Duramax Camaro

After the Cummins-powered Charger build had concluded, the kinks were ironed out, and it had served as a reliable daily driver for a while, we began brainstorming the next challenge. We weighed the options and decided the logical next step would be a Duramax-powered Camaro.

We weren't particularly interested in any Camaro other than the 5th generation SS model, so the decision was made to find a theft recovery or rolling shell in order to keep costs down as we embarked on this late-model build.  After an exhaustive search for a suitable car, a theft recovery 2010 Camaro SS was located in Texas.  The car was well-optioned and the thieving scum had lightened it of its engine, transmission, and a few ancillaries powertrain components.  Cosmetically, it was in better shape than most: the car’s quarter window had been shattered to gain access, rather than having damage inflicted to its the door skin.  Unlike many theft recovery SS models, this car’s interior and Brembo brakes were left untouched.
 

We struck a deal and headed south to retrieve the Camaro.  It was extracted from the seller’s back yard, where he had parked the car after purchasing it from a local insurance auction.  After completing a few pieces of paperwork and exchanging a firm handshake, we headed back to Minnesota and got to work.

Upon unloading the Camaro in our workshop, the first task was to carefully remove all the excess parts and brackets associated with the car’s original powerplant.  From there, we hatched a plan to fit the unwieldy diesel V8.

The initial plan was to utilize the Duramax ‘LLY’ and Allison 2400HS 5-speed automatic transmission from a medium-duty shuttle bus.  It was evident almost immediately that the Allison was simply too large to fit under the Camaro without serious tunnel modifications.  It is a point of pride in our builds to leave the firewalls, tunnels, and hoods of these cars untouched.

Rather than be defeated by the huge Allison transmission, it was simply separated from the engine so we could forge onward.  The engine was coerced into its desired location and, after a few iterations, a pair of heavy duty engine mounts were designed and fabricated.  With the 850-lb behemoth mated to the Camaro’s subframe, we test fit the hood and found it interfered.  With the engine already nestled closely against the subframe, it was evident we’d have to separate the subframe from the unibody in order to retain the car’s stock hood.  Spacers were fabricated, which provided us just the room we needed.

Now with the Duramax mounted and the Camaro resting on its stock front suspension, the car had a good bit of rake and it was clear we’d have to compensate for the added weight.  Unfortunately, Summit Racing was sold out of Camaro SS leveling kits, so we had to make our own.  A good friend helped us by turning a couple of strut spacers on his lathe.  With the spacers installed, the car once again has adequate ground clearance and a level stance.

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With the engine cradled between the Camaro’s fenders, we departed Minnesota for the SEMA show in Las Vegas.  As always, a flood of motivation washed over us as we strolled the exhibition halls, admired other builders’ work, and familiarized ourselves with this year’s hottest trends and cleverest innovations.

Upon our return, the filthy old bus engine was removed, palletized, and moved into storage.  A frenzied search commenced for a more suitable swap candidate.  Before you know it, we were on the road to Illinois to scoop up an 8,000-mile 2010 ‘LMM’ Duramax.  

Conveniently, we discovered a 2010 Chevy Express cutaway, which had been removed from ambulance service after suffering catastrophic engine failure.  The Express, unlike Sierra and Silverado pickups, has a 6L90E transmission mated to its Duramax.  The van was priced to sell, so we winched it onto the trailer and dragged it home.

With the van’s 6L90E transmission and associated parts harvested, the rest of the Express was parted out, which served to further propel the Camaro build.  Now we had a 2010 model transmission mated to a 2010 model engine and we slid it into our swap recipient: a 2010 model car.

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