Last summer, Dodge, Cummins and Turbo Diesel Register magazine sponsored Diesel Daze in, yes, Hell, MI. Mine was among the more than 400 diesel pickup trucks that rumbled in for the daylong event. I wasn't surprised when the people at Turbo Diesel Register described the large following of Dodge diesel trucks as a cult of owners. Back home in Ohio, I'd noticed that farmers who buy one of these trucks tend to keep driving them for many years.

The day started with breakfast and then seminars presented by Dodge and Cummins. For lunch we caravanned our trucks to an outdoor barbecue. Then the real entertainment began at the Chrysler proving grounds where four brand-new Dakotas and two diesel Rams awaited punishment. Participants pounded over the off-road course, pretty much demolishing the vehicles by afternoon's end. Only three trucks were left running.

Drivers more interested in highway performance could drive one of six Rams on Chrysler's road track. On the track, I noticed that the 2001 models are virtually smoke-free and much quieter than my own 1991 model. New features include a quad cab, heated seats and a six-speed transmission. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard.

The start of the show was the Dodge Ram Turbo Diesel. Its B 5.9-liter motor was the first computer-designed pickup motor. Designed in 1980 and first produced in 1983, it was first used in Case mid-sized tractors. It is still used in the current Case IH Maxxum tractors. Other applications include Case backhoes, school buses, irrigation pumps, electric generators and medium-duty Ford trucks.

When Dodge first put the Cummins diesel into its pickups in 1989, it expected the engine to be a specialty item in no more than 4,000 trucks a year. But it became so popular that the motor now sells in more than 100,000 trucks a year. Performance improved as model years passed. In 1989, the horsepower rating was 160 with 420 lbs./torque. It's now rated at 245 hp with 505 lbs./torque. Cummins reports some trucks have run more than 1,000,000 miles without an overhaul and says to conservatively expect 300,000 miles between overhauls if you don't soup up the engine. It can be overhauled up to four times.

To find out about turbo diesel events in your area, go to www.turbodieselregister.com or call 770/844-1600.