Party Out Back: A Boosted ’54 Chevy

Now that the 2017 SEMA Show is done and dusted, I’ve had time to flip through the thousands of photos I accumulated in Las Vegas.

One build I alluded to but held back on was an insane 1954 Chevrolet 3100. I kept returning to the truck during my time at the show, checking for any details I overlooked. The same happened as I went through my photos; I just kept coming back to this thing.


While David and Debbie Pilgrim’s Chevy has a few tricks up its sleeve, its story is just as good. “Old Smokey” as she’s called now, was purchased new by David’s father in 1954.


David learned to drive in it, picked up his wife for their first date in it, and eventually it became his own. He used it as a shop truck at San Marcos Harley-Davidson before it was totally overhauled and built-up by Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop for Bonneville Salt Flats speed duty.

Before we work our way out back, we’ll take a look at the monster under the hood. The 3100 is powered by a Duramax V8 diesel block that’s force-fed with over 100psi of spooled-up air and fuel.


All that boost is courtesy of four Comp turbochargers that are more or less tucked away in the bed of the truck.


Making your way from front to back, the custom job of piping all this power is mind-blowing; the fabrication involved is next level. It’s functional and just so good to look at.


Of course, that boost doesn’t do much good if the air it pumps in is hot. That’s also solved in a beautiful fashion at the end of the truck bed by a magical box; warm air goes in, cool air comes out.


Once it goes through the first pair of turbos, into the intercooler, and out into the next pair of turbos, the pressurized air finally makes it back up front into that gigantic intake.

I know what you’re thinking – what about the turbo lag? But really, that doesn’t matter at all in a truck like this. Besides, it’s already had results at Bonneville, which is what it was built and tuned for.


Of course, you can’t go that fast without a bit of safety equipment. Dual parachutes to help slow things down and a fire suppression system in the event of an emergency help in that regard.


I guess it gives you plenty of confidence to commit to the loud pedal, which is helpfully labelled as such.


With all the proper details, they’ve got a crew to back it up, too. Amazing work, all around.


All in all, this is an unreal build. It’s stuff like this at the SEMA Show that keeps us all coming back year after year. Who knows what’s in store for 2018…

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto



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100psi... HOLY NUTS.


Oh, it has Duramax V8... I normally dislike rear-mounted turbocharger but in this case, it make sense in a way.


100 psi is common in the diesel world


Pretty awesome, and a big step above almost anything else on the road in terms of turbocharging. The two-stage turbocharging is quite different from (parallel) twin turbos on something like a GTR, or even sequential twins on a Supra or RX-7, because the air is actually compressed twice. Merlin aero-engines used compound supercharging like this later in the war to good effect - there's a limit to how much you can compress air in a single turbine without hitting surge, hence the benefit of the two stages.

I see three pedals in the footwell - manual gearbox ? With nearly 7 bar boost it must be making a bit over 1,000hp ? As you say, who cares about turbo lag, this is a special-purpose vehicle and very cool.


Its Probably making closer to 2000hp. The 6 cylinder in 'Ol Smokey (different truck) Makes 1200 at the wheels with half the turbos and two less cylinders.


Compound turbocharging is very common in the diesel world.


Dude how can you tease an article like this an not tell us the horsepower? Also wonder how much it weighs withe that whole set up, although the weight distribution much be pretty good.


Here' the exact calculated HP number: a shitload.

The exact torque number: a f_ckton.

That is all


in land speed racing, weight is your friend surprizingly. It helps the vehicle stay planted as the car skates around like driving on packed snow. you drive with the throttle pedal not the steering wheel


100psi of boost? holy hell that's probably half of what a compression stroke produces wtf


makes me miss land speed racing.


Holy bejesus.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

The name "Old Smokey" seems to be rather popular for diesel-powered monster pickup trucks like this eh? Who remembers the 200 mph Ford F1 from last year's SEMA that's also called the same name? LOL!

Miles Hayler-MacMillan

Video? Anyone?


I like that McLaren somebody or over fenders and I like that article I get so sick of negative comments on the internet I wish anonymity proved to bring out the best in people instead it gives people a chance to showcase their worst with such negativity that they would never use out in the real world... so great article I love the vibe


What manual transmission are they running? I don't believe the stock GM ZF-6 can hold that much power. Medium duty 10 speed maybe?