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Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800 (Truck Norris!)

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  • Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800 (Truck Norris!)

    Project Introduction, April 2, 2013: For the past 7 years or so I've been using one truck to both tow our race trailer as well as to serve as the "parts runner" for picking up and dropping off pallets of parts to various local vendors. Initially this was a 2001 Chevy crew cab 1500HD 3/4 ton with a crew cab and a 6.0L V8 engine towing an open trailer. When we stepped up to a 38' enclosed gooseneck trailer I also stepped up to a 2006 Dodge 3500 5.9L Cummins MegaCab SRW 1 ton. Neither trucks were modified except for very minor cosmetic updates or things like better tires or aftermarket trailer brake controllers. They were both extremely clean and well detailed, but I do that to all of my vehicles. Still, they were big boring trucks that I ended up daily driving with for many years. If you daily drive in a 3/4 or 1 ton truck you know how big, heavy, and slow they are. After many years of wielding these behemoths through traffic it... just kinda sucks.

    My previous tow vehicles/shop trucks: 2001 Chevy 1500HD 2WD 6.0L (3/4 ton) and 2006 Dodge 3500 Cummins SRW (1 ton)

    The Dodge was still dead reliable but was racking up the miles, so in January of this year we custom ordered a 2013 Ford F-350 dually diesel and put the Dodge up for sale. I was tired of driving around almost 100% of the time on the street in giant trucks and I was bound and determined to not let this new dually become the "shop truck", used for running parts around town plus my daily commute. Somehow I always end up putting 20K+ miles per year onto my "tow trucks", with most of that not towing a trailer.

    Another big problem with using one truck for both towing and "driving around" is that the new dually is so wide it cannot be driven through a typical drive thru, like at a bank - which I end up doing once or twice a day. It is also a crew cab long bed, the longest possible configuration for the F-350, so the wheelbase is a staggering 172" long. But the added wheelbase and width of the dually are actually better for towing a big enclosed trailer - it adds stability, cargo room, passenger room, and the long bed allows the front of the gooseneck to swing and clear the cab. Ask me why that matters sometime and I will tell you a story about the trailer meeting the cab on the Dodge the first time I towed with it and tried to make a U-turn, which had a shorter 6.5' bed...


    The 119" SWB GMT800 is so much easier to park, maneuver and drive

    So for our shop "parts runner" truck I wanted to buy a separate vehicle, but go almost the exact opposite way than the F350 dually: this one would be a 1/2 ton truck, so it would be lighter, handle and ride better, and have a much narrower chassis built on the shortest wheelbase possible. The answer I came to was a proven workhorse - the GMT800 chassis - with the shortest of 4 optional wheelbases at 119". This wheelbase is a staggering 54 inches shorter than the F-350 dually will have. GM made literally millions of these so I figured it would be easy to find exactly what I wanted (ha!).

    What is the GMT800?

    The GMT800 generation of 1/2 ton trucks was built by GMC and Chevrolet from 1999-2006 model years (and even some 2007 models). This truck was a radical deviation from previous 1/2 ton GM trucks with a host of new technological innovations. One big improvement was in chassis rigidity, as the 4 wheelbase variations for the frames were made with the hydroforming process and tubular cross beams, instead of stamped steel pieces. This was a technology originally developed for the C5 Corvette, which is explained below.

    Hydroforming is a specialized type of die forming that uses a high pressure hydraulic fluid to press room temperature working material into a die. To hydroform a vehicle's frame rail, a hollow tube of metal is placed inside a negative mold that has the shape of the desired end result. High pressure hydraulic pistons then inject a fluid at very high pressure inside the metal which causes it to expand until it matches the mold. The hydroformed metal is then removed from the mold. Hydroforming allows complex shapes with concavities to be formed, which would be difficult or impossible with standard solid die stamping. Hydroformed parts can often be made with a higher stiffness to weight ratio and at a lower per unit cost than traditional stamped or stamped and welded parts.
    Ford quickly countered this new technology with hydroformed frame rails on the 2004-current F-150, too. Lots of cars now use this technology in frame sections and other formed steel and aluminum components.

    The GMT800 chassis also had several other firsts: 4 wheel disc brakes, 4 wheel ABS, LSx based engines, electronically controlled 4 speed automatics, tighter panel gaps and better aerodynamics, and much more. With updated electronics and better fuel injection these were more efficient, more powerful, and more reliable than any previous generation of GM truck. These have evolved into the GMT900, which covers 2007-current 1/2 ton trucks with cosmetic changes and some other small improvements.

    I looked at other 1/2 ton trucks, but the newer GMT900 was a bigger truck that got both taller and heavier, and the only 1/2 ton Fords I cared for were the $55,000 Raptors. The 3rd generation 1/2 ton Dodge from the late 1990s/early 2000s era is notoriously less reliable than the redesigned 2009 4th generation Dodge Ram. In addition to the massive improvements in reliability, brakes, drivetrain and chassis, I just liked the look of the GMT800, especially the Regular Cab Short Bed 119" short wheelbase version (aka: RCSB).

    Left: The newer GMT900 is taller than the GMT800. Right: I made this WANTED poster and posted it on Facebook

    After looking off and on for 6 months and striking out, I started seriously searching after I ordered the F-350 and sold my Dodge 3500. The Dodge sold too quickly and the F-350 took longer to get built, so I was left without any truck for about 5 weeks. During that time I racked up 2000 miles on my 2013 Mustang GT, nearly doubling the odometer reading, just running parts around town. So this sort of sped up my search and I got more serious in my efforts. There were a lot really poorly written ads on Craigslist and too many car dealers that lied about what they had (V8s that turned out to be V6s, "Excellent" bodywork that ended up being trashed, lots of bait-and-switch trucks that didn't exist when I got there). All told I looked at about 600 online ads, a dozen actual trucks in person, and had tons of people searching for this truck for me. Somebody here at Vorshlag actually found this 1999 GMC Sierra 1500 below, and since it was located way out in the boonies I was the first person to come look at it. After a look to see that it was really what he stated (SWB, 5.3L, 2WD), a quick test drive and some haggling I bought it on the spot for cash. Big thanks to Jason McCall for going with me to get this truck (plus looking at several other turds with me in previous months!)

    This example has "some miles on it" but the condition and price were too good to pass up. This has always been a Texas truck so it has no rust, and it had never been wrecked. The optional engines include a V6 and two V8s (4.8 and 5.3L), and this one had the much rarer 5.3L LM7 (same engine that we used in the GRM Challenge E30 V8!). It uses all of the same LSx parts we are familiar with and comes with the iron block and aluminum heads and was rated at 270 hp (there were also 285 and 295 hp versions in later GMT800s).

    I picked the GMC over the Chevy Silverado simply from the looks - the GMC's factory front headlights and grill are more pleasing to me than two Chevy versions, made from 1999-2002 and 2003-2006 (but the aftermarket "billet grill" on this one has got to go). The RCSB trucks were much harder to find with V8s and 2WD than I had figured, as these are popular with the hot rodding and even drag race crowds. The lines are pleasing so the pimps hoard them, and the weight is lower than the other 3 wheelbase options so the drag racers gobble them up, too. Yes, people in Texas drag race these SWB GM trucks, in large numbers - don't ask me why.

    Don't try this - you can overload a 1/2 ton truck when you put 3000 pounds in the bed! Luckily I never haul loads this

    Of course I don't expect everyone to agree with my truck decision, but this wasn't some random decision and the purchase has been made. I'm sure you have had great luck with other trucks, or have a horror story about someone else's GMT800, too. But I have owned a GMT800 and it was dead nuts reliable - as have many other friends I trust - so I just wanted to get the short wheelbase version and see how it drives. And after a couple of weeks of ownership I found that it drives VERY WELL. This truck is super easy to drive in traffic, ridiculously easy to park, it navigates the bank drive-thru effortlessly, and it hauls a pallet well. I've already over-loaded it once, with a 3000 pound load of hardwood flooring, so we have a few things we need to improve to better serve as the "shop truck".

    This truck has an amazingly clean interior with the upgraded "LS" package, so it has the power options but is still cloth. The split bench has the console/jump seat, for a 3rd seating option in those instances where I need to carry another person (rare).


    The truck is mostly stock, which I wanted, but someone added a few modifications. Most of the mods are coming off, some already have been replaced or "fixed". The "Boss Motorsports" 20" chrome wheels are not at all my style, but we do want to show off some of the other products we sell on this and all Vorshlag vehicles, so it will likely get something like Forgestar wheels in a more reasonable 18" diameter. the smoked tail lights are both ugly and dangerous and will be changed quickly. The Edlebrock headers that were added by a previous owner have some leaks so we have a set of American Racing Headers 1-7/8" full length stainless steel headers coming soon. The after-header exhaust is a mess and will all be replaced with some typical Vorshlag custom exhaust work.

    It looks like it already has been lowered a bit so we will change the wheel/tire package and reevaluate that. To help with towing (we need a back-up tow vehicle for short, local towing of cars on an open trailer) and improve the load capacity of this truck, we will add some load leveling airbags too the rear. There are also better OEM brakes we can use from the GMT800 chassis, too: the 1999-2004 GMT800 had 12" front discs with a single piston caliper. The later 2005-06 GMT800 extended cab trucks had a 13" rotor and twin piston PBR caliper. Could be a cheap and easy upgrade that utilizes heavier duty, OEM parts? We will do the research, pick up some new 13" brake parts and see what it takes.

    I always assume some of you reading this will have some experience with the changes we have in mind, so feel free to chime in with tips and advice; hopefully it will be more than "God, those wheels are ghetto!". Yes, there are some aftermarket parts on this truck that are not to my liking - the price was good enough to help me ignore most of these these small issues.

    I will update this thread as we repair, upgrade and tastefully modify this truck for our "shop truck" use.

    Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:05 AM.
    Terry Fair -
    2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
    EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev

  • #2
    Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

    Project Update for April 2, 2013: I have been using this truck to commute with and haul parts around for a week now and really enjoy driving this so much more than a giant 3/4 or 1 ton truck. It is easier to park than any vehicle I own, it stops well, and can lay rubber down for 100+ yards (the guys at Vorshlag are all hoonigans and bad influences - I would never do this myself, officer!). These blingy 20" wheels are bugging me to no end, and the tires are crap, though. We will get to those at a later date - for now we're too busy to mess around with the wheels.

