Diesel performance starts with an idea. This idea is driven by ambition and passion for diesel power. Diesel Tech was given the opportunity to witness this incredible power firsthand when Mykle Baugh, owner of Diesel Pickup Specialists, in Worland, Wyo., took us on one of the fastest rides we had ever been on in the 900 plus horsepower 2003 Chevy CAT-AMAX (creation of owner Dan [Madd-Mann] Madden and Baugh).
It’s one thing to get the story second hand, but to be in the front seat of something that performed more like a rocket than a truck was an experience of pure exhilaration, and will be long remembered.
When Madden and Baugh started on the CAT-AMAX project, the intention was to take a truck to the farthest reaches of performance possible. What they ended up with was one of the most unique, high-power trucks on the road today. There’s no doubt in my mind that they built exactly what they set out to build, and maybe accomplished a little more than they had expected.
With Friends Like These
Madden, a farmer in Worland, bought the ‘03 Chevy brand new. Running a farm is no easy task, and Madden needed the power of a diesel to take on the difficult and laborious tasks on the farm.
“I’m a rancher as well as a farmer,” says Madden. “I use the Chevy to haul everything and I also like to take the family camping on the weekends so I needed a family truck as well as a work truck. At the farm, you don’t get time off, so neither did my truck. I spent a lot of time in it. Whether I was hauling seed from the farm, or grinding miles on the highway, I was in it a lot.”
Diesel engines are incredibly resilient to stress. The strength of diesel is already well-renowned. But with all of the hard work and years of travel being put on the engine, it was simply a matter of time until something happened. Luckily, when repairs were necessary, Madden had the perfect friend to rely on. The constant stress on the engine led to problems in the head, so a trip to Baugh’s shop to start work under the hood was the obvious choice.
Baugh and Madden share an eight-year friendship, as well as a love for diesel. The Chevy was rolled into the shop for the head repair, but before any work was done, Madden came to Baugh with an idea.
“Madden said, ‘Let’s just build a cool truck with a lot of horsepower. I want a truck that I can drag, pull and still drive around town.’ So that’s exactly what we started doing,” says Baugh.
What began as a relatively simple head gasket swap became an ambitious idea to start the CAT-AMAX build. The CAT-AMAX truck was named after the “CAT” color scheme of Diesel Pickup Specialists’ logo, and was going to become more of a monster than a machine.
Going For The Best
When Baugh and Madden began mapping out the build, they wanted to ensure that the CAT-AMAX could withstand anything that they threw at it. The conclusion was to take the potential expense out of the equation and do whatever was necessary to create the strongest, most durable platform they could.
“We decided to buy higher-quality, more expensive parts to make sure it could withstand anything we put on it,” Baugh adds, “With all of the stress we planned to put on the truck, we didn’t want to risk breaking any parts.”
The first order of business was to suit the engine with the toughest armor they could buy. The engine was completely stripped of its original components and the installation of performance began. Carrilo Race Rods were installed to give the engine strength against the looming stress that a high performance engine could muster. Next, Baugh put in Industrial Injection’s Gorilla Girdle race coated and chamfered pistons, Industrial Injection full race CNC heads, race camshaft and 625 ARP head studs. Knowing that everything would have to be stronger than usual, Baugh also installed an ATI Super damper, as well as an Industrial Injections Silver Bullet with BorgWarner S480 race compound kit. The engine was ready to take anything that Baugh could throw at it. Now it was time to take the fuel system a few leaps forward.
The engine could certainly handle the strain Baugh intended to introduce, but the stock fuel system would hold back the CAT-AMAX’s sleeping potential. The remedy was the Industrial Injection dual 85 percent CP3 injection pumps and a set of Industrial Injection 50 percent over race series injectors. These upgrades to the fuel system would be just the thing needed to challenge the massive performance of the newly-built engine. Baugh considered the other components in the truck and knew that they would have to have the same extreme performance outfitting. Baugh went back to Madden, who was more than ready to take the ‘03 Chevy to the highest performance possible. For Baugh, the obvious next step was the transmission. The intricate inner workings of the CAT-AMAX had to be perfect in order to ensure the longevity of the truck. A fully-built Suncoast transmission was ordered, and upon arrival, was quickly bolted behind the outperforming engine. Now that the strength was added, it was time for the performance.
