Ultimate Diesel Builder's Guide - - Contents -

1,000 lb-ft of torque in a stick-shift clas­sic Chev­elle mus­cle car

With a com­pany name like the Mus­cle Fac­tory, Bill Dan­nels knew he needed to build a car that lived up to his com­pany's name. Af­ter tak­ing a spin in buddy Mike Racke's Du­ra­max-pow­ered '70 Chev­elle, he knew he had to have one of his own. While Racke's Chev­elle was a com­plete one-off build, Dan­nels de­cided to keep his '70 SS Chev­elle as orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble to cre­ate a resto-clas­sic im­age that would re­flect his El Camino and Chev­elle restora­tion parts busi­ness. In ad­di­tion to the Du­ra­max en­gine, Dan­nels also slated a man­ual trans­mis­sion for the car, be­cause ev­ery­one knows that real hot rods have three ped­als.


The be­gin­ning of the process cen­tered around a rolling chas­sis, and an '06 Du­ra­max LBZ pow­er­plant. The first hur­dle was to fit the en­gine into the chas­sis, which was less of a chore than an­tic­i­pated thanks to the Chev­elle's ex­pan­sive en­gine bay. Mo­tor mounts were fab­ri­cated by Mike Racke that placed the diesel en­gine in the frame us­ing the fac­tory Chev­elle mounts. Two inches were also trimmed from the bot­tom of the oil pan, in or­der to gain clear­ance, and big block Chevy springs were or­dered for the front sus­pen­sion to sup­port the ex­tra weight. A com­plete wiring harness and race tune for the en­gine was sourced from Pa­cific Per­for­mance Engi­neer­ing (PPE).

With an es­ti­mated 550 horse­power and 1,000 lb-ft of torque, the fac­tory Mun­cie 4-speed that the Chev­elle was fit­ted with from the fac­tory wasn't go­ing to han­dle the tuned Du­ra­max. To solve this prob­lem, Dan­nels picked up a G-force 5R trans­mis­sion that is com­monly used in both road rac­ing and drag rac­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. Help­ing con­trol the diesel en­gine's torque is a dual-disc clutch from South Bend Clutch. The rear end was also a clean sheet project, as the fac­tory GM unit was re­placed with a Chris Al­ston Fab­ri­cated 9-inch based loosely on a Ford de­sign.



What sep­a­rates Dan­nels’ mus­cle car swap from the rest of the crowd is the at­ten­tion to de­tail when it came to fin­ish­ing the build. Cus­tom head­ers fab­ri­cated in-house at PPE out of 304 stain­less steel mount twin GTX2860 tur­bocharg­ers, giv­ing the car in­stant boost with no lag. All of the ac­ces­sories were moved down and out of the way so the in­cred­i­ble turbo pip­ing could be in full view. From the up­graded Wil­wood disc brakes on all four cor­ners, to the cus­tom 18-gal­lon fuel tank, many one-off pieces grace the Chev­elle, yet there’s noth­ing on the car that de­tracts from its mus­cle car im­age. The in­te­rior was in fact fully re­stored to SS specs, with parts and pieces from Dan­nels’ own busi­ness.


One of the first places the Chev­elle went af­ter it was fin­ished was the SEMA Show, where it wowed the crowd with its in­no­va­tive driv­e­train. Since then, Dan­nels has put plenty of street miles on his cre­ation, as he says the best part about own­ing a twin-turbo, man­ual trans­mis­sion diesel tire-fryer is that he can ac­tu­ally drive the thing. Although he’s yet to take the Chevy to the track, he es­ti­mates easy 12s on street tires, and more than 30 mpg on the high­way. With show car looks, all-around per­for­mance, and diesel torque, there’s no doubt that Dan­nels’ Du­ra­max-pow­ered ’ 70 Chev­elle will give him many miles and smiles in the years to come. UDBG

Barely vis­i­ble un­der the fuel tank is the stout Chris Al­ston rear end. Fea­tur­ing a fab­ri­cated 9-inch hous­ing with 35-spline axles and a Detroit Locker, it is def­i­nitely up to the task of han­dling the GM’S power and weight.

Per­haps the most creative part of the mus­cle car swap was the de­ci­sion to go with a man­ual trans­mis­sion. With a 4,000 to 4,500 rpm shift point, and plenty of power from 2,000 rpm on up, the Chev­elle has no prob­lem spin­ning the hides in the first three...

The brake sys­tem on the Chev­elle is quite in­ter­est­ing. A mas­ter cylin­der from ABS Power Brakes that works with an elec­tric vac­uum pump gives the Chev­elle plenty of brake pres­sure at all times and elim­i­nates the need for an en­gine vac­uum pump or...

Du­ra­max engines are quite tall, so height is al­ways a con­cern when per­form­ing a swap. With just a small amount of trim­ming on the oil pan (two inches) and a skid plate, the diesel was able to fit un­der a fac­tory SS cowl hood with­out any trou­ble.

Tucked down be­low the tur­bos are cus­tom fab­ri­cated 304 stain­less steel head­ers that were built just for this ap­pli­ca­tion by PPE.

In ad­di­tion to the cus­tom head­ers, PPE also built the 3-inch down­pipes that send the diesel’s ex­haust out and un­der the car. The cus­tom valve cov­ers are a touch that was thrown in by Mike Racke.

In­stead of V-bands or boots, high-end Wig­gins clamps were used to se­cure the con­nec­tions where the tur­bos exit to the in­take man­i­fold.

Even with the big diesel en­gine, there was still enough room for a fac­tory-style Chev­elle ra­di­a­tor from Cham­pion Ra­di­a­tors. Twin Spal USA elec­tric fans are there to keep the Du­ra­max cool dur­ing 100-de­gree sum­mer cruises.

An in­di­vid­ual run­ner in­take with twin plenums is one of the most vis­i­ble and unique parts of the Chev­elle; it com­pli­ments the twin turbo setup per­fectly.

Pop­ping the hood on Bill Dan­nels’ ’70 Chev­elle re­veals a Du­ra­max en­gine like no other. With help from PPE and good buddy Mike Racke, the 550-hp 1,000 lb-ft GM diesel was swapped into the en­gine bay, giv­ing the clas­sic a good horse­power bump over the...

The Chev­elle spent a good 2 to 3 weeks at PPE, dur­ing which time the ex­haust and in­take pip­ing was fab­ri­cated to mount the twin 60mm Gar­rett GTX2860 tur­bos, then pol­ished to a bright shine. The re­sult is un­de­ni­ably im­pres­sive, and the tur­bos al­low room...

To sup­port the twin tur­bocharg­ers, a univer­sal in­ter­cooler was also in­cor­po­rated into the build and was mounted out in front of the en­gine, just be­hind the SS grille.

FEA­TURE Text/pho­tog­ra­phy: Ja­son Sands

Since the ’70 was built to drive and not just show, a cus­tom 18-gal­lon fuel tank was made to give the Chev­elle plenty of range. Dan­nels fig­ures 400-500 miles of free­way driv­ing should be no prob­lem.

The Du­ra­max en­gine emits a slightly deeper-thanaver­age ex­haust note thanks to a set of two-cham­ber 3-inch Flow­mas­ter muf­flers.

The in­te­rior is an­other spot that was left rel­a­tively stock, although it was re­built and re­stored at the Mus­cle Fac­tory. The one de­vi­a­tion from stock was the dash, which was fit­ted with gauges from Dakota Dig­i­tal.

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