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The song remains the same

8/4/2014 | Words: Chuck Mahnken | Pictures: MTU Archive

2-Cycle engines, Series 71

In the 1950s, every brand of engine produced a distinct sound. And Paul Klontz knew them all, since he spent his teenage years living near a truck route. Paul says, “I grew up to love the Detroit Diesel 53 and 71 engines, especially the sound. The first Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle engine I remember hearing was a 4-cylinder in a Chevy 60 Series. I mistook its high-pitched whine for high RPM. Even when cranking, the sound it uttered was unique.

A few years later, Paul became a truck driver. One night in 1962, he was hauling 36,000 lbs. of wire through the Raton Pass into New Mexico. The 45-minute climb up the mountain—and the temperature inside the cab—was grueling. At the top, he got out to let his 450 IHC truck cool off.

Paul heard a truck’s howl as it climbed the same mountain. It was a “cracker box” GMC tractor in the distance, and Paul knew exactly what kind of engine was providing the power—a Detroit Diesel 8V-71. “A few minutes later she came by me at 15 mph—both straight stacks slightly smoky and singing lovely,” Paul says.

He stood beside the roadway just to hear “that beautiful Detroit 2-stroke at full song” as it passed by and accelerated down the other side of the hill. Paul says, “It has been many years but I still remember that cold clear night in the mountains and that beautiful sound of strength in action.”

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