    Yes, the 20" chrome wheels are ugly. Yes, the "smoked" tail lights are silly and the tail gate latch looks broken, and is

    Since we have been super slammed here at Vorshlag and just had our busiest month in the existence of the company, I haven't dumped the truck onto our techs for the "full inspection" and listing of repairs needed just yet. But it needs a full head-to-tail inspection, due to the mileage. Oh, did I mention this truck has 233,000 miles? Yea, that is a lot but it runs like a top, doesn't leak a drop, and everything works. Well, almost everything. Other than a quick wash and a 22 gallon fill up of the cheapest 87 octane gas at the pump (woohoo! My first vehicle in years that takes neither premium unleaded or diesel!) it has already been driven hundreds of miles on "parts runs" without a peep of trouble.

    But there were a couple of little things that I couldn't stand or that need to be fixed quickly, so 30 minutes of "repairs and mods" have now been performed (today).


    The most ridiculous item that someone previously added to the truck, that had to be "updated" for safety, were the "blacked out" OEM tail lights. I don't know who but some moron started the trend where they convince people to spray paint over the brake and running lights. This greatly reduces the sight distance to the back of the truck at night, as the tail lights are almost impossible to see. Also, the brake lights are very hard to recognize during daylight hours. OEM replacement tail lights were on my "short list" before I either got pulled over by the police or was rear-ended in traffic. No, these weren't aftermarket "smoked" lenses, but painted over OEM lenses. (facepalm)

    Here's where the "mild modification" bug started. Instead of getting the replacement GMC Sierra taillight assemblies I went with the 2003-2006 Silverado assemblies instead. They look subtly different, a newer design, and more a little more pleasing to me. I updated the headlights on my Dodge to a design 2 model years newer and it really stood out in my mind, I dunno... subtle little changes like this are just one of those things I like to do sometimes. Anyway, the OEM replacement style 2003 Silverado housings (pictured above) were purchased online for $100 for the pair and included new bulbs and wiring harnesses (fleabay). This made it super easy to install onto the GMC, as it all just bolted and plugged right in (the GMC bulbs and sockets are slightly different, but since these housings came with the fully wired harness and bulbs it was a 10 minute install).

    The new tail lights look factory but are... newer than the truck and not what the GMC came with. Just a little update, but it looks good - and the brake and tail lights are much easier to see now, too. I like the look and the fit was perfect. Still exploring 3rd brake light upgrade up on the cab, which is also "sprayed black" and invisible. Apparently there's an updated 2005-06 OEM 3rd brake light housing that has LED lighting for both the brakes and a bed light? I dunno, need to find out more about that. I would have liked LED tail lights but the aftermarket units made for these trucks just looked so cheesy. When the OEM does LED lighting it looks right, but somehow the aftermarket almost always screws this up.

    Anyway, another repair visible in the picture above is the new rear tailgate latch assembly and surround. The stock unit was broken, having a missing plastic clip that goes to the pull cables that operate the latches on the actual tailgate perimeter. I could have just bought new clips for $2 but I "splurged" and spent less than twenty bucks on an all new latch assembly. Parts for these trucks are so damned cheap! These tail gate latch assemblies were available from a number of sources for as little as $8, but I went with a known good brand for the latch handle assembly at $18.86 shipped (p/n 77488, Dorman), which came with the new color coded right and left clips. The old latch was a little clunky but the new one operates "smooth like buttah". The old tailgate handle surround had a broken clip so for another $4.59 (shipped) a brand new plastic surround was picked up and it went on in seconds. The latch assembly took all of 5 minutes to install, too.

    So that's my first week of ownership and updates to this truck. Not very spectacular changes yet, just sharing in case you have one of these trucks that might need these same updates or repairs. The next round of mods should get a bit more interesting.

    Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:05 AM.
    Terry Fair -
    2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
    EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


    • #3
      Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

      Project Update for May 14, 2013: So I've put another 5 weeks of use in the GMC and really like driving this lighter, smaller "full sized truck" compared to the big 3/4 and 1 ton trucks I've used in the past to pick up parts and such. And we added another truck to the Vorshlag stable, as our custom ordered F-350 arrived.


      This new F-350 truck arrived a few days before a NASA race being held in New Orleans, about 2 weeks ago. With only 100 miles on the odometer we hooked it up to our 36' enclosed trailer and towed our race car and all of our gear 1200 miles to New Orleans from Dallas and back, and it performed flawlessly.

      This "twin-scroll" turbocharged diesel dually is going to be under warranty for quite a while and is staying very stock, but I'll update this same thread if we do anything to it along the way (maybe a little less chrome would be nice). This truck rides, stops and goes VERY well for such a gigantic vehicle, but parking it SUCKS. It is nearly 6 feet longer than the little GMC 1500. As promised I have done very little commuting in the F-350, with 1400 of the 1500 miles logged so far with the trailer attached (there's this slick application that tracks each mile logged with each unique trailer).


      Anyway, back to the GMC 1500. We finally had some time a few weeks back to get it up on a lift and look at a few things. Quick oil and filter change was performed, and an inspection of the exhaust was done. Wow, yea, the exhaust is a mess. Sounds like ass and looks worse.

      There is a Series 10 Flowmaster rusting away in the middle and the rear section is simply missing. The Edlgebrock mid-length headers are leaking badly because one exhaust manifold stud is broken off in the head. New ARH stainless long tubes are on the way and we will replace all of the exhaust with new, stainless, mandrel bent tubing. Dual 3" with some mufflers and all that.

      There's a missing bump stop in the rear and the shocks are garbage, which we will of course replace. This truck could have some better stopping power, and we are looking at some OEM options to upgrade both the front (GMT900 13" rotors/calipers) and rear (1/2 ton Suburban larger 6-lug discs and twin pot calipers). More on that when we have time to order parts and put them on this truck.

      This truck has been a Texas vehicle for most of its life, but there were a few obviously rusty bits: both chrome bumpers show some corrosion and the aftermarket trailer hitch was pretty frosty. The hitch was likely spray-painted black at some point but it was long gone, yet the rust turned out to be only superficial. We had our preferred powder coating shop bead blast then powder coat it gloss black, then reinstalled the hitch. Now it looks better than it did new, and won't rust further.

      The owner of Titan Auto Glass came by a week ago and swapped in a brand new, Candian built windshield (not the cheaper, east Asian import unit) to replace the pock marked, chipped and cracked OEM windshield. As usual they did a great job and this is probably one of their most popular vehicles to work with, so the cost was pretty low. Huge improvement in visibility!

      Two pet peeves from the interior that were bugging me included the center console/jump seat lid that was broken and the loose yet plain jane rear view mirror. The original center console lid was busted at the hinge, which is apparently a very common flaw - so much so that there are plentiful and cost effective replacement lid covers with a stronger hinge and upgrade materials. Gone is the old cloth covering and in comes the later model style faux-leather lid cover. And the old mirror was replaced with a new unit that has an exterior temp gauge and built in compass. This was available on later model and/or upgraded interiors, and it is something I'm used to having. Now I know which way I'm going and how hot it is, when I get lost.

      So after measuring the aftermarket (and did I mention ugly??) 20x8.5" wheels that were on this truck, and seeing how much room we had to push inboard for the replacement set, we were thrown for a loop when Forgestar said they couldn't make a wheel with the required 6 x 5.5" bolt circle. They just don't leave room for these big bolt circle truck wheels. Dang... Really bummed me out, as I wanted to show off some wheels we sell. We noted that an 18x10" or 19x10" wheel could fit on either end, but tire choices were very limited for "truck" load rated tires in those widths and diameters. I noticed that there were lots of 17" sizes, and few 18" sizes, and almost ZERO truck tires in 19" diameter. But then in 20" there were tons of choices. This comes from the fact that the factories that build full sized trucks have skipped 19" sizes and gone from 15->16->17->18->20" OEM wheels. So we looked at TireRack, since we are a dealer for them...

      This BBS wheel above is really slick, and it is what we've all agreed looks best among available options in the price range I picked. It comes in an 18x9" and 20x9" size, and honestly... after looking at both and driving a similar truck that just went from 20" to 18" wheels, we've decided that we will stick with the 20" version. It just looks better on a full sized truck, and heck, the OEM wheels for the GMT900s are 20" diameter anymore. But I'm going to wait to replace the wheels and tires until after we're done with the suspension/shock/brake updates, as much as that pains me.

      WHAT'S NEXT?

      Suspension updates and repairs are needed, as the shocks and some bushings are just worn out with age and miles. The right front tire was worn badly, rotated to the left rear by a previous owner, and it was just getting down to cords a few weeks back. I "borrowed" some old 20" tires that Ryan had pulled off his Dodge truck, and they put them on the back for now, replacing the worst two tires on this GMC. This is a stop-gap measure until we get time to work on the suspension - otherwise it will eat the new front tires quickly. The plan is to replace the front control arms, which come with fresh bushings and ball joints. Then go for a drop spindle up front to lose a little altitude. The plans for the rear are more complicated... it is already lowered 2" or more with a drop shackle, but this isn't the right way to do it. It needs a tiny bit more drop and then a bit more spring rate, which we will do with a pair of adjustable air bags (for when we load the bed with parts or tow with it). Bilstein 46mm piston monotube 5100 shocks will be used all around, once we have the lengths set.

      The newer 2003-2006 GMC Sierra front end is another planned update/repair

      Of course the exterior needs a little TLC... which I am working on as well. As much as I dislike this color I am not going to change it, just plan on a little PDR work to be done at Heritage Collision in Sherman, TX. That nasty billet front grill insert and rusty front bumper that are bugging me the most, so I will work on that next. I've done some research and the OEM 2003-2006 GMC 1500 front end (shown above) is what I like the best, and it all swaps over fairly well. Differing from the 1999-2002 Sierra in several ways it has a reshaped bumper, Paint-To-Match lower valance, round fog lights, and a grill surround and insert with a bit more edginess to it. The headlights and turn signal/parking lights are all the same but these 1999 units are all frosted with age, but brand new stuff is SO inexpensive that we will just replace rather than polish the old bits.

