It’s not every day that we see a tow rig blasting through the dunes, especially since they usually get left behind with all the gear and trailers back at the campsite. As you’ve probably guessed by now, we’re really big fans of fullsize trucks here at OFF-ROAD magazine, so when we spotted Austin Lessel’s 2006 Chevy 2500HD Duramax diesel ripping through the dunes at blazingly fast speeds—with paddle tires, no less—we knew we had to catch up to him to get a better look at his awesome crew-cab Duramax.
After drooling over it for a few minutes, we realized that this was no ordinary tow rig but rather a heavily built truck meant for one purpose: tearing up the sand dunes with authority! Austin wanted to build a competitive diesel prerunner, so he enlisted the help of Mike James and Steve Fike at Dirt Designs to build a one-off long-travel front suspension to allow the big Chevy to soak up the hard landings and monstrous whoops that it would soon encounter. Most people would call it done at that point, but Austin isn’t most people; he wanted to have enough power to propel the Duramax prerunner through the dunes with relative ease so he called up Rob Coddens at ATP Trucks in Eagle, Idaho, and had him create a custom EFI Live tuning for it after he installed a PPE lift pump and AFE intake. With 550 horsepower on tap, it’s no wonder the Duramax can kick up a rooster tail the size of a small house.
We weren’t the only ones who thought this was one of the coolest trucks around. It gathered quite a crowd at both the Off-Road Expo and the SEMA show a few months ago, and it’s easy to see why—a modern crew-cab truck with a hopped-up diesel pumping out 1,000 lb-ft of torque and enough suspension travel to soak up an endless amount of whoops isn’t something you see every day.
Austin tells us he’s not done with his Duramax prerunner just yet and has already upgraded the rear shocks to 4.0-inch King Kong six-tube bypass shocks with a fully TIG-welded bed cage to keep the rear end under control during hard landings, especially since one of his future plans calls for a twin turbo setup for an even bigger kick in the pants. All we can say is that Austin built himself one of the wildest diesel prerunners to ever hit the dirt.
Vehicle: 2006 Chevy Silverado 2500HD Duramax
Owner: Austin Lessel
Chassis: Stock frame with Dirt Designs engine cage and bed cage
Engine: 6.6L LBZ Duramax diesel, AFE intake, PPE lift pump, 5-inch straight pipe, custom EFI Live tuning done by Rob Coddens at ATP Trucks
Transmission: Allison A1000 six-speed automatic transmission
Rear axle: AAM 14-Bolt rear differential, 4.10 gears
Suspension: Custom long-travel suspension built by Mike James and Steve Fike of Dirt Designs delivering 20 inches of wheel travel, fully boxed and TIG-welded spindles and A-arms, 10-inch-stroke King 2.5-inch coilovers and 10-inch-stroke King 3.0 three-tube bypass shocks, King 2.5-inch hydraulic bumpstops, custom Deaver leaf springs in the rear, 10-inch-stroke King 2.5-inch two-tube bypass shocks, now delivers 17 inches of wheel travel (currently has TIG-welded bed cage with King Kong 4.0 six-tube bypass shocks)
Steering: Heim steering joints
Tires/wheels: 39-inch BFGoodrich Baja T/A race tires on 17-inch Method Race bead lock wheels
Interior: EGT gauge, EDGE CS tuner, MasterCraft 3G suspension seats in front and rear, Crow harnesses
Other parts: Trailer Products trophy truck one-piece fiberglass front clip narrowed to fit Silverado, FiberwerX trophy truck bedsides, painted by Premier Auto Body, 2-inch TIG-welded chromoly tube bumper built by Dirt Designs, Rigid Industries LED lighting, Optima battery
The factory shocks mounts weren’t really up to the task of severe off-road use the last time we saw Austin’s truck. Since then, he had a bed cage built into his truck that incorporates a beefed-up shock mount, and although he lost the use of the bed floor, the bed cage holds two fullsize spares mounted upright and in a lower position for a lower center of gravity. Thanks to Dirt Cinema for the pictures of the updated rear.