A Big-Block, Stick Shift, Solid-Axle Tahoe
Alex Santiago works on high-tech equipment at his day job, so high tech it’s classified. But when he comes home he trades complex for reliable, as can be seen in his trail machine of choice. His ’99 Tahoe started out as a daily driver and commuter truck, while Alex was working on a different project 4x4. However, that project went away and Alex’s garage was left full of parts without a home. Eventually his trusty daily driver Tahoe began showing wear and tear, but rather than repairing it he opted to upgrade, such as disposing his ragged independent front suspension for a simple and reliable leaf-sprung Dana 60.
The upgrades didn’t stop there. Before long a complete drivetrain swap had occurred, but by Alex’s meticulous nature the conversions look factory installed, almost as if this were a special prototype ’99 Tahoe built just for off-road use. In fact, that is what first attracted us to this truck, the cool upgrades with subtle execution. We are always looking for wild rides, but Alex has a tough dependable 4x4 that can take him high in the mountains for exploring and escaping the daily grind without overdoing it.
1995 Chevrolet Tahoe
Engine: 489ci (8.0L) big-block Chevrolet made from a stroked Gen 6 454, ported L29 Vortec 454 heads, Comp cam, 9.8:1 compression, pump gas friendly, fed by a bored 454 throttle body with 90-lb/hr injectors on a ported Edelbrock TBI intake, Edelbrock headers, Mandrel bent 21⁄2-inch stainless dual exhaust with crossover and MagnaFlow mufflers, tuned by Command Performance Engineering in Littleton, Colo., passes all emissions testing
Transmission: ’95 GM NV4500, LUK clutch
Transfer case: ORD GM203/Ford205 doubler with 1350 flanges
Front Axle: Trussed ’79 Ford Dana 60 with Reid knuckles for GM outers, Inner Cs rotated for proper caster and pinion angle, 35-spline stubs, 4.88 gears, ARB Air Locker, 1350 Yoke, Dynatrac cover, Tera Low hubs, Spicer shafts and U-joints, 1350 CV shaft
Rear Axle: Trussed ’00 van width 14-bolt with OE disc brakes and integral parking brake, 4.88 gears, ARB Air Locker, Dynatrac cover, 1350 yoke, 1350 CV shaft
Springs & Such: (front) Offroad Design solid axle swap kit, Tuff Country 3-inch EZ rides, Bilstein 7100s, ORD spring plates; (rear) 4-door Tahoe front hangers, ’96-’00 1⁄2-ton Suburban rear 60-inch springs, ORD shackle flip, ORD HD shackles, Pro Comp shocks, ORD zero-rate block
Tires & Wheels: Powdercoated Trail Ready HD17s with 41⁄2-inch backspacing, 37x12.50 R17 BFGoodrich KM2s
Steering: PSC pump, box, and reservoir; 18-inch Derale heat-sink cooler; -8 return lines; 1.75 PSC Ram; Vanco Ported Hydroboost; retapered TJ pitman arm and custom crossover arm with ORD crossover drag link; ORD HD tie rod
Other Stuff: ARB front bumper; M12000 winch with synthetic rope; Lightforce lights; ARB compressor; dual Optima batteries using ’96-’00 battery tray to relocate the wiper reservoir to make room for the ARB compressor; big-block cooling system with the 34x207⁄8-inch radiator with a 9-blade fan from a Suburban with rear AC GM oil external cooler option from a 454/6.5 diesel truck; GM auxiliary cooling/condenser fan; ORD brake lines; ORD HD motor mounts; medium-duty truck door handles; manual bucket seats and center console from an LT Tahoe since it used to be 40/20/40 split bench; rest of interior is stock components; Sirius XM radio with Alpine amp and speakers; vinyl flooring after carpet was removed; full sound-deadening of tub, doors, and tailgate; 160-amp alternator; ’01 2500HD master cylinder; bed-lined rocker panels; functional original A/C system, never opened it to do the big-block swap; vanilla air freshener; high-speed nonstick GM primer