One Step at a Time

Building his LML

July 2014 Feature Brady L. Kay

One Piece at a Time is a song that was recorded by Johnny Cash in 1976 that very well could have been the inspiration for Tyson Olsen and his LML build. The song tells of a man who goes to work for General Motors on the Cadillac assembly line. Knowing that he’ll never be able to afford one, he and a co-worker decide to steal a Cadillac, using their assembly line jobs to obtain the parts via salami slicing. He hides the small parts in his large lunchbox; the larger parts are smuggled out in his co-worker's motor home.

The process of accumulating all the necessary parts takes over 20 years, but once they have what they think is a complete car, they attempt to assemble the pieces. The result is an odd-looking Cadillac created from parts of many different models. The song ends with a conversation between the singer and a truck driver inquiring about the “psychobilly Cadillac,” in which the singer replies, “You could say I went to the factory and picked it up. It's cheaper that way.”

When Tyson Olsen first purchased his 2011 Chevy Duramax he knew he wanted to modify it, but he also knew that he’d have to do it one step at a time.

The Big Picture

While the humorous song really doesn’t have much in common with the way Tyson built his 2011 Chevy Duramax, he can relate to the process of adding the upgrades one piece or one step at a time. Like most diesel enthusiasts, when the Idaho-native first purchased his long bed truck he didn’t see the Chevy for what it was, but rather envisioned what it could become with the right mix of modifications and upgrades.   

“It’s nice to own a diesel truck, but it’s even better to have a modified one,” says Tyson. “I knew when I first bought it that I wouldn’t be able to leave it alone and now that I have a diesel I know I’d never be able to go back to gas.”

After pouring his paychecks for years into his 2005 Chevy Duramax, he knew his second diesel truck would be more of a process that would need to be spread out a little over time. Tyson owns Twisted Oak—a finish carpentry business—so he not only loves owning diesel trucks, but he depends on them to provide for his family that includes his wife Nichole and their two boys Kyzer and Axel. In order to pull his 16-foot enclosed work trailer to job sites all over the west, he needed to upgrade his truck and that’s when he found exactly what he was looking for. Nichole was the first to spot the 2011 LML, which shows just how understanding his bride can be.

“My wife is really supportive when it comes to my desire to modify my trucks,” says Tyson. “She especially loves the improved fuel mileage, but some of the other upgrades you could say are not as well received.”

First Round

Through PowerTech Diesel, formerly known as Powerlabs Diesel, Tyson was able to get a good jump on making his 6.6L Duramax his own with help from the Idaho Falls, Idaho shop.

“These guys are great to work with, plus the quality of work is outstanding,” says the truck owner. “PowerTech added new intercooler piping, a 5-inch down pipe, a Flo-Pro 5-inch exhaust and an S&B cold air intake. Then later we added an H&S Mini Maxx because they’re easy to install and really let you dial in the power.”

Following the first wave of installs, next up was an AirDog II 165 fuel air separation system with a built-in adjustable regulator that is preset at 8 PSI and the system includes a new quick connect system for faster installation.


While it was tempting to add a lift to his truck next or some other type of exterior upgrade, Tyson knew that adding the MPG-MAX water methanol injection system from Snow Performance was going to make the most sense as he continued with his build. While some truck owners have considered adding a diesel particulate filters (DPF) delete to illegally increase horsepower and fuel mileage, the Snow Performance kit is actually DPF-friendly, which means you can get those improvements to your diesel truck without fracturing any Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laws.

DPF, catalytic converters and all other emissions related devices are governed by the EPA’s Clean Air Act, which has been a hot button topic in this industry for years to say the least.  

Base Numbers

In order to measure the horsepower gains, Tyson strapped his Chevy to the RedShift dyno to get his before numbers and to see where his Duramax was sitting prior to the Snow Performance install. RedShift is a performance and tuning shop in Idaho Falls and with its brand new AWD chassis dyno is able to provide those in the area with a great option when it comes to measuring performance gains.

“I hadn’t run this truck on a dyno yet, so I contacted Lawrence Tolman the shop manager at RedShift who was able to get me in on short notice,” says Tyson.

While strapped to the RedShift dyno, the truck measured over a 60 horsepower gain just from the Snow Performance install.

MPG-MAX Install

A big reason why Tyson upgraded to a newer Duramax was for the long bed that allows him to get what he needs for work in the bed of his truck. So when it came time to install the 7 gallon reservoir, he wanted it to take up the least amount of room as possible in the bed. By cutting the brackets and drilling new holes, PowerTech Diesel’s EJ Wyatt was able to snug the reservoir up tight so it was flush with the bed.

