Every year, thousands of speed fanatics gather at the fastest place on earth—the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Professional and amateur teams from all over the world compete to set land speed records at Bonneville World of Speed, racing everything from motorcycles to jet-powered streamliners. One vehicle dwarfs all others in size, and number of jaws dropped when it thunders down the five-mile track. It’s a ten-ton missile called Joint Venture.
Currently holding the world land speed record for modified diesel trucks at 228.8 mph, Joint Venture gets its name from a team development effort between Don Lemmons of Interstate Wood Products and Ray Heitz of Longview Diesel. Working together with a team of engineers and mechanics from MTU distributor Pacific Power Products, they created a monster of a truck.
Joint Venture is a highly modified 1997 Freightliner designed to unleash ludicrous amounts of power and speed. “We had a 12V92 on it that first year. We came back and wanted more horsepower so we put in a 16V92,” says Don Lemmons, Joint Venture owner. “Over the years we’ve added things to it. We’ve looked at other engines and nothing else can give us the RPMs that we need.”
With 4,500 horsepower at 3,500 RPM under its hood, Joint Venture is built to achieve insane speeds. The Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle engine delivers 1,472 cubic-inches of quad-turbocharged and twin-supercharged 16-cylinder diesel power. The engine was originally installed in a tugboat, before several modifications were incorporated. To withstand the punishment of 200+ mph runs, the truck is equipped with Boeing 737 rear tires and front tires from a F-15 fighter.
Billowing black smoke and producing a sound comparable to a bomber plane, Joint Venture rockets through the five-mile run in approximately 80 seconds. It takes 1½ additional miles and a large parachute for the beast to come to a stop. In 2006, driver Art Dick set the world record at 228.804 mph. Today, Mark Zwieg is behind the wheel. As a Lockheed Martin flight test engineer and stock car driver, Mark knows how to push the truck to the limit. “Trying to beat the world record is no easy task. Because of the truck’s aerodynamics, it takes an extra 500 horsepower to go just 10 mph faster,” says Mark. “Trying to go about 230 mph in a vehicle the size of a small skyscraper takes a very dedicated team and a whole bunch of horsepower.”
“Everyone’s gotta have a toy,” says owner Don Lemmons. As a lifelong Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle devotee, it’s only natural that Don chose a 16V92 for his “toy.” In 1966, Don Lemmons founded Interstate Wood Products in Kelso, Washington with only three trucks. Today, Don and his son Dale operate a 100+ fleet that services the Pacific Northwest. Detroit Diesel engines power every truck. “I ran Detroit Diesel 6V92s for years. When the Series 60 came out I switched over to them. We had real good luck with them, and they serviced very well. They’ve been very reliable. It’s been my life,” says Don.
Don and the team share their labor of love at the World of Speed event every year. And the engineering marvel never fails to attract new fans. “A couple of years ago, students from a high school mechanic class watched us at the salt flats. The truck took off and there’s a lot of black smoke and you couldn’t even see the kids. When the smoke cleared all you could see was smiles,” says Don Lemmons.
Watch the team’s 217 mph run from 2010.
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