Building a 700 hp VP44 Dodge

For years, 12-valve Dodges built between 1994 and 1998 have enjoyed a healthy following in the aftermarket, as have ’03 and up common-rail trucks. Stuck in the middle (‘98.5-’02) are the VP44 rotary-pumped Dodges, which are both fuel and rpm limited. Still, there are a brave few who take the road less traveled, and build these underrated rigs, like Casey Dixon of Hollister, California. With the help of his Dad Doug, who owns Compulsive Motorsports, Casey put together a simple single turbo combination that can run with the best of them, no matter what year his competition may be.

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Backwards Thinking

Even though Casey’s ’99 Dodge is extremely clean, the engine still had more than 200,000 miles on it, so Casey went with the extra insurance of installing ARP head studs, to prevent any head gasket issues on the high mileage engine. Casey want’ done upgrading the 5.9L Cummins short block: While the engine was part, he also installed a hot street camshaft from Hamilton Cams, along with the company’s HD pushrods and 103-pound valvesprings.

Not only does Casey’s engine produce an estimated 750 rear-wheel horsepower, it’s virtually immaculate. It also has a bit more color than we’re used to seeing, which was a nice surprise when he popped the hood.

A single 67.7mm turbocharger from BorgWarner is responsible for making more than 60 psi of boost. Exhaust exits via an HX40-style 4-inch downpipe, which connects to a 5-inch MBRP exhaust.

When it comes to making power, many VP44 enthusiasts will just put as many boxes and programmers on the engine as they can, and crank them all the way up. This usually creates a smoky mess of a truck, which has both way too much timing and duration to run right. Casey however, had a different approach. He decided to leave the electronics alone, using an Edge only so the truck wouldn’t throw a boost code. To bump up the fuel side of things, Casey replaced the stock injectors with some “big” race injectors from Scheid Diesel. Scheid also provided one of their competition VP44 pumps, and 0.093-inch injection lines.

Induction Duties

From the intake, to the turbocharger, to the exhaust, everything in the airflow path on Casey’s engine has been either massaged or replaced. The intake is a large universal oiled unit from AFE, which uses a 45-degree boot to feed a 67.7mm S400 turbocharger with a polished cover. The turbo is connected to the engine via a Stainless Diesel exhaust manifold, and air is expelled with a simple HX40-style 4-inch downpipe. Air on the compressor side is forced through a stock intercooler, before it enters a high-flowing Banks Monster-Ram, and then into the engine. Casey was unsure of how much boost the combination pushes, as he can currently peg his 60 psi boost gauge.

Casey was pretty tight-lipped about injector specs, but he did share that the Scheid-built sticks were much, much bigger than stock. A set of oversize 0.093-inch lines rounds out the combination.

A 165 gallon-per-hour lift pump supports the 5.9L Cummins. Mounted low along the frame, the aftermarket lift pump was needed to support the rest of the Dodge’s hopped-up injection system.

A set of 3.73 gears help keep the Dodge in its powerband at the track. Bilstein shocks help with dampening on both the track and the street.

A large oiled universal AFE air filter was incorporated into the build, which flows more than enough air to support the hungry BorgWarner turbocharger.

In addition to the intake and exhaust upgrades, airflow into the engine has been improved as well, with the addition of a Banks Monster-Ram intake horn.

Although it might look like a normal VP44 pump, the Scheid Diesel-built VP44 flows a much greater amount of fuel than a stock unit. While the factory VP44’s are limited to around 600 rwhp (without nitrous) the Scheid pump makes close to 750 rwhp based upon trap speed.

Keeping It On The Road

With enough air and fuel to make an estimated 750 rear-wheel horsepower, the rest of the Ram’s drivetrain needed a few upgrades as well. Since Casey was looking to drag race regularly, his transmission received the full treatment, and was completely rebuilt by Brown’s Diesel in Riverdale, California. Brown’s upgraded all three shafts (input, intermediate, and output) with aftermarket units, added a Goerend valvebody, and a special high-stall triple-disc converter to match the turbocharger. The suspension and steering was also upgraded, as “death wobble” at 120 mph wasn’t on the menu. Up front, a BD track bar and steering box stabilizer keeps everything solid, while CCP traction bars in the back help plant the rearend.

“Casey’s best quarter-mile time has been 11.72 seconds at a blazing 118 mph”

At the time we went to press, Casey’s best quarter-mile time has been 11.72 seconds at a blazing 118 mph, on a pass where he unfortunately grenaded his 67.7mm turbo. Not one to be deterred from going faster, he’s already looking at a ported head from Scheid Diesel, an intercooler, and an upgraded turbo setup. While the VP44 platform may be the Black Sheep of the Dodge world, what Casey has done with his ’99 has set him firmly apart (and ahead of) the rest of the rotary pump pack. DW

Right before we shot the Dodge, Casey installed a Snow Performance water-methanol kit to try and calm down the truck’s 1,700 degree exhaust gas temperatures. Unfortunately, he didn’t get much time to play with it before the truck’s turbo checked out.

For reliability reasons, the stock exhaust manifold was replaced with this unit from Stainless Diesel, which is not only stronger, but flows more than the factory version.

With more than triple the factory horsepower rating, an extremely stout transmission was needed to handle the estimated 750 rwhp and 1,300lb-ft of torque that the modified engine produces. Built by Brown’s Diesel in Riverdale, California, the 47RE transmission has upgraded input, output, and intermediate shafts, a Goerend valvebody, and custom high-stall converter. An upgraded flexplate from Goerend attaches the transmission to the 5.9L engine.

We saw proof of Casey’s power at Famoso, CA, where his goal was to break into the ‘11s. After running a maddening 12.00-second pass, he later went back to the strip and clicked off a best of 11.72 at 118 mph.