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2005 Chevy Silverado 1500 Work Truck - Back 2 Basics

Posted in How To on February 1, 2007 Comment (0)
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This is it. We're done. The little '05 Silverado W/T pickup has had its share of changes and additions-surprisingly many, considering that the original idea was to do as little as possible to the Chevy, thereby saving time, money, and weight.

Apparently, quite a few readers liked the idea of a sparsely equipped project vehicle, and many didn't even mind it lacking four-wheel drive. But while an enthusiast's vehicle is never completely done, here's (most likely) the final installment on the economical, inexpensive, fun-to-drive, and functional Chevy.

With it all said and done, the lowly 1500 W/T is now a far more capable, comfortable, safer, fun-to-drive, and practical pickup. What we figured would be a few tweaks ended up being a lengthy list of additions and modifications-which, of course, is how it became a better vehicle. When adding up the cost of all the parts and pieces, we were approaching the $22,115 sticker price for the '05 Silverado. Yes, we lucked out with the purchase price ($15,147) but we also didn't skimp on quality along the way, always using the best we could find-which means that you could easily create your own for about $20K. These days, that's cheap. Go for it.

Oh, fear not. While there are hundreds of tasteless items available to festoon Silverados with, this particular aftermarket item is strictly functional, and invisible. It's a True Flow air filter. It was after having the Chevy's oil analyzed that getting a better air filter abruptly came to mind. Surely a large amount of the silicon (dirt, not silicone) found in the oil was from the manufacturing process-leftover casting sand and such-but we weren't about to take any chances. A True Flow filter may not outflow the least restrictive ones, but we wanted cleanliness and longevity, not short-lived performance gains. After witnessing a demonstration of the True Flow filter's dirt-trapping capabilities, we were more than willing to give it a try.

Unlike oiled gauze filters, the True Flow uses a tacky synthetic substance to trap dirt particles, first in a medium, then in a fine foam barrier. Bottom line, it sure seems to trap dust and dirt very well. With the complete package, including the mandrel-bent air intake tube, there may well be added performance to be had, although we doubted that it'd do anything on the little 4.8L motor of ours-the kit is the same for a 5.3L or 6.0L engine.

We did expect more sound from the straight-through setup, and we got it. Above about half throttle, the lack of the noise-deadening labyrinth in the factory intake makes itself heard, but it's not a bad or irritating sound. Actually, it sounds like a mellow performance exhaust, and the True Flow intake seems to have improved the performance of even the puny 4.8 to the point that we noticed it in everyday driving.

Compared to the spindly 40mm factory gas shock, the Bilstein replacement looks far more manly. Well, looks aren't everything (or we'd never put up with the Silverado's front end, or ourselves) and as it turned out, in the front there wasn't much of a difference in the ride quality department, if any. In the rear, the Bilstein shocks made a major difference for the better. It may be worth the extra bucks for the RS 9000X (center) if you tow or carry heavier loads frequently, as they can be adjusted to suit the occasion. Running nearly empty, setting 4 or 5 works quite well, but the ride isn't as cushy as with the Bilsteins.

Replacing the rear "HD" stock shocks with RS 9000Xs did wonders for the handling, and improved the ride quite a bit, but the factory front dampers still left a bit to be desired. While somewhat pricey at $91 apiece, the adjustable Ranchos are usually a safe bet, but probably wouldn't physically fit in the front-and if they do, you couldn't easily adjust them. We gambled when we found four Bilsteins for $240. First, we installed them in the front only, leaving the 9000s on setting "5" in the rear. Granted, we hadn't driven the Chevy for a few weeks prior to installing the new shocks, so it wasn't a razor-sharp comparison-but we really couldn't tell the difference.

This wasn't entirely surprising, because while the Bilstein dampers are 50 mm in diameter, or 25 percent larger than the "heavy-duty" stockers, and will probably last a lot longer, they were actually easier to compress by hand. So were the rear ones. A good thing, since that makes them easier to install.

In retrospect, we could've left the front shocks alone. With light or moderate loads, the rear Bilstein shocks are great, but the adjustable Ranchos may have an edge when towing.

Like most every other pickup owner, we needed cargo tie-downs in the bed, and for versatility it's hard to beat Mac's VersaTie tracks. The aluminum track itself can support up to 7,010 pounds-if bolted down really well, and to something stouter than our pickup bed. The small VersaTie connectors (center and lower right) can hold 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, depending on the angle of pull, and can be positioned anywhere along the track, just like the larger 5,000- to 8,000-pound-rated connector (upper right). Below is an Anchor Plate Assembly, a single-point attachment for a connector. Notice the backing plate and all-stainless hardware.

We finally had to drill some holes in the pristine Chevy sheetmetal-22 of them, to be precise-but for a good cause. People have been trying to figure out how to secure loads in pickups since nine hours after their introduction, resulting in hundreds of "solutions." One dilemma is that a tie-down is rarely in the exact spot you'd want it to be, so flexibility was high on our list. Mac's "Truck Tie-Down Kit" offers an elegant setup with two pieces of VersaTie track, four tie-down rings, and all stainless mounting hardware for a reasonable $135. Basically a smaller, refined version of the E-track arrangement found in commercial trailers, the VersaTie system allows positioning tie-down rings anywhere along the track as needed. In addition to the included four Single Stud ones, we also got two Double Stud Tie-Down rings for heavier loads, and a VT-Pack. The latter is four Tie-Down rings with individual bases, which we used at each corner of the bed floor for those times when things need to be tied down.

Mac's VersaTie tracks are meant to go on the inside of the top bed rail and are cut and drilled accordingly, but the Leer shell covered that area. We shortened the 6-foot bed tracks to fit the indentation just above the fenders. It's a very good place for the tie-downs, but even using rivet nuts on one inaccessible hole above each fender, it was no fun installing the other fasteners. Still, the result was well worth the effort as just about any shape or size of load can now be secured quickly and effectively.

