Take a 40-foot triple-axle fifth wheel trailer, load it up with a few four-wheelers, one or two dirt bikes, maybe even throw in a Yamaha Rhino just for good measure and you know what you've got? 19,000 lbs of pure torture for just about any light-duty pickup out there, especially when you toss the 110-degree climate of the Arizona desert into the equation.
Dave Bryce of Mesa, AZ, bought his first diesel pickup back in 2004 when he was looking for something to pull his 30-foot travel trailer around for the summer. His newly purchased 2005 LLY Duramax was outfitted with the basic intake, exhaust and tuner upgrades and handled his little trailer with ease. But something was missing from the weekend trips with the family-he didn't have room to haul the quads. So the following summer Bryce found his dream trailer (more like a house on wheels): 40 feet of pure home away from home living. This includes a 150-gallon tank for fresh water, 40-gallon fuel station, generator, 23 feet of garage space for the toys and plenty of room to kick back and relax.
However, one thing that was never taken into account was the load this behemoth of a trailer would put on a 3/4-ton pickup. Bryce knew the first time he crossed the truck scales at just more than 27,000 lbs., he was well beyond the limits of his Silverado's capabilities.
While he had the power to pull it, the truck just wasn't enough to handle that kind of load safely, not to mention the overheating problems he was experiencing that generally plague LLY Duramax-equipped trucks. It was time to upgrade trucks and settle into something a little better suited for this kind of heavy-duty hauling. So shortly after buying this vacation on wheels Bryce traded in his '05 for a 2007 3500 Silverado, powered by the new and improved LBZ Duramax powerplant.
Starting with a platform that was already enough to handle his Weekend Warrior, Bryce set out to build the ultimate tow truck-a truck he could depend on to get the family to and from their favorite camping spots without worry of engine overheating or a transmission failure stranding them on the side of the road.
First on the list of aftermarket upgrades was the auxiliary V2 radiator kit from CoolMyDuramax.com. Originally designed and released for the LLY Duramax, the bolt-on radiator system can still provide some added cooling for the newer LBZ trucks. By placing the extra cooler with built-in fans directly behind the bumper, Bryce no longer worries about water temperatures getting out of control, no matter how long the grade.
Next on the list was to upgrade the exhaust system. Improving airflow should always be one of the first steps in a more efficient-running truck. Bryce replaced the restrictive factory exhaust with a turbo back 4-inch system from MBRP. The mandrel bent piping and high flow through muffler would be more than enough to expel burnt fuel from under the hood of the Duramax. An EGR Blocker plate and finger stick were also installed to eliminate any problems down the road with the EGR system.
When it came time to boost power output, Bryce decided it was time to bite the bullet and purchase the EFI Live software and start learning to tune this truck himself. With the help of his friends at DuramaxTuner.com he quickly picked up on the software and through online tutorials was well on his way to being comfortable enough to build some solid tunes for his LBZ.
Now onto building a transmission that could handle the loads and stress that big fifth wheel trailer would be putting on it. The factory Allison unit is a decent transmission but pulling that kind of weight at this power level in a hot desert climate could kill just about any tranny. So Bryce made the trip to California to see his friend Mike L at Inglewood Transmission, a shop that has quickly become known as one of the best Allison trans shops in the country. Inglewood installed Suncoast's Stage 4 kit and 1058 converter, a setup that has proven itself by backing thousands of strong-running Duramaxes without fail. A deeper Allison transmission pan was also installed to help keep things cooler while towing. And last, but not least, Inglewood installed the Suncoast transfer case brace to help beef up under the truck.
While in California Bryce also took the time to attend an EFI Live Tuning class that was being held that same week. With the endless limitations of the tuning software, Bryce wanted to be sure he knew all the ins and outs of the software-the last thing he wanted to do was build a tune that could be potentially harmful to his drive train.
With the performance end of things all beefed up and ready to tow, Bryce started upgrading the rest of the truck to ensure carefree traveling and towing. This included upgrading the tires and wheels with 19.5 Eagle Alloy Alcoa wheels and 245/70R19.5 Michelin XRV commercial grade tires. Upsizing the tires and wheels would eliminate any blown tire issues while traveling with that heavy load in tow. A Cognito pitman and idler arm brace was also installed, along with heavy-duty tie-rod sleeves. The suspension was improved with Bilstein shock absorbers all the way around, helping to improve ride quality, whether traveling loaded or just cruising around town empty.
In the cab Bryce was sure to order the truck with all the luxuries of home. XM and Sirius radio, Bose 6-disc sound system, heated memory seats, OnStar, sunroof and even a factory-installed DVD player were included in the luxury package. He has also installed a Prodigy trailer brake controller and Autometer Nexus boost as well as pyrometer gauges.
In the bed you'll find an RDS 60-gallon auxiliary fuel tank and toolbox combo helping extend his traveling range between fill-ups. This is where things wander from the average everyday truck owners' beaten path. This truck is run completely off B100 BioFuel that Bryce makes himself in his garage at home. With the 94-gallon total fuel capacity this truck has, Bryce says this truck hasn't been fueled with commercially bought regular diesel in more than a year. He says the bio-processor really wasn't that tough to build and start operating, especially with the help of his friends at Custom BioDiesel Products. Bryce told us he couldn't even begin to add up the savings in fuel costs he's seen by making and running his own fuel.
With his own custom built EFI Live tunes in the truck and the heavy 19.5 tire and wheel combo, the truck has dynoed a best of 461 horsepower and has even made a few passes down the quarter-mile drag strip with a best of 14.3 seconds-not bad for an 8000-lb truck that was built solely for towing toys around.
Since purchasing his first Duramax clear back in 2004 Bryce has become a very active member of the online diesel forums and is now one of the founders and moderators of DmaxCentral.com, a place where Duramax owners of all different backgrounds and desires can go to chat and learn more about this ever-so-popular truck segment. Bryce says the truck has turned out to be more than he ever expected and while he's happy with where it is today, you can never be completely finished with a truck. He's looking to install some custom RDL headers and up-pipes from ProFab to alleviate some backpressure and improve exhaust flow some more. But all and all, he's pretty happy with what he's got at this point.
As he should be, we'd have to agree. It just might be the ultimate toy hauling one-ton.