“As time went on, Madden kept giving me more room to add all of the great performance ideas that I had,” recalls Baugh with a laugh. “He had a lot of expectations for the build, so we just kept going.”
Baugh’s next series of installations started with a Turbonetics after-cooler, Merchant Automotive motor-mounts, Snow Performance’s water meth kit and dual FASS 220 lift pumps. Each time Baugh had an idea, Madden jumped at the opportunity to add more performance. The ambition to build the most powerful racing/sled-pulling platform they could create was beginning to take form, but the build wasn’t over yet.
Baugh knew that everything in the engine needed to be stronger than the performance parts that were being installed, so a trip back into the engine was necessary. To ensure the engine’s performance would stay optimal, Baugh installed a PPE center link, which was welded and drilled, a PPE pitman arm, PPE idler arm and a SuperSteer idler arm support. As the truck began to take shape, it started to steer away from the “CAT” theme that Baugh and Madden had originally gone with. To keep with their idea, Baugh installed CAT filters on each of the two FASS pumps. A new set of CAT-AMAX badges were put on the truck courtesy of Billet Badges. Baugh even went as far as downloading the CAT-AMAX emblem to the Chevy’s Edge CTS background. With the Chevy back on its original path to performance, Baugh continued the build with the installation of two Setrab transmission coolers, which are controlled by Derale’s adjustable temperature sensor. After these few installs, the Chevy took a trip to Prodigy Customz in Worland, to get a custom fit fuel rail. A new fuel sump and a FASS suction kit was put in at the top of the tank to provide better fuel delivery. With so many upgrades installed, Baugh decided that there was no other option than to go all the way. The performance was going to extremes, so it was time to take care of the intricate mechanics.
“All of the power we put in the truck was great,” says Baugh. “But we knew we had to take care of everything to keep the engine’s power from breaking any parts.”
Baugh installed a set of custom driveline hoops to prevent catastrophic U-joint failure, and Yukon locker and axles, along with Pro Comp traction bars were bolted in to provide reliable traction and additional support to the high-performance CAT-AMAX. After the remaining work under the truck was finished, Baugh went back to Prodigy Customz to have a spacer for the rear wheels, which would give Madden the choice to install dual wheels when he wanted to take the Chevy to the sled pull. While at Prodigy, they also had a custom rear and front bumper fabricated and installed. Once that was completed, all that was left was a good way to monitor and regulate the output of the massive truck, so two pyrometers were installed in both manifolds, an exhaust back-pressure gauge from Ispro was placed in, and a boost gauge was installed in place of the inadequate MAP sensor. Lastly, Baugh installed a t-case support to safeguard the transmission, should any of the U-joints fail.
The build broke many boundaries and overhauled every part, making the CAT-AMAX an incredible one-of-a-kind build. But with everything installed and ready to go, what was the payoff?
Everything that had been put into the 3/4-ton CAT-AMAX created uncanny levels of power and performance. Madden and Baugh couldn’t wait to see what their hard work and heavy investment could do. Their trip to the dyno was as much a reward as it was an astonishing sight. The CAT-AMAX peaked at over 900 horsepower. Every moment of time spent on the ‘03 Chevy, every part installed, created an indestructible platform with a thirst for speed and pulling power.
“We wanted to make the CAT-AMAX a combo truck from the beginning. I wanted to have a truck that could drag, as well as pull, and that’s what we made,” says Madden. “We didn’t want to do this to win trophies though. We’re out to have fun, and this truck is fun.”
The truck already sits as one of the most powerful trucks on the road today, but that hasn’t deterred Madden and Baugh from continuing their quest for more performance. In the future, more performance will find its way into the CAT-AMAX. Baugh has intentions of taking the Chevy to over 1000 horsepower, vinyl-wrapping the body and making the CAT’s appearance as unique and amazing as what’s under the hood. The power of Madden and Baugh’s friendship, along with their determination and ingenuity to create a masterpiece, led to a new standard in diesel performance: the 2003 Chevrolet CAT-AMAX.