Not everybody likes a shell on their pickup, because of the cost, if for no other reason. Tonneau covers are another popular way of getting some shelter and security for items in the bed, but we've never cared much for them-not until the Quick Flip from Downey Products came about, that is. With four over-center clamps holding the Quick Flip to the bed rails (no holes to drill), this tonneau can be installed in two minutes. Also, the tear-proof tri-laminate fabric won't sag, thanks to the four bows built into the three-piece aluminum framework, and the two rearward portions quickly fold out of the way for hauling larger items. Removing the entire thing obviously doesn't take long, either. Good looking, functional and at $450 with a limited lifetime warranty, the Quick Flip is a tonneau cover we'd gladly live with.

Crutchfield suggested an Alpine CDE-9842, and for $130 with free shipping and included installation kit (left), it was a very good value. Luckily for us, it is also simple to operate, plus it really perked up the sound quality. On the right, that darn $70 digital interface that seems to be a necessity for '03-and-up Silverados and other GMs.

It's hard to say if it was the mediocre reception of the factory receiver, its equally ho-hum sound quality, or the built-in door chime that made us chuck the OE stereo. Yeah, who are we kidding? It was the damn chime that made us pick up the Crutchfield catalog again and order up a $130 Alpine CDE-9842. Crutchfield, as usual, included a free mounting kit and good installation instructions, but also insisted we get a $70 digital interface, which serves two purposes. One is to retain the feature that keeps the radio on until the driver's door is opened. Fine. Its second function "allows use of the factory chime system." Oh, great.

It's all thanks to lawyers, no doubt, but now we must pay extra to know we've opened a door or that the key is in the ignition. What's next? A light to tell us the wipers are on? According to Crutchfield's instructions, "Failure [to install the interface] may result in serious injury or death." Really?

There is a way to minimize the volume in the interface described in the instructions, and/or you could sound-insulate it-or simply cut the speaker wires inside. Leaving the interface out completely may not be doable, we found, after looking over the wiring schematics.

The Alpine improved the sound quality about as much as the replacement speakers and foam backing did. Too bad we had to give up two perfectly good knobs (volume and tuning) on the user-friendly factory stereo just to get good sound, although the pictured CDE-9846 does have a rotary volume knob. Ah, yes, losing the chime made it all worthwhile.

Rather than risking stereo and/or vehicle meltdown, we called Crutchfield's customer service-at 5 p.m. Pacific time on the July 4th weekend-for some expert advice. The friendly rep understandably wasn't about to encourage bypassing the interface. We wired up the Alpine without, and combined the ignition and positive leads so the radio would work without the ignition key. A great improvement in sound quality resulted. It was perfection, with two notable exceptions. Now the clock was always on, and the pickup got mad when we put the key in the ignition. Oh well, at least we tried.

One good thing that came from our experimenting and poking around on Crutchfield's Web site was finding that by buying from its "Scratch and Dent Store," you could get the next model up (Alpine CDE-9846) for a few bucks less than the CDE-9842.

You have 30 days to change your mind, so we put the '42 back in its box and ordered a 9846 instead, for two reasons. With the '46, you get a real twist knob for the volume, and the lights can be made to dim. A win-win, we thought, until getting the CDE-9846 and finding it had blue, not green, lighting in its buttons. Also, the '46 can play MP3s-whatever those are.

Don't tell anybody, but we removed the speaker in the digital interface and now enjoy superior sound quality over the factory radio's, and without that irritating chime. We're really impressed by Crutchfield's customer service that'll answer the phone until midnight (EST), seven days a week, and allow us to change our mind.

A sumptuous pearl paint scheme, 22-inch wheels, a "billet" grille, some overhead lights, and a DVD screen for the rear-seat passengers, and we're done. Oh, that's right ... there is no rear seat. Alright, then our final addition to this Chevy will be a pair of custom-fit $60 floor mats from Global Accessories. But why cover up the perfectly good factory rubber floor mat? Because we're tired of scooping up debris off the floor when it's so much easier to shake it off the individual floor mats-which are almost too nice for the low-buck W/T cab.

PhotosView Slideshow

This Chevy can go more places with its Truetrac rear diff, it rides and handles much better, it's more practical (for us, anyway), and it's much safer. That could certainly be considered a success. It has gained some weight, of course, but still squirts through traffic and up hills very, very well. So far, mileage has been a high of 19.76 to a low of 15.21 mpg, with an overall average of 17.56. Not too shabby for a 293ci V-8 and automatic that has to play "garden pickup" around the homestead, pull the occasional trailer, and has to climb several miles of 8 percent grade whenever it gets to go to town. To significantly improve on this mileage, merely obey the Interstate speed limits.

Is there more to be done? But of course. We'll try some sound insulation to get rid of the camper-shell-induced wind noise. Also, we're looking for ways to minimize the slant-eyed look of the headlights (buying an '06 model would be a good start, as the hoodline is now straight between the lights). And a flat-glass mirror on the passenger side would be nice. Other things are likely to surface, but as mentioned, it's close enough-and we wouldn't have done anything different if we'd been able to start over again.


True Flow
Phoenix, AZ 85027
Rancho Suspension
Monroe, MI 48161
Valley Industries
Lodi, CA 95240
Poway, CA 92064
Coast Driveline & Gear
Ventura, CA 93003
Adventure Medical Kits
Oakland, CA 94621
Detroit Locker
Madison Heights, MI
(800) 328-3850
Charlottesville, Vi 22911
Catalog Request: (80
Pacer Performance Products
Torrington, CT 06790
Downey/Global Accessories
Mac's Quality Tie Downs


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