Mountain Climber

Built for the hills

August 2014 Feature Brady L. Kay

Two winter seasons down and Dan Adams couldn't be happier with his 2008 GMC Duramax. After buying the 3500 HD dually in the fall of 2011, the owner of a snowmobile training operation called Next Level Riding Clinics has put over 40,000 miles on this once completely stock truck.

He first saw the Duramax for sale online at a dealership and knew he wanted it. He was in the market for a dually diesel with a flatbed and with 80,000 miles on it, he was ready to buy.

"I've always loved duallys, buying another set of tires is not a concern for me," says Adams. "I think you go though tires better and get a little more life out of them compared to a regular truck too. Plus duallys are ultra stable when towing."

But after making the drive to the dealership who had posted the photo of the truck, he didn't like how the flatbed sat and ended up taking it off and only buying the cab and chassis. While his first step of course was to order a new flatbed, while he was waiting for it to come in he got started on cleaning up the interior.

 "I really hate wood trim on the interior of trucks," says Adams. "One of the first things I did was remove all of the interior pieces, sand them down and spray them flat black. I've done this to all of the wood trim pieces in any vehicle I've ever owned."

Priority One

It took two weeks, but his special order flatbed from CM Flatbeds finally arrived. He went with the SK model and not only did it sit better than the flatbed he left at the dealership, but it's also a couple of inches wider so he knew it would be great as a sled hauler. With his Next Level business, Adams offers various services that enhance backcountry riding techniques, avalanche rescue training, and snowmobile/snowbike rentals so having the right flatbed was crucial. He also loves the SK flatbed because of the storage boxes on the side.

From day one Adams knew he was going to build this truck and he had a great vision for the project. So instead of just replacing the old worn-out tires, he went all in and replaced the stock rims while he was at it.

"I added new Toyo Tires (245 Toyo M-55 tires) because I didn't want to lose any of the drivability," says the Wyoming-native. "I've had five or six trucks and I always go with Toyo. It's a great brand, great load rating and just an overall great tire."

For the wheels he went with the 17-inch KMC Rock Stars because he likes the simple black design and he also likes this manufacturer as a great option when wanting to keep the size of your wheels the same as stock. With the flatbed now sitting on new tires and wheels, the truck was beginning to finally take form and look more like a finished truck. At this time he also took off all the badges, including the GMC logo, the 3500 badge, as well as the rub rails.

"I've never liked having all the badges on my truck so after I removed everything I had a clean white truck and I was ready for the next step," says Adams.

Go With What You Know

On his last three trucks, Adams worked with N-Fab because he really likes their products and he returned to this company when he needed a front light bar and steps.

"They do awesome projects because they make products that work," says Adams. "They're designed extremely well and they bolt right up so I like using them on my builds."

After over a year of running the four light, N-Fab bar up front, Adams opted for an even stronger front bumper by adding a completely custom one from Throttle Down Kustoms for his Duramax. Through his sponsorship with Polaris, he already had a direct connection with PIAA, so it was an easy decision to go with them for the lights. Geared towards the owner who does a lot of winter driving, the lights have two stages: an amber setting for fog and a bright white setting for regular driving conditions and the 8-inch lights really light the roads. The PIAA lights are halogen and Adams says they've been working for so many years for off-roading that they're extremely durable and they work for him.

"With the HID headlights, roof rack lights, etc. it's like daylight," says Adams. "I can light up the world with this set up. One day my alternator will probably crash, but so far, so good."

Besides all the lights facing forward, Adams recently added 4-inch lights in the rear that helps make loading his sleds that much easier.

Time For Power

"I've owned enough diesel engines to know that going to Brent (Willsey) at Powerlabs Diesel is a no-brainer," says Adams. "I've worked with him on a lot of different projects over the years and he's always very receptive and willing to help."

At Powerlabs Diesel in Idaho Falls, Idaho, they added the Edge CTS with a backup camera. Willsey did the custom EFILive five-stage tune that includes tow, drive and extreme.

"Brent really helped dial my truck in," says Adams. "He has a great touch and he was able to get my truck running at its peak performance."

