Part 1: An extra-lean 4x2 for fun and function
Aftermarket parts for the Chevy Silverado are abundant, and there must be thousands of things that can be added to, or modified on, these popular pickups. Except this one. Four Wheeler readers will either love or hate this project because we'll actually change and add very little on this '05 Silverado 1500. Equally abnormal, it's a two-wheel drive-and it'll stay that way. What's that all about, you may ask?
The short answer is "money"-as in purchase price, fuel economy, and overall cost-but practicality and reliability played a big part in the decision process too. This pickup should serve the basic needs of transportation in a comfortable manner, hold enough cargo to avoid having to tow a trailer too often, yet be strong enough to pull a trailer when needed. Of course, it should also be fun to drive and easy on the wallet.
A good foundation which won't require too much tinkering is obviously essential, but four-wheel drive really isn't since this vehicle wasn't meant for more than very mild trails. It can tow a light 4x4 to the good trails, however. With only minor overlap, it'll do everything a more dedicated trail machine is not good at, and vice versa, rather than being somewhere in between and not particularly good at anything. Basically, it can fill the gap left by too many trail-friendly modifications to the four-wheeler.
Quality parts will be used for whatever modifications are deemed worthwhile, as it's usually less expensive in the long run to pay a little more up front than to go with the lowest possible price. Sometimes we'll look into the high-end stuff as well as the more affordable parts and pieces, in case your wallet is thicker than ours.
A fun, relatively inexpensive and practical vehicle is the whole idea here, and you might just like the simplistic approach because less can indeed be more.
A no-frills Chevy 1500 W/T has dirt-friendly rubber floor mats, manual door locks and windows-even a floor-mounted shifter on the 4x4 models. It's not really a Silverado in our mind since that used to be the premier option package. Not even a Bronzeado, but more of an Ironado. Sitting on the dealer's lot was a standard-bed that came with the tiny 4.8 V-8, automatic, 3.73:1 gears and a tow package-and, unfortunately, a pricey cruise control and upgraded stereo. Still, thanks to generous GM rebate programs (and saved up GM Card points) this little pickup hit the street at $15,147, tax license and all. Not a bad start.
A V-6 would've been $945 cheaper, but would not have been able to pull grades all that well, especially with a trailer, and with 90 hp less, it'd seriously hurt the fun factor. Likewise, the standard five-speed would've saved $1,095, but without the benefit of low-range in a transfer case, the torque converter will have to make up the difference when creeping over obstacles. If you actually need four-wheel drive, it's an extra $3,065, but that is still far cheaper than adding it later.
It took exactly two stoplights to determine that the open diff and low-bidder tires had to go.
A single Ameritrac tire was nowhere near capable of handling this little Chevy's 285 horses on pavement, and dirt trails were an iffy proposition with little weight in the rear and the open diff. Well, at least it wasn't the optional $325 diff, a time bomb aka a Gov-Lock. A Detroit Truetrac would be the ideal upgrade in this case since it doesn't affect street handling, and as long as both tires are on the ground, it really does drive them both. And when one's in the air, just apply a little brake. Plus, the all-gear unit doesn't have any clutches to wear out.
Coast Driveline & Gear in Ventura, California, swiftly replaced the stock open carrier and sure enough, the Truetrac was practically unnoticeable in regular driving, except that the right rear wouldn't go up in smoke when getting on the throttle. But in the dirt, the Truetrac made a huge difference. On a relatively steep dirt trail that used to be tricky to get up even with a running start, we could now stop halfway and get going again-without any wheelspin. Having both rear wheels actually drive isn't too far from having four-wheel drive, and it often works even better than an open-diffed 4x4.
Coast Driveline & Gear installed a Detroit Truetrac with the stock 3.73:1 gears in the 8.6-inch 10-bolt. A perfect pattern was achieved with the factory shims, which Coast's personnel said is very common, thanks to the Detroit's precision manufacturing. With Coast's lift and expertise, the install took only a couple of hours, so you could likely install one at home with relative ease in a day. Since the Truetrac requires a new Timken set 26 bearings, there's no need to pull the old ones off the stock diff, making a home install more feasible yet.
As with any vehicle, adding a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher should've been the very first accessorizing, but it became a close second. This was also a darn good time not to be frugal, so a 2.5-pound Halon extinguisher from H3R was chosen as a first defense against meltdown. At $135, it wasn't cheap, but we prefer putting the fire out rather than having to put the vehicle out of its misery later. In retrospect, a reconditioned unit would've been just fine, and costs $45 less.
Much, much better than duct tape and shop rags, an EZ Care Weekender Kit from Adventure Medical Kits was chosen as a people tool kit of sorts. With somebody who knows how to use its extensive contents, it can provide comfort for or save up to six people. And it does indeed contain duct tape too. As with the extinguisher, hopefully the first aid kit will never have to be used, but either one could save a life if some day the feces do hit the fan.
Realistically, the most important improvements made to the Silverado was the addition of an Adventure Medical Kits bag of first aid products and a Halon fire extinguisher from H3R. Not much else matters if you've bled to death or burnt to a crisp. This Weekender kit is only 8.5x7.5x4 inches, yet contains the goods to treat wounds, burns, blisters, fractures, sprains, and bleeding. It's all packaged in logical and marked compartments, together with instruments, medications, and a manual. H3R's Halon extinguisher requires less know-how to use-pull the pin, point at the fire and squeeze the trigger-but can save both people and vehicles. Halon doesn't leave a mess like water or dry powder would, so discharging this extinguisher under the dash, in the cab, or engine compartment doesn't add to the damage done by the fire.