Mighty Green Machine: Custom Auto’s Silverado 3500HD

The Hulk!

When you have lemons, you make lemonade, and when you break an egg, you make an omelet. In this single-use, disposable world, it’s refreshing to hear about a bad situation made better through upcycling and restoration, especially if it resurrects a truck that would have normally been resigned to rust into obliteration in the junkyard.

This 2012 Chevy Silverado started life as do thousands of hard working trucks in America until it was involved in a horrific encounter with a concrete wall, completely destroying the truck in the process. However, the truck wasn’t a stranger to the Custom Auto crew, as the owner had been a good customer, which is how it ended up residing there permanently. After the accident, Ryan Hillman, shop manager, arranged for its purchase with the idea of building a unique custom ride as a showpiece of the shop’s abilities. Hillman explains: “We love trucks that stand out. Many show trucks these days have factory paint or a vinyl wrap. We wanted something different, something that would really grab attention.”

Under the Hood

Since the stock Duramax 6.6-liter engine was basically destroyed in the accident, what was left of it was torn apart and rebuilt by Baird Racing in Idaho Falls. While the crankshaft and oil pan remained stock, the eight pistons were replaced with Diamond Racing’s forged versions, and the rods were sourced from Wagler Competition Products. Honed to exacting specifications, the rods feature a tongue-and-groove design to better align the cap locks. The pushrods came from Trend Performance, and ARP supplied the head studs to keep the Industrial Injection Competition heads bolted securely to the block.

A color-matched Royalty Core grille is right at home up front and atop the flawless Fusion Bumper.



Both front and rear Fusion Bumpers utilize LED lights from Assault Lighting.

To feed the LML engine, Exergy Performance came up with healthy but efficient injectors and CP3s, while ATS Diesel provided the dual fueler kit. Supplying the CP3s is a Titanium Series fuel lift pump engineered by FASS Fuel Systems designed to remove water vapor and extend the life of the injectors, rated at 220 gallons per hour.

To let it breathe easier, the engine was fitted with a compound turbo kit fabricated by Screamin’ Diesel Performance in Port Angeles, Washington, using a BorgWarner S488 over an S464 turbo setup. Hot-side piping and exhaust housing are ceramic-coated and heat-wrapped, while the cold-side piping and compressor housing are powder-coated to match. Screamin’ Diesel Performance also supplied the CP3 conversion for the valley pump, while a Nitrous Express NO2 system give the intake air a much-appreciated oxygen boost when needed. Engine temperatures are kept at bay with a radiator and intercooler from Mishimoto, and spent gases escape via high-flow exhaust manifolds and up-pipes from Pacific Performance Engineering in Fullerton, California.

Suspension from Fabtech helps get the truck up in the air and riding smooth.

The whole thing was brought under control and tuned to smooth-running perfection by Kory Willis at PPEI Custom Tuning in in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The EZLynk AutoAgent shift-on-the-fly tuner is able to monitor and calibrate a multitude of sensors, data log, and broadcast diagnostics information via a smartphone. Additional data logging information comes to the driver via a CTS2 Insight Monitor from Edge Products.


The results of all of this effort? The engine that was once slammed face-first through a concrete wall now cranks out more than 1,500 horses at 3,000 rpm and 1,700 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm.

Body Mods

If you’re going to take the time, money, and energy to rebuild an engine—one that already performs respectably in stock guise—into a fire-breathing dragon, then you have to go the extra nine yards in making the truck stand out above all the rest. Well, this truck was completely totaled… so they had no choice.


To help ensure better odds against concrete walls in the future, the front and rear bumpers were each replaced with an all-steel model from Fusion Bumpers. Carved into the bolstered steel of the front bumper are two pairs of 30-watt LED Cube Lights from Assault LED Lighting, each pumping out 3,000 lumens of daylight.

Under the hood lies a compound-turbo’d LML Duramax putting out more than 1,500 horsepower.

When it was time to cover the engine, RKSport in Murrieta, California, supplied a fiberglass high-temp hood with a functional ram air scoop. A Royalty Core custom grille was attached to catch the bugs and suck in the fresh air. The RCRX Race Grille features a 23-inch top-mounted LED light bar, triple-chrome-plated T304 stainless studs, TIG-welded “diamond crimp” tight weave mesh, and came ready for the green paint.

The turbo setup from Screamin’ Diesel Performance utilizes a BorgWarner S464 high-pressure turbo with an S488 atmospheric unit.

All of the bodywork was done with an expert’s care of attention by Jeff Call, resident body man at Custom Auto. On the sides, Bestop supplied a pair of their popular Powerboards and the EZFold aluminum tri-fold tonneau cover. The Powerboards activate when the door is opened, dropping the steps down six inches and capable of handling a 600-pound load. They’re made from aluminum so they’re lightweight and impervious to rust.

On the Corners

Helping the truck climb over the bumps on and off the road is Fabtech’s RTS six-inch lift for Chevy’s Silverado models. The kit features a bracket system that keeps the torsion bars raised up in the stock location to help provide a higher ground clearance.


On all four corners are Fabtech’s Dirt Logic 2.25 stainless steel shocks designed to replace the factory shocks with a much more robust configuration. They are specifically used on trucks with larger tires, like this one.


The interior was only lightly modified, but in the best ways possible with new upholstery from Katzkin and an Edge CTS2 to monitor the engine vitals.

Keeping the shiny side up are two pairs of 38×13.5 Nitto Trail Grapplers tightly hugging a quartet of 24×12 G22 Cage American Force wheels, painted black to match the overall scheme.

What’s Next?

The truck spent a week in the limelight at SEMA, where it attracted a great deal of attention, which was exactly what the crew at Custom Auto were hoping for. Now that it is back at the Custom Auto shop in Idaho Falls, the real work is about to begin. “Now that SEMA is over,” Hillman says, “we will start getting the tuning dialed in with PPEI and take it to competitions.” Pointing out that Custom Auto LLC doesn’t build trailer queens, he adds: “It’s not just for show.” DW

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