Road Treasure Part 4

Building The Foundation

Published in the May 2013 Issue May 2013 News Brady L. Kay

Scouting for “road treasure” has never been easier for Dave Friedli, now that his 2003 GMC LB7 includes Superlift’s 6-inch lift. The 6.6L Duramax earned its Road Treasure name because its owner enjoys risking his life in traffic as he goes after those items on the side of the highway that have fallen off another vehicle. He’s been doing this for years and now has an impressive collection of coolers, motorcycle helmets, tools, ladders, CD cases and just about everything else you could imagine. Although he has several hobbies, his wife Kris will confirm that one of them without a doubt is scouting for road treasure.

In the last installment of this build, Dave hooked up with Terry Thain, the owner of Moonlight Diesel in Logan, Utah, to give his build a much-needed lift. Moonlight added Superlift's 6-inch bracket lift as well as front and rear sway bars from Hellwig to give the owner the stance he was going for with his GMC.

And of course he couldn’t put stock wheels back on a lifted truck so Dave went with the polished Burst SS 20-inch wheels from American Force Wheels that always seem to attract a lot of attention.

“Everywhere I go people are always asking about my wheels,” says Dave. “Those alone give my truck a very distinctive and custom look.”

Another reason the wheels look so good is the set of Mickey Thompson tires that he went with. Dave selected the Baja ATZ Radial 35x12.50 tires not only for the look, but for the longevity it will give him with his daily driver. Mickey Thompson is a trusted name in the auto industry and is especially a popular option for diesel truck owners who expect and demand a lot out of their tires.

Project Rewind

To this point, other upgrades for this build include a 4-inch dual exhaust system from Diamond Eye that was installed by SBS Diesel Performance in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a cold air intake that was picked up from MKM Customs. He also added a 6-inch drop combo hitch from Andersen Manufacturing in Idaho Falls, Idaho, with a BOLT series receiver lock to make sure it stays on his truck.

Besides the lift, Moonlight Diesel also helped get the truck mechanically-sound prior to installing the Edge Insight CTS. Edge offers products with tuning already included, but in this case Dave wanted to have Terry  do a custom tune on his truck so that’s why he went with the Insight.

The EFILive tuning was done at Moonlight and since this shop has a dyno, Terry was able to get the stock and tuned numbers so they could be compared. The before numbers had it at 255hp and 504.3 ft/lbs of torque. On the dyno following the tuning, the truck sat at 457hp and 948.7 ft/lbs of torque, which is actually quite impressive.

The transmission held on the dyno, but soon after, the truck started to throw some slip codes which meant Dave needed to rebuild his transmission as well as address the injectors which were starting to fail on his 10-year-old truck.

Heading North

When it comes to having your transmission rebuilt, there are plenty of options. But for those within a 300-mile radius of Adrenaline Performance in Shelley, Idaho, there is really only one choice. This performance shop began as a one-man operation for Cam Hulse out of his garage years earlier and has evolved into a full-service shop that includes the Powerlabs dyno as well as four lifts. Cam and his full staff of mechanics are constantly modifying diesel trucks, but the way Cam can rebuild a transmission is what he’s still best known for.

“I average at least three full transmission builds a week and so after all of these years I’ve really seen a lot of abused transmissions,” says the shop owner.

With the transmission slipping and at least one injector needing to be replaced, Cam first ran the LB7 on the dyno before getting started so he could measure the gains. It had been about six months since the last dyno run for this truck and the added wear on the transmission was reflected this time around in the dyno numbers. The run had the lifted truck sitting at 423.8 hp and 857.9 ft/lbs of torque.

Pulling The Tranny

Josh Maldonado is one of the full-time mechanics at Adrenaline Performance and he joked with Cam about warming up the truck on the dyno before taking it to him to pull the transmission. Even with the cooler winter temps outside, the heat still coming off the engine wasn’t exactly appreciated, yet it didn’t keep him from diving into the build. As routine as a typical oil change for most, Josh had the tranny out of the truck and ready for Cam in no time at all.

One of the first things the shop likes to check once the tranny is pulled is the build date on the paper attached to it. According to the original paperwork, this tranny was built on January 31, 2003, which confirms that it truly is stock.

A Surgeon’s Table

Cam keeps a clean and organized shop, but in his workspace where he’s constantly fixing and rebuilding transmissions, he keeps it especially immaculate. Every tool has its place and nothing is in his area that’s not needed…well, except for the bag of chocolate he hides in his toolbox.

The first stop for the transmission is to the custom-built table that can hold approximately 575 gallons of used fluids. This is where Cam opens up each tranny and allows the fluid to escape to the holding tank. It has to be emptied about twice a year on average, which just gives you a little indication of how much he really uses this table.

As Cam tears into the Allison transmission of the 6.6L Duramax he knows going into it that he’s probably seen worse.

“In looking at the clutch plates it’s not showing really bad wear, but still shows signs of needing to be rebuilt,” explains Cam. “Even just minor wear can slip it out of gear and put your truck in limp mode, which is what we were experiencing on the dyno.”

Every reusable part of the transmission is sent through the pressure washer, which is set at over 170 degrees. When it comes time to put it back together, Cam wants it to look as well as it will run.

Tranny Options

Dave considered switching to a 6-speed transmission when he knew it needed to be rebuilt. But for the couple of extra thousand dollars it would cost, he couldn’t justify the money for an extra gear that may or may not benefit him, and the shop owner agreed.

