The Red Screamer

By Mike Bradford

Improvement and innovation are a constant force always moving things forward. Unfortunately, for good or bad, some things get left behind in the dust. The two-stroke Detroit Diesel engine is one of them. Years ago, the unique snap of a screaming Detroit was very common to hear on the roadways throughout the United States, but now it is almost totally extinct. For those that desire to hear that ear music again, check out this one-off super-sized hot rod that calls northern New Hampshire home.

Jay Ouellette is the proud owner of Bumper to Bumper Auto Repair in Twin Mountain, NH and, like many of us, he grew up reading Hot Rod and other similar magazines, yearning for the day he could get behind the wheel of his own sweet ride. That event happened when he was only 15 years old – and he hasn’t looked back. Jay said, “I’ve been very fortunate to have owned just about every car and hot rod I’ve ever wanted. Fords, Chevys, Chryslers, a 426-powered Opel and a VW Beetle powered by a big block Oldsmobile, just to name a few.” He must have liked the big engine/small chassis thing, because for eight years he was an authorized dealer for the insane V8-powered Boss Hoss motorcycle.

“One day, a few years ago, we were sitting around the shop and one of my guys, Glenn Grammo, asked me if I had one more build in me. I agreed, but this one had to be way over the top, and no cookie-cutter.” While scouring through the magazines from Jay’s younger days, memories of the larger-than-life creations of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth were retained and brought back front and center for the big red machine featured here. Jay explained, “I immediately knew that it had to be a diesel-powered rig, and not a little Cummins out of a pickup, but a true big block over-the-road Class-8 diesel, resembling something Big Daddy Roth would build.”

Soon thereafter, the search for a drivetrain began, and a decommissioned 1979 Maxim 100-foot ladder truck, with only 1,600 miles on the clock, became the donor. “After buying it and driving it home, I knew it was perfect for what I had in mind,” said Jay. Powering the machine was an 8V92 Detroit Diesel mated to a 4-speed Allison automatic transmission. In diesel lingo, the engine is 8 cylinders, at 92 cubic inches each, for a total displacement of 736 cubes.

The Detroit Diesel is a two-stroke design, which requires a supercharger to move the air through the heads, but this bad boy has a huge factory turbocharger sitting on top of the blower for a bit more squeeze. The power of this engine is rated at 424 hp at only 1,900 rpms, with a stump-pulling 1,100 ft. lbs. of torque. Jay also used the factory front and rear axles from the old ladder truck – the rear is a Rockwell filled with a 4:64 gear set, which easily supported the 50,000 lbs. of fire truck.

Jay engineered and fabricated the frame out of quarter-inch steel, and also did all of the electronics and plumbing. The suicide front suspension is very similar to one Jay had on a 1934 Chevy, but on a much larger scale, supported by a custom spring rated at 5,000 pounds. Glenn did all the metal fab design and paint work. Fred Ingerson, a certified bridge welder, oversaw the frame build of the two-foot “Z” section, in back of the cab, to make sure it was strong enough to safely handle the powertrain and pass a mandatory state inspection. Jay chuckled when he mentioned that there is over 60 pounds of MIG welding wire in the frame alone.

Looking for the perfect cockpit for his red screamer, Jay found a somewhat rust-free ‘46 Ford pickup cab on E-Bay and had it shipped to Twin Mountain from southern LA. Glenn fabricated the rear bed before he squirted everything with 2009 VW Jetta red paint. Rolling stock on this 10,000-pound hot rod rig consists of 24.5 tall rubber on polished aluminum rims. The original air brakes were retained, along with the power steering system, gauges and switches.

The interior was stitched by Lenny Quail of Littleton, NH. Twin five-inch exhaust pipes dump the spent fumes out the back from under the tailgate. Except for the dual 20-gallon fuel tanks, rear fenders and headlights, this hot rod was mostly built in-house by Jay and Glenn. “The crew of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway also helped us out with some machine and fabrication work on the front suspension parts,” Jay added.

When asked about the most difficult part of the build, Jay quickly said, “All of it!” Because everything on this hot rod was so heavy, Jay and his crew had to use a telescopic handler (a cross between a crane and forklift) with a 44-foot reach and 25,000-pound capacity, to move things around – the engine and tranny weigh about 4,000 pounds and the rear end is well over a ton. The lift was also needed for the countless trial fits that are necessary on a project of this size.

It took 1,100 “non-union” hours of labor over a span of 2.5 years to finish this truck – and make no mistake, it’s a driver. Jay said, “The most rewarding part of this hot rod is taking it out for a spin and watching the reaction we get from the kids – they love it!”

It’s a safe bet that Jay’s unique creation would get a big smile and a thumbs-up from Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, as well. Progress may have marched on without the two-stroke Detroit, but Jay’s red screamer is certainly helping to keep its memory alive.

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