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Club’s diesel drag truck named ‘Top Race Vehicle’ at auto show


A diesel drag truck, which has provided nearly 20 years’ worth of unique laboratory experience for Pennsylvania College of Technology students, recently captured first place at a popular automotive festival in Harrisburg.

The college’s Diesel Performance Club took the modified 1959 Mack B61 truck to the Motorama Speed Show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex for the second year and brought home the trophy as the event’s “Top Race Vehicle.”

The first-place Motorama trophy and club banner adorn the drag truck, a fixture in Penn College’s diesel lab through two decades’ worth of students.
The first-place Motorama trophy and club banner adorn the drag truck, a fixture in Penn College’s diesel lab through two decades’ worth of students.

“This project is testimony to the dedication and superior abilities of our diesel students, spanning nearly 20 years,” said Mark E. Sones, a diesel equipment technology instructor who serves as the club’s adviser. “Initially, our project was intended to be a stock restoration performed by diesel students. It didn’t take long for the discussion to turn to adding speed and performance to the objective.”

The primary focus is using the vehicle to display talent and technology at the racetrack and industry events, he explained, and to promote Penn College academic programs.

“‘Accelerated Learning,’ as the project was quickly named, has been engineered and re-engineered many times by our student body, with 100 percent of the design and labor put forth by our diesel students and additional paint work performed by (collision repair technology instructor) Shaun Hack and his automotive restoration technology students,” Sones added. “We hope to see the truck on the dynamometer soon for test and tune, and taken to the drag strip before the end of the year.”

Nearly as impressive as the Harrisburg win is the fact that funding for the project has been fueled entirely by club efforts, as well as by individual and industry donations.

Mark your calendar! The drag truck will be on display at the Carlisle Truck Nationals, scheduled for Aug. 2-4 at the Carlisle Fairgrounds.
Mark your calendar! The drag truck will be on display at the Carlisle Truck Nationals, scheduled for Aug. 2-4 at the Carlisle Fairgrounds.

“The reactions from people as they walked by was very warming – almost like a pat on the back – not to mention the ability to broadcast what our program and school can do with a little creativity and guidance,” said club President Haydn T. Van Dyk, of Ramsey, New Jersey. “Another great memory was being able to connect to a group at the show that has been on this career path for decades, hearing stories of how they ‘used to own and drive a truck just like this every day,’ and just seeing the smiles on their faces from this vehicle bringing back so many memories.”

Van Dyk recounted the long journey to competition for “an old farm truck” that was donated to the club in 1998 after many years of use at the school’s heavy construction equipment operations site.

“The frame was cut and shortened, along with a full-body restoration by the club members with guidance from Professor Sones,” he said. “The engine is based on a 728-cubic-inch, 460-horsepower, Mack E-7 E-Tech engine, modified with special internals and custom fuel systems components, and once it was installed, we were dyno’d at just shy of 700 horsepower.”

Showing off their “Top Race Vehicle” trophy at Motorama are four of the students involved with the Penn College diesel drag truck. From left are Erik A. Gonzales, of Boalsburg; Haydn T. Van Dyk, of Ramsey, N.J., president of the college’s Diesel Performance Club; Brandon J. Yee, of Great Meadows, N.J.; and Tim M. Frey, of Blandon.
Showing off their “Top Race Vehicle” trophy at Motorama are four of the students involved with the Penn College diesel drag truck. From left are Erik A. Gonzales, of Boalsburg; Haydn T. Van Dyk, of Ramsey, N.J., president of the college’s Diesel Performance Club; Brandon J. Yee, of Great Meadows, N.J.; and Tim M. Frey, of Blandon.

Instead of settling for that “small” 700hp figure, he said, “the club decided to shoot for the moon by adding two turbos and a 250 shot of nitrous oxide, giving the truck its signature look of the tri-turbo monster it is today.” The transmission is a modified and reprogrammed Allison HD4060.

Van Dyk was joined at the show by club members Derek R. Brady, of Dushore; Tim M. Frey, of Blandon; Erik A. Gonzales, of Boalsburg; Russell J. Inscho, of Belvidere, New Jersey; and Brandon J. Yee, of Great Meadows, New Jersey. Yee is studying on-site power generation, and Inscho is a diesel technician major; the others are enrolled in diesel technology.

“As a freshman, I’m relatively new to the truck. I haven’t personally done as much work as others; rather, I’m learning the ins and outs of the truck to know what to do in the future to take over the reins and keep the club going,” Frey said. “It feels great to promote the club in this way. Talking to prospective students, former students and anybody that came up to show an interest in the truck and telling them about it and its history really made the weekend worth it for me.

“The experience has changed my college experience for the better exponentially. Coming in as a freshman in the fall semester, I didn’t know how many friends and acquaintances I would make. Now, I have friends I wouldn’t have ever thought to have, and I chalk that up directly to the club. It increased my college involvement more than I would have expected it to.”

The Mack mascot, accessorized for the season
The Mack mascot, accessorized for the season

Brady’s class schedule kept him from working on the truck as much as he’d like, but he shares with his classmates a passion for championing his major to anyone who’ll listen.

“I had an absolutely amazing time the first year and could not wait to go this year. I love talking to people about the truck and answering any questions they have. It feels great to represent the school, but to win an award while doing it? Amazing!” he said. “Motorama has been a great addition to my overall college experience. Especially being in the diesel program.  I get to meet so many people out in my field and see all kinds of cool cars and trucks. I get to see the kinds of things I’ll be able to build with the skills I’ve acquired from Penn College.

“Both years I’ve gone to Motorama, I’ve been surprised by how many people we get stopping by the booth. A good amount are brought in by the drag truck, and then they see that it’s attached to Penn College and want more info about the school. Next year will only be better because the truck would be returning as the previous year’s winner.”

Yee, likewise, is always glad to represent the club and the school.

“This experience is what drives us to always improve and to learn many things about performance in a semi-truck,” he said.

For more about diesel and power generation majors within the college’s School of Transportation & Natural Resources Technologies  or call 570-327-4516.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Photos provided by the Diesel Performance Club (most notably member Derek R. Brady)

Comments

Dick LaCerra,

Well done and much deserved!

Phil Berry,

Smart, capable, enthusiastic students! The heart and soul of what Penn College is all about. Nice work, guys. Looking forward to seeing that beast on the drag strip.

Deb Books,

Congratulations, Mark and students!

Mary Sullivan,

I didn’t think I’d live to see the day! Mr. Sones, you and your wonderful students proved me wrong! Well done.

Eric Ott,

My Dad drag races a ‘59 panel truck that was originally bought to haul flowers at my family’s greenhouse in Schwenksville. Which tracks are you planning on racing at?

James Beall,

I did the suspension work on that truck a little over 20 years ago. That truck was just getting started; wow, did that come a long way!

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