There was one setting that Willsey added that he wasn't sure about at first, but is now glad that he has it.

"I didn't think I'd use the smoke tune, but it's actually really handy when I'm pulling my 50-foot trailer and I need to make a right turn," says Adams with a smile. "I just put the setting on four and when my exhaust starts smoking, cars back off so I can turn."

Another setting he likes on his Edge CTS is the valet tune that shuts the fuel pump off so the truck won't start. This is for those times when he needs to leave his truck at the airport or someplace where he won't be able to keep an eye on it.

Earning Those Miles

All the miles Adams puts on his truck would be considered hard miles to most. If he's not hauling his 50-foot trailer that when hooked up to the truck is 67 feet long, he's at least hauling sleds on his Sled deck in the back. Clearly not a trailer princess, this truck was designed for one purpose: hauling.

Since the truck is being used to tow often, key upgrades like the ATS deep tranny pan as well as the ATS rear diff cover were crucial to his success. By being able to add more oil, it helps keep his truck cooler, especially when towing. Powerlabs Diesel also added the TransGo Jr Shift Kit.

Other installs include the AirDog 150 and an S&B cold air intake, but one of his favorite upgrades is the Titan 52-gallon fuel tank.

"It's kind of crazy to think I can go 700 miles in a one-ton truck before I need to fill up," says Adams. "When I'm pulling my long trailer that can haul up to 11 sleds I'm not able to stop at just any gas station. I might be able to get into the ma and pa station, but I might not be able to get out. So having those extra gallons let's me be selective on where I want to stop for fuel."

Out Of The Box Thinking

After adding the MRBP 4-inch exhaust, Adams went with the "Hexaust" tip. With the flatbed being square, he really liked the edgier, non-round look of his exhaust tip that is unique and not found on a lot of other trucks. The Monster Hooks may look impressive, but these aren't just for show. Adams has used them on several occasions to pull people out.

"Those hooks probably weigh 30 to 40 pounds so they're not just for looks," says Adams. "But I do get a lot of compliments on them."

When it came down to making his hooks work with his Throttle Down Kustoms bumper he needed a little help.

"Jeremy Pulse at TDK had to modify the bumper to work with the hooks," says Adams. "I feel you don't need to lift your truck to make it look intimidating. I think it's important that the truck looks good from the front and with the lights and hooks it's still very aggressive-looking."

Along with the new custom TDK bumper, the Defender roof rack and the N-Fab steps were all powder coated by Garth Hall and Randy Nate of Ace Powder Coating in Idaho Falls.

"I've gone to Ace Powder Coating for the last few years with all my trucks and snowmobile parts and the process they go through to powder coat is second to none."

Another key upgrade is the Firestone Airbags with a full onboard compressor. According to Adams this system is a must.

"I've had airbags on all my trucks, but this was the first time I had them with an onboard compressor and it sure makes it nice," says the diesel enthusiast. "The airbags, lights, all electrical, relays, PIAA lights, etc., were all done by Darin Neuenschwander and Max Statham at Mid Valley Tire in Thayne, Wyo."

Fine Tuning

On this build he wanted to take his time and be smart with the upgrades and not rush into anything. So over the last two years he's done his homework before jumping into any upgrades he wasn't first sure about. But one change he made and then tweaked again was actually cosmetic.

"Jordan Yankee at Arctic FX Graphics designed the wrap for both my truck and the trailer and the installation was done by Brian Tallman and Steve Taylor at Signature Signs in Idaho Falls," says Adams. "But I missed the clean look of the original white color so Jordan re-designed the wrap and I love it."

With over 100K miles on his truck, Adams understands there will be upgrades down the road that will need to be made like replacing the injectors, etc. And with this LML with a strong Duramax engine, Powerlabs Diesel is always giving him ideas and asking if he's ready for twin turbos yet.

Twins could be in his future, but for now he's just happy where his dually sits. If you're interested in seeing this truck in person just head for the mountains because that's where this truck spends most of its time.

For information about products used in this feature, visit our Aftermarket.

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