From Stock To Not In Four Short Weeks
Behind the scenes of the aftermarket industry's single largest annual media event, the SEMA convention, lies a dark, mysterious, and often misunderstood world of vehicle customization. Very few people are privy to the hysteria that sets in upon shop owners, fabricators, body shops, and every other type of truck builder once summer has ended. The madness of preparing demo vehicles for the SEMA show hits dizzying levels during the month of October as shops frantically try to keep pace with the unending requests for work to be completed before Halloween. SEMA usually takes place during the first week of November, and if you are top of the game, you've already built your demo vehicle before then. Of course, the best of intentions don't always get a truck together without divine intervention. Such is the case with Sling Blade, John Tondro's '02 Chevy 2500HD Crew Cab pickup. Remarkably, John didn't even start wrenching on this truck until four weeks prior to the 2002 SEMA convention. Although he decided at the last possible moment, with his truck 90 percent completed, to not cut any corners and pass up the opportunity to display his creation at SEMA, what he accomplished can still be considered a small miracle.
John carefully planned out all of the upgrades and modifications he envisioned for his truck and then commissioned Rick Vandervort to render a drawing of the finished product. With drawing in hand, John dropped his HD off at CST Performance Suspensions. Using John's truck as its canvas, the crew from CST prototyped an IFS that would lift his truck 9 inches through the use of drop-down bracketry. An additional 4 inches of vertical height adjustment was gained after CST installed its 4-inch lift spindles, and re-indexing the torsion bars adjusters provided 3 more inches of altitude. In total, the modifications gave John's truck 16 inches of lift and did so with super-durable uniballs mounted to custom upper control arms and John's own shock hoops, which made a home for Fox 2.0 reservoir dampers.
At this point, you might guess the next order of business would have been to tackle the rear suspension upgrades. In a perfect world, that would have been true, but the rush to beat the SEMA clock meant John would have to get the truck painted next. And so he left his truck in the capable hands of Doug Starbuck, owner of Starside Design in Riverside, California. Doug was given two weeks to work his paint and body magic and came through with flying colors. Chevy's HD-Series trucks look aggressive and refined right from the factory, so slicing into the body of John's truck wasn't necessary. Instead, Doug chose to shave the stake pocket holes in the bed and concentrate on laying down the flawless black, metallic silver, and Victory Red hues. Once Doug was finished spraying the new paintjob, Rick Vandervort was tapped to pinstripe the new paintjob. Three weeks into October, John took back his possession and wasted no time in getting to work.
Back inside the confines of his shop, JT Advanced Suspensions, John disassembled the bottom half of the truck so the chassis could be painted. The CST IFS lift kit was sent out to be powerdercoated silver. In the meantime, John set about fabricating the rear suspension. The easiest route to SEMA would've meant retaining the factory leaf spring suspension that located the rearend under the truck. Easy, yes, but not trick enough for John's tastes. The next 20 hours out of John's life were spent fabricating a wishbone-type link system made from 1-5/8-inch chromoly tubing. Another set of custom link bars was then mated to the rearend, but not before John spent a fair amount of time trussing it for lateral strength. To suspend the rear of the truck and damp the suspension, John once again went with Fox shocks, this time using a 2.5-inch-diameter, 16-inch travel coilover duo mounted outside of the framerails.