Like many of you readers out there, I've been riding around in my older-but-still-great-running diesel truck. In my case, it's a 2004 Chevy Duramax LB7 with just over 170,000 miles on it. The truck has been great to me over the years and with an ATS E-Tuner, Aurora 3000 turbo and a full-built ATS tranny, it runs pretty darn good too.
But then it happened... I rode in a buddy's brand new truck. Good power, smooth ride and that infectious new truck smell had me itching to go trade my perfectly good truck in on a new one. However, when I arrived at the dealership my thoughts of driving home in a new truck were quickly shot down with these words from the salesman: "We'll give you $12,000 for your rig and the new truck you're wanting is going to be $60,000 plus tax."
When the heck did new trucks start costing $60 grand? Yikes!
So I thought to myself, instead of giving this dealership my good-running, super-clean LB7 and $48,000 for a brand new-but stock-truck, why not put some money into it, make it new-to-me and in the end have one bad boy rig that will be exactly the way I want it? So that's what I did.
And So It Begins
For the build I chose to work with the crew at ATS Diesel performance in Colorado. The boys at ATS were elbows deep into turning my once-stock, grandpa-looking, super-clean dually into a pull-any-trailer-way-too-fast beast of a truck with compound turbos, twin CP3s and Cognito lift. With 170,000 miles on the ol' girl we decided to replace the head gaskets, add some head studs and check the injectors. Come to find out the head gasket showed some signs of leakage and there was one injector out of spec. I'm really glad ATS pushed me towards going through the motor. It would have been a bummer to put all the goodies on and then have to tear it back apart later down the road. With a new head gasket and injector this bad boy 6.6L will be good for another 170,000!
Phase 2: The Lift
When the tech got the sawzall out I thought he was just joking around with me. Then the safety glasses came on. real funny guys. Then I had to jump out of the way so I didn't lose an arm! I could tell this wasn't Chris' (lead tech at ATS) first rodeo with Chevy suspension installs. After weeks of research on the Internet it was clear the only way to go up with the dually was a lift from Cognito Motorsports. Cognito's patented products, insanely good fit and finish and the ability to retain stock drive angles made this purchase a no brainer. For all the towing this truck will be doing with fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailers, I decided to go with a 4-inch lift. I was able to get my low rider off the ground, but nothing too crazy to affect the great towing characteristics of the truck. This is truly one heavy-duty lift. I've had lifts installed on several other vehicles in the past but nothing as overbuilt with OEM-like fitment as this Cognito kit.
Shox & Awe
Like a kid on Christmas I couldn't get the Fox Racing Shox box open quick enough. I run Fox shocks on all my snowmobiles so running these bad boys on my truck was an easy choice. I went with remote reservoir shocks front and rear.
Pictures don't do these things justice. Pretty dang trick. Between the burly-looking Cognito kit and the trophy truck Fox Shox, this really is going to feel like a brand new truck.
My Kind Of Upgrade
Compound turbos are a modification I've wanted to do for many years now. This truck has a trailer behind it 75 percent of the time and with the lack of air here in Colorado, lower boost numbers and high EGTs are a constant battle. Not anymore. The stock charger gets mated with a beautiful (and massive) Aurora 7500. While doing the compounds I also opted for replacing the restrictive manifolds with ATS high flow manifolds and up pipes. The craftsmanship and care that went into the development of this kit is truly a work of art and very factory-looking. Pictured here is the early stages of the kit being fitted to the LB7.
Quality Equals Fusion
Bumpers were next on the wish list. I literally researched for weeks all the different companies, styles, function and price. I wanted something super clean, not too bulky, easy to install and something that would accent the body lines of the truck well. After sorting through hundreds of different looks and styles I finally found the bumper for me. The photos of the Fusion bumpers can't possibly tell the whole story. The welds, fit and finish and integration of what has to be the brightest lights on the planet exceeded my expectations. Fusion uses Rigid Industries lighting which not only looks very trick, but they are pretty much indestructible as well. If you don't believe me, check out Rigid's website and see how they test their products. Cosmetically, the bumper and lights really completed the package for this build.
I also replaced the old 4-inch exhaust with a new Rolling Big Power 4-inch system. It's amazing how much quieter the RBP system was compared to my old exhaust with 90,000 miles on it.
ATS's Twins CP3 kit combined with their custom EFI live tunes should put the truck's horsepower right around 600hp at the wheels with the potential of 700-plus horsepower. The Twin CP3s will help to maintain fuel rail pressure and a DSP switch was mounted inside the cab to change to different EFI live tunes on the fly.
On the inside, a Pioneer in-dash DVD player, Kicker sound system, Auto Meter Gauges and an Edge CTS were all installed to update the look and feel of the cockpit.
This project has been an absolute blast. It's so cool when people ask me, "When did you get a new truck?" They really don't believe me when I tell them it's my same old rig. What I ended up with was a truck that's new to me, a truck that will pull my trailer faster than the speed limit up any pass, a truck that sounds better than stock, looks better than stock and rides just as good as stock. And I have a fistful of cash in my pocket from not buying a new truck. It may not have that new truck smell, but it sure does have that new truck feel!