The “new kid on the block” earned its stars on the battlefields of World War II and continues to build market share.
By Jim Brightly
This is the final installment in FMC’s three-part series highlighting the major diesel engine manufacturers “” Caterpillar, Cummins, and Detroit Diesel “” that supply power plants for the ever-growing type A diesel-pusher motorhome market.
No other place embodies Americans’ fascination with and love of the automobile more than Detroit, Michigan. It’s where the auto industry grew up. From downtown Detroit to the suburbs of Highland Park, Hamtramck, Dearborn, River Rouge, and Pontiac, vehicles were manufactured to ship goods, carry workers to their jobs, and transport vacationers to all points in North America.
Of the big three on-highway diesel engine manufacturers that supply power plants to motorhome manufacturers, only one has its roots in the Motor City: Detroit Diesel. And since it was first organized in 1937, the company has gained a reputation for providing high-performance, technologically advanced diesel engines to the truck and coach market.
In 1930, as America pulled itself out of the Great Depression by its bootstraps, Charles “Boss” Kettering, vice president of General Motors Research Company and a renowned inventor, became intrigued by the diesel engine. He saw the potential advantages of having such a power plant in the GM line and urged the company’s president, Alfred P. Sloan, to enter the diesel market.
Trusting Kettering’s foresight, Sloan gave the go-ahead for General Motors to purchase the Winton Engine Manufacturing Corporation in the early 1930s, which specialized in marine diesels. Later in the 1930s, GM bought the Electro-Motive Company, makers of diesel locomotives. These became the GM Cleveland Diesel Engine Division and the Electro-Motive Division of GM. While the acquisitions added to GM’s portfolio, they didn’t provide the one thing Kettering really wanted: a diesel for on-highway applications. The train and boat engines were just too big for GM truck and coach applications.
Starting with a clean sheet, the Detroit Diesel Engine Division was formed in 1937. The first engines, Series 71, were lightweight, compact two-cycle diesels and supplied to GM Truck & Coach, Allis Chalmers, and Gray Marine. With the start of World War II, the new engines were put into immediate use to supply the war-effort demand for power generators, landing craft, tanks, and road-building equipment.
After World War II and into the 1950s, Detroit Diesel continued developing the Series 71 engine lineup for various commercial markets, including long-haul trucks for over-the-highway transportation. In 1957 Detroit Diesel introduced the Series 53 engine and then in 1958, the V-71 Series.
Developing a worldwide network of distributors and dealers throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Detroit Diesel was able to provide parts and services to its markets. In 1970 the division was consolidated with the Allison Division to form the Detroit Diesel Allison Division. But much bigger changes were on the way.
During the early 1980s General Motors began to sell off its heavy truck and bus interests that weren’t profitable. General Motors chairman Roger Smith made it known that Detroit Diesel was a potential casualty if business did not change. So in 1984, Detroit Diesel, which had been separated from Allison, formed a joint venture with John Deere to manufacture engines at multiple locations, sharing equipment and resources. The arrangement worked well for both parties, and it seemed the experiment would lead to the formation of an official company. But in 1987 a bitter labor dispute at John Deere that included a lockout and strike derailed the project, putting Detroit Diesel on the auction block.
According to Dave Merrion, who spent 45 years with Detroit Diesel and retired as the company’s executive vice president of engineering, the timing couldn’t have been worse for GM. The company had just invested more than $350 million to develop and tool production for Detroit Diesel’s newest engine, the Series 60, a four-cycle, heavy-duty diesel, and the first to feature fully electronic fuel injection and controls.
In stepped Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation. After some negotiations, General Motors and Penske joined forces and, in January 1988, created the Detroit Diesel Corporation, the successor to the Detroit Diesel Allison Division, with Penske holding a 60 percent share. Production of the Series 60 engine continued.
The Series 60, developed to meet the burgeoning demand for cleaner-burning and more fuel-efficient diesel engines, became one of the most popular engines of its type for the North American truck market. In just a few years, Mr. Merrion noted, the Series 60 helped Detroit Diesel move from a 3 percent share of the truck market to 25 percent.
However, Detroit Diesel was still evolving. In 1993 it became a publicly traded company under the stock symbol DDC. By that time GM owned only 20 percent of the company and decided to sell it to DaimlerChrysler. Finally, in October 2000, DaimlerChrysler completed an acquisition of all outstanding Detroit Diesel shares (including Penske Corporation’s ownership interest). Although Detroit Diesel’s name and headquarters remained the same, DaimlerChrysler combined several engine and powertrain activities under a new division named DaimlerChrysler Powersystems.
