Road Treasure Part 3

Got Lift?!

June 2014 Build Brady L. Kay

The build series on this 2003 GMC LB7 Crew Cab Short Bed began a few months ago and is just now starting to reflect a glimpse of what was originally envisioned for Road Treasure. The 6.6L Duramax earned its Road Treasure name because its owner, Dave Friedli, never hesitates to investigate those items on the side of the highway that have fallen off another vehicle. Over the years he’s found 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 what he refers to as “road treasure.”

Scouting for items that have been left on the side of the highway that have fallen off another vehicle is a hobby Dave Friedli refers to as road treasure. With the new Superlift 6-inch lift, Mickey Thompson tires and wheels from American Force, having a higher perspective is only going to increase his odds.

Dave started out with a stock truck, but it didn’t take long until he was bit by the mod bug. In the first installment of this series, the Utah-native hooked up with SBS Diesel Performance in Salt Lake City, Utah, to install the dual exhaust system from Diamond Eye. SBS owner Gary Connor recommended the Off-Road Dual 4-inch exhaust that is specifically designed for 2001 to 2007.5 GM/Chevy 6.6L trucks and it was the perfect fit for the truck. But this was only the beginning.


Dave’s plan for the next step was to give Road Treasure a lift, but before he could get to the fun part he first had to make sure his 9-year-old truck was mechanically sound and prepared for what he had planned for her. For years diesel enthusiasts have been working with Moonlight Diesel in northern Utah because this is a shop that can be trusted. Terry Thain is the owner of Moonlight in Logan, Utah, and has earned a solid reputation as the place to take your diesel truck when it comes to repairs and performance upgrades. It was this solid reputation that led Dave to this shop to have the work done.

With a fully-loaded bed, Dave Friedli went to Moonlight Diesel in LoganUtah, to have the installs done because of the solid reputation of owner Terry Thain. 

The much-needed repairs included replacing the fuel pressure regulator that was causing a power surge at idle and throwing codes on the truck. Originally Terry thought he might need to replace the glow plugs too, but turns out it was the glow plug controller with two bad relays that was causing the truck problems.

The dash cluster was also having issues and this was obvious when the shop had it completely out of the truck and lying on the ground, yet it was still registering at nearly 110 miles per hour at 3500 RPMs. Once these issues were resolved it was time to move on.

Moonlight also added a new cold air intake kit to complement the dual exhaust. For this Dave contacted MKM Customs and the distributor recommended the S&B intake that includes an enclosed filter with a 99.81 percent efficiency rating. The final upgrade on this install was adding the new Edge Insight CTS. When it comes to monitoring your engine using the latest technology, this Insight is hard to beat. It offers many of the same great features and benefits found in other products from Edge, along with a whole host of exciting additional features.


When Dave and Moonlight’s Terry first started planning this build they had some specific ideas to help with the towing capabilities that included adding Superlift’s 6-inch lift. Superlift's bracket lift method, first developed in 1999, is still known as the GM system to have. Lowering the factory upper and lower control arms in relation to the frame brings ride height up. And by utilizing the factory control arms and torsion bars, the truck is able to retain stock alignment geometry and ride quality.

Moonlight Tech Cody Hyer had to remove some of the factory brackets on this bracket lift, which took time yet produced amazing results.

“It’s a bracket lift so some of the factory brackets had to be cut off,” explains Terry. “It’s similar to a knuckle lift, only you’re dropping the lower arm and extending it out. The bracket keeps it in the same place. The Superlift is a great lift and the instructions are okay to follow, but this isn’t a do-it-yourself type of a project and it’s actually a little time-consuming.”

The Superlift kit made a huge difference that even on the lift was very dramatic looking.  

The front differential assembly is also lowered to keep CV axle angles in check. This is accomplished by using two, one-piece tubular cross-members that span from frame rail to frame rail. Superlift's new control arm brackets connect to these cross-members along with "kicker" braces to form an exceptionally strong assembly. Steering linkage geometry is addressed by relocating the factory centerlink, which keeps the tie rods in phase with the lower control arms. A greasable stabilizing link regulates centerlink movement, and reduces the load and stress transmitted to the pitman and idler arms.

Jim VanDam begins to put the truck back together during the Superlift install on the 2003 GMC LB7.

Moonlight also included front and rear sway bars from Hellwig to complete the lift.

“Sway bars help reduce body roll so you benefit from better vehicle control, which is even more important when you’re towing,” adds Terry. “They also greatly improve cornering traction for safer driving and cornering capabilities by distributing weight evenly.”

Front and rear sway bars from Hellwig were added to complete the lift and give the owner better vehicle control, especially when towing.

Every Hellwig sway bar is developed for your specific application with fast, easy bolt-on installation. It was the high-quality 4140 Chromalloy steel with high tech polyurethane bushings that led Dave to Hellwig.

As far as the install, the front sway bar went in a similar stock position, but the rear was a little harder to install because it had to clear the new dual exhaust so it had to be altered slightly. But this wasn’t a problem for Terry and his crew at Moonlight that includes techs that have been with him since he first started in 1996.

New Shoes

Adding the larger diameter tires from Mickey Thompson was the plan, but until the tires were put side-by-side his old ones, even the owner couldn’t believe the difference.