      So that's all for this time. Just a few quick cosmetic repairs and some small updates. More to come.
      Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:09 AM.
      Terry Fair -
      2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
      EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


      • #4
        Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

        Project Update for August 6th, 2013: Another 10 weeks of driving the GMC "Shop Truck" and I've had two flats, the starter took a crap, and I cracked the F'in brand new windshield - but we've made a lot of repairs, updates, and improvements along the way. We even tackled some new development for the GMT 800 chassis, like the custom-fit Bilstein 5100 shocks, and with Forgestar's help we developed a custom F14 wheel that fits this truck perfectly (never before used on this chassis). We also added a new Alpine head unit and built a kick ass custom stainless exhaust system.


        Left: Old Edlebrock shorty headers and ARH Long Tubes. I freagin' HATE shorties. Right: Ghetto old exhaust had fallen off aft of the Series 10 Flowmaster.

        The leaking Edlebrock headers were driving me nuts, and the ghetto exhaust (half of which had fallen off in some swamp, I assume) sounded terrible even if you ignored the "CAK-CA-CACK" leak. So we ordered a set of American Racing Headers 1-7/8" stainless long tubes made for the GMT800 chassis, but decided not to use their Y-pipe or cats. We planned on making our own header-back exhaust in house. The standard ARH Y-pipe normally included was a dual 3" into single 3" system, to match the factory exhaust routing, and that just wasn't ... custom enough for Vorshlag's shop truck. Remember: we're trying to show off products we sell as well as the custom fabrication work we do, so a completely custom exhaust was built instead.

        After ordering the long tubes... well, we got busy at Vorshlag. Our own cars don't get worked on until the shop slows down, and it didn't slow down for months. So this beautiful set of headers sat around for a few weeks while the service shop was buried in race prep/suspension/fab/repair work (we've since hired another tech, our third, and he's helping pick up the load). I kept driving the exhaust-leaking-truck to drop off and pick up parts, but then the starter began to flake out. At random times the truck would just not crank at all, it took a whack with a hammer to free up the solenoid, then it would work for a day or two more. Looked like the original starter, which lasted 236,000 miles, so we picked up a new Bosch unit for this 5.3L V8. But to get in there to change it, the old headers had to come out. Now was the perfect time to do the new exhaust...

        High flow catalysts keep the nasty exhaust gases in check and keeps the truck street legal.

        A second reason we kept putting off the header install was a busted exhaust stud. When the starter finally died The True Death, we sent in Ryan to get the broken exhaust manifold stud out of the head (located right at the firewall, of course), which was a bit of a chore. It had broken off flush to the head ages ago and two easy-out bits broke before he went to Plan B. This was when he welded a nut to the end of the broken stud, then carefully ... turned... it... out. Beautiful - no threads were damaged and the guys went on to install the ARH long tubes.

        These new full length headers went on and the new starter was installed with new ARP LS1 12-point header bolts. Instead of keeping the standard "ball and socked" exhaust flange which comes on these ARH's and most other aftermarket headers' collectors (which can cut down some exhaust flow), Ryan cut those off. Then he installed a pair of our U.S.-made, all stainless 3" V-band flanges to the collectors. This gives a smooth bore at the header to exhaust junction, thus no exhaust flow restriction. Behind these he added some 3" mandrel bends made of more U.S.-made 304SS tubing, two 3" high flow cats, and a bunch of bends to get the routing over to the passenger side, which has more room than the driver's side (where all of the fuel and brake lines run + the fuel tank is located).

        Round case MagnaFlow XL 3-Chamber Mufflers - just turned out to be too big for the space we had.

        The plan was for the twin 3" tubing to run back to a pair of MagnaFlow 3" stainless XL chambered mufflers, mounted side by side just behind the cab, then out to the passenger side and exit just in front of the right rear wheel. We had ordered two round case 3" in/out 3-Chamber XL units, but they ended up being too long and had too much girth... hehe, that's what she said. So we went back and found some "suitcase" style MagnaFlow XLs instead.

        Square case MagnaFlow XL 3-Chamber mufflers fit side-by-side in the space we had and still have great flow and sound.

        These MagnaFlow XL mufflers are relatively new and look quite nice, but most importantly they are priced right. These are not the typical MagnaFlow fiberglass packed straight-thru mufflers, but have routing and chambers for a different sound, and could potentially last longer - who knows? I wanted to hear how a pair of these XL's sounded behind an LSx V8, and that's what this truck has (5.3L "LM7" V8 with aluminum heads and iron block). To me, it sounds like a Flowmaster... which means it sounds good. And these XL mufflers are made of real 304SS, and not a lower grade (409?) "stainless" like the still-painted Flowmaster series 44 mufflers. I think these are going to be a great muffler for us here at Vorshlag and we are going to keep a handful in stock for custom exhaust work.

        Surprisingly these are both very light mufflers, with the suitcase XL units came in at under 9 pounds each. Cool. One of my unstated goals on this truck is to keep it as light as possible, and we have been dropping pounds here and there along the way.

        Left: Here you can see the "H" style crossover tube added, to equalize pressures in both pipes. Right: Both tips exit ahead of the RR wheel.

        The final exhaust sounds great - more like an LS1 powered muscle car - but isn't obnoxious at all and the noise level in the cab seems to be cut in half. The entire system is now tucked up above the frame, so if we lower the truck a LOT it won't scrape, like the truck had done on the old muffler. The starter is new, the headers are higher flowing and leak free, the manifold leaks at the header are gone, the exhaust is now 100% 304 stainless steel so it should last forever, and the finished system looks damned good. The Vorshlag crew swapped in some red Taylor 10.4mm spark plug wires and put new Bosch plugs into the heads while they were in there. This truck runs better than it ever has - pulls strong at all RPMs and it easily turns the old, crusty 285mm tires into billowing plumes of smoke!

        As you can see, we chose a side exit for both 3" diameter exhaust tubes and decided to forgo any chrome tips or other fancy end treatment - just the raw 3" stainless tubes, cut at an angle to match the lines of the body. This side exit was done to minimize the length of the system, simplify the routing, and to keep from having to do the over-the-axle bends needed to exit at the rear. The rear axle area is going to get tight if we lower the truck more, and the necessary bends always restrict flow. We actually got busy during the install, so Ryan temporarily had the exhaust stop at the end of the mufflers. A couple of weeks later when he had half a day to finish, he made the exhaust tips and added another poly-isolated hanger for that aft section.

        We make custom stainless steel, mandrel bent exhaust systems like this for sports cars every week. It isn't the cheapest solution, but it always fits better than Off The Shelf kits. Of course Vorshlag has a keen eye for minimizing weight and making the system route perfectly, so each system we make is lighter and better flowing than virtually any OTS system.


        Many of you know we're a Bilstein / Bilstein Motorsports dealer. If you don't, read this Press Release talking about the shocks we sell. We're adding more Bilstein parts to our website every month, but we still have a lot more to add. Anyway, Bilstein makes a wide variety of OEM replacement monotube shocks and struts. This GMT800 is a 2WD version so it has a double A-arm front suspension with a steering rack, coil springs and regular "divorced" shocks (not a coil-over style). The rear is a leaf sprung solid axle with two traditional shocks also.

        The ride on this truck was obscenely bad. After 236K miles it shakes, rattles, and rolls over the slightest bumps. The front suspension arms looked okay, but the tie rods were looking ratty and should be replaced soon. By far the worst offender in the suspension were the shocks - and we knew that one or more was shot. Turns out three of them were blown.

        New Bilstein 5100 monotube shocks went on the Vorshlag Shop Truck. 5100s feature huge 46mm pistons and silver bodies.

        We did some searching in our Bilstein dealer database and found that they made the regular "Sport" (yellow) monotube shocks (with 36mm pistons) for this model/year/configuration of GMT800 truck, but did not have the heavy duty "5100" (silver) Bilsteins with the larger 46mm internal pistons that I wanted. There are a LOT more Sport offerings for OEM shocks than 5100s. We faced the same dilemma on my 2006 Dodge 3500, and I was stuck with Sport Bilsteins when we replaced those (they still rode well). But now that we were a Bilstein dealer, I wanted to push further and see what we could come up with.

        Jason took measurements, made some calculations on the proper stroke and body lengths, took into consideration the OEM shock end mounting arrangements at both ends of each damper, dug through our dealer catalog, and ordered up some 5100's based purely on dimensions. The ends were "very close" but we had to drill out one "eye" to fit a larger bolt on the rears, the clevis ends had to be slightly modified on the fronts, but these 5100's eventually fit perfectly at both ends. And man, was it worth the extra effort!

        The difference in the ride quality on this truck was Night and Day. Freagin' amazing... it was skipping over bumps and rattling my teeth out before, and now the ride felt smooth yet firm. So glad we went the extra mile and got the 5100's to fit. And while they might need to change when/if we lower the truck more than it already is (it has a stock front height, 2" rear drop shackle), these don't cost a fortune and we can chalk that up to a Test That Worked.

        Continued below
        Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:11 AM.
        Terry Fair -
        2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
        EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


        • #5
          Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

          Continued from above


          One of the many hideous "upgrades" done to this truck by a previous owner, something that I had to consciously overlook when I purchased it, were these nasty 20" chrome wheels. The wheels alone nearly made me walk away from this purchase, but I knew this would be "an easy fix", so I ignored them. I also knew these would be easy to sell when I was done with them too. The Sumitomo tires it had were looking pretty crusty, so I knew the wheel and tire package would be one of the first things we replaced. It didn't quite work out as quickly as I had planned though, as other repairs to our shop truck took precedence.

          Over the past few months I've had a growing number of tire problems. First there was already a rear tire starting to go to cord before I purchased this thing. It was just starting to blister when I bought the truck, but quickly turned to steel belts. Then I had a recurring flat on the front, shown above. Luckily Ryan had some old 20" truck tires he gave me to use until I could find the right wheels. We eventually swapped on two of his tires to replace the old leaking and corded mess that was on this truck (the front tow was out - that was fixed early). Even after I had ordered the Forgestar wheels a third tire problem reared its ugly head! During the front Bilstein 5100 shock install, Kyle found that one more old Sumitomo tire had cords separate and it was now trapezoidal in shape when view from the front. On went the spare and I wore the Cone of Shame while driving.

          The spare went on after tire number three failed on this truck - the old Sumitomo HTR is absolute junk.

