Back In Black

Kirk Zack’s blacked-out Chevy does the heavy lifting

April 2015 Duramax, Feature Lane Lindstrom

Photos by John Laptad /

Anyone who knows Kirk Zack knows he doesn’t exactly fly under the radar—either when it comes to designing a line of snowmobile/off-road clothing and gear for his company HMK USA or to his aggressive snowmobile riding style.

He tends to go big.

So why should his ride—a 2008 Chevy Silverado 2500HD Duramax diesel—be any different?

It isn’t.

We never asked Zack if he named his truck like some owners do, but if he hasn’t, might we suggest “Back in Black?” Staying with that AC/DC theme, but without getting too deeply into the rock group’s Back in Black lyrics, there is one line in that song that seems to fit his blacked-out Chevy, “They gotta catch me if they want to hang.”

Catch Zack if you can. This vehicle isn’t just his daily commuter, it’s his daily long-haul truck that is asked to pull heavy trailers loaded down with all manner of gear and powersports toys over the West’s tallest passes ,as well as make long treks to the Midwest and all points between there and the home office in Mt. Hood, Ore.

Years in the making, his blacked-out Chevy project truck began with its purchase in December, 2008. Over the years, lots of hard work by a whole lot of people and companies has turned Zack’s Chevy into a vehicle that not only turns heads, but turns a lot of miles—the odometer showed about 71,000 miles last fall before the snow season really got into full swing.

Add those miles to his other vehicle, a 2003 Chevy AWD Express converted by Waldoch Customs, which has 161,000 miles on it and is still “going strong,” Zack said. However, he needed a vehicle that could pull larger trailers and had more payload capacity. That’s why he started looking at trucks.

Zack explained, “I selected and purchased this truck in December, 2008, after driving several makes and models of pickups for our adventures. I wanted a truck that would pull and brake well at any speed, but would ride smooth over lots of miles with plenty of room in the cab. The truck came with year-end incentives from Chevy as truck sales were down at that time. We were offered employee pricing as well as great rebates and two free season ski passes at our local mountain.”

Smooth Ride, Aggressive Look

In addition to needing a vehicle that could tow and haul a load—which could have been any number of trucks—Zach said the end goal with the truck is a, “smooth ride, aggressive look and additional power.”

While he’s close to those goals, his truck is still a work in progress. For now, though, his truck gets the job done and looks good doing it.

“The truck is aggressive and blacked-out, but it took several years and help from several friends before we could complete this,” Zack explained. “We have been building the truck since we bought it and started with 18-inch KMC XD Series Monster Rims and tires from Les Schwab as well as a leveling kit on the front end. We added PIAA driving lights, headlights, bulbs, back-up lights and wipers. We added a Marathon Truck Boss Deck as well as Firestone air bags with an onboard compressor to keep everything level when hauling sleds or towing trailers. We de-badged the truck and had it custom HMK wrapped by SCS Wraps in Bozeman, Mont.

Promoting The Brand

Remember that part where we said Zack doesn’t fly under the radar? If you need any proof of that, all you have to do is look at this truck, which is emblazoned with HMK logos. Zack is a branding/marketing genius in the winter clothing/gear arena and it shows in this truck.

Continuing on, he said, “I never liked the chrome bumpers, running boards or grille and was looking to improve performance and mileage when my friend Dan Adams stopped by for a visit. We were talking about his builds on several trucks and my desire to black the truck out, improve performance and get a more aggressive look, so Dan made a call to PowerTech Diesel in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and a few days later he drove my truck over to get the upgrades started.”

Peek Inside

There were few areas left untouched on the ’08 Silverado LTZ crew cab with a long bed. First, let’s look at the cab. Zack detailed what he had done to increase the comfort and overall experience in the cab for all those long road trips.

“I love the factory all-black leather, but I’ve never liked the wood grain interior on the dash or doors and PowerTech Diesel removed it all and used black carbon fiber inserts to start the transformation,” said Kirk. PowerTech Diesel also added LED interior lights as well as an Edge Performance CTS to monitor the truck while DelCarpine Automotive, located in Hood River, Ore., added an Edge back-up camera to keep track of the trailer. The headrests were sent to Skinz Protective Gear in Minnesota to have each one custom wrapped and embroidered with HMK logos.

Kicker turned up the bass with new Hideaway Sub Woofers and DelCarpine Autp installed the subs and mounted the bass adjustor in the center console. DelCarpine also installed Firestone Airbags and mounted the control switch for adjustment on the road in the center console. PIAA driving light switches were installed to control three sets of PIAA lights on the front bumper and two rear sets of lights so that Zack could see in all conditions when driving or loading.

And finally, the windows and the top of the windshield were tinted darker to keep the temps down in the heat of summer, while also offering less glare from the snow during all those winter trips.

