Monday, September 10, 2018

If you're not yet hip to the wonders of diesel culture, steer your cable box to Diesel Brothers on Discovery tonight

Diesel Brothers with Jose Caballero
Photo: Discovery Communications.
According to Discovery Communications, tonight's episode of Diesel Brothers on Discovery Channel and Discovery Go (Monday, September 10 at 10 PM ET/PT) is a big one.

In the episode, the fun-loving, truck-building men of Dieselsellerz, known for crazy online videos and over-the-top diesel builds, will be showing a better side of the American spirit to a Hispanic-American family that, as graphically documented in a smartphone video that went viral, was unfortunately exposed to some of the worst of 'Murican behavior when their truck broke down at a campground.

Jose Caballero, in front of his family, was bombarded with a profane barrage of abuse by a man at the campground who had the audacity, in the midst of his abusive rant, to brag about his job as a diesel mechanic in Weber County, Utah. According to Newsweek, after the video went viral, that same abusive rant cost the diesel mechanic a job and left him open to possible criminal charges.

When the Diesel Brothers saw the viral video, they decided to offer Caballero the gift of an awesome makeover and custom build to give new life to the broken-down truck. And tonight's episode reveals that build.

Now, that feel-good human interest story alone is reason enough to tune into tonight's episode. But beyond that very good reason, if you're not a diesel aficionado, are there other reasons why, generally speaking, you should care about diesel in general or this show in particular?

I say "Yes," and to explain why, I'll share my personal experience to illustrate why the virtues of diesel powertrains and the existence of a vibrant diesel subculture within American car culture should not be overlooked.

In the automotive world of my youth, the cool kids with the Mustangs, Camaros, or even the occasional MG, Triumph, Sunbeam, or Datsun Z were the envy of student parking lots at high schools everywhere.

Country music was something many shunned, at least in the suburbs of Washington D.C. where I grew up,  although Southern-fried rock certainly had its loyal following. A new pickup truck could in many cases be cheaper than a car from the same manufacturer, and the idea that a pickup truck could be a chick magnet was far outside of the universe for most of us—although even then there were exceptions.

And diesel? That was something mostly associated with the occasional oddball we’d see with a noisy, smelly, smoky Mercedes or Volkswagen Rabbit.

Needless to say, this has all changed remarkably since then. Domestic manufacturers are all but leaving behind their passenger car offerings in favor of pickups, SUVs, and crossovers. And, yes—diesel powertrains can indeed be a legitimate thing for motoring enthusiasts to get excited about. Owning a diesel does not at all need to mean that, with apologies to Mr. Foxworthy, you just might be a redneck.

Still, although I’d had some limited awareness, from seeing occasional show-offy displays of black smoke from the exhausts of tricked-out diesel pickups, of the more-recent emergence of a diesel enthusiasts subculture, I didn’t pay much attention to it until a couple of years ago when some random circumstances put me in the occasional company of an ardent diesel apologist.

He evangelized on the virtues of diesel, pointing out the strengths of diesel engines in terms of raw power, efficiency, and durability. The compelling case he made did not make me enough of a convert to become interested in buying a diesel-powered vehicle myself, but at least I “get” the appeal now.

I’m persuaded that diesel has in many ways gotten a bad rap here in the United States. One can make a strong case that the negative reputation from an environmental perspective is largely undeserved. Today's non-tinkered-with modern diesel is not your father's or grandpa's smelly Rabbit or Benzo that Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers remember from the 70s and 80s.

My friend even made a case that tree-huggers should really like diesel vehicles rather than shunning them, based on the premise that the benefits of fuel efficiency and durability outweigh any remaining pollution considerations. Even the Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, admits that diesel automobiles do offer a modest oil consumption and emissions advantage over gasoline engines.

And from a durability perspective, think of over-the-road freight-hauling diesel trucks. It's not at all uncommon to see that class of diesel engine continuing to go strong with over a million miles on the clock, in a world where many gas-fueled car owners are thrilled to reach 200,000 miles with reasonably good drivability. When vehicles last longer, the environmental impact of manufacturing is of course reduced.

Then there is the raw power consideration. At any given level of horsepower, a diesel engine will produce more torque than a gasoline engine. That's what can make a diesel an appealing option for the enthusiast. My diesel-apologist friend's dream was to swap a diesel powertrain, like one from a Ford Super Duty pickup, into a 60s classic to achieve one of the most formidably-powered muscle-car builds on the road.

Granted, the diesel subculture is a limited niche within the enthusiast community. And owning a diesel vehicle isn't for anyone. It probably never will be for me. But it's still fun to check out some of the creative, powerful, pimped-out builds that diesel enthusiasts come up with. And watching Diesel Brothers is a great way to get a taste of that world, even if it's destined to remain a vicarious taste for you.

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