This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.
Engine swaps are nothing new, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. Anytime you take a piece of machinery and make it fit somewhere it wasn’t specifically designed for, there’s a chance for catastrophe. Hell, organ transplants have issues, and that’s the same body part going into the same spot! (I am, of course, oversimplifying.) Anyway, we recently came upon a fantastic Suburban that had the old Duramax engine switcheroo done to it and the results are mighty impressive.
Travis Byington’s 2008 “Duraburban” is a pretty eye-catching piece of work. There’s no mistaking there’s something special about it when it comes rolling down the street.
Get Up And Go
One of the first things Travis told me is that this isn’t even his daily driver; it’s his wife’s! “For the most part, this is her rig,” he says with a laugh. “It is truly Karlee's daily driver. It takes the kids to school and gets groceries. But I get to drive it when we go somewhere!” Due to its workload, Travis says they call the beast the Ultimate Grocery-Getter. Don’t let the name fool you, though. This beauty has definitely got the power when it counts.
How does the Ultimate Grocery Getter stack up power-wise? “When we first got it done, we dynoed it down at Edge days and it did 621hp,” Travis says. “We’ve done some more aggressive tuning since then that should make it better. We’re getting another 15+ pounds of boost, so we’re expecting 800-ish now to the wheels.”
Built To Work
So what prompted the Byingtons to undertake such a project? For starters, they have four kids and do a lot of family recreation activities. According to Travis, “We usually take it on the weekends if we go somewhere as a family. We are usually spending our time riding sleds or dirt bikes; either way, we are always pulling the trailer and that’s the reason for the swap.” They initially had a gasser pulling all that weight around but knew that they weren’t getting the most out of their rig. With Travis’s 30-foot trailer, they were barely making 5 mpg and according to him, they couldn’t even get up to the speed limit on some hills. A change had to come.
Travis bought a 2007 Silverado 2500 that was essentially identical to the Suburban and started swapping things over to make it the ultimate family vehicle. The motor was completely rebuilt and they added various components to make it bigger and badder, such as Carrillo rods, Mahle cut and coated pistons, ARP head studs and valve fastener bolts, and a custom twin turbo setup from Adrenaline Performance using BD Diesel’s billet 80, Intercooler, and 100hp injectors fueled by a FASS 150 pump and twin CP3 kit. “It’s kind of their tow twin setup, and it’s 80mm over stock. It’s a full built motor, so it’s capable of as much as you want to throw at it,” he says.
Elsewhere on the truck, he has AMP drop-down steps, Bushwacker fender flares, a 5-inch exhaust from Diamond Eye, a Recon winch housed in a Trail Ready prerunner bumper, a Lund bug shield and window visors, 22-inch KMC Rockstar wheels and 37/13.50/22 Nitto Extreme Terrain Mud Grappler tires. Of the tires, he says, “My wife loves the tires, even though they’re so dang noisy. We had some boggers on it for a little while, and those were way noisy. She just likes the look of that.”
The interior didn’t get a ton in the way of upgrades, other than some small quality of life additions such as a DVD player in the back for the kids and black alligator skin leather, seat heaters, and Husky floor mats. Up front, Travis has an Edge Insight CTS2 monitor as well as aftermarket gauges on the door pillar to monitor total boost and the big turbo boost. He says, “Edge is always really good to work with. They’ve got the built-in switches here, so I can even turn on the fog lights or the light bar just from here.”
The Suburban is sporting a 6.5-inch BDS high-clearance lift with a 2-inch body lift. The reason for the body lift is twofold: the top of the transmission doesn’t clear the body and they needed space to fit the radiator and intercooler. It also doesn’t hurt that it gives the truck a great look. Speaking of which, as Travis and I chatted while I took pictures, a curious onlooker rolled up in his car and got out to tell Travis just how nice the Suburban looked. He went on and on about how much he liked it. At one point, he seemed to offer “a hot chick” to come stand next to it while I continued to take pictures. Alas, the fabled babe was more theoretical than anything. I suppose it was merely his way of making the point that, Damn, that’s a nice truck.
Diamond In The Rough
Travis has always been a Chevy guy; well, mostly. “I had a Ford 7.3L back in 2000. I had it for about 6 months and went through cam sensors and a rear end. I basically got a lemon, so that fixed me with Fords for a little while! What the Ford did do is start an addiction that has led to several builds with Adrenaline, one of the biggest of made 1116hp at Bully Dog in 2013.”
The biggest problem for the build was finding a 3/4-ton Suburban. Travis ended up getting this out of Great Falls, Mont. “We finally found one there and had to go get it. They only made the 3/4-ton from 2008-2010. They made them in the older body style, too, like from 2001-2006, but we were looking for the newer body style and it was just difficult to find them for sale. And if you did, they were all government vehicles, so they had roll-up windows. This one had cloth seats, but it at least had power windows and locks!”
As we finished up I was a little timid in closing the hood, because some people don’t like you slamming doors and toolboxes and whatnot. Travis just chuckled and said, “Go ahead, it’s a truck! You can tell that we use it.” Even though his day job is as a contractor building recreational homes, Travis is an avid racer who participates in the National Auto Sport Association Utah Region, which means he has to tow his racecar down there. All of the work on the truck was done by Cam Hulse at Adrenaline Performance in Shelley, Idaho. Travis is extremely grateful for all the time and effort Cam has put into not only this vehicle but into most of Travis’s rigs, including the Corvette that Travis uses for his NASA racing at the Utah Motorsports Campus. Cam says, “When you take on a project by Travis Byington, it’s never a little one. His style has always been ‘go big or go home,’ but that’s what makes it fun, stepping outside the normal boundaries. When most people think of conversions they think it all bolts together and everything fits with no problems. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Travis and I had a grand vision for this build and there was nothing small about it. From front to back, under hood to undercarriage, everything was upgraded. The exterior was important but honestly what really mattered was what was under that hood. I believe the Duraburb speaks for itself. She is an eye catcher and she definitely isn’t lacking when it comes to power. We knew this was going to be a time-consuming project and I think I lost count at 200 man hours. All in all it was worth it.”
Travis plans to put a lot of miles on it, and I’d say he’s pretty well-equipped to do so. Building the truck has been a long two-year process, but he couldn’t be happier with it. He had an ear-to-ear grin the whole time we were talking about the truck. If that’s not proof of a job well done, I don’t know what is.
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