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

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  • #31
    Project update for March 21st, 2020: We have been busy working on the #ShopTruck since the last update here in September of 2019 - we have a LOT to share this time. The ride height is a lot lower than before: a drop spindle and lowering spring up front + axle flip, c-notch and custom shocks out back. We completed the built 347" LS swap, radiator upgrade, electric fan conversion, an upgraded trans + stall convertor, custom remote reservoir rear dampers, 3.73 gears, Auburn Pro limited slip, tackled some interior work, LED bulbs, 20x11" wheel testing, lots of tuning trials and tribulations, and more. You might want to get some snacks and something to drink - this is a huge project update!

    FORGED 5.7L LS ENGINE UPGRADE

    Last time I talked about this 347" / 5.7L long block, that Erik of HPR built for me over a decade ago. Due to some mistakes on my part, this engine started life as a 4.8L iron block truck engine.



    This engine was disassembled, bored .125" over, and a "5.7L" stroke length LS crank + forged internals were swapped in to make it an iron block 5.7L LS - a combination that never existed from the factory. Even the aluminum 4.8/5.3L blocks can be over-bored to the 3.900" bore of the 5.7L LS, and the crank is a drop in.



    This had cathedral port heads shaved .030", a Scat 4340 crank with 3.622" stroke, LS1 I-Beam rods, Wiseco Pistons with the HPR ring package, and a hydraulic roller camshaft (224 intake / 224 exhaust). This engine made 355 whp in a previous project, but has been sitting, bagged on an engine stand for 8 years.



    Erik came by and we turned the motor over at the crank, which had no "sticksion" or issues. Evan then taped up the block and painted it gloss black with ceramic based engine paint. The proper "truck" balancer was installed, a new water pump and thermostat housing, and the 4-way steam crossover from the 5.3L truck engine that came out of TruckNorris.

    TRUCK OIL PAN - LESSON LEARNED

    While we were cleaning and prepping parts to go onto the built 5.7L engine, we re-used the Gen III truck 5.3L from my 99 GMC as well as ONE part from a Gen IV truck 5.3L (oil pan) we purchased for use in our Team Vorshlag endurance E46. Initially I cleaned up the newer Gen IV truck pan, then installed the the Gen III truck LS oil pan pickup onto the engine...



    The pickup was pushing the Gen IV oil pan "up" so far it wouldn't seal to the block, much less have the .250 to .300" clearance from the pick up screen to the bottom of the pan (which we check with clay). Evan noticed this and we started checking the pan depths.



    Turns out the later Gen IV LS truck oil pan (clean one, above left) is only 7-1/4" deep where the oil pump pick up sits. The Gen III truck LS pan (dirty one on the right) measured at 8" deep, which was what we needed. So I had to take that dirty Gen III pan to HPR and have it sonic cleaned, to match the look of the cleaned up front accessory brackets other parts from the old Gen III 5.3L truck engine form my 99 GMC.



    The picture above shows the Gen IV pan, which we later changed for the Gen III pan, but also shows all of the parts we cleaned up for this engine. This included the (Gen III) oil pan pickup, valve covers, fuel rails, flywheel, power steering pump & pulley, A/C bracket and alternator/power steering bracket. Most of these parts came off my 99 GMC 5.3L long block (which we showed coming out of that smashed truck, last time) and everything was COVERED in grease, grime, and oil. It took me some hours using the aqueous hot parts cleaner then the ultrasonic cleaner to get them all this clean.



    With everything cleaned up Evan got the longblock and accessories all bolted up. The oil pan and valve cover gaskets were replaced as were the idler pulleys and water pump. We re-used the alternator from the 5.3L and installed a brand new OEM replacement balancer. The last picture above shows the Dorman truck intake mocked up, but it still needed some clean-up work.

    INTAKE MANIFOLD UPGRADE

    We went back and forth on what intake manifold to use. Buy a Fast LSXR-T and then a 102mm throttle body, but that would then trigger the need for new fuel rails, cold air kit, and more. Then we looked at the Trail Blazer SS (TBSS) intake, which is the best of the OEM LS intakes, but that also required a 90mm TB, fuel rails, and more. Any of the LS2 / car style manifolds would not allow the throttle body to clear the drive accessories.



    I settled on this Dorman 615-183 truck intake made for the 1999-07 5.3L and 6.0L engines. At only $230 brand new from RockAuto it was hard to pass up. I refuse to use an old, nasty intake that is full of oil and grime when it is impossible to disassemble, to be able to clean it out properly.



    This Dorman is a new 3-piece intake manifold design that we can unbolt and pull apart - to clean or to "port", if needed. More importantly it is CLEAN - getting an old, oily intake clean again is more work than you think, especially a 1-piece OEM style unit. There are rumors that this one has some internal improvements, but without cutting open the old OEM unit we won't know.



    The base (above left) includes cathedral style ports and a 78mm throttle body inlet. I was hoping to be able to at least move to a 90mm TB, but I couldn't without spending 2-4x as much AND going to new fuel rails. I didn't want to mess with that at this time, so we went with this cost effective and NEW unit from Dorman. The upper portion (above right) clam shells down over the removable "lower runner" piece that itself snaps into the lower plenum/base section - shown below.



    There is a long O-ring that seals off the upper to the base unit. The port runners don't have (or need) a seal internally, but do have some plastic rails that engage into slots. If a little air bleeds from port to port inside the sealed plenum it doesn't matter. Overall it is a pretty slick little intake, except for two casting flaws.



    The first flaw is every port has this chunk of plastic that we had to grind/sand away, shown above. Every port is the same and we showed engine builder Erik - he wanted it gone. We did the same thing to the Dorman LS2 intake - which had the same exact flaw. It's almost as if they did it on purpose, but why we cannot fathom.



    Getting all 8 ports cleaned up and matched together (using the base and the lower port sections) took about an hour with a long arbor on a die grinder and some sanding rolls.



    The same tool was used to clean up the casting flash and weird transition from the throttle body opening to the plenum. The exit of this is still a sharp edged orifice, which air does not like to pass through cleanly, but there wasn't a great way to to smooth that out. The 3-bolt throttle body flange worked with the stock 78mm cable throttle body that this 2000 Chevy needs and is wired for. I wanted to keep it simple, remember?



    With the intake manifold prepped the rest of the longblock was wrapped up. Brand new engine mounts went on, as did some new sensors. An ICT oil pan bolt kit was purchased and that was used to install the oil pan with a new gasket to the 5.7L block.

    4.8L ENGINE EXTRACTION & 5.7L INSTALLATION



    The above prep work was done in September 2019 and by October 2019 we had a few days on the schedule open to pull the old 4.8L and install the built 5.7L. One of the many reasons for this upgrade was to solve a number of oil leaks from the engine.