Why Power Is Needed

Since one of the primary reasons for looking at a truck was to be able to tow and haul big loads, getting every ounce of power out of this ’08 Silverado Duramax Diesel was a prime objective. And mods were a must.

Not only did Zack offer details on his engine mods, but also discussed why they are so important for his business, HMK USA, which was started in 1999.

“We use our vehicles to visit dealers and distributors, head to the mountain to ride with athletes, transport friends and family and move product and gear all over North America,” he said. “We pull trailers from the warehouse to the mountains and everywhere in between including the forests and the dunes. We hit events like the Pink Ribbon Riders charity event in Togwotee, Wyo.; the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.; the Haydays show in Minnesota; and the Jackson Hillclimb in Wyoming. We head to the mountains to ride sleds in the winter and motorcycles in the summer. We are loaded with everything from HMK product, trade show booths and supplies, Arctic Cat snowmobiles, motorcycles and the HMK/Polaris RZR. We put a lot of miles in behind the wheel.”

Engine Mods

PowerTech Diesel techs went to work installing an S&B Cold Air Intake and ran the necessary wiring for the Edge CTS insight monitor, including the pyrometer probe. Also, PowerTech made other engine and transmission mods via a custom EFILive tune for towing, and added an AirDog 100 fuel pump, a PowerTech Diesel crankcase kit and a Transco JR shift kit to help the already stout Allison transmission with the added performance. The PowerTech crew also added a 5-inch MBRP Turbo Back Exhaust with downpipe and a Black Hi-Temp coated exhaust.

Said Zack, “PowerTech Diesel achieved the goal of increased horsepower as well as mileage and performance.”

Not everyone sees what’s under the hood of a project truck or even what’s inside the cab, but they do notice the outside of the vehicle. So keeping in mind part of Zack’s intent for this truck, a lot of work went into the details on the outside.

“The goal was to give the truck a more aggressive look and black it out, improve lighting front and back at night, add protection from other vehicles and large animals and keep the custom HMK look,” he said.

To that end, here’s what Zack did:

  • Line X coated Fusion Bumpers—“Aggressive look and very durable in all weather conditions.”
  • Front bumper with pre-runner styling features three sets of PIAA driving lights for any weather conditions; 7-inch High Intensity LED driving light mounted in the bumper with Ion Yellow Fog Lamps and Xtreme Driving lights mounted on top.
  • Rear bumper features 4-inch LED Rigid back-up lights.
  • Knuckleheadz Custom Snowmobile style rock guard system using Arctic Cat snowmobile tracks to protect the matching 29-foot HMK trailer. This cool add-on just ensures folks know where Zack’s roots are—snowmobiling.
  • Anzo Headlights with the HID upgrade to have the “Audi” or halo look and performance.
  • Marathon/Truckboss Sled Deck with 12-foot ramp, Headache Rack with PIAA load lights, Smart Boxx Cargo Box and Superclamp tie downs.
  • LED lighting strip under the deck to find everything in the dark.
  • N Fab Front Grill with a custom 10-inch HMK logo machined out of aluminum.
  • Powertech added a black Ventshade Hood Shield to keep the aggressive front end theme.
  • N Fab Running Boards with a three-step design make it easy to get in and out of the truck, but also offer easy access to the bed or the front of the Marathon/Truck Boss Deck
  • 5-inch MBRP Turbo back exhaust coated black with two custom 7-inch machined HMK logos.
  • PowerTech also removed the taillights and third brake light and sprayed the lenses black and then added Putco red and white LED bulbs for a custom blacked-out effect.
  • Black rear wheel well inserts.
  • Line X truck bed from the start and then added a Bedrug Liner and tailgate cover.

Future plans call for an additional fuel tank on the frame as well as an additional light bar on top of the truck.

We asked Zack if, in hindsight, he might have done anything different. He said there were a handful of things he possibly would have done differently.

For instance, “We added a DVD entertainment system to keep the passengers happy while traveling and should have put this in earlier.”

Also, there were the headlights.

“I wanted a black halo/projector beam for looks and light, but spent way too much money on this look as the lights looked great, but did not perform as well as I expected. I have re-installed the stock Chevy headlights and added PIAA low and high beam bulbs and should have left it this way from the start.”

As for the tires, he said, “We all know that trucks eat tires and we were using a Goodyear tire, but had wear issues until we changed to the Toyo Open Country A/T II in size 275/70/18.”

Zack also went back to PowerTech Diesel for a review of the build and PowerTech updated the tune, which added 1 to 2 mpg.

“I should have done this sooner as this increased mileage and saved more money,” he said.

So catch Zack if you can.

 For products used in this feature, visit our Aftermarket.

Photography -  


The rest were shot by HMK - Kirk can tell you which ones so photo credit is on them.


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