Budget-Friendly Diesel Build: Tim Hilgendorf’s Modified ’03 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD

There is no denying the diesel performance hobby is expensive. The engines, injection systems, turbochargers, and transmissions our trucks come with are pricey investments. But, if you know how to wrench, you can save yourself a load of money. Luckily, for Tim Hilgendorf, he comes from a farming family, earned a degree in diesel technology, and has always had a knack for fixing his own vehicles and equipment. His ability to turn a wrench, fabricate, and locate the right parts at the best prices have all played into his goal of modifying his ’03 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD on a tight budget. “I wanted to pick the right pieces (at the right time) to make it the best all-around truck it could be,” he told us.

After buying the truck in 2010 with 82,000 miles on the odometer, Tim got started with the basics: exhaust and gauges. Soon after that, a Raptor lift pump (and later, a 150-gph FASS system) was installed, followed by EFI Live tuning from Duramax Tuner. While running the Duramax Tuner files—which were intended for a truck equipped with a built transmission—Tim decided to pull the Allison 1000 and beef it up himself. The five-speed automatic would receive a Sun Coast GMax-5 clutch kit and a TransGo Jr. shift kit. Believe it or not, Tim rocked the stock converter for two full years before coming into a deal on a used triple disc 1058 Sun Coast unit. Tim’s Allison was the first one he’d ever built, and it’s still holding strong more than half a decade later.

Underneath the flash of the Illusion Cherry Red compound turbo setup, Tim Hilgendorf’s ’03 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD sports a bone-stock, 172,000-mile bottom end. It’s only hard-part upgrades consist of Merchant Automotive chromoly pushrods and ARP 2000 head studs. A set of PPE high-flow manifolds and stainless steel up-pipes help the LB7 Duramax breath a little easier on the exhaust side.
When local Duramax truck puller, Jeff Krause, gave Tim a smoking deal on a slightly used S475, it made the decision to install a compound turbo arrangement all the more irresistible. The BorgWarner charger features a billet 75mm compressor wheel, T6 flange, and was easily installed thanks to a twin turbo piping kit from Wehrli Custom Fabrication.
Like so many other Duramax-powered GMs, one of the truck’s earlier mods was a 150-gph FASS lift pump system, which is in charge of getting fuel from the tank up to the CP3. Knowing that twin turbos and big fuel could spell disaster for the LB7’s factory connecting rods, Tim is holding off on bigger injectors for the time being.
Putting his mechanical knowledge to use, Tim saved himself hundreds (if not a couple thousand) by building the Allison 1000 himself. A Sun Coast GMax-5 clutch pack kit and TransGo Jr. shift kit made it into the build, as well as a used 1058 triple disc Sun Coast converter from Illini Outlaw Diesel customer, John R. Thompson.
Inner and outer tie rods from Cognito Motorsports keep the infamous toe-in scenarios from occurring on Tim’s truck. While he hasn’t installed pitman and idler arm braces to date (even though he’s done a fair amount of sled pulling and drag racing), they are on his list of things to do.
Serving as the high-pressure valley charger is a turbo that Tim actually helped test for DuramaxTuner.com: the Stealth 64. The direct drop-in replacement 64mm charger is known for its great drivability, and it wastes no time bringing everything to life in Tim’s compound turbo system. All told, the compounds churn out a combined 42 to 45 psi of boost—conservative for some, but just right for a 172,000-mile LB7 with stock rods.
Wanting the cosmetic appeal of a roll pan yet needing the truck to always be ready for farm work, Tim built his own Reese hitch, which mounts just below the roll pan. For increased ride comfort, a 5100 series Bilstein shock resides at each corner.

In 2014, the truck was graced with dual CP3s, 30-percent over injectors, and a Stealth 64 drop-in turbo from Duramax Tuner. As an R&D tester for the Stealth charger, Tim’s Silverado laid down 637-rwhp. Most recently, and with the truck returning to farm duty—which includes daily towing chores—Tim reverted back to stock injectors and the stock CP3. However, after coming across a deal on a used S475 through his friends at Illini Outlaw Diesel (and with the Stealth 64 already in the valley) the idea of having compound turbos under the hood was one step closer to becoming a reality.

Once Tim decided he would be upgrading to compounds, the idea was born to relocate the passenger side battery behind the front bumper instead of along the frame rail (the conventional way). With nothing but gravel roads in Missouri, not to mention the time the truck spends out in the field, Tim wanted to keep the battery from being damaged by rocks, or coated in mud, dirt, and dust. We think it’s a perfect way to utilize unused space on ’01-’07 GM trucks.

Using an S400 over stock twin turbo piping kit from Wehrli Custom Fabrication, the S475 was seamlessly installed. But prior to bolting everything on, Tim sent all piping and both of the turbochargers’ compressor covers to Wehrli Custom Power Coating for an Illusion Cherry Red finish. As for relocating the passenger side battery, Tim built his own battery tray and mounted it behind the front bumper, instead of bolting it to the frame rail or in the bed.

We have to admit; it was refreshing to find a set of 16×9-inch Eagle Alloys on Tim’s ride—not 20s. Further toughening up the regular cab Chevy’s overall look is a set of 33×12.50 Trxus STS tread from Interco.

Being parts savvy, doing all of his own work and adhering to a strict budget all contributed to Tim’s ability to build the perfect truck for his needs. When the opportunity to purchase quality second-hand parts presented itself, he jumped on it. When he needed a built transmission, he put it together himself. And when his truck needed a new headliner, he dove right in and got busy replacing that too.

White-faced Phantom II series gauges from Auto Meter allow Tim to keep an eye on EGT and boost along the A-pillar. For keeping tabs on all other important vitals, an Edge CTS monitor gets the job done.
Just as clean as the exterior, the interior of Tim’s Silverado nearly made us feel like we were riding around in a brand new truck. In addition to being a skilled fabricator, mechanic, and farmer, Tim also does headliner work. It may be hard to see here, but he redid the headliner using a gray suede fabric and then paint-matched the overhead console to tie everything together.

With stock fuel, compound turbos, and some of the best custom EFI Live tuning available, this Bow Tie burns clean, gets very respectable fuel economy, makes in the neighborhood of 600-rwhp, and can be driven on a daily basis. It embodies the all-in-one package so many of us are after with our own builds. DW


Year/Make/Model: 2003 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD
Tim Hilgendorf
Hometown: Excello, Missouri
Odometer: 172,000 miles
Engine: 6.6L LB7 Duramax with Merchant Automotive chromoly pushrods, ARP 2,000 head studs, Banana Pan replacement oil pan
Fuel: Stock Exergy Performance injectors, stock CP3, FASS 150-gph fuel system
Air: Billet S475 over DuramaxTuner.com Stealth 64 with Wehrli Custom Fabrication twin piping kit, 3-inch Y-bridge system
Tuning: EFI Live via DuramaxTuner.com
Exhaust: PPE manifolds, PPE stainless steel up-pipes, 5-inch MBRP system with 6-inch tip
Transmission: Allison 1000 with Sun Coast GMax-5 clutch pack kit, TransGo Jr. shift kit, Sun Coast 1058 converter, Merchant Automotive rear housing support, transfer case upgrade kit (pump rub kit), Fleece Performance TapShifter
Horsepower: 600 to 625 hp (est.)
Torque: 1,100 to 1,200 lb-ft. (est.)
Tires: Interco TrXus STS 33×12.50R16
Wheels: 16×9-inch Eagle Alloys
Suspension/Steering: Cognito Motorsports heavy-duty inner and outer tie rods, Bilstein 5100 series shocks

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