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  • An 1,100hp LML Duramax GMC Sierra 3500HD Built In Tribute To A Son

An 1,100hp LML Duramax GMC Sierra 3500HD Built In Tribute To A Son

Drake’s Dream

Mike McGlothlin
May 21, 2015
Photographers: Bethany Then
Every truck featured in the pages of Diesel Power has a unique backstory. Still, some are more meaningful than others. Case in point: This ’11 GMC Sierra Denali 3500HD was purchased brand-new with the goal of making it one of the most powerful trucks of its kind. What ended up happening was slightly bigger than that—you’re looking at a rig with the highest-horsepower 6.6L LML Duramax engine we’ve heard about in North America.
"He put together the truck his son envisioned."
Believe it or not, the truck’s owner, Bill Whitters, isn’t even a self-proclaimed diesel enthusiast—but his oldest son Drake was. After a tragic accident took Drake’s life on his 19th birthday in June 2011, Bill set out to see his son’s dream truck come to fruition. He started with one of the best-looking, most comfortable trucks on the road and built it exactly the way Drake would’ve done it.
Photo 2/11   |   One of the first modifications Bill made after taking ownership of the truck was to black out everything. The factory cab lights and headlights feature Candy Smoke tint glazing, while the chrome grille and chrome grille surround on the front bumper were painted by Mark’s Auto Body in Solon, Iowa.
With just 300 miles on the odometer, the Denali was dropped off with Chad Remakel and his team at Empire Diesel Performance. Due to the extent of the makeover requested and a lack of available parts for the brand-new (at the time) LML Duramax, the build became a three-year process. Starting with the engine, the factory connecting rods were tossed in favor of chromoly steel units from R&R Racing Products. The stock pistons were de-lipped, anodized, and reused. Valvetrain upgrades consisted of Empire Performance Engineering’s Stage 1 “Alter Fire” camshaft and its Stage 2 valvesprings and pushrods. The heads were left unported but were anchored to the block via ARP studs.
On the fuel side, a dual high-pressure fuel kit from H&S Motorsports added a CP3 pump up top to share the job of creating rail pressure. The factory-located CP4 and beltdriven CP3 take orders from one of Fish Tuning’s Advanced Dual CP3 controllers. With the potential to make more than 1,000 hp and the capability of being detuned into the 700hp range, a set of 100-percent-over piezo-electric injectors from Exergy Performance were chosen. Motor Ops handled all tuning, courtesy of EFILive software.
Photo 3/11   |   If you want to make four-digit horsepower, you must have big air. The guys at Empire fabricated this wicked compound-turbocharger arrangement, which designates a 71mm Precision turbo as the high-pressure unit (in the valley of the engine) and a healthy 88mm Precision turbo (Pro Mod 88) as the atmospheric ’charger. Each turbo benefits from Precision’s proprietary forged-aluminum compressor wheel, as well as dual ceramic ball bearing center cartridges.
Under the hood, the master fabricators at Empire pieced together a wicked compound-turbocharger arrangement. The setup utilizes a 71mm unit from Precision Turbo and Engine in the lifter valley, and an 88mm atmospheric turbo (also from Precision) where the factory air intake and coolant overflow used to reside. Both hair driers feature dual ball bearing centersections and billet compressor wheels. So far, they’ve combined to make as much as 85 psi of boost.
Bulletproofing the Allison 1000 transmission called for a host of parts from SunCoast. The company’s billet, triple-disc 1058 torque converter transfers power and torque, and a GMax clutch kit was added for utmost holding power. With a set of 22.5-inch American Force wheels, 37-inch tires, more than 8 inches of lift, and an excess of 1,100 hp to deal with, the built Allison gets a workout every time it’s dropped into gear, but so far it hasn’t skipped a beat.
Photo 4/11   |   Despite sitting more than a foot higher than stock, weighing nearly 9,000 pounds, and sporting the factory 3.73:1 ring and pinion, with more than 1,100 hp pounding the pavement, Bill’s Denali can flat out move. In fact, it moves so well he’s convinced the truck can hang with his ZR1 Corvette.
Thanks to the keen memory of Bill and other family members, much of what Drake planned to add to his dream truck was applied. As a special tribute, Bill had his son’s initials added under each door handle as well as centered on the tailgate. Words don’t come easy for Bill when you bring up the Denali’s history, but he takes comfort in knowing he put together the truck his son envisioned. “He always wanted to take a brand-new one and make it crazy powerful,” Bill tells us. “Every time I get in it and go, I like to think he’s in there with me.”
Fast Facts
Year/Make/Model: 2011 GMC Sierra Denali 3500HD
Owner: Bill Whitters
Hometown: Swisher, Iowa
Odometer: 3,500 miles
Engine: 6.6L LML Duramax with R&R rods, de-lipped and anodized 15.5:1 compression LML pistons, Empire Performance Engineering Stage 1 Alter Fire camshaft, Stage 2 valvesprings and pushrods, and ARP head studs
Fuel: 100-percent-over Exergy Performance injectors, H&S Motorsports CP3 over stock CP4 injection pump setup with Fish Tuning advanced dual CP3 controller, and 165-gph AirDog II fuel system
Air: 71mm Precision Turbo and Engine high-pressure 88mm turbocharger and Engine Pro-Mod 88mm atmospheric turbo, 46mm Precision wastegate with adjustable regulator, and AFE Blade Runner intercooler
Exhaust: 4-inch MBRP dual exhaust with dual 6-inch tips customized by Empire Diesel Performance
Transmission: Allison 1000 six-speed automatic with SunCoast GMax clutch kit and 1058 torque converter
Horsepower: 1,130 hp (dyno)
Tires: 255/70R22.5 Michelin XZE 2
Wheels: 22.5x9.0 American Force Scope
Suspension/Steering: 8-to-10-inch adjustable CST lift, CST traction bars, pitman arm, idler arm braces, and Empire Performance Engineering stainless-steel tie-rod sleeves
Fun Fact: Even though the Denali dyno’d 1,130 hp (uncorrected, mind you), the 100-percent-over injectors haven’t yet been used to their full potential due to the factory CP4 not holding adequate rail pressure. That means Bill’s nasty Denali has more left in it—and once a CP3 rests in place of the stock CP4, even more power should be on the table.
Photo 5/11   |   While we expected to find only the sleek black leather interior, once we took a peek inside the Denali, we were caught totally off-guard by the gauges along the A-pillar. Believe it or not, they’re Auto Meter Factory Match units intended for fourth-generation Rams, but they look right at home. A 0-100-psi gauge and a 0-60-psi unit combine to keep tabs on the boost level of each turbo, and a 2,000-degree pyrometer ensures Bill never gets the LML too hot.

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