    After 237K miles the oil pan was leaking, the valve covers leaked, the rear main seal leaked. And of course this early 4.8L was the weakest LS V8 that GM ever put in any truck, and it was getting tired. The transmission was starting to slip a little, too.



    With the transmission removed the intake manifold came off, then the radiator, fan and shroud. Then the engine mounts were unbolted from the crossmember and out it came.



    Surprisingly this dirty 4.8L and the 99 GMC's 5.3L long blocks sold for a decent amount. What can I say - "turbo people".



    The new 5.7L long block went back in then the Dorman intake and cleaned up 78mm throttle body went on with the fuel rails from the 5.3L. New serpentine belt and some other misc bits and pieces. At this point we kept the 19#/hr injectors (mistake) and stock fuel pump (mistake).



    Along with new engine mounts we installed a new Energy Suspension polyurethane trans mount. The old mount was cracked and nasty.



    The Dorman intake is still butt ugly with all of the tubes, cables, and wires that drape over the engine. Some cheap Mobil1 10W30 oil went in and the old 4L60 transmission went back into the truck with some fresh fluid and a filter (mistake). Various vacuum lines and "T" sections that were old and cracked were replaced.

    RADIATOR AND ELECTRIC FAN UPGRADE

    After the engine went in I had an aluminum radiator that I had purchased new for my 1999 GMC years ago that went into this white 2000 Silverado.



    Since I purchased this unit Mishimoto has jumped into the domestic car and truck radiator market - I would have bought one of those. Oh well, if the random eBay part shown here fails, I will buy the Mishi.



    The radiator install was pretty painless - it all bolted in. This unit had provisions for the in-tank radiator cooler, shown above right. Evan kept the factory hard lines from the trans hooked up to this.



    One of the things that bugged me about both GMT800s I've owned was the giant, noisy mechanically driven "clutch fan" for the radiator. When we were pulled the 5.3L out of the smashed 1999 GMC (above) I had the guys look for a suitable electric fan that we might have in the shop. We had a couple of the S197 Coyote 5.0L powered Mustang electric fan assemblies - which we often remove and replace with a slimmer electric version to help with hood venting. This is a beefy electric fan that cools an OEM 420+ hp engine, so it should do fine in this truck - if it can be made to fit.



    The truck radiator is SUPER wide but the height was pretty spot on, as you can see in the first mock-up of this in the 2000 Silverado, above left. Evan noted the the bottom was easy to secure, and and we talked about some aluminum brackets for the top - which he made out of some .100" thick aluminum sheet.



    This worked pretty darn well to not only secure the electric fan, but to center the included fan shroud in front of the radiator. It isn't 100% coverage of the core, but again - it's a crazy wide radiator. In practice it actually works GREAT - it's silent and the truck has never even come close to overheating.



    Above left is a close-up of the radiator mounting, which follows the stock design and even re-uses two rubber isolators on both sides. You can see our electric fan brackets for the S197 shroud, too. Above right is the stock radiator hose - which is very long, but the weird bends put it in contact with the electric fan shroud. Hmm, time to make some changes.



    I asked Evan to cut the OEM hose and remove the two bends in the middle, as shown above left. Then he made this 1.25" aluminum tube and rolled some beads on that to secure it to the remaining pieces of upper radiator hose with clamps. With the center tube clamped to the two remnants of the upper radiator hose it worked great and help pressure without a drop of leakage.



    After Evan had the engine hooked up and running with the custom hose, he tackled wiring the electric fan into the truck. He used an existing 50 amp circuit that was unused, then put in a working high amp fuse in the spot shown.



    Using the HP Tuners software and re-pinning the main harness for the trigger, he was able to get the 0411 ECM to control the electric fan by using the factory engine coolant switch. We tested this extensively before it went to the dyno.



    After a bit of driving, I was concerned with the hose touching the Mustang fan shroud, even lightly. So we came back about a month later and Evan made this little bracket that cradles the bottom of the aluminum tube and keeps it from touching the fan shroud.

    FIRST FIRE + SMALL ADJUSTMENTS BEFORE DYNO TUNE

    We had swapped in some Taylor spark plug wires and with a new Wix filter and all of the fluids it was time for the "first fire". This happened before the electric fan wiring work above, of course.



    With a little HP Tuners work Evan had it running but it wasn't driving very nicely just yet. Evan was chasing some weird issues in the tune that didn't make any sense.



    The exhaust sounded really good with the ARH 1-7/8" long tube headers and the custom dual 3" exhaust from the 1999 GMC. This was a setup we built in about 2013 with catalysts up front and chambered Magnaflow mufflers that exited out the right side of the truck. It was bearable on the 99 GMC's stock 5.3L but actually pretty damn loud on this 5.7L engine with a big cam.



    This work shown above wrapped up on October 30th, 2019. The engine fired up and ran, but needed a tune in a big way. There was something funky going on where the engine would die when it was in Drive or Reverse, but we assumed it would all be cleared up in the custom tune by a shop we use for these engines.

    continued below
    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
    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

    Comment


    • #32
      continued from above

      INTERIOR WORK

      While the truck was down for the engine swap we were simultaneously tackling a number of other projects on the interior, suspension, and wheels.



      The stock interior was never "deep cleaned" on this 2000 like we finally did on the 1999 GMC, just weeks before it was totaled. So while the truck was in the shop for the engine work it was a good time to yank out the front seats and all interior panels and chase down some leaks, stinks, and test some new seats.



      Brad got the carpet then this jute mat removed from the truck. The spilled coffee and Coke stains were easier to access with the carpet out of the truck, and a pressure washer at the coin-op car wash got most of that funk out. The still wet carpets were brought back to our shop then the wet-vac shampoo machine was used with detergent and hot water to get the rest of the stains and smells out of this carpet.



      There were some other repairs done before the carpet went back in (see below), but when it did it was a night and day difference. All smells were finally gone, and we had a fresh slate to start with. I used to be better about doing this right after buying any used vehicle - I have got to make this a part of the first week of ownership for any street car that wasn't purchased brand new. Brad cleaned up all of the plastics when he was done with the carpet install, as shown above.

      THIRD BRAKE LIGHT REPAIR

      One of the reasons the interior needed to be cleaned was because it smelled musty - because there was a leak into the cabin that showed up when driving in heavy rain. I could see water coming in near the back of the headliner at the back window, near the middle. Only one place that could be coming in...



      It didn't take Brad long to see the source of the leak - the new LED 3rd brake light we added installed in 2017. Apparently the OEM unit had been out and replaced but some sealant residue wasn't cleaned off well and it leaked past the gasket on the new unit.



      With the old sealant cleaned off a new bead of clear RTV was applied around this housing and it was replaced - hasn't leaked a drop since.

      SPARCO SEAT - TEST FITTING

      The single cab GMT800 trucks have very few factory seating options. Manually adjusted full bench seat (I guess - haven't seen this) and the manual adjusted "split bench" with the combination jump seat/arm rest/console in the middle.



