Twin-Turbo 6.4L Gen III Hemi Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

Twin-Turbo 6.4L Gen III Hemi Engine

After rebuilding his 'Lil Red Express truck for the past two years following a collision during the Midwest Drags, Rick Russell got back to drag-and-drive competition at Sick Week 2024. This time, 'Lil Red Express featured a twin-turbo 6.4L Gen III Hemi engine!

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Unfortunately, drag racing doesn’t always end in a clean A to B pass. There are many scenarios in which a car doesn’t make it down the track. Sadly, for Rick Russell and his ‘Lil Red Express truck, two years ago during the Summit Midwest Drags at Dragway 42 in West Salem, OH, Rick left the line and immediately had water under the rear tires, causing the truck to make a hard right into the near-side wall, resulting in a completely crumpled front end.

Needless to say, Rick’s Midwest Drags were done, and it would take the next two years to get the truck back to pristine, competition-ready condition. We were there trackside to witness that incident in 2022, and we were also at Sick Week 2024, where Rick chose to bring ‘Lil Red Express back out for the first time since that crash. We caught up with Rick to get the details on the gorgeous red truck and its twin-turbo 6.4L Hemi engine under the hood.

“My brother-in-law bought this truck years ago, and it was supposed to have been in the 10s back then, but there’s no way it could have been,” Rick Russell admits. “It had a 440 motor and it did have an SP rear end. The first time I knew he got the truck, he pulls up to my brand-new, concrete driveway and laid a patch of burned rubber all the way down my driveway. I didn’t even know it was him in the truck. I thought, ‘Who the hell is going down my driveway like that?!’ Those marks were on there for two years. He has since passed away, and my son, big Ricky, brought the truck home and did the same thing in the driveway. That was the beginning days of it were from him and we kept it.”

Lil Red Express

According to Rick, the truck, which is known as the ‘Lil Red Express, has gone from that 440 engine to a 496 on nitrous and now to a Gen III Hemi with twin turbos.

“We’ve been a 9.03 at 152 mph in it,” Russell says. “We were the first ‘Lil Red Express ever to be in the 9s. That’s a quick history of it. I hit the wall because water got in my catch can and came out and hit my right wheel. It wasn’t one thing the driver did wrong. The driver didn’t check the catch can underneath the engine (it had rained the night before).”

According to Rick, just a month prior to Sick Week, this truck was still in a bucket. The whole front end was off. The engine wasn’t in it. Nothing was in it.

Lil Red Express

“We stripped it all down completely,” Russell told us. “Everything was gone except the cab and the back bed because we had to redo the frame because it was bent. Now, it’s all welded and boxed. Big3 Racing had a lot to do with getting us parts and helping us with it. Gellner Engineering did the engine work. My son helped, and the Rat Pack group of Tom Dawes, Charlie, Jeff, Mike Dawes – they all helped. This has been a team effort to get it all back together.”

The Gen III Hemi engine came out of a 2016 truck up in Michigan that had caught fire, according to Rick. Tom at Gellner Engineering did all the machine work on the block and heads.

“It does have an intercooler setup,” he says. “At the time, that was something new they were just coming out and testing. It’s still got the stock crank in it. The pistons and so forth are somewhat stock in it. We have titanium valves in it. We used a roller camshaft. We went with a high-pressure, high-volume oil pump in it.”

Lil Red Express

The 6.4L Hemi engine is aided by a twin-turbo setup, which Rick says typically sees 18-22-lbs. of boost, and is good for making over 1,000 horsepower at the wheel.

“The truck likes to run on the street,” Russell notes. “It never heats up. I’ve never had a problem with it. I’m looking today to stay in the 9.50s. Maybe [at the end] we’ll go to the 8s. Our goal is about 8.90, 8.80, something like that.”

Rick’s Hemi engine is mated to a TH400 transmission that was built by Rick’s cousin Richie Samsky at Parma Transmission in Parma, OH. The truck also features a Strange Engineering rear end and axle.

Lil Red Express

Rick is no rookie in the drag-and-drive world. He’s been at the Midwest Drags and at Hot Rod Drag Week in the past, but it was his first Sick Week. We expect it won’t be his last.

“Sick Week was my son, big Ricky’s idea,” he says. “I’d rather do this than go to a regular drag. This is so much more fun to me. This is a real thing. You get to drive the truck or car you’re racing to the next track. That to me is what makes it – and great people. All these people around, everybody jumps in and helps no matter what’s going on. It’s fantastic. And Tom Bailey, the way they’ve got this organized is really smooth too.”

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1Elring – Das Original and NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].

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