Subbing Out: Jordon Volek’s 2003 Chevy Suburban, aka “Dura_Yacht”

The Suburban – it’s not just an iconic SUV in the American landscape. Sure, it’s been around in some form or another for over 50 years. But few people understand its potential for modification.

One of those people is Jordon Volek, of Beecher, Illinois. He bought a Suburban, but didn’t see it as a soccer mom-mobile. Instead, it was his next blank canvas, ripe for improvements.

Who would have thought we would find a Duramax-swapped Suburban at the 4-Wheel Jamboree? We have a hard enough time finding them in California, that’s for sure!

Taking his time and getting friends involved, Jordon made his dream a reality. We met the young man and his machine at the recent 4-Wheel Jamboree in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here is their story.

Background of the Build

Jordon’s idea for the build came from a friend. “My buddy moved to Beecher and always wanted to do a diesel Suburban,” Jordon explained. “He helped me out and found a motor. We built it from the frame up, basically.”

Starting in 2016, the build took off in the springtime. “It used to be a 6.0-liter gasoline V8,” said Jordon. “We took the cab off and yanked out the old engine. We tried to clean up the frame, but with our budget, it wasn’t easy.”

Jordon went with an LB7 for his Suburban build. According to him, it was the easiest to locate (not to mention, the cheapest) at the time. The LB7 and transmission were sourced from a 2001 HD longbed farm truck from Sandwich, Illinois. Jordon has never had it dynoed, but he has upgraded it with ARP head studs, a K&N filter, and 133-percent fuel injectors.

We wondered why, given the many generations of the Duramax lineage, Jordon and his buddy decided to go with the earliest generation: the LB7. Once again, the budget was the determining factor. “It was the cheapest motor at the time,” said Jordon. “And it was the easiest to find, too.”

After finding a suitable drivetrain from Sandwich, Illinois, the boys had their work cut out for them. The Duramax had been put through nearly 200,000 miles of farm life and work, meaning a full rebuild was needed. “We did the head studs, played with it, bought parts here and there,” said Jordon. “It took us about two or three months to finish.”

The Suburban used to be Jordon’s daily driver. A GMC 2500 took over that role once the Dura_Yacht build began.

Jordon bought another truck to replace the Suburban as his daily driver. It took a whole month of work to get the LB7 into the Suburban, but that was small beans compared to the electronics.

“We had some problems with the ECU,” said Jordon. “Money and time were running out. We let it sit all through the summer. We had three months until an event in Daytona Beach, and we made the most of it.” It appeared darkest before the dawn, as the saying goes. But Jordon and his friend weren’t the types to give up and list the Suburban on Craigslist.

A post shared by Jordon Volek (@dura_yacht) on

The guys stripped the Suburban back down to the frame, down to the last nuts and bolts. The frame was sandblasted and painted, and the axles were powdercoated. This really added to the Dura_Yacht’s stand-out quality, which we picked up on at the Jamboree. For example, the alternating silver and blue coloring on the leaf springs was a nice touch, in our opinion.

Even as the two friends were on their way to the Daytona truck meet, the Suburban was still receiving finishing touches. “We had it on the trailer, getting the interior completed,” said Jordon. “It came down to the 11th hour.”

Despite having a 60-hour work week, Jordon’s motivation to keep going with his build was strong. “I’d promised myself that I would make it to Daytona with a finished vehicle,” he said. “I had to make it to that truck meet, no matter what.”

Highlights of the Build

Now in its finished form, the Dura_Yacht is a buttoned-up masterpiece. It rocks an eight-inch McGaughy’s lift kit, providing plenty of stance while also clearing the 37-inch Atturo Trail Blade M/Ts and 20-inch Hostile Gauntlet wheels.

Those parts might speak to an owner’s appreciation for off-road, which Jordon certainly has, but willingness is another matter. “I might do some off-road stuff with it, but I also want to keep it nice,” he said. We can definitely relate. It’s hard to devote so much time and energy to a build and then consider thrashing it in the outdoors. We think of it as the off-roader’s dilemma – keep the vehicle nice, or use it for its intended purpose and hope it doesn’t wind up looking like any other beater?

The front end received upgraded spindles and McGaughys upper control arms (the lower control arms remained stock). “I did whatever I could, as long as it was within my price range,” said Jordon.

The great thing about lift kits is that there is no wrong number (within reason). What's not so great is the lack of kits for four-wheel-drive Suburbans. Luckily, Jordon found one from McGaughy's Suspension. It lifted the truck by seven inches, giving it the proper height and stance to fit some larger tires and wheels.

For suspension, Jordon went with two-inch, remote reservoir Fox shock absorbers. The engine received ARP head studs, a K&N air filter, and 133-percent fuel injectors. For tuning, Jordon uses a DSP5 switch. Since the Dura_Yacht isn’t a full-time, heavy-duty towing machine, this was a good way to go. Better to keep the motor happy for the long term than angry for a very short term. Or else Jordon risks burning the candle at both ends, so to speak; the engine will kick butt for a while, but not before giving up the ghost.

The interior is still like it was from the factory, but Jordon has plans for it. “I’m hoping to take care of that in the winter,” he said. “I’m thinking of doing it completely over, including a leather-wrapped dashboard.”

Jordon upgraded the upper control arms to McGaughy’s, while keeping the lowers stock. He runs Fox two-inch shocks with remote reservoirs on all four corners.

But it all pales, at least in Jordon’s mind, to the cat-eye swap he did. “I love the look of the cat-eyes,” he said, referring to the angular headlights of the 2003-06 model years. We think they were the right choice for the build. GM didn’t give the Suburban the same front end treatment that it gave to its full-size pickup trucks. Clearly, people want it, and Jordon’s work made the face transplant look seamless.

Jordon definitely plans to keep the Dura_Yacht, but he admitted he would sell the SUV for the right price. In the short term, he hopes to do a bigger turbocharger and tweak a few things on the LB7. “I’d also like to bag it and do a front axle swap,” he said.

From its cat-eye conversion to the near-immaculate paint, there's something to love about the Dura_Yacht from every angle.

It takes dedication to see a project through to the end, and Jordon and his friend definitely had what it takes. Even when he faced having to tear down his Suburban twice, the duo gritted their teeth and got the job done.

If you want to see more of the build, check out our gallery below. You can also find Jordon and his Dura_Yacht on Instagram.

Photo gallery


About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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