Let’s go back to the year 2003 – that was the year EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) was mandated on all diesel engines. Even then, we knew that EGR was a terrible idea that caused premature wear on the cylinder walls of the engine, and more. It has also cost our engine manufacturers billions of dollars in engineering costs and warranty failures. Way back then, I wrote in several of my articles that the only way to have a (good) new truck is to build a glider kit with a non-EGR engine – and I still feel that way some twelve years later!
Most people in the industry looked down on a hand-built truck and preferred to purchase an assembly-line truck. However, if you want a trouble-free truck today, it must be a glider kit. Also, it’s cool to own a new glider! And for those of you who purchase a factory-built truck, that’s not so cool these days. You will get to know the many dealerships across this great nation quite well – you may even get to have a “favorite chair” in their driver’s lounge.
In 2007 Kevin Rutherford and I traveled to Tennessee to visit with Fitzgerald’s, a family-run business that built Freightliner glider kits. It was a very impressive trip and, I must say, they had their act together when it came to assembling a glider kit. They kept all of the parts needed to build the trucks in very well-organized bins close to the assembling mechanics, and three to four men worked as a team to do the build – and neatness was of top priority.
The engine compartments of the completed Fitzgerald trucks were very neat – no hoses or wires were out of place and everything was well-secured (and many times the engine was painted to match the truck). I came from the race car industry back in the 1960’s and 70’s to the diesel engine side of trucking in 1977, and it took a lot to impress me when it came to an engine compartment, but the trucks that Fitzgerald’s built did just that – I was extremely impressed with their engine compartments and, especially, with the chrome charge air cooler pipes, wiring and hose brackets, and the paint.
During the past few years, Fitzgerald’s has made improvements on their rebuilt Detroit engines, such as the baking of the cast iron components to remove the grease, oil and paint, to the steel shot blasting of the components to make them look like new again. All of the blocks are resurfaced, the upper counter bores are cut, and the line bores are checked and bored, if necessary. They even have paint booths for the engines. All of their rebuilt engines run a Pittsburgh Power exhaust manifold – and have for the past six years. I could continue to write about how impressive their truck-building facility is, but my space is limited in this article!
Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of being the guest of Tommy Fitzgerald, Sr. and his brother Ricky Fitzgerald at their truck assembly plant and home. I must say, they are true Southern gentleman, and I appreciate their honesty and dedication to building a great truck for the owner operators of this country. So, as the saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them!”
Pittsburgh Power is now an authorized warranty repair center and a new truck sales facility for Fitzgerald Glider Kits. When buying one of their new gliders, you will now have the option of choosing a Fitzgerald-built engine or the Pittsburgh Power “Signature” engine. They build a great Detroit 60 Series, while we build a great 6NZ Cat, ISX and N-14 Cummins, and 14-liter Detroit.
If you need a Kenworth, Peterbilt or Freightliner fast, then you should go with the Fitzgerald DD4 12.7 500-hp Detroit with an 18, 13 or 10-speed transmission. Eric and I will be handling the sales at our facility, so give us a call at (724) 360-4080 and tell us what your dream truck would look like and we’ll have it built just for you (or it may even be in stock). Right now, there are over 170 trucks to choose from, which are ready to be put in service now.
Many of you prefer to build your own engine, and I’m all for that, because the more work you put into your truck, the better you will feel towards it and the better you will understand its systems. A hands-on owner operator’s truck is usually in better shape than the person who just pays to have everything done.
If you’re building an engine and you have many parts from other engines (such as the DD3 and DD4 Detroits, N-14 Celect and N-14 Celect Plus, 3406-E and the C-15 Cat), you should NOT mismatch the parts. There are differences in the injectors, ECMs, wiring harnesses, sensors, camshafts (sometimes), and the compression ratio of the pistons. Please don’t create a nightmare for yourself – keep your spare parts separated and DON’T mismatch the various engine configurations. Be sure to keep a list of all the part numbers you install in your engine, as well as the manufacturer of the parts.
When building your own engine for a glider kit, always install a new torsional damper on the front of the crankshaft and be sure to cut the counter bores to raise the liner protrusion so the engine doesn’t blow head gaskets. There is a specific procedure for doing this, and if you or your mechanic does NOT take the time to do it right or have the proper equipment, then your engine may have the proverbial blown head gasket at cylinders four and five within 200,000 miles. Don’t let this happen – do it right the first time – or let us do it for you!