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UNBROKEN: 2018 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali

Super-Trick Body Mods and 645 hp Make This Denali Dualie Very Special

Chris Tobin
Sep 19, 2019
Jonathan Barber has always been a truck guy. His dad was a truck driver, and he has owned several GM diesel trucks over the years. He also spent 10 years as a coal miner in West Virginia. In 2016, Jonathan was injured in a mining accident and paralyzed from the waist down. But the injury hasn't destroyed his love for trucks.
Jonathan purchased this '18 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali dualie to transport him and his family on road adventures. But, of course, getting into a four-wheel-drive dualie is not an easy endeavor when you are paralyzed from the waist down.
Photo 2/49   |   Jonathan Barber's '18 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali is a big, bold, show-winning dualie that turns heads wherever he takes it. The monster-sized rig has a few tricks to make it more accessible for Jonathan, who is paralyzed from the waist down after a coal mining accident.
Jonathan needed to have his truck modified so he could drive and enjoy it. But, before sending it off to ATC Conversions in Markle, Indiana, he wanted to make the rig his own. Jeremy Setser and his team at Street Dreams in Beckley, West Virginia, installed a 4-inch BDS Suspension coilover conversion lift kit with Fox Factory shocks front and rear as well as a 3-inch body lift to make room for the accessibility modifications ATC would perform. The crew also installed a set of 35x12.50R24 Gladiator X-Comp MT tires wrapped around 24x8.25 custom American Force G07 Sector 10-lug wheels in all six positions. BDS Recoil traction bars are employed in the rear to help prevent axlewrap when the four big tires hook up under power.
Photo 3/49   |   Jonathan's Denali rolls on 35x12.50R24 Gladiator X-Comp MT tires wrapped around custom 24x8.25 American Force G07 Sector 10-lug aluminum wheels.
To help the 6.6L Duramax L5P engine spin those big tires and wheels, Jonathan turned to HPTuners and PPEI for ECM tuning and improved the intake and exhaust flow with an S&B Filters cold-air kit and 5-inch-diameter stainless steel Flo-Pro Performance Exhaust setup. A Wehrli Custom Fabrication upper coolant-pipe kit was also installed to dress up the engine bay. While the truck has not been dyno tested, Jonathan and Jeremy estimate the Duramax makes around 645 hp and 1,100 lb-ft of torque based on input from Kory Willis at PPEI.
Photo 4/49   |   The 6.6L Duramax L5P engine is potent from the factory, but Jonathan turned to Jeremy Setser of Street Dreams in Beckley, West Virginia, to give it some extra grunt.
Photo 5/49   |   Plenty of filtered, clean air is channeled into the Duramax engine through the stock hood inlet and into the S&B Filters cold-air intake system.
Photo 6/49   |   Built to take the heat and look good, a Wehrli Custom Fabrication coolant-piping kit was installed to dress up the otherwise plain-appearing Duramax.
Since the truck's Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission wouldn't last long in stock trim, it was shipped to Wehrli Custom Fabrication for a high-performance rebuild. The WCFab crew used SunCoast Diesel Transmissions upgraded clutches and components to handle the power and linked the engine to the transmission through a billet SunCoast torque converter. Stock driveshafts channel the power from the factory transfer case to the factory front and rear axles.
Jeremy oversaw the makeover project with Dale Spratt and Phillip Shrewsbury handling engine, transmission, and body mods, while Johnny Carrico addressed paint needs. The team installed a Kelderman grille with a chrome shell done by Advanced Chrome. The team also upgraded the lighting by integrating a pair of Rigid LED lights in the grille, Primo Dynamics head and taillight assemblies, and Recon smoked cab lights for a clean look. Once everything was complete Patrick Gunther at Killerwaxx Auto Spa in Beckley, West Virginia, treated the finish to a ceramic coating for long-lasting shine and paint protection. Jonathan also turned to American Campers for a Leer shell to cover the bed and provide a secure storage area for his wheelchair and other gear.
Photo 7/49   |   The bold front end of Jonathan's Denali sports a Kelderman grille with Rigid LED lighting with a chrome shell by Advanced Chrome. The grille is flanked by a pair of Primo Dymanic LED headlights to help the truck stand out from all other Denalis.
Photo 8/49   |   Looking closely, you can see the powdercoated steel mesh as well as a pair of Rigid LED lights used to help punch through the West Virginia night.
At this point, the truck looked killer, but Jonathan couldn't climb into it. To create his access, ATC Conversions removed both driver doors as well as the B-pillar and went to work modifying the frame and cab extensively. The frame was notched and the cab floor was dropped to make room for the hydraulic chair-lift system. The system is anchored in the rear portion of the new single-door opening, and it swivels and lifts the driving platform in and out of the truck. The luxurious Denali driver seat is retained, but it's also removable, so Jonathan can drive from his wheelchair if he desires.
Once the crew created a method of getting Jonathan in and out of the big GMC, they then had to cover the extra-large door opening and make it operational via remote control. More hydraulics were added to convert the front and rear driver-side doors into a single gullwing vertical opening door that is hinged at the top of the cab. Looking at the heavily modified truck from the outside with the door closed, it's difficult to see it's modified at all unless you look at the frame very closely. But it is unmistakably modified when it opens up!
