VIDEO: Merchant Automotive’s Duramax-Powered Sand Rail

Since 2004, Merchant Automotive, a fabrication shop out of Zeeland, Michigan, has been making some awesome diesel rides. Recently, it uploaded this amazing video of a Duramax-powered sand rail and shared one heck of a sweet project with the rest of the world. 

We talked to Merchant Automotive’s Jereco Price, who was able to fill us in on the details of the vehicle. The sand rail featured a chassis design from Jeff Wilson at Mears Metal Products in Mears, Michigan.

“[Mears had the] chassis based off of its Predator [model], but from the driver’s seat back the whole bottom and rear end of the chassis had to be customized in order to accommodate our company’s engine, transmission, and rear end package,” said Price. “The front end of the car has the beautifully-crafted and chromed Airfoil chromoly A-arms from Mears. On the back of the car are some custom gun-drilled Mark Williams axles that have the power transferred to them via two modified Fortin [Racing] 934 CV joints.”

“The axles are housed and held onto by some custom axle tubes manufactured by Earle’s Machining and Fabricating, also in Mears,” explained Price. Meanwhile, the drivetrain is more than capable of delivering dune-bound thrills, thanks chiefly to the LBZ Duramax that originally came from a junkyard.

The build team threw in 200 pound injectors, a beefed up turbo, and Stroker CP3 pump to edge out the performance margin, while the block was made more sturdy with some new head studs. “We went through and spent hours and hours customizing the wire harness and re-routing wires to clean up the Duramax,” said Price. “We also topped it off with some in-house custom made upper valve covers to help clean up the engine.”

When it came to the transmission, it had to be a Powerglide packed with performance parts. The team used an Allison bell housing adapted to fit the Powerglide, and fitted with a massive torque converter from TCS Products to handle the high torque at low RPMs. A quick-change rear end allows the crew to swap out the gears for handling different environments, from sand to dirt to snow.

“The idea behind the car was to build something that showcased the company’s ability, the competiveness, the versatility of the large amounts of torque supplied by the Duramax engine, and was something eye catching and unique,” said Price. Judging by what we’ve seen, the build was a sure-fire home run. Check out more about Merchant Automotive by visiting its website, and visit its Facebook page for a Like!

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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