The Duramax Diesel Story
It all started in 1996 when General Motors was beginning to finalize their plans for their next generation of full-size trucks named GMT800. At that time GM was very focused on improving their 3% market- share for the diesel powered HD pick-up truck segment. GM knew that to improve their position and have a winning truck they needed to have a superior Diesel powertrain offering.
As this was unfolding a small group of investors led by the GM Planning Group was reviewing proposals from a number of possible Diesel engine manufacturers for the new line of pick-up trucks. The contract was awarded to one of GM’s existing partners – Isuzu Motors, LTD. who was already recognized as a world leader in the Diesel Engine arena.
Isuzu proposed that they begin this new diesel engine project with a clean sheet approach. The issue for GM is that this plan would mean that the new Isuzu designed diesel engine would not be available until 2003. Unfortunately GM had planned to begin production on their new truck line in late 2000. This scheduling issue prompted a meeting between GM Chairman Jack Smith and Isuzu’s Chairman Kazuhira Seki in early 1997. After the meeting Mr. Seki had agreed that Isuzu would find a way to meet GM’s scheduling needs.
In May of 1997 the project team was established under the leadership of Mr. Jim Hogan, GM Truck Group, Mr. Jim Kerekes, GM Powertrain and Yoshihiro Tadaki, Isuzu Motors, Ltd. The meetings began in the GM facility in Pontiac, Michigan with subsequent meetings held every 6 to 8 weeks alternating between the Unites States and Japan.
The project was named “B908” which meant Bridge between U.S. and Isuzu, 90 day study and 8 cylinders. The plan was in place. Isuzu would be responsible for the design of the base engine which was Isuzu’s first ever V8 Diesel engine designed for the U.S. HD pick-up truck market. GM would be responsible for the integration and installation of the new V-8 diesel engine into the vehicle.
Because of the agreed upon timetable, Isuzu engineers needed assistance with the engine development testing and calibration. GM Powertrain at the Romulus Engineering Lab became the facility utilized in the U.S. where several of the Isuzu engineers were re-located during the project.
In early 1998 the first running B908 engines were available in Japan and soon after installed in testing vehicles in the U.S. to allow for the process of final development. At that time the two engineering teams worked very closely with each other despite the 13 hour time difference. The teams utilized video conferencing as a means to communicate. The 13 hour time delay became a tool that was utilized, appreciated and taken advantage of. The U.S. team would organize a video conference late in the day and review issues and problems with their counterparts in Japan. The team in Japan would work on the issues and problems during their day (U.S. night). When the U.S. team would arrive the next morning they would have another video conference to review the progress of the team in Japan. This method truly offered a 24/7 development program that greatly enhanced the progress of the project.
In September of 1998 a new joint venture company was established in Moraine, Ohio. The joint venture company was 60% owned by Isuzu and 40% owned by GM. The new company occupied a new 650,000 square foot engine plant built near the former 6.5 L Diesel Engine plant which allowed many of the employees to transfer to the new joint venture facility named DMAX, Ltd. which signified Diesel Engine, Maximum Power, Cleanliness and Fuel Economy.
The new joint venture engine was a 6.6 liter, 90 degree, direct-injection, overhead valve, four-valve-per cylinder turbocharged diesel V-8 with aluminum cylinder heads. The combination of the engine with its electronically controlled common- rail fuel system resulted in a “Best-in-Class” operating quietness and smoothness typical of similar sized gasoline engines as well as for power and torque. In order to transfer the 300 hp. and the 520 ft. pounds of torque to the trucks wheels a new 5-speed automatic transmission needed to be developed. The Allison Transmission 1000 series was chosen to complete the award winning powertrain. This required that the B908 team work very closely with the engineering team at Allison Transmissions to be sure to match the performance characteristics of the engine with the new transmission.
With the completion of the mating of the new B908 diesel engine to the new Allison 1000 transmission it was now time for GM to decide upon a marketing name for the new engine. GM realized that their choice of a new marketing name was very important as their previous attempts had not been very well received by the U.S. buying public. The new name was critical as it had to compete with the Ford “Powerstroke” diesel engine. After many meetings and numerous hours of discussions with the Chevrolet and GMC’s truck marketing department the name Duramax Diesel 6600 was agreed upon. The name “Duramax” was meant to highlight the durability and reliability of the new diesel engine.
As originally agreed upon at the meeting of Mr. Jack Smith of GM and Mr. Kazuhira Seki of Isuzu the engine was debuted in late 2000. The Duramax Diesel 6600 was introduced in the 2001 HD pick-up truck. The Duramax proved to be the fastest developed new engine GM Powertrain had been able to produce; in a short 37 months the Duramax had gone from idea to reality. The Duramax proved to be an immediate success increasing GM’s market share from 3 percent to 30 percent in the HD Diesel pick-up truck market.
Since its inception the Duramax Diesel has continued to evolve and improve, continuing to meet the stringent emissions standards and leading in the competitive power and torque competition.
More than one million Duramax Diesel 6600’s have been produced to date.
Did You Know?
The Duramax Diesel powered one of the heroic Autobot’s, “Ironhide” in the 2007 movie Transformers.
MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” featured an 800 Horsepower Duramax Diesel 6600 being installed in a 1965 Chevrolet Impala.