      Both my white 2000 Silverado (above left) and 1999 GMC Sierra (above right) single cab GMT800 trucks had the latter. The 3rd "jump seat" has been used one time in all the years I've owned both trucks, and it is hardly roomy. The console is unusually small and the backs/lids break easily - both trucks had the factory console lids replaced.



      You can see how narrow the jump seat / console is in the pic above left. The above right pic shows the integrated shoulder belt and lower receiver that is part of the driver's and passenger's seats. It took riding in the passenger seat in this truck and somebody else driving to realize how "blown out" the stock driver's seat was. It's like sitting on a board, and makes long drives unpleasant. They are also the opposite of "sporty" seats.



      As part of the build-up of our shop LS swapped 86, that will be both street and track driven by my wife, we purchased two new Sparco "Tuner" seats shown above. These are both tilt back seats with aggressive side bolsters for shoulders, chest and legs and shoulder harness pass-thrus. We are a Sparco dealer and have their racing seats in all of our shop owned race cars. The traditional fixed back racing seat is less than ideal for street use, for a number of reasons.



      As part of the test fitting of the seats in her 86 I sat in both. The Sparco R333 (above left) comes in one size and was about 20% too short for me - my shoulders completely covered the harness slots, so that won't work safely for me on track with 6-point belts. The Sparco Chrono (above right) comes in two sizes, and I bought the wider "Large". It was actually a tad big for me in the waist, but otherwise was very comfortable. I really liked this seat.



      During the interior clean up, when we had some interior panels out of the way, we mocked-up the Chrono seat and I gave it a "test sit". The stock seats sit in a rather tall riser / slider, so we propped this up a couple of inches. Might have to come up a tad more, but I could daily with these easily. And it would leave room for a PROPER center console that could hold more than a handful of pens and some papers, like the 3rd seat does now.



      You may have noticed a seat belt in the "test sit" pics - that's because I purchased these MIL-spec 3-point belts from a Hummer, per Jason's research. These are used in custom applications for retractable 3-point seat belts. Will we install this Sparco Chrono seat? Well it is complicated - mounting the shoulder harness retractors will be tricky and involve some custom brackets/anchors behind the plastic interior. Myles looked at that while the interior was out.



      It would also require a custom seat base and slider - but we make those for a number of chassis now. To be able to run real 6-point harnesses would require an unusual 4-point roll bar, but that isn't out of the question either. We're looking at this in the future, but I liked the Chrono so much I bought the "standard size" so there are two sitting here...

      20X11" WHEEL TESTING (STOCK RIDE HEIGHT)

      In the September 2019 post I teased a 315/30/20 tire I had found, after hours of looking at viable tires to build this truck around. Jason and I went back and forth trying to find the perfect tire height for gearing, ground clearance, and looks. That led us to a handful of tire sizes, and the more I looked at 18" and even 19" diameter wheels on these trucks, the more the 20" diameter wheel "looked right" for the size of the wheel openings. The problem is the available wheels in 20" were all fairly narrow - the 20x9" wheel set I had on #TruckNorris was as big as they come, but it had SO much room to spare. Anything wider was a "BroDozer" wheel that poked out past the fenders - which I want nothing to do with.



      Again, as the owner of Vorshlag I have a hard time driving "just normal stock" vehicles. Everything we own has some mods, and sometimes a lot of changes - to show off the engineering, fabrication, and suspension work we do. Now I am mindful of the engines built at HPR, where I am a partner - hence the built 347" LS upgrade done here. Custom WIDE wheels is something we have been known for for many years, so why not apply that thinking to this truck?



      Forgestar said they couldn't make this with any existing flow formed "blank" or multi-piece wheel in their catalog - unless I was willing to order a LOT of wheels at once. I wasn't sure this would even fit, and I wanted ONE test wheel first. After calling dozens of wheel makers and striking out on 6 x 5.5" bolt patter custom wheels we found Mobsteel - also known as Detroit Steel Wheels.



      They made this 20x11" steel wheel with a custom offset that Jason came up with after taking extensive measurements. It took about 5 weeks to arrive, and it is a simple 2-piece steel wheel with the center welded to the hoop at the offset we requested. They make this 6 lug pattern in a number of styles, but we got the "plain" center since this would not ever see actual street use. It was the right size for the 315/30/20 I wanted to run and as you can see above the 315mm tire fit well. It was NOT a wide tire squeezed onto a narrow wheel, like I see so many truck users do.



      Steel wheels aren't known for being light, which is why almost all motorsports uses cast, flow formed, forged, or multi-piece ALUMINUM wheels. Or even magnesium or carbon fiber, but those can have longevity issues. And yes, this Mobsteel wheel is REALY FREAGIN HEAVY at 53.2 pounds, wow! That makes for an 87 pound wheel and tire.



      Notice the weight of the stock wheel and tire, or especially Forgestar 20x9" shown a few pics above at 25.6 pounds - the Mobsteel wheel literally weights TWICE as much. That amount of heft has to be accelerated from a stop, braked from speed, and damped over every bump. That's a DEAL BREAKER for me, sorry. But it can serve as a mock up wheel to test the offset and fit.



      And that it did - we put this on the truck at the stock ride height on both ends and it fit. But the 28.7" tall tire looked a bit goofy at the stock ride height, compared to the 31" tall tires that came off. Imagine how wacky the 305/30/19 (26.2" tall) or 315/30/18 (25.5" tall) would look on this truck at this height, though.



      This offset and size worked amazingly well up front without any spacers or tricks. It even steers to full lock with just slight interference from an ABS speed sensor bracket on the upper control arm. With that relocated it worked perfectly.



      Out back it also fit great - and that was a tight fit between the leaf spring and fender. We wouldn't fit 5mm more tire under that fender, no way without poke. This is a MAX fitment tire, and it uses the same offset front and back so you can rotate tires front to rear.



      This meaty setup fits even when lowered 5.5" up front, which I will show below. After that "lowered" test we had planned on next taking this offset and size and having Forgestar make a run of these for us - at great expense.

      In early 2020 Forgestar upped their prices for bespoke wheels, so that is putting a big wrinkle in our plans. We are re-assessing options now - if people would buy the many sets we have to custom order, then the bespoke upcharge won't apply. It is a risky investment in truck wheels that we aren't known for, you know?

      FIRST DYNO TUNE + FUEL SYSTEM REPAIRS

      In late October 2019 we had the truck running well enough with the new 347" LS to test systems for leaks, get the electric fans wired in, but it wasn't driving well at all. The cold start was garbage and the engine would not idle at a stop when in Drive. After it warmed up it was a little better, and I took it to a local gas station to top off the tank with 93 octane before heading to the dyno.



