Garage Built Sleeper Swap: Chris Wessel’s Duramax K1500

Any automotive enthusiast defines a sleeper as a vehicle that is much faster than it looks and has a lot of surprises under its skin. Chris Wessel built an incredible sleeper that anyone would love to take for a joy ride. By now you’ve probably guessed it has a diesel under the hood and you’re right, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Chris’ platform to build on was a 1999 Chevrolet K1500 regular cab short bed pickup which he purchased used. Not long after that he also purchased a 2005 Chevrolet 2500HD with an LLY Duramax engine that had been wrecked, but had a fully functional engine and transmission. Both trucks went under the knife immediately which was the easy part. The 1/2 ton truck was gutted, body and bed removed, engine and transmission were also discarded.

There was some light fabrication along the way, but Chris says everything fit together pretty well. With the engine and transmission positioned in place, the next step was to install the wiring and interior. Rather than reusing the old interior Chris used the entire dash, bucket seats, and full center console.

At this point, the truck was fully assembled and running and it was time to have it registered as a diesel and not gasoline. With the installation of a catalytic converter, it was now road worthy and legal. Next on the list was the exterior. The stock hood was replaced with a cowl hood and the truck was sent off for a fresh coat of black paint. Stock wheels and tires would not fly so a set of stock 20″ wheels from a Tahoe were mounted to finish off the look he wanted.

A Duramax powered truck with quality EFI Live tuning can be a quick moving truck, but Chris wanted more and this is where things got fun. He took a day off of work waiting for the arrival of his compound turbo kit from WCFab. Once it was unboxed and all parts were accounted for the installation began. To support that type of power and Chris’s spirited driving style he knew the transmission would need lots of help so the truck was sent to Mike L. at Inglewood Transmissions in California.

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Keeping the rear tires planted was assisted by a set of traction bars from Caltracs which I’m sure were needed every time it was driven. Given the weight of the truck, it would not need massive fueling so the stock injectors were left in place, but he chose to use an injection pump from an LMM. Making sure the CP3 was happy was a twin pump and filter setup from Kennedy Diesel was installed.

Autometer gauges let him keep an eye on vitals. Tuning was performed by ATP Trucks for smokeless truck flying down the track. The combination as a whole made for a regular cab rocket ship that could easily knock down mid 11-second passes in the 1/4 mile and still drive it back home after races.

The final product that you see above is that of a very talented and patient individual. It was also performed in his two stall garage with no lift and basic tools. The attention to detail really shows when you see it in person and it truly looks as if it rolled off of the assembly line as it sits, and rivals swaps done by professional shops. When I asked Chris, to sum up, the swap he said, “It was a surprising to me, given my lack of a solid plan on how I was going to execute the swap, that there were no major issues or hang-ups”.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to and end, as did the ownership of the truck for Chris. It was sold to a diesel shop owner in Texas, but was still in good hands, just with a different perspective on life for the truck. It was transformed into a full race truck that you may have seen in the 2016 Ultimate Callout Challenge. The truck now sports a fully built engine, 3/4 ton rear axle housing, triple turbos, and a roll cage. If you’re lucky enough to see this truck in person you’ll definitely understand the time and effort that has gone into building it.

The truck as it sits today.

The truck as it sits today.

 

About the author

Gary Maschner

Gary has been working in a diesel shop since 2009 and he continually expands his knowledge of diesel repair and performance. His free time is filled with his boys’ ice hockey, camping and enjoying the Arizona back country in their RZR.
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