          From day one all I really wanted to use was a Forgestar wheel, as this is one of the two brands of wheels we work with and sell (D-Force being the other). Sure, we could get anything from our wholesale Discount Tire and TireRack accounts, but that wasn't the same thing as showing the wheels we custom design on a daily basis for our sports car customers. D-Force had nothing in a 6 x 5.5" bolt circle, and Forgestar told me the same thing. None of their 18", 19" or 20" wheels had enough meat on them to fit the large 6 lug bolt circle used by the 1/2 ton GMT800 trucks (the 3/4 and 1 ton trucks used an 8-lug pattern). But I kept bugging the Forgestar folks, and eventually one of their guys remembered a wheel they made for another 6-lug vehicle, only sold to the Japanese market. It was 20x9" wheel in an offset that could work for us, according to our calculations. It was an F14 fourteen spoke style wheel, just like on our TT3 Mustang, but they had never used it on a GMT800. Still, we were confident in our measurements and I was willing to give it a try, so we got the custom set on order.

          The new wheels were much lighter, but that tall 20" diameter tire is one heavy mofo! (39.4 pounds)

          They only had the wheels in raw aluminum form, so we got the set of four coming and powder coated them here, using our local powder coating shop that has done many sets of wheels for us. I liked the anthracite finish with the flat clear coat on the new 18x12" Mustang wheels so much that I had the GMC wheels done the same. I spec'd out a set of General Grabber tires in 275/55/20, which were a far cry from the Michelin tires I wanted, but also cost about half as much. Hey, we all have budgets, and most of mine goes into growing the company or building the handful of our sports car project test mules... so the "shop truck" is last in line. These General tires did have excellent reviews on TireRack though, and I made sure to avoid Sumitomo HTR's that kept falling apart before.

          The tires were mounted and balanced (with stick on weights and aluminum tape - the only way we do it) and the finished weight for the wheel and tire was almost 6-1/2 pounds lighter per corner. They aren't super light, but they are a 20" wheel with a massive 40 pound tire. These new wheels and tires coupled with the newly installed Bilstein 5100s made for a world of difference in ride comfort, handling and traction. We still need to do something about that "one wheel peel" differential, but this was a big step in the right direction.

          Current look of the truck with the new wheels, tires, shocks. Needs less chrome & MOAR LOW!

          The wheels really look good, and Forgestar liked the image above so much they featured it on their Facebook page this week. Once we get a final price from those guys, we will feature this set of wheels as well as many of the other parts you've seen us add to our shop truck (ARH headers, Bilstein 5100s) to our website under a new "GMT800" section.


          I am no audiophile, but the old Alpine head unit in this truck had seen much better days. Half the printed text on the buttons were worn off so I had no idea what some of the buttons did. Half of the display's back lights were burned out too. Since it had no Aux input or USB ports, and lacked Bluetooth support, I was stuck with CD's (what are those?) and FM radio (crap). This old Alpine unit was at least 10 years old and needed to be replaced.

          After doing some research I ordered another Alpine unit from Crutchfield, a 2013 model called the Alpine CDE-135BT. This model was made with a CD player (I almost bought the version w/o the CD), integral Bluetooth support (not an add-on module), and was made to work with Android based phones (perfect for my Galaxy S4; they also have one made for the iPhone/iPod). It also had native Pandora support, with buttons on the head unit for Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, as well as Aux input port and a USB port on the front. I almost never listen to the radio, but stream music via Pandora channels most of the day. Kyle handled the new Alpine install and it works great now. We kept the small sub-woofer box mounted behind the seat as well as the aftermarket amp mounted to the floor under the passenger seat. I really like hands-free phone use in vehicles, especially with GPS based navigation working so well on the GS4. I've added a dash-mounted suction cup GS4 holder, too. Eventually I will mount this lower on the dash instead of up top - the phone gets really hot sitting up there in the Texas Summer sun.

          Olof cleaned up the interior of the truck as well, and it looks 100 times better. The entire front bench seat was removed, the interior was vacuumed then the carpets were shampooed and vacuumed again. The plastics were all given a rub-down with Armor All and it all went back together clean. So much nicer inside now - no more coffee stains on the seats or carpet, the door panels are not covered in grunge, and I am a happy driver. The leather wrapped OEM steering wheel still needs to be replaced, so I am looking for a different OEM wheel unit from another GM truck to swap in.


          With all of this round of updates, this little truck is now a LOT more fun to drive, and now I willingly choose the GMC over the 2013 Ford F-350. Before this round of mods that wasn't the case - the blown shocks, crappy tires, nappy interior, FM-only radio, leaking header, ghetto muffler, chrome wheels and iffy tires meant that it kind of sucked. I kept telling myself "Hey, it as a cheap "cash truck!", so it will have some rough edges", but that brand new F-350 dually sure was a lot nicer to driver.

          Now the GMC rides smooth, doesn't shake-and-rattle from the crappy tires, I've got Bluetooth music and phone, real stainless full length headers, a quiet yet decent exhaust note, and it is finally less embarrassing to look at (wheels). Still needs a bit more cosmetic work, but the foundation is there. Now, when I have a choice between driving the F-350 and the GMC, I take the short wheelbase GMC (again - it is 6 feet shorter). Which is good as the GMT800 gets better fuel mileage with the 5.3L gas motor (running on 87 octane) than the crew cab dually diesel, driving this one keeps the miles off the new tow vehicle, and it is infinitely easier to park and navigate through drive-thrus than the big dually.

          If you want to see more of the behind-the-scenes pictures of this work on our shop truck, go to the Project Gallery for this GMT800 and browse to your heart's content (link).

          WHAT'S NEXT?

          The ride height needs to come down a good bit more before I will be truly happy. Why? Vanity. I know, it is a "shop truck" but it still has to look good, to reflect the kind of work we do at Vorshlag, ya know? We aren't a "we work on boring stock trucks" kind of shop - we work on sports cars for a living. So we will make this at least look a bit sportier with an upcoming 4/6 drop. I've got the McGaughy's parts picked out (2" front drop spindles, 2" lowered front coil springs, 4" de-arched rear leaf, C-notch frame kit, etc), just need to let my budget recover. We will add helper air bags to the rear to help compensate for when I load up the bed with a pallet of parts, too.

          And the brakes need to be replaced and maybe even upgraded too. If we can find an OEM 13-15" diameter 6-lug front rotor we will make a custom BBK, and might go with the bigger twin pot rear brakes from the Suburban. The newer '03-07 GMC front grill surround, headlights, fog lights, and bumper I mentioned in my previous post are still coming, eventually. Once the exterior is looking better we'll add some Vorshlag graphics in a classic "shop truck logo" kind of theme for the doors. All in good time.

          Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:11 AM.
          Terry Fair -
          2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
          EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


          • #6
            Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

            Project Update for Dec 6th, 2013: Long time without an update on Truck Norris, our single cab short bed "parts runner" and all-around Shop Truck. The little GMC has just been motoring along fairly well since August, with most maintenance items being minor or just ignored over that time period. We've put several thousand more miles on this truck, picking up parts from various suppliers and running things all over town. A few little cosmetic updates were done in the recent months but the brakes were getting worse. We finally did something about that in late November. In this series of posts I used pictures both that I had taken (which are generally pretty poor) plus pictures Brandon took (which look 10x better), in case you notice the difference. Anyway, let's get caught up on the GMT800 Vorshlag Shop Truck project.

            This is the "Before" shot showing the old wheels, chrome side molding, "sun shade" rain deflectors and no window tint


            We did a number of small cosmetic upgrades and repairs work on the truck, including: new window tint added, removed all of the chrome side molding and badges, and removed the adhesive residue from old trim and a new removed set of "sunshade" side window rain gutter shades. The chrome side molding looked ugly and always bugged me, so that had to go, as did the cheesy (and broken) drip rail sun shades around the doors.

            Once the side trim and sunshades were yanked off there was some serious double-sided foam tape that had to be removed, too. This adhesive was strong and a total PITA to get off completely. We tried soaking the stuff with a number of chemicals ("Goof Off" worked the best) and then pushed the goo off with a plastic scraper, but had better luck with a heat gun. Once the adhesive got hot it was easier to remove, just messy. Be careful and don't concentrate too much heat near the paint or you could burn the finish. The "SIERRA" badge and some dealership badge came off of the tailgate and the "SLE" badges came off the sides of the cab, too. Lots of elbow grease later the adhesive residue was finally gone and the truck had a lot less chrome, and looks a lot better. I still cannot stand the ghetto grill, but that's a future fix we will have to tackle.

            As of October the truck lost the chrome side molding, rain deflectors and got some window tint

            Jason made a big, obnoxious "" windshield banner decal and we installed that right before the new windshield was cracked. Later we took the truck to our friends at Soundscape Car Audio in Plano, who installed new window tint on the side and rear glass. They use a CNC plotter to cut the tint perfectly and the installation was both fast and flawless. When it comes time for better speakers we will take it to these guys for that work as well.


            The truck's brakes were one thing we couldn't keep ignoring, as they were pretty well shot by about September. Stopping briskly with four badly warped rotors on brake pads worn down below the "wear indicators" made for dash shaking, nervous stops in traffic, and this only got worse when the bed was loaded with hundreds of pounds of machined parts. We had to replace these old brake rotors and pads, but while we were at it I wanted to try to sneak in a brake upgrade, so I started some research.

            The old brakes were worn out and a bit undersized. The picture above is of the old 12.00" front rotors

            First I looked at the Baer "Eradispeed" GMT800 brake upgrade options. With their kit we could upgrade the front to a 14" rotor with just a spacer for the stock calipers and pay $505. Basically it was $500 for two rotors and two brackets, meh. The Baer rear kit is a 14" rotor as well, with what looks to be the same twin piston calipers we used below, for $1295. Ouch, that's $1800 for what amounts to little more than a rotor upgrade and the same twin pot calipers we eventually went to out back. Then it was time to look at what StopTech makes for this truck. Whoa, pretty... they have BBK for the front which uses 2-piece 15" rotors and their aftermarket 6-piston calipers, but it is a staggering $3595.... just for the fronts! I didn't find a Stoptech rear brake upgrade kit but at those prices I'm sure they make one. That's a little too rich for our parts runner.

            So the aftermarket Big Brake Kits (BBK) out there were too blingy and too costly, so I did some research looking for more cost effective, OEM based brake upgrades. We thought about using Gen I CTS-V 4-piston Brembo calipers but that would have entailed a lot of fabrication and I couldn't find any decent 14" or larger 6-lug rotors that would work without major modification or expense, so we scrubbed that.