      Kept the hood off for the maiden voyage to be able to see any steam, smoke or issues first hand, and it went ok. I had to pop it into Neutral every time I came to a stop, but figured it was "in the tune". We scheduled a dyno tune (they get booked up weeks in advance) and took the truck in the first week of November.



      The tune did not go smoothly and they noted several limitations in the stock fuel system. As I had feared, the stock fuel system was running out of steam above 4000 rpm at Wide Open Throttle. The 19#/hr injectors were at 100% duty cycle early, which is why the Lambda above goes lean. Also the stock 90 lph in-tank fuel pump was out of flow and the engine started falling off early at 4000 rpm.

      There were several other issues: The wheel speeds were so high in 3rd gear (3.08 final gearing would have made for 160+ mph) that this dyno pull had to be done in 2nd gear, which "hides power" - not to mention that this engine should pull to 7000 rpm and make peak power around 6500. It was just getting so lean above 4000 he had to shut it down early.



      Jason and I researched the injector options and calculated how much fuel pump we needed. We could have adapted a 255 lph Walbro pump to the stock pick-up / sender unit, but that had 237K miles on it. Instead we ordered the Walbro TU434HP drop in replacement above. This Walbro unit is shown as a 190 lph pump in some literature at 255 lph in others. Either number was more than enough for the 400 whp goal we had for this truck.



      We had the bed off for other reasons and that made the pump install very easy. This was a simple drop in, no custom work needed - which was nice for a change on this truck.



      I was already in the middle of some other costly upgrades on this truck (shown below), so I was looking for a cost effective upgrade for the injectors. Calculations showed that these 31#/hr OEM injectors from a Gen IV truck 5.3L (that a buddy sent me to try) would work at the power levels we projected, but they needed an adapter to fit the fuel rail and wiring harness connectors in this 2000 era truck. The above right pic were not the right adapters - it was the reverse of what we needed, my bad.



      I researched EV6 and EV1 injector bodies and plugs and ordered this set of ICT jump harness adapters. That actually fit these 31#/hr injectors and our truck's engine harness. But after several hours of attempts and testing, they simple did not fire these injectors or flow any fuel. The engine would not start, and I could never smell fuel in the exhaust. After checking these adapters with Noid lights (which did "blink"), it was determined something wasn't right with the injectors and/or the programming. The injectors came from someone I trusted, and he had them cleaned and flowed before they were sent to us by an injector shop I have used many times.



      By this point it was mid January, and we were wrapping up the other mods on this truck - it was time to get it RUNNING and back to the dyno. So I looked at what we could get direct from DeatschWerks, and these 60 #/hr would be more than enough for this 400 whp goal and any other plans we might have "beyond that". These are a somewhat discounted brand of aftermarket Bosch motorsports injectors that we have had mixed results with in the past, but I ordered them. And with the right parameters programmed in, they fired right up and the engine ran. But we still had issues to test before it went back to the dyno tuner.

      continued below
      Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
      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

      Comment


      • #33
        continued from above

        TRANSMISSION + STALL CONVERTOR UPGRADE

        One of the issues we noted to the tuner shop that does our custom tunes, and that they noted as well when working with it in November at the dyno, was seemingly related to the transmission. When it was in Drive or Reverse and you applied the brakes at a stop, the engine would die. We had already swapped in a new trans pan (the black one below) and filter into the original 237K mile 4L604 automatic when we put in the 347 in October 2019.



        Our guys had noted that the shift selector switch on the side of the trans was GLUED into the mating harness connector when they removed it to do the 347 install. So the selector switch (above left) and then the mating connector (above right) were both replaced - at two different times - with no change in the issue.



        The engine was still going dead when depressing the brake at a stop, when the trans was in Drive or Reverse. Made it a real chore to drive! The prevailing theory after 3 different tuners looked at it was that the torque convertor was some how mechanically locked up and putting too much load on the engine at idle when in gear and the brakes on. And since the bands were slipping on the 237K mile 4L60E trans before the engine upgrade it was a good time for an upgrade.



        Back in December 2019 I had taken this 4L60E core trans and convertor from the 1999 GMC to a shop who specializes in upgraded transmission rebuilds. They built it for the 500 whp "stretch goal" we had in mind, with a custom built ~2800 rpm stall convertor using the OEM lock-up style unit. Kind of their "Stage 2" trans. We were out of options, time to install this in January of 2020.



        Our shop schedule was packed and we didn't get the truck on the lift until Jan 21st to get the old trans out (above left) and the built trans and convertor swapped in (above right).



        Instead of the bargain brand trans fluid we went with Motul ATF VI this time, 12 quarts - with about 2 added to the convertor before it went in. Went to go drive the truck... no difference. So it was time to call in yet another tuner, who diagnosed the issue looking at real time data via HP Tuners. He noted the brake light switch was actually triggering a total lost of ignition advance when in "D" or "R" but not when you selected Park, Neutral, or "2" on the gear selector. This was wacky!

        We had 3 different tuners look at this and each one found a work-around... but the changes never lasted more than 2-3 drive cycles. Then it would start the same nonsense.

        BIG SUSPENSION CHANGES

        During the time between the first dyno tune in November and the second attempt in February, we did a LOT of suspension changes to this truck. What I hoped would be a simple bolt-on set of upgrades that actually dropped the ride height by the advertised amounts was very much NOT the case - nothing was easy and nothing matched the drop heights claimed. What I had wanted to be a 4/6 drop ended up being a 7/6 drop, before we made some custom parts to raise the front up... and we're still not 100% done.



        FRONT SUSPENSION CHANGES - ROUND 1

        Let's start with the front suspension here and I will cover the rear on a section below. I won't go into all of the research we did into choosing the brand of drop spindle / shocks / swaybar upgrades, but just know that it was extensive. I've been burned by some truck suspension upgrades on other trucks before and steered clear of certain brands. The final option was far from ideal but we "fixed the glitch", eventually.




        I chose what I thought was an industry leader - Belltech - for a drop spindle and matching spring for a supposed 4" front drop. This was most definitely NOT a four inch drop kit, as we soon found out.



        The spindles looked decent, as did the included front spring. We weighed both, because that's what we do, then Jason rated the front spring on our digital spring rater.



        What was claimed to be a 940 #/in rate was actually closer to 975 #/in, but that's not terribly far off. Really big rates due to the inboard mounting on the front double A-arm suspension.



        The "Two inch drop" spindle showed significant differences in the placement of the hub, then the packaging included with the kit said it was a 3" drop spring. Should have been 2" + 2"... but maybe the packaging was just incorrect.



        After the brake caliper, rotor and front hub was removed, Brad used his bag of tricks to remove the front spindle and spring, pop loose the steering tie rod, then the upper control arm was pulled off as well.



        The Bilstein 4600 monotube dampers we installed last Fall were kept, as were the front hubs (which felt tight). A pair of new front ball joints were sourced, which press into the upper control arm.