Photo 9/49   |   The truck's frame needed some serious modifying to install the hydraulic chair lift and gullwing door that makes entry and egress for Jonathan and his wheelchair possible.
Photo 10/49   |   016 2018 Gmc Sierra Denali Unbroken Frame
Photo 11/49   |   With the front and rear doors lifted up and above the opening, Jonathan has easy access to the driver seat.
The performance, visual, and accessibility modifications were completed in a little less than six months, with Jonathan getting the truck back just before the Rudy's Performance Parts Season Opener diesel event in Julian, North Carolina. Jonathan and his team did amazing work on the Denali and were rewarded and recognized for their hard work and dedication by being voted "Best GM" in the show-'n'-shine competition.
Like any truck guy, Jonathan says there is more to be done on the truck, so keep an eye out for his gullwing Denali and be sure to take the time to check out the details in person. It really is amazing.
Photo 12/49   |   The team at Street Dreams installed a mild 4-inch BDS suspension lift with a front coilover conversion for extra ground clearance.
Photo 13/49   |   Fox Factory Race Series 2.5-inch remote-reservoir coilover front shocks are used to carry the chassis and smooth out any bumps in the road.
Photo 14/49   |   014 2018 Gmc Sierra Denali Unbroken Front Suspension
Photo 15/49   |   With the front and rear doors lifted up and above the opening, Jonathan has easy access to the driver seat.
Photo 16/49   |   Both doors lift as one motorized unit. The ATC Conversion kit features a new one-piece inner door panel for a clean look inside and out.
Photo 17/49   |   When fully deployed, the ramp supports the Denali seat, which can be removed so Jonathan can roll his wheelchair directly onto the platform and drive from it.
Photo 18/49   |   The door opening gives Jonathan's GMC a unique profile when seen with the gullwing open.
Photo 19/49   |   The rest of the interior remains largely stock, allowing Jonathan's wife, Bethany, their son Ledger, and a couple of friends to ride in style.
Photo 20/49   |   Since Jonathan cannot use his legs and feet for throttle and braking control, his truck is equipped with a hand control that serves both functions in one unit.
Photo 21/49   |   023 2018 Gmc Sierra Denali Unbroken Door Up Seat Down
Photo 22/49   |   The passenger-side framerail is home to the battery and hydraulic pump that actuates the door and chair-lift cylinders.
Photo 23/49   |   With the doors closed and without looking closely at the frame modifications, it's hard to tell Jonathan's truck is highly modified.
Photo 24/49   |   Polished American Force 24s are found in back as well, with matching Gladiator tires. BDS Recoil traction bars help tame axlewrap when Jonathan hits the throttle and four rear tires claw at the ground. This picture also makes it easy to see the 3-inch body lift that was necessary for the modifications required to install the chair lift.
Photo 25/49   |   Looking under the rear, you can see the Pacific Performance Engineering cast-aluminum differential cover as well as the Fox Factory 2.0-inch Performance Series shocks and the train-horn system that replaces the eight-lug spare wheel.
Photo 26/49   |   A 5-inch-diameter stainless steel Flo-Pro Performance Exhaust system terminates in the stock location behind the passenger-side rear wheels, with a polished 8-inch tip.
Photo 27/49   |   To match the headlights, Street Dreams installed a set of Primo Dynamic rear taillights.
Photo 28/49   |   Jonathan's truck looks great from any angle, thanks in part to the ceramic finish on the black paint, applied by Killerwaxx Auto Spa.
Photo 29/49   |   Jonathan has plenty of storage space for his wheelchair and anything else he and his family need for a road trip. The bed is covered by a Leer shell and protected with factory-applied spray-in bedliner treatment.
Photo 30/49   |   A secondary remote is used to control the chair lift and door assembly.
When the truck is opened up, Jonathan is able to transfer from his wheelchair to the seat. Then he is lifted into the cab by the hydraulic actuators and moved into position for driving. And drive he does! Jonathan thoroughly enjoys his Denali!
Fast Facts:
Year/Make/Model: '18 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali
Owner: Jonathan Barber
Hometown: Daniels, West Virginia
Odometer: 6,900 miles
Engine: 6.6L Duramax L5P V-8
Air: Stock turbocharger and intercooler
Exhaust: Flo-Pro Performance Exhaust 5-inch stainless steel tubing, 8-inch polished tip
Transmission: Allison 1000 six-speed automatic, SunCoast Diesel Transmissions internals, billet torque converter
Horsepower: 645 hp
Torque: 1,100 lb-ft
Tires: 35x12.50R24 Gladiator X-Comp MT
Wheels: 24x8.25 American Force G07 Sector
Suspension: Fox Factory 2.5-inch remote-reservoir Race Series coilover shocks (front), Fox 2.0-inch Performance Series shocks (rear), 4-inch BDS Suspension lift kit
Axles: 3.73 gears
Body: ATC Conversions hydraulic chair lift and gullwing door conversion, Kelderman mesh steel grille, Rigid LED lights, Primo Dynamic head and taillights, Leer shell, ceramic paint protection
Interior: Stock Denali leather interior, handicapped access and controls
Fun Fact: Through social media, Jonathan met Keaton "The Muscle" Hoskins from the Diesel Brothers TV show and struck up a friendship. Shortly after our photo shoot, Keaton took Jonathan's truck for additional modifications to make it easier for him to get his wheelchair in and out of the truck by himself. Jonathan can't wait to get it back and see what kind of magic Keaton works on the already cool truck.

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