PROJECT GARAGE

A WORK-IN-PROGRESS 1951 GMC DURAMAX SWAP

Diesel World - - Contents -

An­drew Calkins is used to do­ing things a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently. That’s why his per­sonal cruiser is a 580hp big block ’70s Dodge De­mon. For a parts hauler, he de­cided again to break the mold. “I just couldn’t put an LS in it, so I started look­ing for al­ter­na­tives,” he says. If you couldn’t guess by look­ing at the big block in the A-body, Calkins en­joys torque. So when he found a wrecked GMC with an ’06 LBZ Duramax, he jumped on it.

Even though his swap ve­hi­cle was a truck, Calkins knew he couldn’t just drop the en­gine in. “I wanted the truck to han­dle like a new ve­hi­cle, which meant I couldn’t keep the stock front sus­pen­sion, and it wasn’t up to the task any­way,” he says. He also was a bit choosy about his en­gine lo­ca­tion: “I wanted to keep the stock body lines, and stock(ish) fire­wall, which meant that I had to cram as much as pos­si­ble in quite a tight space.”

Like many folks, Calkins started with a donor truck. “There was an ’06 LBZ that was a rollover, and by the time I got to it the axles were out of it too,” he says. What was left was the en­gine and trans­mis­sion, which he was more than will­ing to se­cure for his ’51 GMC pickup. Calkins was able to pick up the com­plete en­gine and trans­mis­sion, as well as the gas pedal, the ECM and most of the wiring.

“The ’51 that I have is a pretty solid truck,” Calkins states, and he didn’t mean just in the cab. The en­tire frame was in good shape, and he was will­ing and able to re­in­force and box the frame where it was war­ranted. The front sus­pen­sion was a dif­fer­ent story, how­ever. He wanted the truck it to han­dle, and it had to sup­port the weight of the Duramax en­gine, so his choices were slim. He knew po­lice cars are usu­ally built like tanks, so he ended up us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of newer Crown Vic­to­ria and Mus­tang parts to make things work. The rear sus­pen­sion will be a tri­an­gu­lated four-link that will use a mod­i­fied 9-inch rear axle.

Calkins is very forth­com­ing about the fact that he has a long way to go. “I still might change my mind about the sus­pen­sion, or the trans­mis­sion, or who knows what else,” he ad­mits. “But I have a start, and I know in the end hav­ing a 500-hp, 30-mpg parts hauler is go­ing to be worth it!”

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