        Per the instructions from Belltech, the forged steel upper control arm needs to be "flipped" 180 degrees to work with the lowered geometry and spindle. To accommodate the flip, the upper ball joint hole has to be chamfered on the opposite side, then the new ball joints were able to be pressed in fully.



        The OEM lower ball joints bolt to the lower control arm with 3 bolts and go in from the top of the lower spindle opening. The threaded stud sticks out of the bottom of the spindle, as shown above. Due to changes in the drop spindle length the stud would contact the inner barrel of a 17" diameter wheel and might not even clear an 18" wheel.



        So the procedure shown in the instructions - I kid you not - is to cut most of the stud and nut away, as shown. Once you verify clearance to your 17" wheels like we did, you Loctite and stake the nut to prevent it from backing out. Yes this seems a bit sketchy and we are going to be watching this like a HAWK whenever the trick is driven a bit and comes back in. Eventually, when we have a proper set of 19" or 20" wheels we will buy NEW front lower ball joints and swap those in - and keep the full length stud and nut, which will clear the larger diameter wheels.



        After both sides were completed the car was lowered down and - it was not a 4" drop, it was a 5.5" drop! (we had before-after measurements, of course) It was tucking the front tire so much that the tread was hitting the fender at full lock. Not good at all. We began calling "Belltech" tech support at this time...

        REAR SUSPENSION CHANGES - ROUND 1

        We actually tackled the rear suspension drop before the front, which is why we have this wacky shot below.



        This was done with a "matching" Belltech "Six Inch" drop kit in the rear. The 4/6 was the look and height I wanted, but it didn't turn out that way back here, either.



        What we ordered was this frame C-notch kit and axle flip kit, which provides more clearance at the frame for the axle and moves the axle on top of the rear leaf spring mounting for the added ride height drop.



        You can see the before (above left) and after (above right) with the C-notch and axle flip completed. At that point we still had the stock length rear dampers.



        The C-notch install isn't "hard" but it is time consuming and requires some tools and skills - and a lack of fear. Evan used the outer piece to mark the cut, then cut the frame with the 90 deg die grinder and a 4" carbide wheel. Then the piece was clamped in place to mark and drill the holes from the reinforcement.




        Some weld-thru primer was used to coat the frame (which is bare steel - don't ask me why) after the notch and holes were completed. Then the reinforcement was bolted in place, along with the inner wall section (it is a "box" around the frame)



        This isn't a modification that is easy to un-do, with the giant notch cut out of the frame. So we went ahead and welded this reinforcement in place, as well as bolting it. This is why we did the weld-thru primer was used in an earlier step. After welding the ends were painted semi-flat black, to match the powder coated kit.



        After the C-notch was completed on both sides it was time to "flip" the axle from underneath (above left) the leaf springs to on top (above right).



        The included bracket (above left) ties into the bottom of the leaf spring bracket welded to the rear axle, and gives it a flat face to sit on top of the spring. The included U-bolts clamp the axle to the leaf spring on both sides. The boxed section of the frame reinforcement is shown above right.



        There is also a bump stop added at the C-notch for the axle to touch, shown above. And the rear shocks came with a pair of extension / relocation brackets, but they only altered the angle of the rear shocks, and did nothing to accommodate the length of the OEM rear shocks. We're going to have to order shocks for the back.



        The rear ended up 5.5" lower than before, based on measurements from the rear fender lip to the center of the wheel, from before/after measurements that we did on this truck (and every vehicle we work on).

        OVERALL IMPRESSIONS AND COMPROMISES

        So apparently picking the Belltech 4/6 drop kit was a bad idea - the front dropped considerably more and the rear a tick less. This is TOO LOW.



        There were also a number of compromises we weren't prepared for, and unforeseen consequences that led to many other new parts needing to be bought/built, and installed.



        The custom twin 3" exhaust that worked well on the 99 GMC did not work on this truck when the axle was flipped. Normally the two exhaust pipes shown (above left) would be 1/2" away from the bottom of the bed. Instead they were being pushed down by the relocated axle.



        Can't really blame Belltech for that as we ran a pretty non-standard exhaust routing before. After we looked at the layout it was determined that cutting the extended exhaust tips off (dumps) was the solution. WOW it was loud! This wouldn't last long. At this point it was January 24th and the truck needed a tune, so while we were waiting for the tuners schedule we ordered some parts and made some changes.

        FRONT SUSPENSION CHANGES - ROUND 2

        We tried calling Belltech support and realized - hey, they were bought by KW Suspension! And this wasn't a good take-over, as nobody we could get on the phone knew anything about Belltech products or trucks at all. We sent them data on the front springs (which were obviously too short) and they were clueless. "We can RMA those spring" but they were just going to send us the same part number back, so that was no help. It was time to take matters into our own hands.



        We could have played the "let's order some longer springs and test" game, but I liked the ride quality of this 940#/in spring, it was just too short. So we started by taking out the Delrin spring spacer that came with the kit, which was to replace the OEM rubber spring cup. After measuring the OEM piece was no taller, so it was time to make a spacer.



        Luckily I have a really smart crew and CNC machines. Jason designed this spring spacer using some 6" round Aluminum 6061 billet bar stock we have on hand for our camber plate spring perches. Myles cut one out on the CNC lathe and it had a raised inner lip so that the Delrin spacer that came with the kit would nest inside.



        It was a big chunk of metal (ended up being 1.214" thick) and it was swapped into one side for us to check ride height. Then we made a matching one and Brad installed that above the spring on the other side.



        We also installed this Energy Suspension swaybar bushing and end link set, to replace some rotted OEM rubber bits. Brad tweaks this bushing set so the swaybar rotates with "pinkie effort" and greased the bushings at the included zerks. Jason had looked at aftermarket front swaybars but the OEM bar is HUGE! There is no rear bar, so we will add something in a future update out back.



        That raised the front up just the right amount and the tires no longer contacted the fender liner during full lock steering. It was almost perfectly level at this point and I was happy.

        SECOND DYNO TUNE - ISSUES STILL EXIST

        The first tune at True Street Motorsports in Nov 2019 was cut short due to the fueling issues. After getting the suspension changes done, the exhaust wrapped up, injectors and fuel pump in, and a half dozen other small fixes we had a scheduled slot for a 2nd tune on the dyno, Feb 19th 2020.



        They still had to make the dyno pulls in 2nd gear (due to the tall rear gearing / high wheel speeds) but at least it pulled all the way to 6800 rpm. The lambda (air:fuel) looked safe and Archie got the tuning dialed in for timing with 93 octane. With SAE correction it was making 336 whp and 341 wtq. Still 20 whp down on what than this engine made before in another chassis, but there were still issues and he shut down tuning a bit early. Making pulls in 3rd gear (1:1) would show a higher, a more accurate number - so it's probably not too far off.



