Recently, I decided to crash our monthly Source Interlink-sponsored car show in El Segundo, California, with Project Rust Bucket. The fact that it was a Mopar-themed event made me even more willing to make the trek through stop-and-go traffic in my smoky, manual-valvebodied truck. When I arrived, people weren’t sure what to make of the rattling, funny-idling beast. People weren’t sure of the year, either, and I got guesses as early as ’75. One guy asked me how I did the swap. A few other incredulous looks came my way as more questions were asked. Making 972 rwhp on a stock block, crank, rods, and pistons didn’t compute to many onlookers—neither did the 500 shot of nitrous on top of 60 psi of boost.
“Look honey, that truck is probably the most powerful thing here,” a man was overheard saying to his wife. Turns out he had a ’93 Dodge of his own and had been a Diesel Power reader since the beginning. We shot the breeze for a bit, and I showed him where the full fuel screw was on the injection pump. People were also confused about the fuel economy. “That big old truck gets nearly 30 mpg? Really?” “Yep,” came my reply, “…provided I don’t drive like an idiot.” Unfortunately, a few people also asked if I had taken it to the track, and I had to admit my 13.1 seconds at 118 mph hadn’t been the greatest of elapsed times. People still seemed to be impressed by the mph, even if it wasn’t all that quick.
The transmission was another area of interest, as many were curious about what type of gearbox it took to handle the immense diesel torque. I explained all about the billet-steel 300M shafts, full-pressure manual valvebody, and torque converter the trans has. One drag racer asked how much it cost. “About $3,500, plus converter,” I remarked. “That’s actually not too bad,” he said. In his mind, any similar transmission that could handle 2,000 lb-ft of torque (like a Lenco) would be at least that expensive and probably less driveable. The fact that it had an overdrive also impressed people. “It only spins about 1,600 rpm on the highway,” I said, citing the low rpm as another reason the truck gets the fuel economy it does.
Now, I don’t want to sound like an oldster just yet, but I have to admit that I actually had a lot of fun at our local get-together. The responses to the truck were overwhelmingly positive, and it felt good to educate true enthusiasts about diesel performance. I’m not sure why more diesel guys don’t take their rides to car and truck shows, but I’d definitely encourage it. After all, diesels owners are usually very proud of what their trucks can do, and there’s nothing wrong with a little showin’ off.