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With a company name like the Muscle Factory, Bill Dannels knew he needed to build a car that lived up to his company’s name. After taking a spin in buddy Mike Racke’s Duramax-powered ’70 Chevelle, he knew he had to have one of his own. While Mike’s Chevelle was a complete one-off build, Bill decided to keep his ’70 SS Chevelle as original as possible, in order to create a resto-classic image that would reflect his El Camino and Chevelle restoration parts business. In addition to the Duramax engine, BIll also slated a manual transmission for the car, because everyone knows that real hot rods have three pedals.

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“Real hot rods have three pedals”

The Build

The beginning of the process centered around a rolling chassis, and an ’06 Duramax LBZ powerplant. The first hurdle was to fit the engine into the chassis, which was less of a chore than anticipated, thanks to the Chevelle’s expansive engine bay. Motor mounts were fabricated by Mike Racke that placed the diesel engine in the frame using the factory Chevelle mounts. Two inches were also trimmed from the bottom of the oil pan, in order to gain clearance, and big block Chevy springs were ordered for the front suspension to support the extra weight. A complete wiring harness and race tune for the engine was sourced from Pacific Performance Engineering (PPE).

“Twin-turbo, manual transmission diesel tire-fryer”

Popping the hood on Bill Dannel’s ’70 Chevelle reveals a Duramax engine like no other. With help from PPE and good buddy Mike Racke, the 550-hp 1,000lb-ft GM diesel was swapped into the engine bay, giving the classic a good horsepower bump over the original 450-hp 454 gas engine.

To support the twin turbochargers, a universal intercooler was also incorporated into the build, and was mounted out in front of the engine, just behind the SS grille.

With an estimated 550 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque, the factory Muncie 4-speed that the Chevelle was fitted with from the factory wasn’t going to handle the tuned Duramax. To solve this problem, Bill picked up a G-Force 5R transmission that is commonly used in both road racing and drag racing applications. Helping control the diesel engine’s torque is a dual-disc clutch from South Bend Clutch. The rearend was also a clean sheet project, as the factory GM unit was replaced with a Chris Alston Fabricated 9-inch, based loosely on a Ford design.

“06 Duramax LBZ powerplant”

The Chevelle spent a good 2 to 3 weeks at PPE during which time the exhaust and intake piping was fabricated to mount the twin 60mm Garrett GTX2860 turbochargers, then polished to a bright shine. The result is undeniably impressive, and the turbos allow room to grow to 800 hp if Bill ever wants to turn it up.

Even with the big diesel engine, there was still enough room for a factory-style Chevelle radiator from Champion Radiators. Twin Spal USA electric fans are there to keep the Duramax cool during 100-degree summer cruises.

An individual runner intake with twin plenums is one of the most visible and unique parts of the Chevelle, and compliments the twin turbo setup perfectly.

Instead of V-bands or boots, high end Wiggins clamps were used to secure the connections where the turbos exit to the intake manifold.

Tucked down below the turbos are custom fabricated 304 stainless steel headers that were built just for this application by PPE.

In addition to the custom headers, PPE also built the 3-inch downpipes that send the diesel’s exhaust out and under the car. The custom valve covers are a touch that was thrown in by Mike Racke.

The brake system on the Chevelle is quite interesting. A master cylinder from ABS Power Brakes that works with an electric vacuum pump gives the Chevelle plenty of brake pressure at all times, and eliminates the need for an engine vacuum pump, or hydroboost system.

Duramax engines are quite tall, so height is always a concern when performing a swap. With just a small amount of trimming on the oil pan (two inches), and a skid plate, the diesel was able to fit under a factory SS cowl hood without any trouble.

Perhaps the most creative part of the muscle car swap was the decision to go with a manual transmission. With a 4,000 to 4,500rpm shift point, and plenty of power from 2,000rpm on up, the Chevelle has no problem spinning the hides in the first three gears.

Barely visible under the fuel tank is the stout Chris Alston rearend. Featuring a fabricated 9-inch housing with 35-spline axles and a Detroit Locker, the rearend is definitely up to the task of handling the GM’s power and weight.

Details

What separates Bill’s muscle car swap from the rest of the crowd is the attention to detail when it came to finishing the build. Custom headers fabricated in-house at PPE out of 304 stainless steel mount twin GTX2860 turbochargers, giving the car instant boost with no lag. All of the accessories were moved down and out of the way so the incredible turbo piping could be in full view. From the upgraded Wilwood disc brakes on all four corners, to the custom 18 gallon fuel tank, many one-off pieces grace the Chevelle, yet there’s nothing on the car that detracts from its muscle car image. The interior in fact, was fully restored to SS specs, with parts and pieces from Bill’s own business.

“Easy 12’s in the quarter mile, and more than 30 mpg on the highway”

The interior is another spot that was left relatively stock, although it was rebuilt and restored by Bill at the Muscle Factory. The one deviation from stock was the dash, which was fitted with gauges from Dakota Digital.

Since the ’70 was built to drive and not just show, a custom 18 gallon fuel tank was made to give the Chevelle plenty of range. Bill figures 400-500 miles of freeway driving should be no problem.

The Duramax engine emits a slightly deeper than average exhaust note, thanks to a set of two-chamber 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers.

Straight to SEMA

One of the first places the Chevelle went after it was finished was the 2014 SEMA show, where it wowed the crowd with its innovative drivetrain. Since then, Bill has put plenty of street miles on his creation, as he says the best part about owning a twin-turbo, manual transmission diesel tire-fryer is that he can actually drive the thing. Although he’s yet to take the Chevy to the track, he estimates easy 12’s on street tires, and more than 30 mpg on the highway. With show car looks, all-around performance, and diesel torque, there’s no doubt that Bill’s Duramax-powered ’70 Chevelle will give him many miles and smiles in the years to come. DW