        You can see the first Nov 2019 tune (and 4000 rpm die off) superimposed with this Feb 2020 tune on the uncorrected graph above. They were the same until about 4200, when the stock injectors and fuel pump gave up the ghost. This uncorrected graph shows higher 346 whp / 351 wtq numbers on a nice cool, dense day. The air fuel ratio looked good, the spark timing was spot on, but driveability was still junk. Archie noted that when he stepped on the brake the engine wanted to die.

        continued below
        Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
        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

        Comment


        • #34
          continued from above

          This weird issue persisted and we chased this for weeks. Evan worked on the tune, Anthony from HPR looked at it, Jon Simpson from JS Performance tweaked on the tune. It was maddening! The only thing that made sense was a bad ECM or some funky "base programming" in the old ECM.



          So Evan swapped in the ECM from my 99 GMC, then copied over the TSM tune in chunks. It seemed to make it better for a little while, then it started re-learning bad habits again. It needed to go back to the dyno, with some other changes, for more testing.

          EXHAUST SYSTEM UPGRADE

          One of the changes that I wanted done before the truck went back for a THIRD dyno tune was a QUIETER exhaust. This twin 3" system was not TOO loud on the 99 GMC with the same long tube headers on a stock 5.3L, but with the built 347" and big came, and dumps - it was deafening.



          We went back to a known quiet / high flowing muffler - the Magnaflow 12589. This is their LARGEST 5x11" oval muffler case at a staggering 22" long and 18.5 pounds. I had actually bought TWO but we couldn't fit both under the bed.



          Not only did I want to run TWO of these I also wanted the exhaust to go over the axle and out the back. Not going to happen without major surgery under this truck. The axle gets too close to the bed and the over-the-axle routing is nearly impossible. Getting a tip going out the side in front of the tire wasn't an option either - this muffler was just too big. But it NEEDS to be big to kill the exhaust noise...



          Everything is a compromise and in this case I listened to Evan. He mocked up a single muffler then made a custom 2-into-1 merge using some stainless bends we had on hand.



          Evan made the merge and joined the front 3" dual exhaust into the muffler. Looked good but I was worried it would be too loud.





          He mounted it up (above left) and said "let's test this" before we try to make a tortured over-the-axle routing or something else. It sounded QUIET and GOOD. Amazing. OK, that will work, just add a little turn-down and we will go with it.



          So this shot shows the full exhaust with the ARH Long Tube headers, cats, our 2-into-1 merge and the Magnaflow muffler with a turn down. This was relatively easy, packages well, and sounds REALLY good. Quiet as a church mouse driving at normal RPM but you can here it when you are doing pulls up to 7000 rpm!

          LED DLR & TURN SIGNAL BULBS, SOCKET

          So I am not one to complain about Daylight Running Lights, which is required in some countries on most cars. This truck had that feature but one of the lights has been burned out since I bought this truck. This is a COMMON ISSUE on the GMT800 trucks and SUVs - likely 75% of these still on the road heve ONE bulb out on their DLR system.



          What happens is the socket burns up (see below left) - but there is a cheap solution. This new socket with pigtails (below right) was an easy fix.



          Brad had that wired in to replace the old socket in no time. Should have done this years ago, but we had some time and now we could install new LED bulbs in all of these sockets (below left).



          I bought these LED bulbs online years ago also, and they went in fine. Wow, much brighter parking, turn, and DLR bulbs! I think these were 5000 K color, so the new LEDs look a lot different than the old, Halogen bulbs in the headlights. I'll tackle that next.



          But the turn signals had a "fast blink" issue, which is a common problem. Brad installed some a resistor kit on the turn signal circuit that I had, but that didn't work. Removed that and installed this "Fast blink" flasher unit, from Diode Dynamics. Also not fixed. Hmm, I will call DD and see what they suggest next and circle back around to this in the next update.

          REAR SUSPENSION MODS - ROUND 2

          The stock length Bilstein 4600 dampers only lasted a few days of driving - needed to put some miles on the truck for testing of the tuning attempts but the rears were bottoming out. One shock blew out and that side dropped 1/2", due to the loss of gas charge. We immediately started looking at shorter shock options from Bilstein.



          Jason poured through the catalogs, did some math, and came up with 4.75" shorter damper with the same total 7.5" of stroke. This is possible due to the remote reservoirs that come on this particular option.



          This 8165 series monotube Bilsteins was the answer. There were crap pictures online so I shot these in the photo booth. These came with two reservoir mounts per shock, the band clamps, and looked really nice.



          Normally we mount remote reservoirs on the chassis away from the shock or other heat sources, but the hoses were pretty short and the included polyurethane mounting blocks were pretty nice - so I asked Brad to just mount them to the bodies. I wouldn't do this on a road race car or off road racer, but for the daily driver it works more than fine.



          These are made for another vehicle, of course, and had 1/2" holes in the included steel sleeves that slide into the poly bushings at both ends. Evan drilled these on the lathe for the stock 14mm bolts (with a 14.1mm drill we have) and Brad pressed those into all four shock bushings. Not much work to have this custom shock setup.



          Included in the Belltech kit were these bolt-on rear shock mount extensions, which Brad noticed were already loose - they could pivot slightly. Nope, that's not gonna do. Evan welded them to the axle housing and that firmed up the lower mounts.



          After installing these the ride height was back up that 1/2" on the one side where the OEM length Bilstein 4600 had blown out. Once that was buttoned up it was time for a test drive across town and back, doing some "parts hauling" chores this truck used to do again. The ride quality was PERFECTION - front works great, now the rear could soak up bumps and had LOTS of suspension travel. This was hopefully the last tweak needed for a bit.



          This is ALMOST right. The rear ride height is still a tick lower than I like, and the factory leaf spring rates are a bit too soft for hauling parts or towing, so we ordered some helper air bags that I can bump up as needed. This included an Air Lift branded "Slamair Kit" and "Load Controller Dual Heavy Duty Compressor". This has air bags / mounts for the rear suspension that I can air up at the touch of a button to raise the rear ride height when needed. I will show this next time - the parts are on backorder.

          3.73 REAR GEAR + AUBURN LSD UPGRADE

          This truck came with 3.08 final drive ratio in the axle and it was an "Open" diff. It was time for a gear change and a limited slip + new bearings & seals throughout. Been wanting to do this for years and finally have an excuse - the extra power from this 347" engine has turned this truck into a "one tire fryer!" and the tall gearing prevents a safe 3rd gear dyno pull.



          This was a BIG change but one I decided to do before Round 3 of tuning, which should happen later in March 2020. Jason ran the numbers for me and gave me several options for final drive ratios with the stock tires + the 315/30/20s I wanted to run in the future. The chart is below...



          The top speed in 3rd gear before was 182 mph with the stock 3,08 gears - no wonder they didn't dyno in that gear, ha! I decided to go with the 3.73 rear ratio as the best compromise. Everything is a compromise - this will keep 80 mph cruising speeds at only 2500 rpm (in Texas we have some 85 mph roads) while waking up the acceleration in lower gears.



