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When we first spotted Bill Cielo’s ’58 Chevy pickup at a local dyno event, we literally ran over to see if it was diesel powered. As luck would have it, the truck was indeed a diesel, as the cleanest LBZ Duramax engine we’ve ever seen was crammed under the stock hood. To make things even more interesting, Bill told us the Chevy was a mix of parts from the original ’58 (including the rear frame), and a later ’06 Chevrolet donor truck. Like almost all cool builds, Bill’s started out with an idea, and a story.

Lucky Find

A fabricator by trade, Bill always had wanted to own a diesel swap, and when he came across a wrecked ’06 with only 30,000 miles on the clock, he knew he had to have it. After Bill bought the truck, he still had no idea what the drivetrain would go into, but he wanted it to be a classic. A short while later, Bill ran across a ’58 Chevy Apache pickup truck that had been sitting in a farm shed since the mid ’80’s. The wheels started turning, and the idea to build an astoundingly cool parts-chasing shop truck solidified in Bill’s mind, and he got to work.

Franken-Chevy

Virtually every part of the ’58’s front end would need to be modified to fit and support the diesel, so Bill made the decision early on to use the complete front half of the ’06 Chevy’s chassis. After eyeballing everything in a mock-up stage, Bill sent the Duramax’s wiring harness off to Pacific Performance Engineering (PPE) to be stripped of everything that wasn’t essential to keep the engine and transmission running. Bill also never liked the look of the Duramax engine’s multiple computers, so he spent “the better part of a week” painstakingly extending every wire to relocate everything down by the driver’s side fender well of the truck. It cleaned up the engine bay immensely, and at the time, Bill didn’t even know if it would work. Bill said: “A lot of people said lengthening all the wiring would mess up the computer system, but I knew the only way to find out was to just try it.”

It took us a second to realize why Bill’s engine looked so much different than a normal Duramax. A big part of cleaning up the engine bay was relocating all the computers to the drivers’ side floorboard, which Bill accomplished by painstakingly lengthening every single wire.

Since the rear part of the frame and bed was in such good shape, Bill decided to retain the factory ’58 rear chassis including the bed. Since Bill builds racecar chassis on a regular basis, he was able to graft the back half of the ’58 on to the front half of the ’06 with no problems. In fact, with triangular bracing, boxing, and an added cross member, it’s probably the strongest part of the entire frame. With a complete chassis, the rear-end of the ’58 had to be addressed, as there was no way it would be able to take the torque of the diesel engine. Bill again turned to his ’06 for a rescue, and built a rear suspension setup around the 3.73-geared AAM 1150 rear-end with the factory ’58 leaf springs, some Rancho 5000 shocks, and airbags he picked up from Craigslist.

One of a Kind

Underneath the hood of the survivor ’58 body is perhaps the cleanest Duramax engine bay we have ever seen. Bill took great pains in making the 6.6L engine look as smooth and simple as possible. With a PPE Hot+2 tuner, it also puts out an estimated 450 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels.

The rear of the truck is all original Chevy, save for the massive 25-gallon fuel cell that adds some traction, and range. At nearly 25 mpg, Bill figures he can go nearly 500 miles without refueling.

The wood in the bed is the same as it was in the ’80s when the truck was built, and has held up remarkably well over the years. Even though it might not be as tough as steel, Bill just didn’t have the heart to replace it.

“Bill ran across a ’58 Chevy Apache pickup truck that had been sitting in a farm shed since the mid ’80’s”

“With a 25 gallon tank I can run almost forever, and even with the PPE tuner on level Three, I have no issues keeping up with new Mustangs and Camaros”

A universal air filter “of some sort” was another used item, which gets the job done as far as airflow into the turbo goes.

The hydroboost braking system was adapted to the ’58 Chevy’s body when Bill did the swap so that he could actually stop. A driver’s side exhaust manifold from Pacific Performance Engineering was also fitted at the same time to improve airflow to the turbocharger.

An aluminum radiator designed for a Big Block Chevy performs the cooling duties, along with twin electric fans. Bill reports that the engine “Doesn’t get hot, anywhere, ever,” which he noted was a perfect feature for a parts-hauling truck.

The stock Garrett turbocharger has been upgraded with bright red silicone boots and a heat-wrapped intake, but otherwise is stock, and puts out 25 to 30psi of boost.

The engine is actually intercooled, and incorporates a piece that Bill bought off of Craigslist for 25 dollars. So far it’s worked flawlessly and has been able to fit behind the grille of the ’58 with only minor modifications performed.

Normally a turbo downpipe is a pretty tight squeeze in a swap, but the engine bay of the Apache actually had a lot of room. Bill made up a 4-inch downpipe, which then attaches to a 4-inch exhaust that runs the length of the truck.

Simple oil, water, and voltage gauges are the only one found on the truck. Since Bill rarely goes past Level 3 with his programmer, he never felt the need to install a boost or EGT gauge.

Another addition to the engine bay that helps out in the looks and power department is this low-mount drive bracket that Bill came up with. It deletes the A/C and also moves the steering pump down lower, so more of the engine is visible.

We’ve seen a lot of frame-chops on swapped trucks that are simple boxed connections, but since Bill is a chassis guy, he made sure he did his right. An added crossmember and boxed and triangulated reinforcements minimizes twisting or flexing action due to the diesel engine’s torque.

The massive AAM 1150 rear-end with 3.73 gears was taken out of the wrecked ’06 Chevy and transplanted into the ’58 Apache. Bill did the integration himself, including the mounts, traction bars, and rear airbags for heavy loads.

Everywhere you look, there are little things that Bill did to make his truck unique. Since Alcoa doesn’t make a 19-inch rim, Bill had 19.5-inch wheels turned down to 19s and then wrapped in 245/45/19 Z-rated Hankook Evos, which allows for occasional 130 to 140-mph blasts.

It’s been more than a year since Bill morphed two Chevys into one badass ride, and he’s had no issues with enjoying it since the day it was finished. “With a 25 gallon tank I can run almost forever, and even with the PPE tuner on level three, I have no issues keeping up with new Mustangs and Camaros,” reported Bill. Best of all, the 4,600-pound truck is still used for its intended purpose, a cool and unique parts-chaser, that turns heads (and tires) wherever it goes. DW