The MPG-MAX kit uses a two-injector system that is followed by a new injection management controller. This allows for a small, steady spray of water/methanol to be injected for more of a cruising application that improves fuel economy. For the first one Wyatt went with number three nozzle and for the second injector that is set up to spray more fluid to make added power and to cool the EGT’s down for long pulls, he went with the number 6 nozzle.

The best part about water to methanol is that it adds safe, reliable horsepower with cooler EGT’s. The idea behind water to methanol is you can leave the DPF on and still add horsepower with his H&S tuner. With a 70/30 mix, (3 gallons methanol and 2 gallons water) Tyson gained 61.2 in horsepower when he ran the truck again on the RedShift dyno with a 130 ft/lbs. gain in torque.

“You can feel the boost of power now and the Snow Performance just seems to help smooth everything out,” says Tyson. “You can tell when it kicks in for sure.”


Keeping to his “one piece at a time” theme, the LML owner was still eager to add a lift to his truck, but the Full Guard bumper from TrailReady soon changed his mind.

“My original plans were to add a lift first and level it out for towing, but I decided to spend the money on the performance first,” says Tyson. “When I started getting serious about possibly adding a lift I saw this bumper and knew my lift could wait a little longer.”

The Full Guard bumper includes integral shackle mounts and the full wrap completely protects your grille.

“If you’re not a very good hunter you could always find one on the road with this bumper,” jokes Tyson. “At just over 200 pounds it’s solid and with the powder coat finish it’s practically indestructible.”

The TrailReady front bumper gives him four additional lights and the quad ports with a universal design will fit most 6-inch and 4-inch lights. The truck owner did some homework and decided the lights from Super Bright LEDs would be the best fit for his needs. The bumper was installed by PowerTech Diesel and because of the snug fit, it appears to have a customized feel to it. Of course once he saw the bumper Tyson started planning for a future purchase.

“The bumper is designed for a winch and I’m always getting myself into some tight situations when hunting, so hopefully a new winch will be in my near future but that will have to be down the road,” says the truck owner.

The rear bumper from TrailReady is just as solid and just as impressive. Having the set of bumpers instantly upgraded the look of this truck and this was the first step in getting the exterior of his LML where he wants it.

New Shoes

Plans for adding a lift were derailed once again when Tyson looked at his truck with those beefy TrailReady bumpers and knew his next big purchase would be tires and wheels.

“New tires were already on my list, but the new bumpers just moved it to the top,” says Tyson. “I’ve never been a fan of stock wheels either so the timing just seemed right to do this at the same time.”

Tyson upgraded to 20-inch all black TIS wheels from its Deep Lip Off-Road Series. The TIS535B wheels with an aggressive 8-spoke split, offers an ultra-deep profile with a raised cap.

“The wheels were kind of a last minute decision, but I knew I needed them to be black since I don’t consider myself to be a chrome kind of a guy,” says the owner. “With the different bolt pattern I was limited with my selection, but when I saw these new wheels from TIS I was quick to pull the trigger.”

Tyson wrapped his TIS wheels with Dick Cepek Fun Country LT285/55R20 tires.

“I was also looking at the ATZ tires from Mickey Thompson, which I felt were very similar but I went with Fun Country in the end because they looked more aggressive,” says Tyson. “I often take little jaunts off road so I love the aggressive tread, plus I’m pleased with how quiet the ride is.”

With his 2011 Chevy Duramax now sitting where he had hoped it would be when he first bought it, Tyson’s “one piece at a time” approach has paid off. Of course no truck is ever complete and he’s still eyeing a lift in the near future. Of course that could all change too if a twin turbo kit happens to catch his eye.

Here's How It All Happened

The 5-inch Flo-Pro exhaust with the black tip was exactly what the truck owner needed.

The massive TrailReady front bumper has a custom feel to it and it truly gives this Chevy an aggressive look.

The rear bumper from TrailReady is just as impressive and the lights from Super Bright LEDs were a perfect fit. 

 By modifying the brackets for the Snow Performance reservoir, EJ Wyatt from PowerTech Diesel was able to snug the tank to the bed so no space was wasted. 

The pump for the MPG-MAX kit is mounted below the truck in an area that will help keep it cool, while still being protected.

EJ Wyatt removed the piece just before the intake to drill the holes for the nozzles. Each nozzle is easily identified by a stamp that indicates the size. 

 For EGT probe, you do not have to remove the exhaust manifold, but just make sure the truck is running when you drill the hole.

 The controller was mounted where the driver could easily keep an eye on it while driving.

 Tyson Olsen depends on his truck for work, specifically for hauling his trailer for his a finish carpentry business.

Following the TrailReady bumper, the truck owner felt TIS 20-inch wheels and Fun Country tires were needed to complete the aggressive look.


For Products see our Aftermarket.

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