            I was really hoping we could find a way to upgrade to the "Best of the GMT800" series brakes and do some quick and easy bolt-on parts swapping, which is what we did. I went to the GM truck forums to research... AHH! My eyes...!!! I cannot un-see some of the atrocities of bad taste that I saw there. So much noise, not much tech. After reading hundreds of posts mentioning brake upgrades (99% of which was garbage) I found a few potentially useful tidbits, then I poured through electronic parts catalogs where I found a pattern. I took some gambles and pulled the trigger on a number of OEM brake parts that should be better than what we have at both ends of the truck, yet not so expensive that they would break the bank. Once the new rotors and calipers arrived and we could then to test fit the various pieces and see if they really "bolted right on".

            As you can imagine, the half ton GMT800 series of trucks was made in very large numbers. The trucks were produced from 1999-2006 and the SUV versions (GMT820) extended all the way until 2009 (Hummer H2). GM continued to develop this chassis during it's long model run and the brake system received several tweaks during that period. Since this chassis was produced in many wheelbases (short cab/short bed like ours + extended cab, and crew cab with two bed lengths) and formats (truck, Tahoe/Yukon, Surburban/Yukon XL, Denali, Avalanche) there was a variety of brake rotors and calipers used.

            This GMT800 was the first GM 1/2 ton truck with 4 wheel disc brakes and 4 wheel ABS, which was a welcome addition. The 3/4 and 1 ton GMT800s had excellent brakes from the beginning but the 1/2 ton versions were a bit lacking from the start, with some improvements along the way. The major difference in the 1/2 ton and 3/4 + 1 ton trucks was the difference of 6 lug vs 8 lug hubs, so these 1/2 ton trucks cannot easily upgrade to the "big truck" 8-lug brakes. But we did some digging and found out what works.

            Left: The old single piston rear caliper is shown next to the dual piston version. Right: Note rear rotor thickness changes

            For the rear the later SUVs (Tahoe/Yukon) went to a thicker 13" diameter ventilated rear disc (from 20mm up to 29mm thick) and from a single piston sliding caliper to a twin piston sliding caliper. From what the interweb forums say this "all just bolts on", but as always I was very skeptical. Turns out it mostly did swap over, with some small tweaks and changes to the backing plate dust shields. We had to order new calipers and sliders to go with the correct thicker rotors, of course. The thicker discs and new calipers made for a tricky brake pad selection, though, as the pad shape is the wider and there were two thicknesses of the pads to choose from. It actually took ordering 3 different sets of pads before we got the right stuff, due to one mis-boxed set from one of our wholesale suppliers.

            The front brakes were a bit trickier to upgrade, but we got it handled with a few extra parts deliveries and several pad test fits. From our catalog searches we noticed that there was a larger diameter front rotor available on the last 2 years of GMT800 truck production, going from 12.0" to 13.0" in diameter with the same 29mm thickness. This larger 13" rotor was only on the later trucks that had rear drum brakes, which GM reverted to for some unknown reason. We assume to make up for that rear drum brake "downgrade" they upgraded the front brake diameter - hey, it is fine by me, as it gave us a significant bolt-on front brake upgrade.

            continued below
            Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:19 AM.
            Terry Fair -
            2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
            EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


            • #7
              Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

              continued from above

              The original front calipers were already a twin piston sliding caliper but we had to upgrade those as well as the slider assembly, to move them and the pad outboard 1/2" to match the 1" larger diameter of the rotor. We went through several more sets of front brake pads before finding the right one for that (multiple pad shapes and thicknesses). As we also found there was a substantial brake hose change as well, which the forums neglect to mention.

              I asked Kyle to mock up the front and rear discs and calipers first before we started chasing after the correct pads. Of course this is our shop truck and I wanted it to be a bit more "showy" so I ordered the red powder coated Powerslot versions of the calipers/sliders as well as the slotted/drilled/zinc plated Powerslot versions of the rotors. It is a little blingy but hey, that's part of the upgrade path on our shop truck.

              That's the dimensions on the front and rear rotors we went from and to, above. The front rotors on the typical 4 wheel disc GMT800 were this 12.00" diameter x 1.18" (29mm) thick 6-lug unit. The 13.00" x 29mm front rotor were picked up plus the matching caliper slider brackets and new front calipers as well. Going up a full inch in diameter is huge. Maybe we could have used the old front calipers (although they look fairly different) but with 240K miles I wasn't going to chance it, so instead of rebuilding the old stuff I got the matching '05-06 13" rotor's calipers. On the rear there was a tiny rotor diameter increase but the later GMT800 SUVs had that much thicker rear rotor, going from 20mm to 29mm thick. These SUV rear discs were also equipped with twin piston sliding caliper instead of the normal single piston units, so we got these calipers plus the matching slider brackets.

              I suppose we could have gone Centric Premium rotors for a few bucks less per corner, but it wasn't much more cost to bling it up a bit with the "Powerstop" versions. The Powerstop rotors are slotted and drilled (and the holes are heavily chamfered) and included a silver "clear zinc" electroplating over the entire rotor surface. I'm not so keen on the drilled holes part, but a plated rotor is nice, as it doesn't immediately start to rust on the hub face and other areas where an unplated cast iron rotor would (just look at the old rotors at the top of my post). These are all fully rebuilt calipers so they have new dust boots and caliper seals, and came with the pad retention clips. And they look purdy...

              The mock-up of one front and rear corner (see above) with the rotors, slider brackets and calipers went well so I had the guys move ahead and order brake pads. Lots of deliveries later... three sets of rear pads and two sets of front pads is what it took to get the right shape and thickness, and we noted the part numbers to use. We ended up with Brembo ceramic pads which stop quietly and work dead cold.

              Left: The rear dust shields need to be trimmed or removed to clear the larger calipers. Right: Front brake flex hose was totally different

              A few other things needed to be changed for a 100% perfect brake install. First thing I noticed when I looked at the rear calipers and rotors was a pinched dust shield. Since the twin piston caliper is longer the normal "cut out" section for the old caliper was too small. I had the guys just trim the old dust shield to fit the longer rear calipers, but if we were to do this again we would order new OEM rear dust shields from the later SUV we robbed the rotor and calipers from. Next, I had a feeling the front brake flex lines might be a tad short, which became obvious on a trial run checking lock-to-lock turning. The 13.0" front disc versions of these flex hoses were several inches longer and routed completely differently on the control arm, so we got new lines from the later front disc/rear drum 1/2 ton truck and they bolted on perfectly. The guys then bled fresh DOT 3 brake fluid through the system and off we went on a test drive.

              Left: New rear with thicker 13" rotors and upgraded twin piston calipers. Right: Upgraded front 13.0" (+1.0") diameter Powerstop rotor and caliper

              Ryan noted a "long pedal" on the stops during his test drive but this truck always had a long and mushy pedal, so the new set-up might be suffering from a worn out master cylinder. We will swap to the later SUV master cylinder and see if that helps alter the hydraulic proportioning for the extra rear caliper pistons that were added, but it could just be a crappy 240K mile master cylinder showing its age. The pedal is finally firm, just a little long on travel. The truck STOPS VERY WELL now, with smoother and shorter stops than we've ever seen. Very happy with the results after a week of driving it, too.

              The shop truck as of December 3rd, with the new 13" slotted/drilled/plated brake rotors and red Powerstop calipers

              All told we spent around $700 for all of the parts, which included new rotors, calipers, sliders, pads and lines. Installation would take about 3 hours of labor, if you had all of the right parts to start with (which we didn't this first time, heh). This brake upgrade was considerably less costly than the cheapest BBKs we could find, and the fit and function was perfect. If anyone is interested we might offer this brake system upgrade for other GMT800 trucks like our's. After we do the SUV master cylinder update (near future) we will see if the pedal shortens up a bit, at which time we will offer this kit for sale.

              WHAT'S NEXT?

              So I've been sticking this "What's Next" section in all of my project posts lately... what is the next mod, event, planned repair, etc? Well this truck still needs some repair work, and the budget for upgrades to this truck is getting tighter, so its hard to say what the next thing will be. The new windshield we installed back in May took a solid rock hit at 75 mph on the GWB Turnpike less than 3 weeks after it was installed and cracked badly, so that needs to be re-replaced, yay. The rear drop shackles that somebody previously installed are still sticking and clunking within 2 days of being greased, so we have got to look at that.

              I'd still really like to get lower the altitude a bit more with drop spindles, new rear springs and a C-notch kit installed on the frame, and for some light towing it has to get some helper air bags... it just snowballs from there. That set of upgrades is going to keep getting pushed back until we do some more pressing repairs. The drivetrain is starting to show its age, and with over 240,000 miles it should likely get some attention before we throw any more optional upgrades to it. The 4L60-E 4-speed automatic transmission is giving me hints that it needs a rebuild, but we will try a trans fluid and filter change first. And the 5.3L motor is just feeling a little tired. This 1999 model had the earliest and least powerful (1999-2003 5.3 made 285 hp) version of the 5.3L "LM7" V8, so almost anything newer would be an upgrade (even the smaller 4.8L made the same 285 hp from 2004-2006). I'd really like to get a fresh longblock into this truck, and it would be really nice to use an all-aluminum 5.7L LS1 block from a Camaro or Corvette while we're at it (350 hp) for a power boost, too. Honestly I have a lot more plans for this truck than there is money to pay for them, so we'll just deal with issues as they come.

              Left: The larger 13" diameter rotors still look small inside 20" wheels. Right: An aluminum LSx longblock would save 80+ pounds

              The biggest hangup I still have is the hideous aftermarket front grill insert, which has to go. As I mentioned earlier I want to upgrade to the later 2003-06 GMC front grill, which means a new bumper and lower fascia are needed as well (the lower shape of the GMC grill is different from 2003-2006). And all of the lights on the front (headlights, turns, fogs) on this truck are frosty and/or broken, and with the replacement bits are so cheap we might as well upgrade those at the same time. We can get all of this from the aftermarket for fairly cheap, except for the GMC logo which you can only get from a dealer. I have the new GMC logo (which was missing on this truck), just need to spend another $350 or so to get all of the rest of the new front end parts, then the plastic lower fascia will need paint. Then I'd have to decide if we are going to keep this body color (that I hate), or respray the whole truck in a different hue? That's an expensive decision so I will keep kicking the can down the road in the mean time.

              Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:20 AM.
              Terry Fair -
              2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
              EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


              • #8
                Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

                I'm surprised you wouldn't want the yukon Denali front end? Projector low beams with 9005 (high beam) bulbs, clear lens appearance, smoother looking bumper cover.

                I think these SUVs also had hydroboost instead of vacuum for the brake booster.

                Last edited by Fair!; 01-13-2014, 11:22 AM. Reason: inserted smaller picture
                02 Golf TDI 306,000 miles


                • #9
                  Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

                  Originally posted by HIDGolf View Post
                  I'm surprised you wouldn't want the yukon Denali front end? Projector low beams with 9005 (high beam) bulbs, clear lens appearance, smoother looking bumper cover.

                  Several people have suggested this same front end, but that Denali front grill and headlights just don't suit my personal taste. The headlights are a little too "JDM" and the egg crate grill seems too busy. This is a popular upgrade to GMC trucks, though.
                  Terry Fair -
                  2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
                  EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


                  • #10
                    Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

                    Project Update for Jan 22, 2014: Not a big update here, just a long overdue front end makeover for our shop parts hauler, Truck Norris.

                    2003-UP FRONT GRILL UPGRADE + NEW HEADLIGHTS

                    If you've read the previous installments you know that this 1999 GMC Sierra has an aftermarket front grill which I hate. This has been the most embarrassing part on this truck since we acquired it, and I've had to look past this eyesore every time I drove it. Instead of making this the first modification, we've instead been focusing on performance and suspension maintenance and upgrades. Now the the truck goes, stops and turns better we can finally spend a little time and money on the front end.

                    Left: Before, with the hideous aftermarket "billet" style grill and chrome '99-02 surround. Right: After, with the '03-06 grill + new lights

                    I just couldn't take it anymore. The 1990s era "billet grill" that some previous owner installed was just too tacky and had to come off. I really would have preferred to get a 2003-06 GMC to start with, but this truck we found was such a good deal and it was the rare short bed / single cab / 5.3L / RWD package that proved very elusive to find. So I settled on this 1999 with the intent of upgrading to the '03-06 front end at some point.

                    The only difference in the 1999-2006 model GMC 1/2 ton was the front end; finding the SWB model was tough

                    I searched the land of interwebs for a deal, high and low, but finally settled on getting the non-chrome '03-06 reproduction GMC grill from fleaBay for $99 shipped. This was considerably less than many other sources, once you factored in shipping. And I skipped the chrome, as I am not a fan of that super shiny coating. The more chrome removed from this truck the happier I am. This unit is a grey outer section with black horizontal bars, which matched the base model Sierra of that 2003-06 model run.

                    We also picked up new headlights and turn signal lights, with new bulbs, which came to about $80 shipped. The factory headlights were all foggy and half the bulbs were burned out, and the parts were too cheap to replace rather than polishing the old surfaces. The "GMC" emblem is a closely guarded product that you can only buy new from GM, so we got one from a local GMC dealer. Even with our wholesale account it was still $65, ouch! But there's nothing else I'd rather have to fill that hole in the grill, and it sets off the front of the truck well.

                    The old billet looking aftermarket grill will be for sale on CraigsList later today, if you have to have one. Asking price: fifty bucks. These things sell for $300+ new.

                    Olof handled the grill and headlight swap in under an hour. This 2003-06 GMC Sierra grill bolted on without any issues on this 1999 model GMC. If you look closely you can see that the angled lower edge of center section of the new grill doesn't quite match the rounded opening of the lower 1999-02 bumper.

                    You can see the difference side-by-side with Ed's '03 GMC 3500 at left next to Truck Norris with the '03 grill and the 1999 lower bumper, at right. The rest of the parts totaled over $400 for the newer lower bumper, lower fascia, fog lights, brackets and all the rest. Shipping was the major killer there. So I punted, took a gamble, and tried the new grill with the old bumper. Didn't know if it would work, or if it bolted on, how it would look. In the end it is hardly noticeable, and its a shipload better than before.

                    Ideally I will go to some local body supply place like Certifit (who doesn't list prices online and doesn't ship) and pick up the non-chrome '03-06 lower bumper and fascia parts, soon. The body colored fascia piece will need paint (dilemma - do we stick with this champagne color?) and the steel bumper piece will need powder coat. The plan is to have the chrome bits all powder coated the same charcoal grey as the wheels, so at least we know where that is going.

                    While we were doing the grill swap Brandon got a shot of the fat Taylor 409 Spiral Pro Race spark plug wires, shown above. You can see the American Racing Headers full length stainless headers in this shot as well. We sell all of this stuff, so if you see something you like, give us a shout.

                    WHAT'S NEXT?

                    We had a freak cold snap and wicked ice storm a few weeks back - not something we are used to in Dallas. I had fun hooning around in Truck Norris on nearly deserted roads that day, but I admit there was some difficulty leaving from a stop light on ice with the "one wheel peel". A limited slip differential upgrade needs to happen soon, then we have some other tuning work that needs to be done. The engine is running rough at idle when its cold, so we need to track that down.

                    There are some other small updates that are bugging me, like the fact that we don't have a mic on the Alpine head unit, so I cannot do hands-free calls. That's a safety issue that I am going to see fixed, and soon. I'd love to rebuild the trans and stick in a hotter LSx motor, but with 8 vehicles now I have to stick to a tighter budget than ever on the GMC. Everything in its time.

                    Thanks for reading,
                    Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:22 AM.
                    Terry Fair -
                    2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
                    EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


                    • #11
                      Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800

                      Originally posted by Fair! View Post
                      ...Ed's '03 GMC 3500...
                      FYI...My truck is a 2005.

                      You should fact check before posting.


                      • #12
                        Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800 (Truck Norris!)

                        Project Update for June 5, 2015: Wow, been a few months and we've finally gotten around to some updates to Truck Norris. A nagging "CEL" has been repaired, the truck was custom dyno tuned (which fixed a bunch of issues), we got yet another new windshield (freagin rocks!), and some busted lights were replaced. Let's cover it...

                        CUSTOM DYNO TUNE AT TRUE STREET

                        So Truck Norris has been running progressively worse for months, and we've had a Check Engine Light since we put the headers and new exhaust on. I know why, and we knew it would happen, but I figured I'd get the truck custom tuned at some point to work with the mods that it has (cold air + full length headers). The state inspection finally ran out, and I had to get it tuned before it would pass again, so I finally called the folks at True Street Motorsports and got an appointment to bring it in a couple of weeks ago. These are the guys that have tuned our 2011 Mustang GT so well, and we send all manner of cars and trucks their way for EFI tuning.

                        As I try to do when getting work done by any outside shop I made them a list of the mods we knew the truck had, the problems we were experiencing, how we used the truck, and sent a copy via email when we scheduled the work + left a printed copy on the front seat to make sure they knew what we had and needed. I asked them to fix the CEL, dyno tune the engine/air/fuel/spark, up the line pressure in the automatic trans (it was slipping a bit), see why it had crappy fuel mileage, calibrate the speedo for these 20" tires, and see if they could tame the cold start hunting idle. They also knew to tune for cheaper 87 octane fuel, daily driving and hauling around heavy loads from time to time. I wasn't looking for a race tune, just a good safe street tune. The current state of tune on the motor was a total mess... but they did their magic!

                        As you can see from the dyno sheet above there were some issues with the (before) stock tune when coupled with the K&N cold air and ARH headers, plus our custom exhaust. A previous owner had installed a different set of headers (craptastic and leaking Edlebrock shorties), a janky exhaust, and the K&N cold air... tens if not hundreds of thousands of miles ago. After so many years of abuse the actual air filter element was old, dirty and had a big hole in it (which I hadn't seen - doh!). They called before they replaced the filter, which I thanked them for finding, then did a base line pull. They said the fuel trims were off by 25%, with the engine running lean and the computer trying like mad to get it all sorted via the O2 readings.

                        I daily drive this truck from home to work, then it gets used in deliveries, and our mixed but consistent city/highway fuel mileage had been steadily dropping from around 14-15 mph to 11-12 mpg of late (I log every fuel fill up and calculate the mileage over each tank), so I knew something was wrong - even considering the speedo was off by about 8% due to our tire height change from stock. After the custom dyno tune the engine picked up 13 whp at the peak, but more importantly it RUNS 100 times better. I've been driving it for about 2 weeks and it is an entirely different experience.

                        Sure, it only makes 260 whp and 300 ft-lbs at the tires, but its literally the weakest 5.3L engine GM ever made and was only rated at 285hp at the crank, stock. It also has racked up over 245,000 miles. I'm just happy that it still runs, holds most of its fluids inside the engine, and gets me to work every day without fail. After the re-tune it feels a lot crisper on throttle, the transmission isn't slipping, and the idle speed is rock solid, hot or cold.

                        They only had the truck in for tuning for a day, and the fuel level was low after they were done, so I filled up the tank on the way back from True Street. After driving all over town for about a week and a half, it had gone through 19.55 gallons of 87 octane. With the speedo now calibrated (which hurt our numbers) the truck still managed 15.65 mpg on that tank, compared to 12.73 mpg on the previous tank (and the trend of 11-12 mpg had gone back for months in my fuel log). Lots of people drove the GMC over that week, including me, Brandon, Brad, Shannon, and one of our customers Marc - who all had driven it before, and each remarked at how much better it ran and drove. Good stuff.

                        NEW WINDSHIELD - NUMBER 3!

                        Over the time we've had this truck it has had a few rocks fly up at the windshield. It gets driven around Dallas and Ft. Worth to pick up and drop off parts from our various machine shops, platers/coaters, and other vendors. Often times it is driven in heavy traffic, through construction zones, you name it. I bought this truck with a giant crack in the windshield, which I had the folks at Titan Auto Glass replace last year. It was nice having a new windshield, as all of the tiny pock marks, chips and cracks become even more noticeable after you replace it with a perfect new piece of safety glass.

                        The new windshield wasn't in the truck for THREE WEEKS before it was ruined. I was driving on GBT going 70 mph and a big 18 wheeler kicked up a huge rock and POW! It popped the front glass on the passenger side and I watched as this fixable chip progressed into an 18" long crack over the next 30 minutes of my drive. GRR! Just figures.

                        Once again, the new state inspection was looming so I had a good excuse to get the windshield replaced. And Jason's 8.1L GMT800 truck just had a huge rock impact in it's front glass also, so we called Titan and they brought two identical new front windshields and changed them both the same day.

