Work-in-progress 1951 GMC Duramax Swap
Andrew Calkins is used to doing things a little bit differently. That’s why his personal cruiser is a 580-hp big block ’70s Dodge Demon. For a parts hauler, he decided again to break the mold. “I just couldn’t put an LS in it, so I started looking for alternatives,” he says. If you couldn’t guess by looking at the big block in the A-body, Calkins enjoys torque. So when he found a wrecked GMC with an ’06 LBZ Duramax, he jumped on it.
Even though his swap vehicle was a truck, Calkins knew he couldn’t just drop the engine in. “I wanted the truck to handle like a new vehicle, which meant I couldn’t keep the stock front suspension, and it wasn’t up to the task anyway,” he says. He also was a bit choosy about his engine location: “I wanted to keep the stock body lines, and stock(ish) firewall, which meant that I had to cram as much as possible in quite a tight space.”
Like many folks, Calkins started with a donor truck. “There was an ’06 LBZ that was a rollover, and by the time I got to it the axles were out of it too,” he says. What was left was the engine and transmission, which he was more than willing to secure for his ’51 GMC pickup. Calkins was able to pick up the complete engine and transmission, as well as the gas pedal, the ECM and most of the wiring.
“The ’51 that I have is a pretty solid truck,” Calkins states, and he didn’t mean just in the cab. The entire frame was in good shape, and he was willing and able to reinforce and box the frame where it was warranted. The front suspension was a different story, however. He wanted the truck it to handle, and it had to support the weight of the Duramax engine, so his choices were slim. He knew police cars are usually built like tanks, so he ended up using a combination of newer Crown Victoria and Mustang parts to make things work. The rear suspension will be a triangulated four-link that will use a modified 9-inch rear axle.
Calkins is very forthcoming about the fact that he has a long way to go. “I still might change my mind about the suspension, or the transmission, or who knows what else,” he admits. “But I have a start, and I know in the end having a 500-hp, 30-mpg parts hauler is going to be worth it!”