Today, Detroit Diesel designs, manufactures, sells, and services heavy-duty diesel and alternative fuel engines; diesel automotive engines; and engine-related products. The company offers a complete line of engines that range from 22 to 10,000 horsepower for the on-highway, off-road, and automotive markets.
While all of the various horsepower configurations of the Series 60 engine may not be available to motorhome manufacturers, they are available for the on-highway market (long-haul tractors, buses, etc.). Certified to current EPA standards, Detroit Diesel already meets future EPA requirements with the Series 60 engine.
To meet 2002 EPA emissions requirements, Detroit Diesel engines utilize exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) technology, which has been around since the mid-1970s for gasoline engines, but has seen service with compression-ignition engines only in the past decade or so. EGR helps reduce the amount of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) that are created by the extreme heat generated in the combustion chamber. The hotter the combustion, the more NOx is created. By recirculating a portion of the exhaust gases into the incoming air/fuel mixture, oxygen content is lowered, thereby reducing combustion chamber heat, and thus cutting the production of NOx. Drivability, performance, fuel economy, and engine life for the Series 60 are not affected by EGR, according to Detroit Diesel officials.
Said to be the most popular engine for long-haul truckers, the Series 60 engine is available in two models, based on displacement. The 12.7-liter six-cylinder engine is available with the following horsepower ratings: 425, 435, and 445 horsepower at 1,800 rpm, each with torque ratings of 1,450 pound-feet at 1,200 rpm; and 445, 450, and 455 horsepower at 1,800 rpm, each with 1,550 pound-feet of torque at 1,200 rpm.
The 14.0-liter engine is rated at the following horsepower and torque levels: 455 and 490 horsepower at 1,800 rpm with 1,550 pound-feet of torque at 1,200 rpm; 470 and 490 horsepower at 1,800 rpm with 1,650 pound feet of torque at 1,200 rpm; and 515 horsepower at 1,800 rpm with three separate torque ratings: 1,450 pound-feet, 1,550 pound-feet, and 1,650 pound-feet at 1,200 rpm.
As the Series 60 engine continues to evolve, several enhancements have been instituted on the 2004 model. The electronic controls were upgraded to accommodate current and future needs with increased microprocessor power; four times more memory capability; nearly double the output pins; a stronger housing; and improved connectors and wiring harnesses. A new fuel injector that weighs less than past models provides quicker response time for improved efficiency. A tube-in-shell design (for improved durability) EGR cooler that weighs 10 pounds less than its predecessors has been installed. Much work has gone into the area around the engine’s combustion chambers with improved airflow in the cylinder head; ceramic rollers for the intake, exhaust, and injector valves; and a one-piece piston with a closed oil gallery for reduced friction, longer ring life, and a higher compression ratio for better cold-weather starting.
Service intervals for both the 12.7-liter and the 14.0-liter Series 60 models are 15,000 miles or six months, whichever comes first, with a 40-quart oil capacity, including filters.
If your coach is powered by a blue six-cylinder engine with Detroit Diesel Series 60 printed on the valve cover, look forward to many years of worry-free traveling.
Detroit Diesel, 13400 Outer Drive W., Detroit, MI 48239; (313) 592-5000; Series 60 24-hour hotline: (800) 445-1980; www.detroitdiesel.com.
Engine Horsepower@rpm Torque (pound-feet@rpm)
Series 60 12.7L 425, 435, 445 @ 1,800 1,450 @ 1,200
Series 60 12.7L 445, 450, 455 @ 1,800 1,550 @ 1,200
Series 60 14.0L 515 @ 1,800 1,450 @ 1,200
Series 60 14.0L 455, 490, 515 @ 1,800 1,550 @ 1,200
Series 60 14.0L 470, 490, 515 @ 1,800 1,650 @ 1,200
Detroit Diesel also is involved in the sales and support of a pair of Mercedes-Benz diesel engines.
Available in Freightliner truck chassis is the MBE 4000 (12.8-liter) in-line six-cylinder engine. The MBE 4000 enjoys an extended service interval of 25,000 miles, with a 44.4-quart oil capacity, and offers five different horsepower ratings (350, 370, 410, 435, and 450) at 1,900 rpm and three different torque levels (1,350, 1,450, and 1,550 pound-feet) at a very low 1,100 rpm.
The MBE 900 Series will be offered in Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation’s type C motorhome chassis beginning the third quarter of 2004. The most powerful engine in this group, the 7.2-liter MBE 926, offers 330 horsepower at 2,200 rpm and 1,000 pound-feet of torque at 1,300 to 1,600 rpm “” the most torque of any medium-duty engine in the motorhome market today. The engine has a service interval of 20,000 miles and a 26-quart oil capacity.