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1977 GMC High Sierra - High Enough

Posted in Features on January 1, 2004 Comment (0)
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Is it pure love or an obsessive-compulsive disorder that drives men to wrench on their trucks until their knuckles bleed, the bank account is empty, and family members check the garage for signs of life at 3 in the morning? Sam Colalillo is most qualified to answer that question since he's toiled on his '77 GMC High Sierra for many years, improving the truck until it could go anywhere he wanted on a whim. Sam was so intent on building his ideal truck that he kept refining the combination of parts, while destroying five different transmissions. Want more proof of Sam's dedication? Four hours before his wedding, Sam was still wrenching on the truck, just so that he and his new bride could take it on their honeymoon. The Colalillos even named their first-born son Garrett Michael Colalillo, just so his initials would be GMC.

If that's not brand loyalty at its finest, then we don't know what is. Sam's perseverance was not wasted on a lost cause, and it's true that his truck is a go-anywhere, do-it-all 4x4 with attitude.

The backbone of this brute is the 11 inches of total lift that enables it to clear the giant TSL tires. The front and rear differentials gained clearance beneath the chassis of the truck with a set of 4-inch Superlift Suspension leaf-spring packs. An additional 7 inches of lift were added with pinion angle-corrected lift blocks and a 3-inch body lift. A single Superlift damper mounted in the factory location takes care of the suspension movement, and a Dick Cepek steering stabilizer system is in place up front to smooth out the action of the front wheels. The front axle is a Dana 44 unit equipped with 4:56 cogs, while the rear axle is the stock GM corporate 14-bolt unit, which is also stuffed with 4:56s.

Motivation for this heavy hauler comes from a nasty 383 Chevy stroker small-block. The short-block, which is bored 0.30 oversized, is fitted with a 0.25-inch stroker crankshaft and swings a set of TRW forged-aluminum slugs. The bottom end was assembled using ARP hardware and balanced by Shaker Racing. Top-end modifications include an Edelbrock camshaft, an Edelbrock Performer-series dual-plane intake manifold, and a 650-cfm carburetor, as well as an MSD ignition. A K&N Filtercharger air cleaner provides the entrance for fresh air, while a 3-inch exhaust system is the exit.

Much of the credit for High Enough's off-road prowess goes to local drivetrain specialist, Mark Stevenson, who fortified the turbo 350 transmission with a deep sump pan, extra clutches for Third gear, and a B&M shift kit. After grenading four previous transmissions, this has been the hot ticket for Sam. The driveline has been converted to 1-ton universal joints, and the Dana 44 axles were converted from a six- to eight-lug pattern.

Comfort and beauty are two important aspects of any truck and Sam put his work experience to good use, designing the graphic scheme using a computer-aided drafting program. After settling on the ripped-graphic look, he plotted the fullsize scheme and gave it to painter Bob Hendrich of New Buffalo, Michigan, to spray on the truck. Before Bob waved his magic paint gun through the air though, a few well-placed custom touches were added to the rig. A front pushbar was bolted over the bumper and the stock rear bumper was ditched in favor of a custom unit that contained accessory lighting locations. Finally, after the paint was sprayed and buffed to perfection, a fresh wood bed kit was installed. The contents of the cab didn't change much during the buildup since Sam wanted to keep things simple and clean. Already content with the comfort level of the cab, Sam added a Grant GT steering wheel, a powerful audio system, and a CB radio to liven things up on long trips.

Sam's mission of building his ultimate truck is a success story that can inspire all of us to work hard for what we want. All we are left to wonder now is how the wedding photos of the newlyweds driving away in the truck turned out.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner/hometown : Sam Colalillo Jr./South Bend, Indiana
Year/make/model : '77 GMC High Sierra
Engine : Chevy 383-cid stroker
Transmission : GM Turbo Hydramatic 350
Gear ratio : 4:56:1
Suspension : Superlift 4-inch leaf springs/(front); 4-inch lift
blocks/(rear); 3-inch body lift
Tires/wheels : 39.5x18.5R16.5 TSL Bogger/16.5x14 Bart

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