**UPDATE June 2016**
Duraburb gave us a call the other day and asked if we could clear up the prices on our Blog. To help those interested and to be as transparent as possible here is the break down of the prices.
Donor Truck: $11K
That put us at ~$25K for a Duraburb conversion, but this was almost 2 years ago when we paid the deposit. Talking with other interested Duraburb owners, the current build cost has gone up slightly. Rightfully so, as a Duraburb vehicle is NOT made on a mass production line. Specialty parts and skilled labor continue to increase like everything else.We would like to finish by saying…this is an art that Eric and his team have perfected and you won’t find a higher quality level of work, knowledge, or professionalism anywhere else.
We will be posting our 1 year review in at the end of September, as of now we couldn’t have asked for a better vehicle. Please feel free to ask anything in the comments below.
**Update: Our build date was pushed back to September 12. However, Eric has gotten our donor vehicle in and we are making arrangements. Very excited.
Ahh yes, the rig, the tow vehicle, the truck…errr SUV.
If the travel trailer is the soul, than the truck is the heart. To make this all happen we needed a work horse, which could take on whatever we threw at it. The truck must have unfailing reliability, reasonable mpg (18 combined highway/city), tow over 9,000lbs, seat over 6+ folks, have 4 wheel drive, have room for all additional gear, readily available replacement and aftermarket parts, be easily serviceable…the list goes on and on. If we sell Mom’s Van and Dad’s old trailer that will give us a working budget of $35k. Easy right? Wrong.
Below is the “short list” of vehicles we considered.
Reliability: Consumer Reports 4+ out 5 |MPG: 15/20 | Power: 400+ Torque | Tow Cap: 9K+ | Seating: 6+ | 4WD: Yes/No | Space: accommodate 4×8 plywood | Part: Cheap/Mass Produced | | Serviceable: Cheap/easy to find | Used Cost: Under $15k/Under 100K+ | Safety: Consumer reports 4+ out 5 | Functionality: Wife/Kid Friendly |
It quickly became apparent that this unicorn didn’t exist. The closest tow rig we could find that would meet these requirements was a Diesel Powered Ford Excursion, which after reading hours of reviews, proved Ford lacked the reliability of Dodge and Chevy at least in the diesel department. Next up was Chevy ¾ ton Cargo Van. They were readily available, but finding one that had the Duramax engine and comparable running gear was next to impossible, and the ones that were out there were beaters. A company called “Sportsmobile conversion vans” offers up a solid solution but the cost was well north of $85k. Next up was the ¾ ton suburban. This was the best fit. However, price was a factor again because a gently used, late model ¾ ton suburban 4×4 was well into the low $40s…USED! So conundrum…how do we find something that meets are wants/needs without breaking our $35k budget.
I kicked the Ole think’n box into high gear and recalled running into an unusually built Suburban 2500 on a business trip. The burb’s gas engine and drive train was all replaced with a Duramax and 1 ton running gear. It was astonishing the fit and finish was factory in appearance, great quality and professionally done, and I never heard a negative word mentioned about the truck. So, I made a couple of google searches and it didn’t take long to find the man responsible, enter Eric of Duraburb in Apopka, Florida. The truck forums across the internet covered Eric and his company in praise. So on one of our wayward Disney World trips I swung by and had a talk with Eric and toured his shop. The shop wasn’t anything impressive, but Eric and his products on the other hand were. He spent the better part of 2 hours answering questions, brain storming, and shooting the breeze. So I left Duraburb with a plan…
- Step 1: Find a high mileage, low cost, ¾ ton Suburban (4×4 optional)
- Step 2: Get on Eric’s build schedule
- Step 3: Enjoy the potential
Click to see –> DURABURB ON YouTube
Step 1 is complete. We picked up a used 2007 ¾ ton suburban from a family in Louisiana. The ‘burb is sporting an LT package, 6.0L engine, 130k miles, 2 wheel drive, and a fair amount neglect…but the price was right we walked away paying $13K. Leaving $22k in our budgets. Since picking up the truck we’ve towed our trailer (Trailer Review/Specs Link) about 2400 miles. Here is what I’ve noticed. The towing capacity on these things is borderline false. The trailer owns the Suburban, as the trailer fights pretty hard even with a 12K lb weight distribution hitch with sway control (Hitch Review Link). The engine under load is struggling, heaven help us if we ever go anywhere with a slight elevation change, foot floored on a typicall 6% grade will yield me only 45mph. Most of the time we cruise in the mid 3K RPM range at 60mph, which chugs gas. Best MPG I’ve ever recorded off of DIC is 8MPG and 8.7 hand calculated MPG.
This reaffirmed our decision to contract out a build with Duraburb, so we contacted Brenda and Eric and schedule a build date and specifications. Here’s the details…
- Convert 6.0L gas engine to LMM Duramax Turbo Diesel
- Replace 4L80E transmission with Allison 1000 Transmission
- Install 4 Wheel Drive (Transfer case, Differential, half shaft, etc.)
- Install 11.5 AAM rear axle with 3:73 gears
- Install 4in Exhaust
- Delete emissions equipment
- Install Cold Air Intake System
- Install Duramax Power Tune w/ 5 position switch
So what’s the damage for parts and labor come out too…about $14K. This is when most folks yell Bull-Poop! Well at least the folks who know that a Duramax block and Allison transmission are $14k together, so how is this possible. Well its not, so through an agreement with Duraburb to offset my cost Eric sells off my operational Engine/Transmission/Axle ect to a remanufacture supply company. Then Brenda works his magic by sourcing a salvaged truck as a donor vehicle. The build is set to start mid-August and we will pick up the truck mid-September. Step 2 begins soon!
The goal is to make this a 500K mile truck, which will slowly be converted to an Overlanding Vehicle which can tackle our wildest dreams of exploring. Inspirational pics below, stole most from expectionportal.com (if you guys won’t them off let me know). Also check out Expedition Portal for more information on overlanding or Expedition Overland YouTube Channel
Inspirational photos for long term use.
I’ll be sure to keep you all in the loop during and after the build with regular updates. For now, here is our Blogs, assorted social links, and of course some pre-Duraburb pictures.