One of the best parts about the PRI show for many people is getting a chance to catch up with folks you might not have seen much throughout the year. It serves as a reunion of sorts. One person I always enjoy catching up with and seeing what new engine goodies he’s cooked up over the year is Jeremy Wagler of Wagler Competition Products.
Jeremy has been featured by Engine Builder several times over the years, both here in the Diesel of the Week series and as a previous winner of our America’s Best Engine Shops award back in 2017. Every year, Jeremy and Wagler always have something beyond cool in their PRI booth, and 2023 didn’t disappoint. He had a number of new things on display, including this brand-new billet Duramax engine.
“My guys just got it ready right before the show,” Jeremy Wagler told us. “We’ve been planning on doing it for years.”
That plan was put aside temporarily due to Wagler’s popular DX V8 Duramax builds that are out running in a number of pulling trucks. However, Wagler’s drag racing customers, who favored the Duramax platform, didn’t want the big, heavy, DX engine, so Wagler brought this billet Duramax to the forefront.
“We basically modeled it off of a GM Duramax to where all the factory heads, the factory oil pan, rear covers, front covers, and just about every component of the factory engine can fit in,” Wagler says. “It’ll be lightweight. We mainly designed this for drag-and-drive events, so there’ll be an oil-cooled sleeve for those customers, and we can take it out for the pure drag racers.”
When Jeremy mentioned he designed this for drag-and-drive events primarily, we were a bit surprised given Wagler’s focus on truck pulling, but also not overly shocked because he has a good track record with drag racing customers as well. Additionally, a properly put together diesel truck/engine combo can certainly compete at drag-and-drive events – especially when they have a Wagler-built diesel engine.
“This is one of our first ones of these engines,” he says. “We have five or six of them already sold to drag racers, but one of the first ones in testing will be oil cooled. We’ll be doing oil-cooled sleeves, that way we can run it for many miles and put some testing on it and then release it into drag and drive. We own a drag strip and I see the drag-and-drives, and I think it’s a good, fun way of getting into drag racing.”
If you’re familiar with Wagler’s Duramax stuff over the years, then you’re no stranger to his DX platform, so how does that compare with this new Duramax engine?
“The DX we made like a monoblock,” he says. “Basically, it had a bedplate, a center section and then two jugs. The cylinder heads had long 13” ARP head studs that go all the way through. We took all those components and made them to where if you tear it up at the pulling track you can replace a part at the track and go right back to pulling.
“However, drag racers had seen that the excess material was heavier, so with this one we just designed it like a GM block just stronger with things like billet mains. Overall, it’s a lot different, but it’s still running the same center line to center line of the crank and the cam and the bore spacing is the same.
“The good thing is a lot of guys are already racing a Duramax, but they have block failures. They crack cylinder walls and stuff because the factory block can’t hold it. Those guys will be able to use all their components and put it right into this engine. You can’t do that with the DX because it is a 1”-taller deck, so all the components were different and custom.”
Speaking of components, while a drag racer could swap his components into the billet Duramax block, Wagler does build these complete. The engine at PRI featured a Winberg crankshaft, a COMP Cams camshaft and Ross pistons.
“We make almost all the other stuff,” Wagler says. “On the fuel side, we normally use S&S pumps and a MoTeC ECU. For the valvetrain, we use Manton rocker arms and pushrods, and PSI or PAC for springs. We have all kinds of different combinations. We do our own cylinder heads, so we build them from scratch. It’s a complete turnkey package.
“A lot of guys think it’s outrageous on price, but we can actually build you a billet engine like this for the same as what a lot of guys spend on deck plating a Duramax and modifying a factory block to hold up to the power that a billet one can serve and go beyond.”
With anything that Wagler Competition Products offers, you’re getting what you pay for. In the case of this billet Duramax engine, the eight cylinder sleeves allow you to potentially melt a piston or have an injector issue and be able to quickly replace that sleeve and get back to racing.
“You can go and replace that sleeve and go right back to the track,” he says. “You don’t have to go and start boring out the block and repairing a factory block. It’s a lot easier to repair and should last you for a long, long time.”
Aside from easier repairs and longevity, a billet engine like this can also crank out some crazy horsepower levels.
“As long as you have all your components, tuning, nitrous, fuel and air setup right, this engine block is as solid as any of the engines we’re putting 3,000-4,000 horsepower to,” he says. “It can handle a lot of horsepower.”
To help all those horses be tamed on the street, Wagler says a drag-and-drive setup would include an oil cooler in the dry sump system, which would help cool the heads and the block, whereas a strict drag race customer would make a pass and then need to cool off the block for 30-40 minutes.
“This one will be oil cooled and that’s why we want to test it first,” he says. “We’re going to put it in one of our race trucks and make sure we know the oil cooler is going to keep it good for 1,000 miles. I don’t see why we can’t run this as long or longer than big alcohol and gas-powered engines.”
We’ll be excited to see what this billet Duramax can do at the track and on the street, but for now, it’s a big thanks to Wagler’s team for putting in the effort to make this build a reality.
“I want to thank all the guys at the shop,” Wagler says. “My guys at the shop are always busting their butt to get everything done, as well as all the companies that support us.”