Part II: Adding to the usefulness, plus some sound advice
Those who read the first part of this project last July probably already sent their hate mail, but for the rest of you, here's the deal. We're working on an inexpensive '05 Silverado W/T 1/2-ton that came with the fewest amount of options possible, and it'll stay simple. Oh, and it's a two-wheel drive.
After adding the essentials last month-a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit and tools-the Chevy was equipped with some products that greatly improved its performance. A Detroit Truetrac differential was installed, both to help make up for the lack of four-wheel drive and to keep the spunky 293ci V-8 from smoking the right rear tire at every stoplight.
And then there was the really controversial part. Begging to be replaced, the factory steel wheels and crummy stock tires were ditched in favor of not-exactly-cheap forged-aluminum Moab wheels, and (gulp) even milder Bridgestone tires. Well, those AmeriTrac tires wouldn't have had to beg for long-apparently they may not have lasted much past 20,000 miles anyway, even with a light right foot and frequent rotations. So, since the new tires and lighter wheels made a dramatic difference in ride and handling, they fell within the guidelines for this project: If something needs to be replaced or added, use quality parts rather than cheap ones since that approach tends to cost less in the long run.
Improved Negative Acceleration
Bringing this 4,460-pound pickup to a quick stop is a non-event, even with a base Silverado's rear drum brakes, but pulling a trailer makes it a whole different story. GM wisely requires trailer brakes for any load over 2,000 pounds, but also rates the 119-inch-wheelbase lightweight fit to pull a whopping 7,300 pounds (12,000 GCWR) with the receiver. Maybe it's because we've been towing with Crew Cabs for 25 years that the idea of hanging a sizable trailer behind something this short and light is less than appealing. Well, this little Chevy will still be used for towing, and with a long 8 percent grade by the homestead, trailer brakes are a must, even with only 1,500 pounds behind it.
Our lowly Silverado enjoyed a major image boost with the lighter and wider tires and wheels, but that was a side effect. Much more importantly, they made a dramatic difference in ride and handling. Other than that, there were no visual clues that anything happened since it left the dealer's lot, except that the billboard-sized "Chevrolet" lettering is absent from the tailgate. That's perfectly fine, since the idea is to improve the pickup's usefulness rather than make fashion statements.
Dreading to put transmissions, axles, or transfer cases onto the pristine paint in the bed, adding a Line-X spray-on liner allowed us to actually haul some junk in the bed rather than having to use a beat-up trailer. We also splurged on a $50 window tint job for the rear window to avoid some of the greenhouse effect, although doing it ourselves would've cost far less.
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