Photos by John Linn, Adventure Studios
“My teacher tells me real beauty is on the inside. That’s just something ugly people say.” The memorable father and son exchange in the movie “Liar Liar” starring Jim Carrey is always good for a laugh, but when referring to the “Durakon,” built by Jag’s Pro Truck Shop in Minnesota, you’ll most likely disagree with Fletcher Reede on this one.
It only takes a quick glance under the hood of this Yukon XL 2500 to confirm the truck’s real beauty is indeed on the inside. This is especially true for those expecting to see a gas engine but instead discovering a powerful Duramax—thus the name Durakon.
The Durakon may have started life as a 2008 GMC Yukon XL 2500, but it clearly went a different path once shop owner Josh Gruis got his hands on it.
“We knew we wanted to do a Duramax swap, so we hunted down a 2008 Chevy 2500 truck,” recalls Josh. “With the donor truck having 200,000 miles on it we didn’t want to go through all the work to do the swap with an engine and transmission that were most likely going to have issues. So we tore the engine and transmission apart.”
From day one the Durakon was built specifically for Josh’s wife, Carissa, who is no stranger to shop time herself. In fact, she ended up tearing into the engine and – with a watchful husband helping along the way – helped rebuild the engine and assist with the swap.
“I had to feel like this was truly my truck,” says Carissa. “No way was I letting just the boys build this one!”
When you own the shop and performance diesel trucks are not only your life but also your business card, it doesn’t take too long before you stray from your original plan for a simple stock swap, which is what happened to Josh and Carissa.
“With owning a performance shop, things quickly escalated when ordering parts,” said Josh.
With the addition of Carillo rods, Mahle pistons, ATI Damper, ARP main studs and head studs, SoCal Diesel cam, and a list of other goodies, Josh decided to push the power level since he knew the engine would be built to handle it.
Not Exactly Stock
One thing led to another and soon there was a set of compound turbos, dual CP3’s, 100 percent over fuel injectors, and a FASS lift pump. The Durakon also got a fully built Allison 6-speed transmission, along with the AAM 11.5-inch rear differential to handle the power this engine was going to be able to put out when finished.
No build ever goes to plan and during the process Josh ran into an issue fitting the donor truck radiator and intercooler.
“After calling a few people that had done these swaps before, we were told to either put the truck front clip on or do a 2-inch body lift,” says Josh. “Carissa wanted the truck to look as stock as possible body-wise, so those two options were out.”
Using his years of problem-solving experience, as well as motivation to keep the exterior a sleeper, Josh was able to figure out how to get a Duramax radiator intercooler, fan and fan shroud in the SUV with zero modifications to the body height or the core support.