Part 4: Not perfect, but close enough
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.
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.
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.
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.
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