          This engine is just about doubling the power output of the 4.8L it had before, which has led to severe traction issues. While doing the gearing it was time to send power to both rear wheels. We looked at a Torsen style True Trac but I could not rule out the Auburn Pro limited slip unit - which worked very well in our 2018 GT. Price was better, too. And we've have great success with Moser parts on other projects, so that skanky old stamped steel diff cover will be replaced with this meaty, cast aluminum Moser cover. It has a drain and fill plug and includes bearing pre-load studs. It also looks damned good.



          On March 12th we had scheduled for Donnie to stop by and do the install. He has done our gear installs for the last 8 or 9 years and every one has turned out perfect. This is a specialty job that you get better at over time - so we bring in this "gunslinger" for diff and gear installs.



          Donnie popped the rear cover and we realize that the spare tire needed to be removed - should have had that out of his way before he got here. We inspected the magnet on the back cover, which was covered in "fuzz" from wearing gears and such. Time to remove all the guts and clean out the housing.



          Rear brakes removed, axles pulled out, then the center section and pinion. We were replacing all of that so it was scrap metal. Donnie cleaned the inside of the housing out and got to work on the seals and bearings.



          The axle bearings looked pretty toasty so we ordered new bearings and seals from a local parts house. Donnie installed those both and got to work on the new center section.



          The new 3.73 ring gear went onto the Auburn housing and the new pinion went in with a setup bearing. After a few iterations with shims and gear paint he had the wear pattern spot on. Then he set the back lash with the new diff housing side bearings.



          Then it was time to put in the new pinion bearing and seal to button it all up. The new Moser cover went on with some gasket maker and the diff housing was filled with Motul Gear 300. The bottle of friction modifier from Auburn went in and it was time to put the truck through the gears up on the lift. Dead silent. then the spare tire went back up in place.

          While he was here Donnie took a crack at the tune, using our laptop and HP Tuner cable. He noted some weird stuff going on - one O2 was cycling the other was "stuck". The timing at idle was a mess so he locked in the minimum idle timing at 13 degrees advance. A few tweaks with the IAC and it was idling better. He noted that it still "had problems" but in his brief test drive he said it was driving nicely. Donnie was all wrapped up with the gears and tuning tweak before lunch, and we had some test drives to make.



          Evan and I drove the truck to lunch and back that day. Holy cow, it drove SO WELL on both drives! Idle was perfect, acceleration was strong, manners were spot on. Whatever Donnie did worked like a charm. Did a first gear rolling acceleration test on some dry pavement in Mexico - both rear tires lit up as it pulled hard to 7000 rpm, shifted firmly into 2nd, just pulling hard through the gears like a beast. Normal driving was tame, quiet, perfect. THIS IS WHAT WE WANT! All the time.

          PROBLEMS RETURN - THE FUN WITH TUNING?

          Drove the truck again just a few hours later that same night, a few miles into town to dinner and back, and it was a COMPLETE MESS. Something happened again, after just two short drive cycles. It was dropping 4 cylinders every 5 seconds, lost 80% of the power it had at lunch, wouldn't idle, just JUNK. Dirve cycle number 3 once again.



          This is getting ridiculous. It was time to start changing parts out. Evan pulled the plugs and they looked like crap, black from running pig rich, after less than 100 miles.



          Evan swapped in a new set of NGK TR6 plugs, which should work fine for this engine with 93 octane. A little hotter than some engines we have (we tend to use TR7 or TR8 on race engines) but this is my daily driver. We ordered the front or "primary" Oxygen sensors for both banks as well as a new Throttle Position Sensor.



          One of the tricks Jon Simpson suggested was slotting the TPS to get it to idle in the right voltage range, which Evan did with the new unit. He wrapped up this round of parts installation and... still ran terribly. It needs to be loaded up on a a dyno and tested, tweaked, and tuned by our tuner shop. At least this time hopefully we will have all of the previous problems handled. The fuel system is up to par, the plugs are brand new, O2s are new, all of the engine sensors now are new, and the gearing is such that they can do their pulls in 3rd gear instead of 2nd.

          I know this can run like I want it to - it did for a couple of drive cycles after each tuner worked on it. Then it somehow "unlearned" the tuning fixes and went back to the bad idle, the bad running, the rich air/fuel ratios. Took it to the tuner March 13th and we'll see what they can come up with.

          WHAT'S NEXT?

          I'm getting tired of daily driving in the F350 1 ton, but it is a nice truck - just too damned big. My little short wheelbase 1/2 ton is much more enjoyable for tooling around town, taking parts to and from suppliers, and motoring through traffic.



          We have a number of items inbound for the next round of mods like the helper bags and compressor. I need to research the fix for the fast blink as well as find some proper/matching color temperature LED bulbs for the main headlights. Finding a supplier for our custom 20x11" wheels is still a struggle and some recent changes at Forgestar/Momo have left me hanging. There are some rear swaybars we are looking to add. And the Sparco seats and belts is a project we're pushing back a bit, as that could be a chunk of work. I will post up soon after our the round three of dyno tuning, hopefully with a solid running engine and some "after" 0-60 mph acceleration test videos.



          At the same time that this GMT800 thread update was posted, we wrote and published another update to our shop's E46 endurance race car in this long term E46 development forum build thread. You can read that here.

          Until next time - thanks for reading!
          Last edited by Fair!; 03-24-2020, 07:52 AM.
          Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
          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

          Comment


          • #35
            Project update for Sept 1st, 2020: Five months have passed since our last forum build thread update on the GMT800, and a number of items we were waiting on have arrived, been installed, tweaked, and tested on this 2000 Silverado. Changes to the tune, rear "helper" air bags fixed a ride height issue, new wheels and tires we added, we did follow-up 0-60 testing, and more. We had the truck looking better than ever (below left), then the worst it has ever been (below right)...



            Yes, it is 2020 after all, so of course a freagin TREE fell during a summer storm and caved in the roof and did some other damage. I will discuss that and the new upgrades happening during this paint and body repair.

            RETUNE + 0-60 TESTING

            Let's back up to April 2020. We had been struggling with the tuning on this new engine setup for 6 months, trying to get the custom dyno tune and driveability "right". One shop tried 3 times, two other tuners both took a crack at it, but there was always still some serious funkiness going on in daily driving. After the engine swap I only ever used 93 octane fuel, which was in the tank at the very first tuning attempts.



            After changing the main ECM, then O2 sensors, TPS sensor, MAP sensor, spark plugs and more attempts it still would not idle in "drive", stopped, with your foot on the brake. And on top of that the part throttle shift points were all whacked. I spent 6 months and a good deal of money chasing these phantom tuning and driving issues, which was a bit frustrating.



