Blue Angel

1,151-horsepower LB7 Duramax

June 2009 Feature, Duramax

The whole story of my build started in early 2002, when I went out looking for a tow vehicle for my drag car. I got fed up with trying to drive my gas-powered race car to the track in hopes nothing would break and require a dreadful call to a friend to come rescue the vehicle from the track.


So I went in search of something that could tow a large, enclosed trailer, get good fuel mileage and would be reliable. I did my research and found myself in the market for a diesel, a truck that did everything I wanted and didn't compromise on anything.

Now I had to make a choice between Ford, Dodge and Chevy. I went to each dealership and test drove each of the big three diesels to see which one would best suit my needs. After driving a 2002 7.3 Power Stroke, 2002 24v Cummins and the Chevy 6.6 Duramax, I had a hard decision to make.


In stock form, each of the three seemed pretty comparable in the power department. So then it came down to three simple things. Which one was the least noisy, which one was the smoothest and which one I was least likely to turn into a hotrod (since I have a serious need for speed). Believe it or not, at the time, the Duramax was the perfect candidate. It was by far the quietest, the smoothest and had the smallest performance aftermarket, since it was so new to the diesel world. I purchased my first diesel, a 2002 Chevy Duramax Crew Cab 4x4.


Little did I know I would eventually turn my newly-purchased, daily-driven tow vehicle into an 1151 hp street demon.


The truck now sports a long list of upgrades to create that kind of power. Stock Duramax connecting rods are only reliable up to the 550 hp range. So a set of 4340 chromoly I-beam connecting rods were added to help support the lower rotating assembly. Next, a set of custom built Advanced Motor Sports pistons were added to help lower the compression and add to the reliability of the lower end. With all the power now being able to make it past the pistons and down the rods to the crank, the bearings were in need of attention.


Next, I added a full set of hardened rod and main bearings from Clevite and had the clearances opened up to allow for more shock to be absorbed by the oil and not the bearing. Also, a set of ARP main studs were added to ensure the main caps would stay put, along with an align hone to make sure with the added clamp load on the main bearing caps the bearing surface remained true. With the rotating assembly nearly finished, I had a keyway added to both the cam and crank to ensure under heavy power loads the factory locator pins would not shear off, causing major motor damage. I then added an ATS Billet Flex plate to replace the weak factory unit and had the whole assembly balanced.


On the upper end I had the heads hand-ported and bench-flowed along with some new valve guides and seals. Keeping the valves seated during high rpm and high boost conditions is a set of Advanced Motor Sports ovate wire beehive springs, along with titanium retainers and new spring cups. A set of Advanced Motor Sports Billet injector hold downs and studs were also added to keep the LB7 injectors from pushing up during high boost, allowing compression to leak by the injector cups, thus pressurizing the cooling system. Also, sets of ARP heads and studs were added to the list to keep the heads from lifting while making 63 psi of boost.


Providing the fuel for this beast was a daunting challenge. Trying to both "go where no man had gone before" and keep the wife happy enroute to and from the grocery store was no easy task. I made a call to Dynomite Diesel Performance for a set of extrude hone injectors that would be capable of 1000 hp and still retain proper atomization of the fuel while at idle. After all, you can't have a true street truck that smokes while stopped at traffic lights.


Dynomite accepted the challenge and didn't disappoint. All of my expectations were more than met with a set of injectors, that, to date, have been capable of more than 1150 hp and have averaged 18.4 mpg while on the highway. Feeding the small arsenal of fire hoses from Dynomite is an ATS Diesel twin CP3 system which is force fed by a FASS 200 gph racing fuel system.


The turbo charger system has also been heavily modified. Sporting a custom built Gillett Diesel S400 turbocharger atop an ATS Diesel T4 pedestal, the system boasts a full 4-inch exhaust down pipe and 3-inch discharge boost piping all the way down to the Spearco intercooler. So far, this combination has been able to produce more than 773 hp and 1291 ft.-lbs. of torque on diesel fuel only. It's also been tough enough to handle an additional 378 hp of nitrous being thrown at it via a custom three-stage nitrous system for a grand total of 1151 hp and more than 2000 ft.-lbs. of torque.


Getting the entire combination running together and staying streetable was achieved through hours of custom tuning by myself via EFI Live custom tuning software. The truck has five different switchable, on the fly levels that allow me to go from tow/economy, all the way up to four-tire fire, at just the turn of a switch.


Getting all that horsepower and torque to the tires requires a major transmission and torque converter. I added an ATS Extreme competition transmission package. This system included a competition built transmission, 5-star billet torque converter, deep aluminum ATS pan and Copilot electronic transmission and lockup controller. This transmission package has (so far) been able to handle 11.21 second quarter mile passes at more than 127 mph with a 7100-pound crew cab truck sitting on top of it.


As for making the truck look almost as good as it runs, that was handled by James Brendle from Custom Auto and Zane Bobo from Bobo's Auto Works. It was literally like watching an episode of Extreme Make Over, truck edition. It went from a stock-looking powerhouse into a glorified beauty queen on steroids. The truck now sports a full front end package by Street Scene, Bushwhacker pocket flares, fiberglass roll pan and a Good Hood with functional ram air scoop and heat evacuators.


Building this truck into what it is today has given me a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction. I even started my own performance diesel company, Diesel Day Dreams. I now get paid to make other people's dreams a reality.

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