Here's How A Goodguy Goes Off-Road
Street or dirt, fast is fun. There's just something primal about mashing the pedal and feeling the landscape streak by at ever-increasing velocity. Even rockcrawling, the quintessence of low speed, has recently dabbled in going fast with the introduction of rock-racing competitions.
Ralph Cimarusti of Valley Center, California, is a longtime connoisseur of high velocity and has been an automotive enthusiast, he says, "ever since I was a kid."
A member of the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, Ralph owns and wrenches on a '55 Chevy Nomad and a '28 roadster pickup. If there's a common thread among rod and custom enthusiasts, it's that the need for style should be mixed with the need for speed. When it was time to combine speed, style, and dirt, Ralph carried the rod-and-custom approach over to the bad-in-black '03 Chevy SS AWD on these pages. The SS had to look good and ride smoothly. Most of all, it had to be fast.
Chevy infused the SS with a 6-liter, supercharged Vortec V8 - a potent powerplant. Better-than-factory breathing comes courtesy of a Volant intake and a header-flange-to-tailpipe Bassani exhaust system. This combo is good for 500 ponies and 530 lb-ft of torque.
Big power under the hood is only part of the equation of off-road speed. The power has to connect to terra firma: Enter JD Fabrication. JD produces long-travel kits for several makes and models and also offers custom fabrication. When Ralph's SS arrived at the JD shop in Escondido, California, JD did not yet produce a long-travel kit for that particular truck. Jesse and Dave (JD) knew that this was not only an opportunity to develop and build a kit for Ralph, it was a chance to add to their growing line of dirt-ready long-travel suspension systems. After the R&D was done and the truck transformed, the SS boasted 15 inches of travel with fully functional four-wheel drive. The truck's tail section was not overlooked. A pair of Deaver long-travel leaf packs were slung beneath a Currie 9-inch rearend filled with 35-spline axles, a Detroit Locker, and 4.56 gears. With the rear frame notched over the axle for more bumptravel, this rear suspension system is good for 21 inches of travel. King dampers control the suspension action front and rear.
The best part of the SS is that it's still as streetable as the day it was driven off of the dealer's lot. Glassworks Unlimited fenders and bedsides contain the bigger tires, wider stance, and longer suspension travel. The cab and interior are still stock, so ingress and egress are as easy as ever. Driver and passengers ride in quiet comfort no matter what's passing beneath the 37-inch BFG All-Terrains and Walker Evans wheels. This truck is more than personal transportation and off-road exploration: It's also family fun for Ralph and his son. "My son keeps me into the scene. It's a great way for us to bond and keep common interests."