Mile Marker Part II

Fashion Meets Function

Published in the April 2011 Issue April 2011 Ask The Expert Ryan Harris

Last issue (December 2010), we introduced our 2006 Chevy Duramax LBZ project truck, posing the question whether a high-mile, late-model truck is something to steer clear of. It's not, and to prove it, we bought this truck with 118,000 miles on it last year and are building a daily driver out of it that will be able to handle any job we throw at it for miles to come.

Our first installment of this series covered the exhaust and intake upgrade with AFE components. We've added an Edge Products Insight CTS with backup camera and have EFI Live tuning from Powerlabs Diesel.

This issue will cover the installation of an A.R.E. Z-Series truck cap, a BedRug bed liner, Throttle Down Kustoms front bumper and Mamba Wheels. Future installments will cover a compound turbo system and build transmission from Adrenaline Performance, idler and pitman arm braces, tie rod sleeves and differential and transmission pan and covers from Pacific Performance Engineering.


To kick off this issue's round of installs, we need to preface the project by saying that the truck will largely be used to transport snowmobiles across the West for Diesel Tech's sister publication, SnoWest magazine. So while we are after some good style points, we want to put the focus on function. Winter driving means that an open bed is useless for protecting any type of cargo. That's why we went with the A.R.E. Z-Series truck cap. It seals up the bed so it can be used for dry storage for all of our snowmobile gear. Sure, we have a trailer everywhere we go, but it's loaded with snow-covered snowmobiles and wet, icy floors. Not really an ideal spot to keep your riding gear and cargo dry.

The Z-Series cap is A.R.E.'s premium topper and is designed to provide the best fit and finish possible. The lines of the Z-Series topper blend perfectly with the Silverado's body, giving it a factory look. The Z Series comes standard with screen-vented side windows, full picture front window, an all glass rear door with wide, durable hinges and a fabric headliner that perfectly matches the look of the BedRug liner. You can customize the Z-Series cap with features like interior lighting, power strip, remote keyless entry, slide access windows and a compression front boot to seal off the opening between the cap's front sliding window and the truck's rear window. You can also add a Yakima roof rack to the Z-Series topper for additional storage.

The Chevy slowly transformed from a plain white truck to a custom ride with the A.R.E. cap, BedRug, Mamba wheels and finally the Throttle Down Kustoms bumper.

The A.R.E. Z-Series cap has smooth lines and perfect fit and finish.

The A.R.E. Z-Series cap has a nice weather seal over the tailgate and can handle the worst climates with durable hinges and supports.

The A.R.E. cap fits the truck's body lines perfectly.


The BedRug liner adds a level of comfort and cleanliness to the enclosed bed that we couldn't get with any other type of bed liner. The padded BedRug makes loading and crawling under the truck cap easy on the knees, and the BedRug holds cargo from sliding around. Plus, it's made from plastic so even when it gets wet, it dries easily. And it's pretty indestructible, so we don't really worry about being gentle with it when we throw greasy parts in there.

The BedRug is made of polypropylene and has a three-quarter-inch closed-cell foam backing that will not absorb water. The BedRug's zipper is made of zinc alloy so it won't corrode over prolonged use. The design of the BedRug keeps the truck bed's finish protected by absorbing shock and vibration. Where a drop-in plastic liner will scuff the bed's paint and a spray-in liner covers the paint and then shows its own wear and tear, the BedRug protects the paint and can be removed when you sell the truck, giving it a clean-looking bed that shows little use.

Strategically-placed hook-and-loop fasteners on the bottom and sides hold the BedRug in place in the truck's bed.

Before the BedRug and after.

The BedRug zips together to form the bed liner shape.

We can carry anything through winter storms and have it come out dry and clean when we arrive.


Chevy makes a great truck, but it left the bumpers to a Detroit middle school shop class to design. For winter driving, we've seen the bottom air valance break or rip off on snow banks. And every GM owner knows how easy it is to twist the sides of the bumper. We wanted a bumper that wouldn't lose a fight with a snow drift. And the looks of an aftermarket bumper like this one from Throttle Down Kustoms gives any truck a one-of-a-kind look.

The bumpers from Throttle Down Kustoms are CNC cut and formed. The individual pieces are assembled in jigs and are welded and finished by certified welders and fabricators. The beads look like they came off a robot line, and the corners are smooth and pit-free. And the bumper slides right on and bolts up perfectly. We can't say that for all of the other bumpers we've installed.

We also added a set of PIAA lights from TDK to lighten the way on those dark, snow-covered roads the truck travels regularly.

The welds and corners on the TDK bumper are immaculate. We had a prerunner bar added to the bumper for a custom look.

The front bumper comes off a Chevy pretty easily, with two frame bolts and two side braces.

The factory tow hooks need to be removed because the TDK bumper mounts inside the frame pockets where the hooks are.

The TDK bumper slid right into place with no tweaking or cussing.

Four big bolts hold the TDK bumper to the frame of the Chevy, so there are no weak spots. And this bumper isn't going to twist over a snow bank like the lightweight factory bumper.


We're running a set of Type M2 Mamba wheels in an 18x9-inch size. We've always been big fans of Mamba's finish and construction quality. There are obvious shortcuts made by some wheel makers in such a tight economy, but every set of Mamba wheels we get are top-quality, with no signs of poor finish on the painted components or machined surfaces.

And who doesn't love a good set of cheap factory take-off tires? We picked these tires up at our local tire service center for $100 a piece-and they came off a brand new truck that drove from the lot to the tire store.

Power-adders aside, our Mile Marker project truck is off to a great start. We've managed to give it a custom appearance without compromising functionality one iota. We can travel winter roads in the worst conditions comfortably and securely without worrying about gear bags, clothing or parts getting wet or iced over sitting in the open bed.

But stay tuned. horsepower is on its way!

Read Part I - Stage 2 intake, turbo-back exhuast system
Read Part III - Powertrain, turbo

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