                        We pressed the "easy button" and called Titan to do their thing. Both GMT800 trucks had brand new, quality replacement windshields within about 90 minutes. We will also replace the huge, gaudy front "" windshield banner with something new.


                        Most GMT800 trucks came with running lights in the USA, as part of some Daylight Running Light safety program. The trucks either came with the main headlights on during daylight or with small clear lenses that illuminate inside of the amber parking lights.

                        Well this truck had the smaller Daylight Running Lights, and one was burned out when I bought it. This is super common in the GMT800 series, as my 2002 1500HD had the "cyclops" look for the entire time I owned it (and after trying a new bulb it wouldn't work). Come to find out these trucks often had this light bulb sockets burn out, with some crappy GM wiring or metal fixture in the socket that would always get friend - usually on one side. If you know what to look for you will see hundreds of these GMT800 trucks with one DLR that is always out.

                        When we replaced the front lights and grill last time I had hoped to fix this issue with new bulbs, but of course that wasn't it. So I ordered the light bulb socket above (ACDelco LS94 Daytime Running Lamp Socket) for $16, and asked our guys to replace it. I also ordered a pair of 3157 style LED bulbs to replace the old ones. I looked for something better than the standard incandescent bulbs and decided to try some "super bright" LED replacement bulbs that were "very white". There was an amazing number of these cheap LED bulbs available with anywhere from 12 to 68 "SMD" LEDs on mounted onto a cluster that mimics the 3157 bulb's shape. Most were $1-2 each, almost all of them shipped from China, and the customer reviews were generally TERRIBLE. I picked one of the 68-SMD units that had 3.5 stars, which was relatively high for these units, for $2.15 for the pair.

                        It turns out that the bulb socket wasn't bad, and Brad was able to repair the stock socket with a little fiddling (one of the connectors had been mashed down and wasn't making contact). They installed the two LED 3157 bulbs, and, well... they look awful. Nothing even remotely approaching "white light", instead its much more "blue" and just turrible. So if you learn anything from this it is: check the socket to see if it can be fixed, and don't buy these cheesy LED bulbs.

                        One of our fabricators, Olof, picked up a GMT800 Short Bed Short Cab Chevy a few months back and it looks pretty slick. He bought the truck with the mods shown and it is riding on OEM Chevy 20" truck wheels, is lowered several inches at both ends, and has a Chevy 4.8L V8 under the hood. He's already replaced the steering rack and done some other repairs, so I'll include any updates to Olof's Chevy in the Truck Norris thread when I do updates from now on. Of the 10 people that work at Vorshlag, 3 of us own GMT800 trucks now (me, Olof and Jason).

                        Last but not least is a Raptor vs Truck Norris comparison. One of our friends (Nathan) picked up this 6.2L Raptor from our local Ford sales guru Corey White and it is damned nice. But, the interesting thing is, Truck Norris gets better fuel mileage, weighs a crapload less, and costs about 1/10th of what the Raptor did. And our GMC has wider tires... so there!

                        WHAT'S NEXT?

                        That's all for this time. We still have lots of little things to tweak and update, and someday I'll get around to drop spindles up front and a C-notch kit out back to get MOAR LOW.

                        With a current inspection sticker, custom engine tuning, and a new windshield, Truck Norris is looking better than ever

                        Last edited by Fair!; 07-03-2017, 09:24 AM.
                        Terry Fair -
                        2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
                        EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


                        • #13
                          Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800 (Truck Norris!)

                          Project Update for July 24, 2016: It has been over a year since my last update, and Truck Norris has racked up tens of thousands of mostly trouble-free miles. We have done very little maintenance on this truck in that period, which is is frankly... a little embarrassing. You know how it goes.. we've been busy at the shop, and I haven't had the manpower, time or money to do much to my old shop truck. Recently I hired a new technician / fabricator (Donnie), and he had a few hours of time available while waiting on parts for billable customer work... and I had a pile of parts for Truck Norris that need to be installed. He only spent a half day but knocked out a TON of much needed repairs in July. There were also a couple of things done since my last post last year - an oil change, window switch, and one tie rod - but nothing else. Most of this below happened in one day, and man it made me happy to get this truck back in tip top shape!

                          Over the past year since my last post Truck Norris has carried me to work 7 days a week, hauled transmissions, transferred up pallets of machined and laser cut parts, and taken wheels and tires all over town. Almost 30K miles worth of hard work, never driven easy, because I'm always in a damn hurry, LOL! In mixed driving it has gotten between 15-17 mpg, which considering how much city driving I do, is pretty good. I even took this truck on a few trips out of town (100-200 miles away), which was risky considering how much maintenance had been deferred. But now we fixed a lot of that, so it is now longer a worry - I'd hop in this truck now and drive it to Alaska, no sweat.

                          As you will read below, I had "pushed" a lot of issues out of mind on this truck. This is not at all how we treat customer cars, or even our own shop race cars. This truck is like the honey badger - it just doesn't care if we change the oil, or ignore other maintenance issues. Mostly these things little things have just been slowly driving me insane. Owning a motorsports business is not a great way to make "mountains of gold", so this truck has been the last thing that gets worked on. Poor old Truck Norris has been ignored for the entirety of the last year - hell, its been 14 months since the last oil change! Shameful.

                          I also haven't had a lot of time to properly document many of our continuing build threads since January, after I took over our purchasing & service invoicing position 6 months ago. I still work a lot of hours but cannot seem to find the time to update our forum build threads properly - trying to rectify that today! I've posted several "This Week At Vorshlag" videos which cover some of the highlights of a few projects (see our YouTube channel) but Truck Norris here has been ignored completely on those. So why not, let's do a quick and dirty update on the Vorshlag Shop Truck right now.

                          ABS & SECURITY SYSTEM ISSUES + NEW TIE ROD

                          The ABS system started bugging out about 2 years ago, mostly during rainy days. Seemed like something was getting wet and causing this pair of warning lights (below) to pop up. When that happened the ABS stopped working completely - not that it ever works all that well. I'm convinced GM doesn't know how to make an ABS system worth a damn (ask me how easily I can ICE MODE the brakes on a modern Corvette or Camaro).

                          All of the "internet wisdom" on the truck forums said to replace the ABS Control Module, so we ordered the Dorman remanufactured unit above. Nearly $300 but at least it is somewhat easy to replace.

                          The ABS hydraulic unit is mounted under the cab, next to the fuel filter. The ABS control module is the bit bolted on top, in the image above. My guys replaced this late in 2015, but we had a bit of a dry spell, and the warning lights never came on again. Sure enough, a few months later when it rained, the ABS failure lights were back. Now they are on about 1/3rd of the time, even on dry days. So yea, we're still chasing that one. So this issue has been "pushed" for now. I always brake early for everything in the wet, and most vehicles built for the past 100 years didn't have ABS systems, either. Meh.

                          Another PITA little nagging issue that cropped up in 2015 was the "SECURITY" light shown above. This is a failure in the Vehicle Anti Theft System that GM uses on all of their cars. The system (and its many failings) is detailed online, but it was bugging and the light kept coming flashing... flashing... Sometimes this was followed by a failure to start - you would turn the key in the ignition and nothing would happen. Some communication with the ECM and the key or some garbage? It left me stranded a couple of times, but if you sat and waited 10-15 minutes it would crank back up. Usually only did this when its 100 degrees outside, so you can sweat while you wait. Yay! Sometimes when I tried a second key it would start. Why? Who knows.

                          One internet theory was that some wiring in the column gets chafed. I took the column cover off (pin head or "Security" Torx bits needed) and checked everything - no worn wires, no shorts. I finally got fed up with it and asked Sean from True Street Motorsports to hook up to the ECM and just turn the damned VATS system off in the programming. The light still comes on at random times, but it hasn't "not started" since he did that bit of programming. Thanks Sean!

                          Another thing that was fixed back in January of 2016 was a front tie rod. This had a worn out ball joint end for months, and the wobble on the left front wheel had gotten so bad I couldn't stand it. Checked it out, ordered the replacement part, and Olof swapped that in. The left front tire had taken a beating during that time and had worn the inside into cords, so it was replaced - just the one tire.

                          Why just the one? Well the other 3 tires were still in OK shape and I didn't want to replace the rest until I decided if I wanted to keep this tire and wheel size. The ride quality has been worsening and wasn't sure if the 20" wheels were the right option long term (I waffled between 18" and 20" wheel choices when I bought this set of Forgestars). So just one tire, sort of a "push" until the rest of the tires got worse or I managed to get a new set of something better than "Generals". I'd like to have a new set of Michelin LTX tires (the best highway truck tires made) which are about $217/each, nearly double what these cheap-o General GRABBER UHP tires cost ($125/each). But you "get what you pay for" when it comes to truck tires. Always. Even when it comes to car tires, it is hard to beat the performance / ride / quality of Michelin. They just seem to be at the top of their game right now...

                          STEREO AMP & INTERIOR ISSUES

                          The years haven't being so kind to old Truck Norris here. Several interior bits have broken or fallen off in the last year... hey, its an 18 year old work truck, after all.

                          I need to replace those bits above + the steering wheel cover, when I have the time and budget. I've had bigger issues of late so those have been a "push" for now. Just typical "old car stuff" on a truck nearing 300K miles.

                          The worst part of the interior in this truck since I have owned it has been the steering wheel. The top of the leather cover has baked in the sun for nearly two decades, which dries out the material and causes cracks. A previous owner must have picked at this cover unconsciously and has shredded the top bits. Now watch this video on steering wheel wrap styles.

                          As I researched ways to make Truck Norris' (and another car I'm working on) steering wheel nice, I found that there are some really nice, custom leather steering wheel cover "kits" you can buy to install and stitch yourself. These come in two varieties: perimeter wraps, and OEM fit wraps. The perimeter wrap kits, like this brand, are "semi-universal", and fit around the perimeter of the wheel but do not go into the spokes. These can be customized ($50-150 for leather) and are relatively cheap. They can be installed by a DIY guy in a couple of hours, but it doesn't look even remotely factory, and depends heavily on your own skill.

                          The OEM fit wrap kits made much more closely to the OEM shapes, and can also be customized, for around $150-250 for the kits alone. These can take 5-10 man hours to install properly, require a LOT more skill, and frankly are not appropriate for a DIY install. But they do look very nice. Again, watch the video above to see what the differences is and how they are done. "Ain't nobody got time fo that!" There are companies that offer this as a service - you remove your steering wheel, ship it to the shop, and have these OEM kits installed. This can cost from $250-1000. The cheaper priced services have the installation work done mostly done in Eastern Europe, for what it's worth. You could be without a steering wheel for weeks or months, in that case. As with anything, you get what you pay for.