“On a stock height truck it might be worth it, but I’ve found on lifted trucks it’s usually not worth the extra money,” says Cam.

But one thing the shop owner is sure of is where to find the parts he needs to do the job right. For years Cam has been working with Idaho Transmission Warehouse, which is a spinoff company in Idaho Falls, Idaho, from Western Transmission.

In 1970, James McGeachin opened a transmission repair service but when he couldn’t find fairly-priced transmission parts, the company began to stock its own parts. As a result, other automotive shops in town purchased parts from Western Transmission. In 1974, James added a building adjacent to Western Transmission, which became Idaho Transmission Warehouse, a wholesale parts supplier.

“All the clutches, seals, gaskets, the convertor, as well as the TransGo shift kit came from Idaho Transmission Warehouse,” says Cam. We get most of our transmission parts from them because they’re great to work with.”

Then in 1989, High Torque, a torque convertor remanufacturing plant, was established. This plant enables Western Transmission and ITW to supply themselves with torque convertors for services and sales, which helped with the expansion and strength of the company.

Piling On

Cam has some special parts machined that allow him to increase the number of clutch plates. For the C4 clutches he goes from five to six, on the C3 and C2 clutch plates he’s able to increase each set by two, but it’s the smaller C1 clutch plates where he’s able to make the biggest impact.

“We go from six double-sided C1 clutch plates to 16 one-sided ones,” explains Cam. “Our goal is to beef up the transmission by improving the parts.”

When an Allison transmission is rebuilt and full of fluid, it can weigh over 400 pounds, well over a hundred pounds more than a Ford or Dodge transmission. So because of this, Cam builds it on the floor instead of hanging it off a table.

Added Touches

Everything came together nicely as the brand new-looking transmission made its way back to where the lifted GMC sat waiting. A deeper tranny pad from ATS Diesel Performance was added, which only helped with the clean look.

The number one reason the deeper pan upgrade is necessary is to increase the oil capacity in your transmission. The ATS Deep Pan adds more fluid capacity to your transmission to help keep it cool and because heat is the number one enemy of a transmission, the cooler it runs, the longer it lasts. Dave wanted to go with ATS for function and style and particularly liked the finned design, magnetic drain plug and the black powder-coated pan. This now gives him a 5-quart capacity and when compared to the stock one you’d think it would be even more. The stock one is tiny by comparison.  

Back In Business

It took four guys just to lift the rebuilt tranny onto the stand. Josh added the convertor from High Torque and then proceeded to put it back in the GMC. A nice added touch is the Adrenaline Performance plate that fits perfectly on the Allison transmission that lets everyone know who rebuilt it. However, it almost looked too nice just to stuff back up into the truck to be hidden.

When Dave first contacted ATS for the deeper tranny pan he also ordered the rear diff cover. One of the hardest working parts on a diesel truck is the rear differential. It takes the brunt of hours of grueling stop-and-go driving, towing and racing. The new cover adds 2.5 quarts of fluid capacity over stock and comes with all necessary hardware and gaskets to install. The cover has a magnetic drain plug to prevent fluid contamination, as well as a weep hole for easy service.

While Josh was finishing up with the transmission, Ben Porter, another tech at Adrenaline, began changing out the diff cover. To get the new larger-size one on, Ben had to lower the Hellwig sway bar first. There is just enough clearance for the new rear diff cover when the truck is on the lift, but as soon as the truck is lowered there is plenty of additional room for both aftermarket products with the weight back on the tires.

Power Of Purple

With a deep pan like this, Josh added 12 quarts of Royal Purple Max ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) before starting the truck. Then once it ran for a little while, 10 more quarts were added. While he continued to monitor it, he ended up using a total of 24 quarts of transmission fluid. With this many quarts needed, it can be tempting to find a cheaper generic fluid, but Dave understood why it was important to go with a trusted company like Royal Purple.

“To this point we had done everything right by getting the best parts and going to the right guy to rebuild the tranny,” says Dave. “So to even consider going with something other than Royal Purple wouldn’t make a lot of sense.”

Max ATF is a synthetic, high-performance, automatic transmission fluid. Its low co-efficient of friction and high film strength help to dramatically reduce heat and wear. Additionally, Max ATF is more oxidation stable than other transmission fluids for longer fluid life.

For the rear diff, Royal Purple was used once again as Ben filled it with Max Gear—High Performance Gear Oil. Max Gear is an ultra-tough, high performance automotive gear oil designed to provide maximum protection to heavily loaded gears while maximizing power throughout the drive train.

Next Up

The new transmission is capable of up to 1000 horsepower so Road Treasure will be good for all future upgrades. Now Dave is ready to add the power to her by ditching his stock turbo for the ATS 3000. He’s also ready to replace the worn injectors with 50hp injectors from Dynomite Diesel Performance as well as install the FASS system. And once all this is done it will be time for Dave to put his LB7 on the dyno once again to see if he can break the 500hp mark for his daily driver!





Adrenaline Performance



Alligator Performance



American Force Wheels



Andersen Manufacturing



ATS Diesel Performance



B & D Welding






Diamond Eye



Dynomite Diesel Performance



Edge Products



EFILive Tuning








Hellwig Products



High Torque



Idaho Transmission Warehouse



Jack’s Tire & Oil



Mickey Thompson Tires



MKM Customs



Moonlight Diesel



Royal Purple



SBS Diesel Performance



S&B Filters





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