In the universe of uphill tractor-trailer drag racing, brute power and the ability to apply it to the pavement is the formula for success. Nicholas Gagnon’s 2005 Peterbilt 379 has been the “king of the hill” for years and continues to be the 800-lb. gorilla of this unique form of motorsports. The principle is simple – hook up to a trailer with 30,000 lbs. or more in it; stage it just like any another drag race; wait for the green; drop the hammer; race up the 9% incline of St. Catherine Street; and get to the finish line, 700 feet later, ahead of the other guy.
The incredible power generated by these rigs is very expensive and guarded information, to say the least. Hoods are rarely opened in front of the public, and when they are, you can bet that crew members will be holding blankets up to protect their hard work from prying eyes, looking to steal some secrets. They would not let me take a picture of their engine, so you will just have to imagine what the highly modified engine under their hood looks like.
Nicholas is a heavy equipment operator from Grand Remos, Quebec, who spends nearly all his spare time improving the performance of the #3 Coga Peterbilt seen here. Not only is it a top tier winner on the hill, but in a heads-up drag race, it can usually show taillights to any 4-wheeled hot rod in the other lane. Power is provided by a C-18 Cat, utilizing a common rail fuel system, pressurized by a twin turbo setup engineered by Nicholas and Andrew Stauffer from S & S Diesel. Shift points are above 3,500 rpms, and boost numbers are above 100 psi. All of that brute force is funneled through a modified clutch and an 18-speed, on its way to the ground via a set of very aggressive low-pressure traction tires. According to Nicholas, “Power is around 3,000 hp with 6,000 lbs. ft. of torque.”
While the maroon and gray Peterbilt has racked up wins all over Canada, Nicholas has a soft spot for the Acceleration Championships held in St. Joseph DeBeauce. “It’s the toughest and biggest race around, and the best racers come here to challenge the hill. A victory at this event really means a lot,” Nicholas says. He is quick to point out that this isn’t a one-man show, and the effort put into the truck by family and friends is critical to its success.
I had the honor of riding shotgun several times in this truck, and take it from me, this thing is an acceleration monster – whether its hooked up to a loaded trailer or not, it can throw you back and pin you into the seat like any 4-wheeled hot rod can. This Peterbilt is not only fast, but it can hold its own on any show field, as it is fast and clean. If you want to sit along for a ride with Nicholas, go to YouTube and search for “Gagnon Ride Along” and then hang on for a memorable ride up the St. Joseph DeBeauce hill.
The weekend of August 30 to September 1 is quickly approaching for you to join 30,000 other power junkies in St. Joseph DeBeauce (Canada) for the 2019 uphill races. Details can be found at www.bigrigdragracing.com. Many thanks to Nicholas and his wife Kerry for all the hospitality and information needed for this article to happen. Good luck defending your “king of the hill” status, once again.