Hoosier state native, Ethan Patterson might’ve had a rough haul down to South Carolina, but the $8,000 he left Darlington Dragway with sure had him smiling again. You see, Ethan has been working on his no-prep racing game for some time now. And—knowing that all-wheel drive vehicles were going to be allowed to compete in the big tire class at the recent “Thaw Out” event there—he leapt at the chance to see what his ’06 Dodge could do against some pretty heavy hitters. Ethan quickly found that his 4,400-pound Cummins didn’t mind the rough racing surface, while literally, every big tire car in attendance had major problems with it.

With so few issues going from A to B, Ethan decided early on that he would leave a conservative, roughly 1,000hp tune-up in the truck until somebody beat him. Nobody did. Believe it or not, the closest big tire race of the night came when he lined up next to Colby Patterson, the owner of a 4x4 Silverado packing a turbocharged LS. So where was the competition from all the lightweight, mega-horsepower rear-wheel-drive cars, some of which can go deep into the 4’s? In Ethan’s own words: “That was the first time everyone raced on that track. It is very rocky and aggregate, so your tires have about half the contact patch they would on a level, prepped surface. It’s very rough.” Simply put, the heavy, 4x4 diesel liked it—and pretty much everything else hated it. Whether or not four-wheel drive offered Ethan an unfair advantage on the virgin surface has been lively debated in the days following his dominance of the big tire class.

So what makes Ethan’s standard cab Ram 3500 tick? A wet-block 6.7L sleeved down to a 5.9L bore with a 5.9L crank helps limit torque (which tends to aid traction) and also provides for a quick cool-down time between passes. Massive 500-percent over S&S Diesel Motorsport injectors, a 14mm Engineered Diesel CP3, and a gear-driven Waterman lift pump sums up a very serious fuel system. For air, Ethan runs our S485 Godfather, a turbo that can support north of 1,500 hp. A Stainless Competition T-6 manifold opens up flow on the exhaust side, and Ethan uses a small shot of nitrous to bring the 85/96/1.32 5-blade charger to life quickly on the starting line. The potent engine combo is backed up by a 48RE that’s chock full of Sonnax parts, equipped with a 2,400-rpm stall converter, a Sun Coast E618 valve body, and controlled via a PCS 2800 stand-alone transmission controller.

If Ethan’s name rings a bell, you’ve probably heard of Wilson Patterson Diesel from West Lafayette, Indiana. A bit of a transmission wizard, Ethan builds the TH400 in our record-setting 4x4 Pro Street truck.