1,000 LB-FT OF DURAMAX TORQUE IN A STICK-SHIFT ’70 CHEVELLE
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.
TWIN-TURBO, MANUAL TRANSMISSION DIESEL TIRE-FRYER.
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.
STRAIGHT TO SEMA
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.