Most of the time, if you’re talking about an 18-year-old and a tricked-out vehicle, it’s a four-cylinder import with a ridiculous muffler, a spoiler on the trunk that does nothing, and a crazy stereo.

Then there’s Derek Roberts of Windham, Maine. Last August, he bought his second eight-lug, diesel-powered Chevrolet Silverado with the intention of taking it to the next level.

Less than eight months later, he had the ’04 ¾-ton Duramax-powered Chevy lifted, putting out extra horsepower, and customized with a stepside bed. In true Maine fashion, he bought some parts, bartered for others, and wound up with a hot truck that stands out in a state known for its conservative side.

“I bought it completely stock and knew I was going to put money into it,” said the soft-spoken recent graduate of Windham High School. He’ll attend Southern Maine Community College in the fall majoring in construction management and plans to drive the truck to class every day.

The approach taken with the truck, however, belies the typical anxious, impatient persona that you might expect would come with an 18-year-old. Maybe it’s because his dad Brian is a top-notch mechanic, or maybe it’s because Roberts is wise beyond his years, but he took a methodical, well-thought-out approach to tricking out his truck.

“This one is legit, it’s all done right,” said Roberts, adding that his dad checks his work on every upgrade. If you’re wondering where an 18-year-old who works at a woodworking shop five days each week finds the time and space to work on a big truck, you only need to look in the Roberts family garage, which has a full twin-post lift.

Prior to this truck, the younger Roberts had an ’02 diesel-powered Chevy and he’s stayed as loyal as Tony Stewart to the vaunted Bow Tie. “I’ve always had diesels,” he explained. “It’s cheap money to make big horsepower and torque with diesels.”

Taking the practical approach, he swapped the Banks Monster 4-inch-diameter exhaust off his ’02 Silverado and installed it on the new truck. He could have gone with a dual-exhaust system, but said he actually prefers a single pipe.

This was followed by a Banks Six-Gun tuner to help Roberts coax more power out of the stock 6.6L Duramax diesel. With its six-position power-distribution system, the Banks Six-Gun lets the teenager light up the tires in four-wheel drive—but he wasn’t done yet.

After the Six-Gun was in place, Roberts followed up with a Bully Dog Triple Dog, stacking the two systems. The Banks system requires remapping the electronic control module for the engine and is controlled manually as you switch via a rotating knob through six settings. The Triple Dog, on the other hand, is wired directly into the ECM and you toggle through three different settings. Instead of going with individual analog gauges mounted on the door pillar, he upgraded to the Bully Dog Outlook, which provides all the engine information on an LED screen. It’s a cleaner look and takes up less space. In the final step, Roberts downloaded the Crazy Larry upgrade to the ECM. Fortunately, that step was free because to this point, he had dropped $2,200 for the fuel-management system.

To answer the demand created by the ECM upgrades, Roberts replaced the stock fuel injectors with Dynomite high-flow versions that added another $1,000 to the tally. All told, he estimates that the truck is making about 600 hp.

You don’t jack up the power without giving the transmission the ability to put all those ponies to the road. Once again, Roberts handled the wrenching duties himself. He went with clutch-pack upgrades from ATS to improve lubrication and power distribution, and the result was that his tranny could now handle 280 pounds versus 80 pounds in the stock configuration. He has the ATS control unit tucked between the driver seat and the center console so he can ensure that the tranny is ready to take the brute force when he cranks up the power on the Banks Six Gun and Bully Dog Outlook.

Once the power was properly delivered to the road, the truck needed to be lifted. For Roberts, there was only one choice. After saving up his money, he spent $4,000 on the Pro Comp 6-inch lift with the dual-shock hoop kit. “It’s the best Pro Comp lift on the market,” he said. “The Duramax is heavy in the front, so I went with the dual hoops.” He dropped another $3,000 for the 20-inch bronze KMC monster rims and 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/As.

The final step was a classic Maine barter job. Roberts had a fleetside bed that he didn’t want and found another guy with a stepside bed on a 1500 that he wanted to get rid of. The swap was on and the stepside bed gives Roberts’ truck a unique look for a ¾-ton. It’s topped with a vinyl tonneau cover to ensure that the bed stays useful. Lastly, he put on Westin Platinum Series step-up bars to make it easier for his cheerleader girlfriend, Amanda Meyer (you don’t have to be the quarterback to get the cheerleader), to get in and out of the truck.

Eight months after he bought the truck, Roberts says he’s done. “I like everything looking pretty factory, other than the lift.” Maybe it fits in with his soft-spoken personality—he doesn’t boast about the truck or spend every second laying down rubber at a stoplight—or maybe it’s just his Maine upbringing. The only decals on the truck are on the rear windshield. The “JA” sticker in the lower lefthand corner is for the Jackman Airforce, the snowmobile club Roberts rides with in the town of Jackman, Maine, which borders Quebec, Canada. Opposite, in the lower righthand corner, the decal reads “Roberts 69X,” his number when racing four-wheelers or snowmobiles.

He wants to upgrade the turbocharger and install some ladder bars and no doubt, other modifications will come. And with this 18-year-old, you know the job is going to be done right.

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