Because they’re incredibly strong with the torque they produce, most people associate diesel engines with giant trucks built for towing purposes. In some cases, it’s not unheard of for torque figures to almost double the horsepower. And torque is what gives you that feeling of being thrown in the back of the seat, which means that even though they’re not normally known for their performance, if tuned correctly, diesels can be fast. So fast actually that there’s a national drag racing association designated strictly for diesel powered vehicles. And you’d be shocked as to just how quick they are.
It’s called the NHRDA, or National Hot Rod Diesel Association, and just like the NHRA, they have events all over the country with multiple divisions that consist of a wide variety of vehicles. You can see anything from standard pickup trucks to cars. But also just like the NHRA, the real heavy hitters are the dragsters. And while the top diesel dragster still pails in comparison to the 11,000hp top fuel dragsters, you’ll still be impressed with the performance coming from these coal rollers.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term “rolling coal,” it refers to the giant plumes of black smoke that come barreling out of diesel engines all over the world. To diehard diesel engine fans, it’s almost as cool as doing a big fiery burnout. But to the rest of us, it’s beyond annoying when your car gets dosed in the black smoke. When these dragsters and other top diesel vehicles make a full pass, they leave such a dark cloud that it literally blacks out the timing board and win light and you have to wait to see the results.
If you’re a fan of diesel, you’re also most likely a fan of forced induction as the two usually go hand-in-hand. As a matter of fact, most of the vehicles that compete on the NHRDA circuit produce more than enough boost to grenade a normal motor. For example, the super high strung twin-turbo cars like the Underground Racing Lamborghini’s and AMS tuned GTR’s produce 20-40lbs of boost to create upwards of 2500hp. Whereas the diesel powered dragsters will launch at anywhere from 60-80lbs of boost and by mid-track, they are pushing out as much as 120-140lbs thanks to using as many as three or four turbos.
Because of the amount of torque these engines produce when pumping that much boost, it’s extremely difficult to get accurate horsepower and torque figures. Take the Scheid Deisel Motorsports dragster for example, which happens to be the current record holder with a 6.31 @ 226mph. It’s claimed to produce an estimated 3,000hp and an unknown amount of torque which helped the Sheid team become the first diesel to hit the 200mph mark in the 1/4 mile, as well as the first diesel to reach into the 6-second E.T. range.