To put the 285 tires back on after giving the truck a 6-inch lift would be nothing short of a crime. But this was never even a consideration as Dave had been eyeing what he referred to as the perfect setup for his GMC for several months. His first call was to American Force Wheels and after a tough decision process he went with the polished Burst SS 20-inch wheels. These were a huge upgrade from stock and they were well received by Dave’s wife Kris who until this point was having some slight hesitation.

When Dave Friedli was able to take his first peak at his new wheels from American Force, he knew he had made the right call to go with the polished Burst SS 20-inch wheels.

“I couldn’t really see my husband’s vision on what he had planned for his truck, but once I saw it with the lift and the new wheels I was almost as excited as he was.”

The wheels were matched with a set of tires from Mickey Thompson. Dave went with 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.

Staying In-House

Terry started working on the side out of his home garage in 1996 and kept plenty busy with his wife Julie doing the books. After reaching the point where the couple felt it was time to make it a full-time business and move into their current shop, one goal they had was to keep as much in-house as possible. After having issues with local tire shops, Terry purchased his own equipment so he could mount and balance tires himself. This has been a huge advantage for him, especially over his competitors.

Dan France is an auto technician at Jack’s Tire & Oil. Using the latest equipment he was able to perfect the alignment after the 6-inch lift kit from Superlift was installed.

For the actual alignment work, Terry has been working with Jack’s Tire & Oil, which is close to his northern Utah shop. Using the latest and most updated equipment, Jack’s was able to properly align the truck and get it out the door quickly.


Using EFILive Tuning, Moonlight Diesel owner Terry Thain was able to custom tune the truck using the Insight CTS from Edge.

In the last installment the Insight CTS from Edge was added. 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 on the lifted truck had it at 255hp and 504.3 ft/lbs of torque. On the dyno following the tuning the truck now sits at 457hp and 948.7 ft/lbs of torque, which is actually quite impressive.

“The numbers came out pretty good considering the stock fuel supply,” says Terry. “I would like to have seen better mileage gains, but with the big tires you will have some of that loss. Overall I felt good about how his tuning came out as it burns quite clean for the gains we got.”

The transmission held on the dyno, but since then the truck has thrown some slip codes, which means Dave will need to add a transmission rebuild to his upcoming list. Another issue that will need to be addressed soon is the injectors.

“I still have a concern about one of the injectors, you can hear a fuel knock in the engine at light throttle which is most likely the injector that we first noted when we originally looked at this truck,” adds Terry. “This could be hurting the mileage as well. A valve adjustment along with new injectors should increase the mileage and power gains, while smoothing out the engine.”

Getting Hitched

With the added lift came the need for a new hitch. Andersen Manufacturing offers a variety of options, but it was the 6-inch drop combo hitch that includes the greaseless AlumiBall that the owner went with.   

Featuring patented technology, with the BOLT series receiver lock you can permanently set the lock to any key.

Before Dave could hook up a trailer for a test run himself, he realized he needed a new hitch since his old one didn’t drop down nearly far enough. For this he contacted Andersen Manufacturing in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and they recommended the 6-inch drop combo hitch. The greaseless AlumiBall means there’s no need to lubricate the tow ball or receiver, which is a great feature. It has a towing capacity of 6,000 pounds with the 2-inch ball and 8,000 pounds with the 2 and 5/16-inch ball and that’s plenty for his needs. Dave also added the BOLT series receiver lock to make sure his new hitch doesn’t get stolen. What makes this lock unique is it can be permanently set to any key including your truck key, so you don’t have to carry additional keys with you.  


Dave knew additional steps would need to be made, but as his truck sits right now he’s extremely happy with the work Moonlight has done and the products that have been added. Heading into the install, he was concerned that adding the lift would make his truck unresponsive and envisioned himself bouncing all over the road with the 6-inch lift and larger tires. But he found out quickly Superlift manufactures a solid product.

“I’m 100 percent satisfied with the lift, especially the ride,” says Dave. “I’ve put over 50,000 miles on my truck over the years so I know how it rides and with this bracket-style lift I can’t feel a difference in how it handles. I absolutely love how it rides as well as how it now looks. I can’t thank Terry and Moonlight enough for the great work.”

Dave knew the bigger tires and lift would take away from his overall mileage. But he was still optimistic that he could get it close to where it once was when it was stock so he could have the best of both worlds. Having a lifted truck with added power capabilities, while keeping the fuel consumption close to what it once was is his ultimate goal.

With his 285 tires from last year before the lift, the truck averaged around 19 mpg on the highway with a fully loaded truck, but not towing anything. Following the lift he took the same trip with his new 295 tires and averaged just shy of 16 mpg. When towing, regardless of what he’s hauling, he’s now averaging around 13.7 mpg.

Looking Ahead

By replacing the injectors, adjusting the valves and upgrading the fuel supply, Dave hopes to improve his overall fuel mileage. Although these upgrades are important, his next priority will be to rebuild the transmission so it can hold the kind of power that his truck is now making. As every enthusiast knows, a truck is never really done anyway and that’s half the fun.    

For more information about the products used in this build, please see our Aftermarket.

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