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With the often-pricy expenses, time commitments and experience needed, performance engine building is often a difficult endeavor to take on for younger enthusiasts. But, every so often we find someone who found a way to get in on the game early and build something awesome.
Wade Dillow has been surrounded by diesel trucks his whole life. When he was younger, he helped his dad work on old square body 4-doors. A few years later, he got the best of both worlds watching his older brothers build their own – one built show trucks while the other chased after high speeds.
During this time, he started working on projects in shop class and got into welding among other programs in high school, all the while working on a single cab, long bed common rail Dodge he bought from his brother.
“For about three years when I was in high school, I was spending money like it was going out of style,” Dillow says. “Every dollar that I earned was going towards this truck and whenever I saw something I wanted I threw it on. I wanted something clean, something that everyone would like.”
The truck got painted, new wheels and tires were installed and Dillow eventually added some performance upgrades including a compound turbo tot the engine. Towards the end of the build, Dillow began forming a sizable social media presence and name for himself around his community in Crofton, MD. Living within 15 minutes of a dirt drag strip convinced him that he needed to upgrade to a full race build.
During his senior year of high school at only 18, he sold his common rail and purchased his friend’s truck for a race build. Dillow said the ’97 Dodge 1500 single cab was “pulled out of the bushes” and in pretty bad shape. His friend had initially meant for the truck to be a sled puller, but ditched the project before selling it to him. At the time, the truck produced around 750 hp.
“I knew I wanted to put a lot of power on it, but this was just a little over my head,” he admits. “I had worked on trucks a lot and knew all about them, but those higher performance numbers were new to me.
“I had a lot of help along the way. There were a lot of guys in the community that I knew and they kind of gave me pointers as I was going. It was definitely a process and I learned as it got better and faster, but the finished product really speaks for itself.”
A year later, now at 19, Dillow has carved out a formidable drag truck for himself and a list of ambassadors and sponsors including Standout Specialities, Custom Offsets, BD Diesel Performance, and Coked Out Diesel.
Inside the truck is a mean, compound turbo, 12-valve 5.9L Cummins that Dillow has upgraded and added a myriad of components to. Almost everything was done in-house from Dillow’s own garage with help from his sponsors, friends and other local shops.
The engine features a ported and polished cylinder head that got a fire ring setup, ARP 625 head studs, 150-lb. valve springs, main studs, forged hardened rods, Hamilton pushrods, Mahle performance pistons, billet rocker bridges, diamond-honed valve guides, stainless steel valves, and a titanium valve spring retainer.
The engine has a 14mm Gorilla girdle to maintain rigidity, which benefits the build a lot during dirt drag racing. Dillow decided on a Hamilton 188/220 steel camshaft that can range between 1,700-4,500 rpm. An ATS T4 exhaust manifold with ceramic coating works for heat management and greatly improves flow.
For air, the engine features a compound turbo setup with an S488 Forced Inductions charger feeding a 107mm On3Performance turbo with 4˝ custom intercooler piping and an NX three-stage nitrous kit. For fuel, Dillow opted to use a 14mm Scheid Original P8600 fuel injection pump with triple feed 5×28 injectors and FASS 290GPH braided fuel lines.
Before the second turbo was added and Dillow began using more fuel, he dyno’d the truck at 1,300 hp and the engine malfunctioned. Now, he estimates his current setup will make around 1,400-1,500 hp.
Dillow takes the truck out to as many events as he can and competes in the ODSS in the 5.90 index class. Being so young, he has tons of time to work on builds in the future and we hope to see one of his engine/truck combos again soon!
Diesel of the Week is sponsored by AMSOIL. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].