                          The third route to rewrap a crusty or torn steering wheel is a slip-on cover, and this seems more appropriate for Truck Norris. These can range from REALLY crappy looking to not-quite-as-crappy. I just bought the $21 leather steering wheel cover above for Jack Daniels, our BMW 325Ci. Installing this took some effort but stretched over the OEM steering wheel with two sets of hands in about 2 minutes (Pro Tip - halfway install these and let it sit in the sun for an hour, warming it up and making it more pliable). It doesn't look half as bad as the old, ripped up steering wheel leather on that BMW. I'll probably measure this truck's wheel and order one like this soon. Make sure you get the right outer diameter to fit your wheel.

                          The power window on one side was very slow then eventually stopped working late last year but this new window switch assembly fix that right up. The felts are worn out on that passenger window, too, and it has ripped up the window tint on that side. One more thing that needs to be restored, one more "push".

                          The damned radio stopped working in 2015, which is slowly driving me insane. One day the speakers made this loud POP! noise and then... nothing. The lights on the Alpine head unit come on, but the amp is dead and at least two of the speakers are blown.

                          I'm no audiophile, but I have racked up a lot of miles in this truck in the last year, spending most of that time with no working radio. Instead I use my phone on a dash mount to listen to streaming music + my navigation app, but the volume and sound quality is as bad as you might expect. And with no hands free Bluetooth phone connection any longer, its a hassle / danger to make or answer calls.

                          I haven't installed a car stereo since high school, and that one was a cassette deck... so its been a few decades, and I'm a bit rusty. The proper radio fix is "simple": give a bunch of money to a stereo shop (I got quotes from $1000+) to replace the amp and speakers. Option 2 is to rip out this old aftermarket amplifier, aftermarket speaker box, and blown factory speakers, replace the factory speakers with new units, and re-wire the entire radio and speaker wiring in the truck (where the internal amp in the head unit drives the speakers). Due to costs or time, neither of these options has been high on my list, so another "push" until I get the motivation. But soon....

                          OIL CHANGES? WHO NEEDS EM!

                          I used to be good about maintaining my own cars and trucks, but as my free time has dwindled down to zero and the shop stays busy on customer work, my vehicles seem to be the last ones worked on. What do they say, "a Cobblers children have no shoes"? That's so true...

                          I make sure and get a picture of any work on this truck, and the last oil change was May of 2015. Holy crap, that's terrible... at least it is synthetic. And "luckily" about a quart leaks/burns off every month, so its been sort of changing itself, you could say. We checked it last week and it was 2 freagin quarts low - good grief! Fixing the leaks on a 275K engine is kind of pointless, though, and we have another built LSX engine I would like to install in this truck soon. So another "push"...

                          continued below
                          Last edited by Fair!; 07-30-2016, 02:49 PM.
                          Terry Fair -
                          2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
                          EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


                          • #14
                            Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800 (Truck Norris!)

                            continued from above

                            REPAIR WORK JULY 2016

                            After a year... OK two years of deferred maintenance, this happened last week:

                            Massive transmission fluid leak that, after 3 days, just wasn't seeming to fix itself. Where are those magic leprechauns when you need them??? Luckily I had just hired a new mechanic that knows GM vehicles well, and he diagnosed the issue minutes after he got the truck up on a lift.

                            Apparently a transmission hard line had worn through where it was rubbing on the oil pan for the last 18 years. It leaked enough to cover the underside of the truck in trans fluid... yay. Guess its not gonna rust anytime soon, so that is a bonus.

                            After ordering a new pre-bent trans cooler hard line from one of our suppliers ($17.10) and some new retaining clips for both ends ($10), the busted line was replaced in mere minutes. It needed 4 quarts of trans fluid, so that was added. While its up in the air I gave Donnie a pile of parts I had been accumulating and asked him to install "whatever you can by noon". After that I needed him back on a customer job.

                            The fuel level gauge has been psychotic for over a year, going from dead empty (with accompanying "LOW FUEL" light flashing, switching between that and the constant "SECURITY" light) to sometimes showing the actual fuel level reading. Lately it hasn't worked properly even 10% of the time, so I just use the trip odometer to gauge my fuel range. I had purchased the Dorman 2630370 replacement fuel pump / level sensor almost a year ago, but one of my former technicians said he needed to pull the bed to access the tank to fix this. I didn't want to tie up the shop for a whole damned day just to fix the fuel level gauge so I "pushed" this repair on my truck for almost a year.

                            Donnie knew the proper procedure, however, which was much easier than that. First he removed the rear of the driveshaft from the axle, lowering that out of the way. Then put our telescoping transmission transmission jack under the fuel tank. Disconnected the filler neck and dropped the tank down 2 feet, full of fuel and still connected. Then he could access the top and pull out the older pump assembly. He had this replaced in 20 minutes, hot damn! I told him to keep going.

                            One major suspension issue that has been broken since I bought this truck 3.5 years ago were the rear lowering shackles. These were installed by a previous owner to lower the rear ride height about 2 inches, so they are about 2" longer than the stock bits. These had polyurethane bushings instead of rubber, and they had worn out ages ago - before I bought this truck. Every time you came to a stop the shackles would articulate (as normal) but would get STUCK. The back of the truck would stay up a couple of inches. Then when you drove away from a stop the rear end would BANG back down, after the shackles unstuck. It was driving me crazy, like so many things on this old truck.

                            It was hard to tell with these installed, but the shackles were actually sticking sideways a bit, twisting the rear leaf springs when they rotated. The rear shackles need to articulate slightly during suspension travel, but when they get stuck (constantly) it degraded the ride quality - badly. Part of the problem with buying a modified vehicle with a lot of miles on it is you don't know exactly what they have done, and which parts of what quality they used.

                            I didn't really want to chase down and re-purchase the janky aftermarket lowering shackles they had used before, so I took a chance and purchased OEM length shackles last year (2 qty Dorman 722029, $19.32 each). The trailer hitch had to come off to get the bolts out (which were installed backwards), but then the new Dorman parts were installed with the new hardware the correct way. Bushings were fresh, lengths were OEM correct for this truck. Another seemingly hard fix that turned out to be easy. I'm not an experienced truck mechanic, but it sure helps to have a guy on staff that knows these trucks.

                            He checked all of the rest of the front suspension ball joints, and surprisingly they were all in good shape - no excessive movement when pushed with a pry bar. All 4 wheels and tires were re-balanced (finding a thrown weight - which are all now secured with aluminum tape) and rotating the tires front to back. That constant shimmy that was there at 60 mph before is now gone. Oh, and he checked the diff fluid and it was 1.5 quarts low, which he refilled - I think it only holds 3 quarts. One more think to plan for later.

                            Donnie was skilled in A/C repairs and he hooked up to, diagnosed, and fixed the busted A/C on the truck in less than 15 minutes. It hasn't worked worth a damn for over 6 months, but with a can of R134a it is back to freezing cold again. Right in time for 100F weather, too. He topped off the engine oil and had all of that finished before lunch, so my truck didn't tie up the shop all day.

                            WHAT'S NEXT?

                            That was a lot of fixes to Truck Norris in a half day, and it was well worth it. The ride quality is vastly improved (new shackles) and the rear end isn't getting "hung up" every time I come to a stop. The Air Con works again! The trans leak is fixed, diff fluid and engine oil topped off, the tires were re-balanced, and the fuel gauge now works. There is more to fix, of course.

                            The factory 5.3L V8 feels a bit more sluggish lately, maybe losing some compression, and its seeing more detonation as the ambient temps rise. It is definitely burning (and leaking) some oil, and with 275K miles it might finally be time to replace it. I have a fresh, fully race built LSX V8 left over from a previous project, which has an iron block. I can't put an iron block LS engine in any race car (its 80 pounds on the nose), so its been sitting there waiting to replace the worn out 5.3L in Truck Norris for a bit.

                            But the old 5.3L just keeps going and going, like the damned Energizer bunny! It leaks oil, knocks, and feels slower, but nothing else serious enough seems to go wrong with it. If we ever get the time to sneak this truck into the shop for a couple of days, I'll have the crew install that motor into this truck. The 275K mile 4L60E transmission is very much on its last legs, so it really needs to be replaced with a freshened and beefed up unit if we add a 400 whp engine to the truck, too. Just takes time and money.

                            This truck also needs a rear gear ratio change (its too tall, making the engine lug at highway speed - down shifting too much to maintain 70-80 mph) and a limited slip differential. That open diff has been a nuisance ever since I bought this truck. We have been using Donnie to do rear gear + differential setups for several years, and now that he is here as an employee we will use his talents to update this rear axle on Truck Norris, soon.

                            Radio has got to be fixed soon, and now the rear ride height is 2" taller again, with the OEM length rear shackles. That is making my eye twitch....

                            My buddy Jason's similar 2000 GMC 1500 has had the front end updated to a 2003 grill installed along with the 2003 bumper bits. I bought all of these parts ages ago but haven't them installed yet. I'll try to sneak the new 2003 black bumper and lower plastics onto my truck soon, along with a few other things I purchased that haven't been installed - like new door hinge pin repair kits, bed rail covers, and a later model tail gate cap. The paint is getting pretty rough on this truck, but I can't think about that right now. Too many other fires to put out on too many other projects. Already spent too much time writing this...

                            Last edited by Fair!; 07-30-2016, 02:59 PM.
                            Terry Fair -
                            2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
                            EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


                            • #15
                              Re: Vorshlag Shop Truck - 5.3L SWB GMT800 (Truck Norris!)

                              Something about your truck looks familiar...

                              Mine even came from Texas. It's a 2002 that I picked up on Ebay and drove from Jacksonville, FL to Dallas to pick up in 2004. Was supposedly a show truck for Boze wheels (hence the bling) that the owner lost in a divorce. The receipts for work and parts was more than what I paid for it. He was even nice enough to install a Vortech supercharger and prepay the XM radio. Anyway it's been a fun and reliable truck that I have no intention of getting rid of and it's time to show her some love so I have enjoyed reading about your progress.

                              Time is cruel to us all and this one is no exception....