Back to the Future


2012 sweepstakes giveaway pickup build centers on ‘08 Chevy 3500 Crew Cab Dually 4×4; ProPickup staff turning “old” into gold

Back in the day when I was the parts and service manager for an Oregon-based J.I. Case (now Case Corporation) construction dealer, we had two cab/chassis service body rigs and a regular cab long-bed pickup dedicated to field-service work.

Dozers and loader-backhoes were used hard and the equipment owners couldn’t afford down-time.

Those trucks were always on the road, rolling into home construction, road building, site development, ranch, landscaping and logging operations so the mechanic could provide on-site service and repairs.

Our best mechanic drove a service truck based on an ’82 GMC K3500 Crew Cab Dually 4×4 with a 6.2L diesel, 4.56 gears, 2-speed transfer case and Warn 8274 winch on the front.

Not a day went by that he didn’t bring the truck in covered in mud and dust from his field exploits.

This is how a stock GMC Sierra 3500 Crew Cab 4×4 looked sitting at Barkley GMC Buick Cadillac before we took the keys. We’re about to change it up a bit.

 But he always came in leaving happy customers, proving an ace mechanic with the right truck and tools could fix just about any piece of equipment – and motor right up to it in just about any terrain.


We are taking that decades-old service-truck concept and stepping back to the future with this year’s “sweepstakes” pickup build: Big Red.

Our dually is a clean, one-owner Duramax model with 130,000 miles. It set us back $28,000.

We’ll probably have another $15K in it in upgrades and aftermarket accessories to get it looking like our concept before it’s given away to some lucky contractor in April 2013.

Why use a “seasoned” pickup instead of a brand new model? Economics.

Big Red’s power comes from the Duramax 6.6L, which develops 365 horsepower and an earth-moving 660 lb.-ft. of torque.

Most of you are keeping pickups 8-10 years before looking for a replacement. A new crew cab diesel 4×4 runs north of $55,000.

By the time you get it accessorized for your type of use that number will probably be closer to $65,000.That’s a chunk of corporate change.

However, a three- to four-year-old diesel 4×4 pickup, in good condition and moderate miles, can be found for around $30K.

Spend another $5,000 for the right upgrades/equipment for your particular trade and you own a rig that runs, looks and performs like new with another six to eight years of good service at half the cost of a new truck.


We worked closely with Barkley GMC in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to find us a good build candidate. In doing so we learned how important it is to work with a dealership that understands the needs of fleet owners and contractors.

Bill Adams, Jr. and his Barkley sales staff deal with contractors every day. They know where to find the best deals and how to work with other dealers coast-to-coast in order to fill the needs of the business owner.

The 2008 GMC Sierra 3500 HD has a very comfortable mobile office. Stock it lacks a coffee maker and fridge. But we have plans to rectify those missing elements.

Adams is the one who tracked down our new project truck in Houston, checked it’s repair history and service records, and had it driven up to their dealership a few miles from our offices.

The Barkley GMC techs went over Big Red with a fine-tooth comb, changed all the fluids with Mobil Delvac lubricants, and gave the body a thorough detailing before handing us the keys.

That’s the kind of fleet customer service you should expect from a dealership.


Compared to the K3500 GMC of old, the ’08 Crew Cab Dually is light-years ahead in advancements.

The “new” Sierra is a luxury tow vehicle with outstanding power, capability and reliability. (Read my 2008 review at

“There’s not a broader, more powerful or more capable lineup of heavy-duty pickups in the industry,” said Gary White, then GM North America vice president at the event where GMC introduced the ’08 3500.

A lot of that confidence stems from the Duramax. The 365hp 6.6L turbo-diesel was the most powerful diesel in the 3/4- and 1-ton pickup at that time with an impressive 660 lb.-ft. of torque. (The 1982 6.2L diesel only made 130hp and 240 lb/ft of torque.)

Its pulling power rolls in early in the rpm range, so the Duramax is a superb package for towing skid-steers, mini-excavators, enclosed equipment trailers, travel trailers or toy haulers.

To that end, like all of GM’s HD pickups, ours equipped with a 2 ½-inch receiver hitch. That gives our 4×4 diesel dually a towing capacity of 13,000 pounds with a weight-distributing hitch and 16,700 pounds if a gooseneck is being pulled.

We expect fuel economy in stock from to be consistently in the mid-12s in city traffic and mid- to upper-teens (15-17) on highway.

Big Red’s power and mpg numbers should move upward during the build process with several engine-related upgrades and electronic tuning.


Our long-term build goal is to improve this GMC’s looks, performance and efficiency from the perspective of someone tasked with working on smaller equipment in the field.

To do so we’ll work from the inside out starting with the Mobil Delvac synthetics. Lubricants are the lifeblood of any vehicle, and when that vehicle is a pickup destined for a life in the construction trades, only the best lubricant will do.

Then we’ll address upgrades in auxiliary lighting, cargo management, traction, body protection, winching, security, on-board equipment, tools and the mobile office.

Some of the aftermarket upgrades we’ll be doing will be familiar some, new to others.

For example we’ve already teamed up with Vanair to equip Big Red with Air N Arc All-In-One Power System. This efficient, powerful, compact unit consists of a genset, welder and air compressor perfect for on-the-job applications and around the shop.

Big Red is going to be a project pickup that should give you some ideas to apply to your own rigs. If you have some trick ideas, give us a shout. Something you’ve come up with that makes such a pickup more efficient might well be utilized on this year-long project.

By this time next year we want our “Big Red” GMC dually to look and function like a $50,000 service truck – and have the sweepstakes winner driving off with a huge smile.

(To read about Big Red, product installations, logbook and list of sponsors, go to and click on the Big Red sweepstakes truck homepage.)


Make / Model: 2008 Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab 4×4 Diesel Dually

MSRP Base Price: $40,390

Price as Tested: $49,930

Seating: 5-passenger

Engine: 365hp 6.6L V8 Diesel

Fuel economy (observed): 12.6 (city)/ 15.8 (hwy)

Transmission: 6spd Allison Automatic

Transfer case: JF1A Hi/Low; shift-on-the-fly 2WD-4WD

Wheelbase: 167”

Front Suspension: Independent

Rear Suspension: Solid axle w/ leaf springs

Fuel Capacity: 34 gals

Axle ratio: 3.73:1

Curb weight: 7,371 lbs

Max payload: 4,029 lbs

Max towing: 13,000 lbs w/ W-D hitch


0-60mph: 9.1 sec

50-70mph: 4.5 sec

¼-mile: 16.6 sec @ 80.9mph

70-0mph: 200.1 ft

*Numbers recorded on Stalker ATS; data courtesy of Truck Test Digest (