Vital Stats

Turbo/SC 14.0L Inline-6
2,400 HP / 5,000 LB-FT
5-Speed Auto
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
10,200 LBS
It seems as if every type of powered vehicle is attacking the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb these days, each in search of a new record as they climb the 12.42-mile road course to its finish at a gasping 14,110-foot elevation. While the "anything goes" Unlimited class provides plenty of powerful eye candy, the Open class is where we find Mike Ryan and his new Freightliner Cascadia Pikes Peak Special.

Last year at Pikes Peak, the professional stunt driver campaigned a Freightliner and set his seventh record; that time climbing to the top in 12 minutes and 38 seconds. This year, he is back with a big rig that is significantly quicker – and "significantly" just may be an understatement.

We caught up with Ryan at Southern California's Irwindale Speedway late last week as he was putting his latest creation through shakedown testing for this week's event. When he offered us a ride, we had no hesitation.

Riding Notes
  • The Pikes Peak Freightliner is nothing like its cross-country load-hauling cousins. Rather, it is a purpose-built beast featuring a custom aluminum-rail frame and carbon-fiber and fiberglass body panels. Even so, it weighs a whopping 10,200 pounds wet.
  • Power comes by the way of a turbocharged 14.0-liter inline-six Detroit Series 60 marine diesel. The seven-foot long engine makes 825 horsepower in stock form, but the team at Gale Banks Engineering have fitted it with an 8.3-liter supercharger in addition to a 110-mm turbocharger (Banks calls it a "Super-Turbo"). But that wasn't all, as the guys also added a methanol injection system to improve combustion and an intercooler spray system to reduce the intake temperatures. The modified engine, sitting a foot lower and six feet further rearward than stock, now delivers 2,400 horsepower and 5,000 pound-feet of torque – while burning No. 2 pump diesel fuel!
  • The transmission is a five-speed road racing automatic sending its power rearward to a Detroit locker limited-slip differential (permanently locked, so the rear wheels always scrub). The steering rack is from Howe Performance, designed for a Baja Trophy Truck, while the tires are custom-compound sticky racing rubber molded by Michelin to look like stock truck tires.
  • In addition to the 12-gallon diesel tank, there are five other tanks of fluid including 14 gallons of water/methanol for the engine, 7 gallons of water for the intercooler spray and 14 gallons of water to fog the brake rotors for additional cooling – yes, the brakes are water cooled.
  • Climbing into the cab requires a bit of gymnastic ability, and the seating position is startlingly high off the ground if you're not used to a big rig. Ryan faces a thin plastic steering wheel and a custom aluminum dash chock full of temperature/pressure gauges and switches. Primary instrumentation is a Racepack digital cluster. The transmission control lever, and a separate handbrake just for the rear wheels, sits high between the two bucket seats.
  • The blown diesel engine is startling loud, even at idle, and full throttle (redline is 2,700 rpm) sends it into a whining frenzy. Despite its prodigious power output (weight to horsepower ratio of 4.25:1), acceleration is strong rather than truly brisk. Nevertheless, the two rear wheels have a very difficult time maintaining traction. The throttle response is slightly delayed as the boost builds, but once everything is pressurized, nothing holds it back. Shifting through the gears is surprisingly smooth, mainly because the rear tires had trouble maintaining contact with the track. The throttle response reminds me of a powerful off-shore power boat – a slight delay followed by incredibly strong thrust.
  • Oddly enough, especially after looking at the pictures, the truck doesn't feel top heavy or unstable. However, Ryan would later run me around the oval at high speed, and the Freightliner fought all of the steering inputs as he attempted directional changes (the locked rear axle caused plenty of scrub/understeer on the front tires). His solution was to break the rear tires free, set the five-ton truck adrift and then point the nose in his desired direction.
  • I found myself hanging on to the cage with white knuckles as the semi floated on self-made molten rubber sliding sideways around the track (scroll down to watch the video). Thick, acrid smoke filled the cabin, making it hard to see, and I was thrown hard against my five-point harness straps (the most violent maneuvers were side-to-side as the tires gained and lost grip as the surface changed). It was crazy fun, but I constantly reminded myself that I was a passenger on a very safe and contained track. Doing the same thing on the treacherous Pikes Peak circuit, with sheer cliffs on each side, feels like it's bordering on lunacy.
Mike Ryan and his Banks-tuned Freightliner, attack the mountain this week – best of luck to the team.

Freightliner Cascadia Pikes Peak Special

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Fifteen seconds of advertising, thirty seconds of typical music covering a driving shot, and five seconds of what the truck kind of sounds like. Good going, editing department.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Daaaannnggg. That's insanity at its best. Very cool.
      • 1 Year Ago
      So. Fvckin. Bad. Ass. the engineering thought put into this would be absolutely mind boggling.
      • 1 Year Ago
      A more in-depth video with less music would have been great, but I do love this crazy contraption! Hopefully there will be some documented footage of their climb!
      • 1 Year Ago
      Great vid! But 30 second commercial to watch 40 seconds of video c'mon AOL.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I drive a Prius. My wife drives a Prius. I'm a person that is genuinely concerned about the environment.. But 2,400 hp and 5,000 Torque is just insane! Hopefully they get a good video of the Pike's Peak run of this because it sounds good.
        • 1 Year Ago
        What does your vaginabutterfly on wheels have to do with this 2400 tree smasher?
          • 1 Year Ago
          I almost fail out of my chair reading Bobby_Sards comment lol
          • 1 Year Ago
          Uncalled for and irrelevant, but can't say I didn't laugh.
          • 1 Year Ago
          Allch Chcar
          • 1 Year Ago
          Oh Lord.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Everyone who likes to "roll coal" needs to take note, a 2,500 hp 5,000 pound-feet of torque, racing semi "rolls" less "coal" than your diesel truck you drive on the highway. Get a proper tune not a $200 plug in programmer that dumps fuel, no one is impressed.
      • 1 Year Ago
      So the rear wheels are locked together meaning your only choices when it comes to cornering are massive understeer or massive drifts. As if racing (or heck riding in) a 2000+hp semi truck wasnt scary enough. Damn.
      • 1 Year Ago
      The DD series 60 is not seven feet long, it's four and some!!! The engine also not primarily a diesel engine and is used in both marine and land applications. The engine started life off primarily in non marine engines and only was officially sold as a marine engine after DD was bought over if I am not mistaken.
        Michael Harley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Richard 84 inches long. - Mike
        • 1 Year Ago
          Perry Harrington
          • 1 Year Ago
          Sorry, that 7ft is with a marine Transmission and intercooler, it's closer to "4ft and change" without the marine components. Also, it's doubtful that this particular engine started life as a "marine" version, since they are built for stationary applications and would be very different than an OTR engine.
      • 1 Year Ago
      The mention of the tires was interesting. I spent a few minutes talking to these guys on Friday at the FanFest and I didn't think to ask about the tires. I just thought it was odd that on such a powerful vehicle, they didn't opt for slicks or something that at least didn't look like a highway tread. Guess I got my answer.
      • 1 Year Ago
      5000 lb ft from a 14.0L twincharged I6? Where do I sign up? Even though it weighs 5 tons, it has a quite power to weight ratio
      • 1 Year Ago better videos here of the same truck.
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