Salvaged Powerhouse Carli Performance 2.0 Test Report

Putting the suspension package through the ugly stuff

Published in the August 2009 Issue August 2009 Build, Cummins, Feature

Salvaged PowerhouseRecognize this truck? You shouldn't. No, it's not a big rig chaser from the movie Mad Max. It's our project Salvaged Powerhouse, a truck we first introduced a year ago. Of course, the last time it was on the pages of Diesel Tech, it was in pretty bad shape. This 2005 Dodge Quad Cab with the 24-valve Cummins HO engine and a manual transmission was sent to the scrap yards by an insurance adjuster. That's where we came in.

The truck was totaled for all of its body damage. The front end assembly, cab and bed were all toast. But the frame was straight, the power train intact and functional and the important parts in working condition.

So that's where the truck's builder, Bart Stolworthy, began. The cab, bed, fenders, hood and bumpers were stripped off until all that was left was a rolling chassis with a Cummins sitting on it. And what you see now is where we're at a year later. It runs and looks nothing like a truck that side swiped a power pole. Minus a few details on the custom flatbed and spraying the bumper with Line-X, it's ready to roll. Which is a good thing, because we've been dying to try out the Carli Performance 2.0 suspension.

Carli Suspension, through KLM Performance (, set Salvaged Powerhouse up with this premium complete system. It was the first install on the project, which went smoothly thanks to the truck being stripped down to the frame.

The Carli Performance 2.0 system consists of more than you'd expect in a suspension upgrade. You get remote reservoir Bilstein shocks front and rear, multi-rate coil springs for the front and five-leaf progressive leaf spring replacements. You are replacing most of what sits between your butt on the seat and the tires on the ground.

But like we said before, we have been waiting a long time to put this system through the paces, so rather than tell you how we bolted it all together, we're going to tell you how it changed the truck's performance (oh, and if you like all of the nuts and bolts stuff, check out the October 08 issue of Diesel Tech for a detailed explanation of the Carli Performance 2.0 system).

Before we tell you what we think, let's just preface it by saying we get a lot of phone calls promising performance gains that never really materialize once we've got the product out in the real world. Did we get that phone call on the Carli system? Yes, but this time was different. Because when we took the assembled truck straight from the shop to the rough, rutted and washboarded dirt roads that we drive over dozens of times each year, no one could believe we were riding in a Dodge.

Normally-and we double-checked this with a stock Dodge 2500-you get the tar beat out of you on this stretch of roads. You can run up around 45 mph before axle hop makes you regret super-sizing the drink on your value meal at lunch. Sure, it's manageable-we've run Dodge solid axles with heavy Cummins engines in them over these roads for years, but only because there wasn't a choice. Now with the Carli Performance 2.0 system under the truck, we were running over the washboards at 60-plus mph and drifting the rear end around the gravel corners like we had jumped into the truck through the windows. The thing was planted, and it seemed like the cab was almost completely isolated from the vibrations south of the control arms.

Now we know what some of you are thinking. "Rides like a Chevy, right?" No way. A Chevy is way worse-we took one with us on this photo shoot. If General Motors knew you could make solid axle front ends ride this well, none of us would have IFS.

It's not something we would call plush. Buicks are plush. They also drift in corners and tend to get worse as the speedo rotates clockwise. This Carli/Dodge combo is more "progressive," meaning that the ride gets better the harder it's pushed. Drive down a paved road on your way to work and it will feel as good as any truck on the road. Drive down a shelled-out dirt road on the opening day of deer season and it will do better than any truck on the road.

Obviously, the drastic improvement in ride quality can't be attributed to just the shocks or just the coil springs or just the leaf packs. It's a combination of every component in the system. The Bilstein 7100 shocks control the dampening while the multi-rate coils control the wheel movement. One of the keys to controlling the rear end from getting wild and crazy, especially on a noseheavy Dodge Cummins, is through advanced shock technology and carefullyengineered leaf springs. We also added a set of long-travel air bags from KLM Performance to the rear axle to increase payload capacity. The entire package keeps the dual tires firmly planted to the ground.

Project Salvaged Powerhouse is also running a Diesel Power Source compound turbo system, which we are in the process of testing and finding the right fueling combination for. Diesel Power Source has been doing extensive turbo housing testing, and we have updated the chargers on this truck based on their R&D results. Stay tuned for a full report including dyno and acceleration testing.

Grand Rock exhaust stacks let the twins breathe easy.

North American Diesel Performance built the transmission to hold anything we or the twins can throw at it. We'll dive into the NADP transmission in the next series, too.

Fuel is filtered by an AirDog water separator filtration system. There's a Fluidampr harmonic engine balance smoothing things out and Automotive Racing Products head studs keeping the combustion separate from the coolant.

The body has come together thanks to a set of rally-style fenders from Desert Racing Concepts and a ram-air look-style hood from Cab lights are from Recon.

Tires are Toyo Open Country M/Ts from Les Schwab Tires mounted on 17- inch KMC Rock Stars.

The front bumper, which is awaiting a coating of Line-X along with the custom flat bed, is from Throttle Down Kustoms.


KLM Performance

Carli Suspension

Diesel Power Source

North American Diesel Performance

Grand Rock Exhaust

PureFlow Technologies


Automotive Racing Products

CFM Plus

Desert Racing Concepts


Recon Truck Accessories

Throttle Down Kustoms

Les Schwab of Idaho Falls

Line-X of Idaho Falls


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