The Durty Max


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If you find yourself beating up your gas-powered truck in the dirt, maybe it’s time to rethink why that’s happening, and that’s exactly what young Austin Lessel did in trading his Chevy Avalanche for an ’06 Chevy Silverado 2500 due to its heft and the possibility of deterring him from off-roading. Living in close proximity to Pismo Beach, California, Lessel could avoid the sand dunes only so long, and once he started modifying his diesel truck, he found himself in a situation very similar to what he had experienced previously.

However, the sheer weight of the vehicle required a custom suspension system, and Dirt Designs in Atascadero, CA stepped in. Stripping the front suspension, a custom machined, 4” wider J-beam and radius arm suspension was built. Custom spindles with 1.5” uniballs and disc brakes from a 2011 Dodge Ram were used. A custom swing arm-style steering system, fabricated pitman arm and Heim joints, and 16” 3.0 King Off-Road Racing coilovers with remote reservoirs, 18” 4.0 six-tube bypass shocks and 2” 2.5 bump stops were employed.

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Dirt Designs then cut off the back half of the frame to achieve the maximum amount of deflection. Taking an American Axle Manufacturing rearend, they determined its location and 30” of travel before making a new frame from round steel and trussing the rearend to increase its strength. King Off Road Racing coilovers, bypass shocks and bump stops matched the front.

To increase rigidity and safety, a complete 2” steel roll cage was run from front to back. To fit the form and function, Trailer Products’ one-piece front end and Fiberwerx Offroad Fiberglass Trophy Truck series bedsides were custom molded to the truck. A 2” Dirt Designs front bumper with a pusher protects the front end, while several Rigid Industries LED lights have been custom mounted to light the way.


The entire body was then wrapped in metallic blue 3M vinyl by Torlief Karr, and 17” Method Race Wheels’ 105 beadlocks and 39X13.50R17LT BF Goodrich tires added. The 6.6L  BF Goodrich tires Duramax diesel has an EFILive tune by Rob Coddens of ATP Trucks, a PPE lift pump, and a 4” downpipe that connects to a 5” straight exhaust.

Alligator Performance’s Stage 5 Allison Transmission turns a custom two-piece driveshaft from Santa Maria’s Coast Clutch, and the rearend was filled with an Eaton Detroit Trutrac locker with Yukon 4.88 ring and pinion gears and an ATS Diesel Performance differential cover.

Inside, four Mastercraft Safety 3G seats and Crow Enterprizes 3” five-point harness belts were used. A Lowrance navigation unit is mounted in the custom center console, which also holds the buttons used to operate the Rigid LED lights.

Lessel now plans on entering it in off-road endurance races, a departure from his initial plans to slow himself down with a diesel truck.

Be sure and look for Austin and his big blue Dirt Designs Chevy at Huckfest, DuneFest and off-road Expos this fall.



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