a Ford 9-inch rear axle, a stout driveshaft, and beefier U-joints. A custom hood with a prominent bulge was also needed to provide clearance for the new powerplant.

While they were at it, his crew also threw on a slew of performance and suspension upgrades, starting with an S&B intake, PPE's Dual Fueler CP3 pump kit, PPE intercooler, and Stage Five transmission with torque converter. The turbo is a water-cooled Garrett GT4094R ball-bearing unit that's claimed to increase airflow by as much as 70 percent over stock. Taken altogether, these mods are reported to generate 800 hp and 1,320 lb-ft of torque on biodiesel.

Just for grins, an air spring suspension system was also installed. Actuated by Dakota Digital electronics, this urban hip-hopper can bounce with the best of 'em. The 4-inch custom exhaust has a stubby tailpipe that dumps just forward of the air tanks mounted underneath the rear end. Brembo brakes bring all four of those custom 24-inch rims to a clenching halt. And for a bit more bling, the front grille was dressed with some fresh mesh.

All told, the effect was remarkable, both in looks and performance. On the road, the Duramax torquemeister kicks this Caddy in the pants and is reported to get 24 mpg on the highway. And on the show circuit, Escalade enthusiasts line up to check out all the mods. Maybe Cadillac should rethink its policy toward diesel engines. After all, they've come a long, long way since the days of the '78 Seville.

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