Part 3:Getting Shell-Shocked And A Brighter Behind
Finally, there are some additions on the Silverado, other than the tires and wheels, that made it look a little different. Yes, our little cheap pickup got a shell, and a really nice one. Also, rear LED lighting, which wasn't exactly inexpensive. So how does this fit the low-buck theme? It doesn't, but then we never did claim that this project was supposed to be a penny-pincher. On the contrary, we have advocated using quality parts over cheap ones all along, because that's usually less costly in the long run. Think value, not lowest price.
This project is intended to give you ideas on what can be done to a base-model Silverado (most of them also applicable to the high-zoot versions), although that doesn't mean that you must do everything the same. Many of you probably would have preferred a four-wheel drive, for example. That's one reason we often show several alternatives to what we used, and maybe one of those is more to your liking. Either way, you should make your Silverado more fun and practical for you.
The shell made the Chevy W/T much more practical for us, and we splurged on the LED taillights because they were the best we could find. Since we scored the '05 Chevy 1/2-ton with a V-8 and automatic for just $15,147 new (the sticker price was $22,115), it left some money for upgrades. As usual, we do try to use the funds wisely, on worthwhile upgrades.
An open pickup bed is great for transporting large, heavy objects. An engine, tranny and transfer case combo, for example, is easily loaded with a hoist or tractor bucket. Then again, an open pickup bed is less than ideal when tools, camping gear, and so on are exposed to rain, snow, or sticky fingers. The Chevy couldn't always accommodate our parts-store purchases in its smallish standard cab, so using another vehicle became the norm, especially on rainy days. Considering that we bought the new, comfy, and quiet Silverado to avoid having to always drive the noisy, old (but lovable) four-by, this just didn't make sense. In our case, a shell would.
Leer had exactly what we wanted-or more accurately, Leer could make it. With a wide variety of styles and options, finding a shell that fit the pickup and our needs perfectly was easy. We chose the 100LE, a cab-high model that offers premium fit and finish, plus an option list that rivals the pickup's. Actually, the Silverado came with eight options, six of which we wanted, and the Leer was ordered with seven.
A carpet headliner is nice for avoiding condensation when camping, and the removable front slider window allows easy cleaning and the possibility to transport longer objects-if the pickup also has a sliding window. We opted for a blank left side and a Windoor (glass door) on the right. At first, we scoffed at the optional coat hangers, but ordered them once we realized that the fold-down brackets are great for holding longer objects up and out of the way, or hanging a lantern on. Most likely, they can also be used for hanging clothes on. A three-outlet "Power Box" is handy for running the electric cooler and recharging camera batteries and such.
Finally, a Yakima roof rack was included, partially for transporting tubing and other long items, but also because it's a simple way to allow hoisting the shell up to the rafters for those times when it's better not to have it on. Tri-County Truck Tops in Oxnard, California, was the Leer dealer of choice for us, where installing the shell was done in a matter of minutes. Thankfully, without the need to drill a single hole in the Chevy's sheetmetal.
At about 160 pounds, the Leer shell noticeably smoothed the ride on evil freeway expansion joints, but also exaggerated the "Buick-ish" ride at speed. In strong side winds, the Silverado actually feels more stable with the shell, and the only drawback is increased wind noise, from about 70 mph and up. This may not be an issue with a more upscale (which is any) Silverado, but the near-complete lack of insulation at the rear of the W/T cab lets in a fair amount of noise that wasn't there before the installation of the shell.
While a Leer shell makes a noticeable dent in the wallet, we don't regret the decision one bit. Whether hauling parts or camping gear, it offers shelter from the weather. Tools and other heavy things that used to occupy precious cab space can now remain in the back, even when parked. Plus, the shell doubles as a tent, and we think it made the pickup look better.
Tires are very use-specific these days, which is one reason we changed the factory tires to the even milder Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza. Those AmeriTracs pretty much had to be replaced with something, and we preferred the superior handling and smooth, quiet ride that the 275/60R17 Bridgestones offer, even though they are indeed marginal for use in the dirt on a light pickup with their mild and wide tread, especially on anything resembling mud.
If you crave better traction on dirt, yet want a very street-friendly tire, consider, for example, the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo or the brand-new Pirelli Scorpion ATR. A P265/65R17 Revo is a nearly perfect match at 683 revolutions per mile (versus 681 for the stock 245/70R17s) but needs a 7.5- to 9.5-inch-wide rim. That's just one more reason to ditch those heavy 7-inch steel stockers. Factory aluminum wheels are 7.5 inches and work fine even with 275/60s. If you feel that an LT tire is more appropriate, the Revo LT265/70R17 is the closest at 31.6 inches tall and 656 rpm-which may or may not clear in the front, but can be used on a 7-inch rim. A P265/65R17 Scorpion ATR has the same rim width requirements as the Revo, and turns 680 times per mile, also keeping the speedo accurate.
By now, you may think that if changing wheels anyway, let's use 16s and have access to a much broader tire selection. So did we. Unfortunately, unless reverting to a thinner (and heavier) steel wheel, there's a definite clearance issue with the brake calipers up front. We took the grinder to ours, but stopped before having achieved the desired 1/16-inch clearance between the caliper and wheel, not knowing exactly how much material could be removed without compromising the strength of the caliper. After all, they are building things thinner these days.
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