Trucks & SUVs

Want to Make a Go-Kart? Use a Diesel GMC Sierra

Pickup trucks are usually bought for utility. That’s especially important for farmers or owners working outside the city. But truck ownership is also about personalization. Making it your own because you enjoy it. That’s a mentality truck YouTuber WhistlinDiesel clearly wholeheartedly embraces. Which explains why he turned his GMC Sierra into a stripped-down diesel-powered off-road go-kart.

History of the GMC Sierra Diesel Go-Kart Build

WhistlinDiesel has owned several GMC Sierra Duramax pickups. Based on the titles of other videos on his channel, this one was—is, his third. After destroying the exterior of the truck for another video, he decided to go for broke and remove it. All of it.

The exterior body panels, windshield, bumpers, grille, and even the truck bed are all gone. Three LED light bars replace the grille, joined by more light bars on either side below the floor. WhistlinDiesel states that the light bars would normally hinder airflow to the engine, which means the lack of hood is actually a functional feature.

The truck now rides on 40” mud tires. To make them fit, the wheels have been mounted on 3” spacers. The suspension was also lowered; although, when WhistlinDiesel originally bought the Sierra, it had been lifted. In the introduction video, the YouTuber claims the engine made 600 hp. However, in a follow-up off-roading video, modifications from Dan’s Diesel Performance have boosted that power figure to 650 hp.

The Legality of the Diesel GMC Sierra Go-Kart: Stripping It Down

GMC Sierra Diesel Go-Kart
GMC Sierra Diesel Go-Kart | WhistlinDiesel

Modifying trucks and cars isn’t illegal. And, as Simone Giertz demonstrated with her Telsa pickup build, it’s not easy. That being said, if owners want to follow in WhistlinDiesel’s footsteps, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Removing body panels and bumper means removing safety equipment. For example, airbags. According to First Quarter Finance legal advisors, airbag removal is not necessarily illegal. Federal laws have mandated that manufacturers install airbags—and other safety features—in certain areas. This is why aftermarket companies like ARB ensure their products don’t interfere with factory safety equipment. But these laws describe factory installation and repair by licensed mechanics, not what happens when trucks reach owners’ hands. Technically, the federal government is OK if you disable/remove an airbag. However, certain states might not be. If your state mandates a safety inspection to register your vehicle, there’s no way a stripped-down truck will pass. But if the truck-kart won’t leave private lands, that isn’t an issue.

The Legality of the Diesel GMC Sierra Go-Kart: Engine Mods

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 22:  Race starter Scott Garrett watches as two Ford diesel pickup trucks leap off the starting line during Scion Friday Night Drags at Texas Motor Speedway on June 22, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
FORT WORTH, TX – JUNE 22: Race starter Scott Garrett watches as two Ford diesel pickup trucks leap off the starting line during Scion Friday Night Drags at Texas Motor Speedway on June 22, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Non-public road use also avoids another issue: engine modifications. At the moment, the Sierra diesel go-kart, according to both WhistlinDiesel’s video and Motor1, only has software and intake tweaks. It is not, to quote the YouTuber, a “deleted diesel”. In other words, the particulate filter—a key component of diesel emission controls—has not been removed. Trucks’ engines, powertrains, and exhaust can be modified—manufacturers often offer performance upgrades from the factory that do just that. But these modifications still have to comply with emissions regulations.

Modifications are fine as long as the emissions controls aren’t tampered with. If someone does so, and still uses the truck on public roads, they break federal law. These mods can also make the truck roll coal, releasing toxic plumes of black smoke. This particular truck doesn’t appear to be modified for coal-rolling purposes, but at several moments in the videos, black smoke does belch from underneath. And several coal-rollers have appeared on WhistlinDiesel’s channel before. Which is technically legal—if inappropriate—as long as they aren’t registered for on-road use.