In less than one year, Daniel Pierce of Big Spring, Texas, transformed this ’03 Ram 2500 from a high-mileage daily driver into low-9-second head-turner. The pickup had 350,000 miles on the odometer when Daniel bought it, and he says it was capable of running mid-10-second quarter-miles when it was still his commuter vehicle. Then, in the summer of 2014, Daniel decided to tear the truck down to the frame and turn it into a dedicated drag racer. Just a few months later, the Baby Blue Ram made a splash at the 2015 NHRDA Spring Diesel Nationals with a quick 9.220-second quarter-mile run with a fast trap speed of 152.68 mph. Daniel says, “This is definitely one of those setups that can be built on a budget,” and here’s how it came together.
350,000-Mile Engine Build
With the body off the truck, Daniel performed an “in-frame” rebuild, pushing each cylinder up individually and replacing the rods with parts from a Cummins 12-valve engine. Although 350,000 miles already showed on the clock by the time Daniel took ownership, the pistons and rings had been replaced (at “just” 175,000 miles), so he decided to use them again. A new head, built by Joker Fabrication, uses a Hamilton Cams pushrod and spring kit and is held firmly in place with ARP 425 head studs.
Programming for the truck’s ’06 Ram ECM (electronic control module) is handled by the one-and-only Ryan Milliken of Hardway Performance, whose custom EFILive calibrations control a wild combination of air, fuel, and lots of nitrous oxide to produce an estimated 1,500 hp.
Fuel for 9s
Two Industrial Injection Double Dragon 120-percent-over CP3 injection pumps (controlled by an ATS Diesel Performance Twin Fueler kit) feed a large amount of fuel to the common-rail engine. These dual giants provide enough diesel to supply the huge 400-percent-over injectors by S&S Motorsports. Making sure there is enough fuel on tap is an AirDog 220-gph lift pump connected to a racing fuel cell mounted under the bed behind the rear axle.
Turbo, Nitrous, and Exhaust
Air is squeezed with a single gigantic Garrett GT5518R turbocharger with an 88mm compressor wheel. A two-stage Nitrous Express nitrous-oxide system helps the turbo spool with 0.076- and 0.126-inch jets mounted in the cool-side boost tube of the aluminum air-to-air intercooler. Spent gases travel through a Steed Speed manifold before entering the 118mm turbine and exiting through a 5-inch exhaust and an Old Skool Fabrication carbon-fiber miter-cut-style stack in the bed.
Transmission and Running Gear
Backing the engine is a torque converter from Diesel Performance Converters hooked to a full-billet 47RE automatic four-speed transmission with a manual valvebody built by SunCoast Diesel Transmissions. Sticking with the low-budget theme, the front and rear axles of the four-wheel-drive Ram are factory stock, except for a Detroit Locker in the rear differential. Adjustable Rancho RS9000 XL shocks and CalTracs rear traction bars allow Daniel to dial-in the suspension for the dragstrip. The pickup’s traction is enhanced by 14-inch-wide M&H slick tires mounted on 16×12 American Eagle wheels, which surround brakes from a stock third-generation Ram.
To make the daily driver a bona fide race truck, Daniel stripped the interior and added a 10-point chromoly rollcage, Kirkey race seat, G-Force Pro Series harness, Precision Performance Products shifter, and Auto Meter gauges. There’s also a fused switch panel with dedicated controls for the fuel, ignition, fan, lights, and such, and a race steering wheel with buttons to activate the nitrous oxide.
Although it took less than a year for Daniel to transform his 350,000-mile daily driver into a full-time drag truck, he proved it was time well spent at Famoso Raceway during the 2015 NHRDA Spring Diesel Nationals. Along with snapping off the fastest qualifying run for the Super Street Class with 9.635 seconds at 144.55 mph, he shocked the crowd with a blazing-fast pass of 9.220 seconds at 152.68 mph in the final round. That winning run was the fastest of the entire event, and it left scorched fibers of carbon falling from the sky, when the exhaust tip exploded about 50 feet from the starting line. Daniel had a big smile while showing off his event-winning timeslip, and his First Place run is proof you can still build a competitive diesel truck without breaking the bank.
The one-time, mid-10-second daily driver is now a dedicated low-9-second race truck. It has a completely stripped interior loaded with a 10-point chromoly rollcage, Kirkey race seat, G-Force Pro Series harness, Precision Performance Products shifter, control panel, and Auto Meter Sport-Comp II gauges.
Year/Make/Model: ’03 Dodge Ram 2500 4×4
Owner: Daniel Pierce
Hometown: Big Spring, Texas
Odometer: 370,000 miles (and counting)
Engine: 5.9L Cummins I-6 with Joker Fabrication head, ARP 425 head studs, Hamilton Cam pushrods and springs, 12-valve Cummins rods, and stock pistons and rings with 170,000 miles
Programming: ’06 Cummins ECM and EFLive with tuning by Ryan Milliken of Hardway Performance
Fuel: Industrial Injection dual Double Dragon 120-percent-over CP3 injection pumps, ATS Diesel Performance Twin Fueler dual CP3 kit, S&S Motorsports 400-percent-over injectors, AirDog 220-gph lift pump, and race fuel cell mounted under bed
Air: Garrett GT5518R turbocharger by The Turbo Pro, Nitrous Express two-stage (0.076- and 0.126-inch jets) nitrous-oxide injection, and aluminum intercooler
Exhaust: Steed Speed Competition manifold, 5-inch exhaust, and Old Skool Fabrication carbon-fiber stack
Transmission: 47RE four-speed full-billet automatic by SunCoast with manual valvebody, Diesel Performance Converters torque converter, and a Precision Performance Products shifter
Power: 1,500 hp (estimate)
Tires: 14.0/33.3-16 M&H Racemaster Cheater Slicks
Wheels: 16×12 American Eagle
Suspension: Rancho RS9000 XL adjustable shocks and CalTracs rear traction bars
Axles: Factory axles with 3.73:1 gears, Detroit Locker rear differential, and third-generation Ram brakes
Body: Custom Baby Blue with Silver Flake “Stripper Dust” paint by J.C. Auto Repair
Interior: 10-point chromoly rollcage, Kirkey race seat, G-Force Pro Series harness, and Auto Meter Sport-Comp II gauges
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg
Fun Fact: When Daniel bought the truck it already had 350,000 miles on the odometer, but he’s still using the original engine, which now has more than 370,000 miles on the original parts.
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