            Jon Simpson of JS Performance has fixed some really screwed up race car tunes for us, and regularly tunes 500-3000 horsepower engines. One day he was in town and brought his laptop to the shop, then spent about 45 minutes on this truck - and found the issue. There was some lingering OEM torque management issues that were making the engine want to die just idling, and he got rid of that once he found the issue. He also raised the idle rpm, and did some driveability tweaks, but was on a tight time budget and that was all he had time to tackle. We still need to re-tune this on a dyno, and the next time he is in town I'll pay him to do that and tackle some of the driveability changes.



            After it was running right, finally, it was time to test the 0-60 mph sprint with the big changes we wrapped up in early 2020. Later that day I went down to Mexico and tried several times to get a good "after" test. This was with the new 5.7L LS engine, ARH headers, new quiet exhaust with the massive Magnaflow muffler, 3.73 gears, the mini "stall" convertor, built 4L60E trans, and Dorman intake. This testing was done on the stock 17x7" wheels and relatively hard 265mm tires. I have power plans beyond this level of mods and wanted to get an interim acceleration test in.



            Here are the Before (left) and After (right) videos of the 0-60 mph tests, on the same road, in similar weather, and on the same tires. Before was right before we did the engine swap at 8.80 sec, after with the new setup was 5.91 sec. A 3 second gain is nothing to sneeze at but we've still got some room to improve.You can never have "too much" power, ya know?



            The "After" test was still a bit frustrating, as you can see in the video. The "higher stall" convertor turned out to be more hype than help, as it feels like a dead stock convertor. Doesn't stall ANY higher than stock and the shifts on the built 4L60E are too firm and we need to work on some of that in the tune. The shift points at WOT are great at 6500 rpm, but in low throttle normal driving are less than ideal. Having a tuner 5 hours away makes this difficult to tweak, but we'll have Jon here soon enough to tweak this.

            All in all a 3 second drop for 0-60 mph is plenty good, and that was traction limited. We need to test this again after the next re-tune and with the newer tires, shown below.

            FIFTEEN52 WHEELS AND 275MM TIRES ADDED

            I have said this many times: "Wheels make the build." And it is no secret that I've been having a helluva time finding the right wheels for this truck. I want them wide and light, but also strong for street use with a livable daily driver tire. As I have posted before, we did manage to fit a custom 20x11" wheel and 315/35/20 tire under the stock fenders, and they don't even look that "big" when you see them on the truck.



            We made this test wheel based on our measurements using Mobsteel - and have since have searched the world over for something in this size and backspace in aluminum, to hopefully avoid using these BOAT ANCHOR wheels: 53.2 pounds for the bare wheel and 87.0 for wheel and tire is obscene!



            Jason and I must have looked at 400+ wheel companies and models. The 6 lug is the killer - almost nobody makes this bolt pattern in anything wider than 9" that doesn't poke out the fenders like a roofer's Brodozer wheel. Custom wheels made to our specs in this bolt pattern and offset were going to run $1700. PER WHEEL. The light and wide custom options just sucked.



            We have access to many wheel brands through a wholesale account and Fifteen52 was one we can resell. We had even called these guys back in 2019 about getting this custom 20x11" wheel made, since they already made a 6-lug wheel. But they pretty much blew us off (with the minimum order and pricing), and their cast wheel weight was less than ideal. Then Fifteen52 and our wholesaler they had a sale on these, and I got this set for a ridiculously low price - in a weird color scheme of gold and black, with these ridiculous bolts. I bought them so well that this was a fairly low risk purchase. I just HAD to get the stock 17x7" wheels off this truck!



            Yea, it is heavy at 37.6 pounds for the wheel and 72.1 pounds for the wheel and tire. And the wheel looks a bit "Busy" in person, with the two colors and the damned fake bead lock bolts. At only 9" wide wheel and a 275mm tire, it seems a bit small. When it comes to tires, if it doesn't start with a "3" it doesn't belong to me...



            Compared to the same 20x9" sized Forgestar 6-lug F14 wheel (25.6 pounds) we had on Truck Norris (and which I foolishly sold - and they won't make again unless I order 100+ wheels) these are a bit uglier and heavier.



            Tire choice was possibly a bit rushed - this wheel sale popped up in a size I wasn't really looking at and I mistakenly ordered a 275/45/20 tire, meaning to order a 50 series for a bit more sidewall. A taller sidewall means a better ride and the ride quality with these definitely suffered. I went narrow because the calculations we did on this 20x9" setup showed that the outside edge was going to be TIGHT with the fenders. A 285/55/20 might have looked better bit it might have rubbed, too...



            This is where the truck sat on 5/21/20, after installing these wheels and tires. The gold isn't really my thing, and the Ken Block style is a bit much with the bolts. These shorter tires definitely amplified the reverse rake we have going on here, too. And the rear can bottom out (axle to frame mounted bump stops) with it this low in the back. Time to fix that...

            REAR HELPER BAGS ADDED

            Well the next day (5/22/20) the Air Lift "Slam Air" rear air bag kit I had ordered in February finally arrived. The pandemic really killed delivery times for a lot of companies, and even waiting 3 months we still weren't showing to receive the matching compressor and controller for months more.



            Ever since we started the "3/5" inch front and rear Belltech drop kit, we have had ride height problems. The front and rear each dropped closer to 7 inches with their mislabeled kit, and we "fixed" the front with the spring spacer. But the rear was now still too low (reverse rake) and it is not as easy as you'd think...



            And with the axle flip (below left) you get a BIG chunk of rear ride height drop that you cannot easily claw back. Seven inches using the stock rear leafs and shackles. On an old school leaf spring rear suspension we'd just change to a longer shackle to raise the rear. But this truck uses a reverse shackle on the rear, as shown below right. We would have to use a SHORTER shackle to raise the rear. And since the shackle is located at one end of the leaf, any changes here will only make for HALF that in ride height. My 1999 GMC had an aftermarket longer shackle to lower ride height, but with the poly bushings most come equipped with it would "stick" when the shackle articulated... and POP back down under braking. The aftermarket solutions for shackles for this truck just plain sucked.



            We brought the truck in onto the lift and I had engineer Myles and technician Evan look at this with me. The "right" way to fix this would be to cut off the rear shackle mount and lower it relative to the frame. Or just make a new bracket altogether. This turned out to not be a "small task" and instead of wasting engineering and shop hours making these one-off brackets to raise the rear about 1.5 inches, I decided to just "do it with the bags".



            At this point we had the truck in the shop and the Air Lift bag kit was here, so I juggled our schedule a bit to go ahead and install the rear bags, to raise the rear ride height and hopefully make this truck more driveable again. Ever since we lowered the ride height I have been fighting this thing and not driving it much. The shorter sidewall tires only amplified those issues.



            We took the time with the truck on the lift to properly center the axle, side to side. When we had performed the axle flip and C-notch work we were on a time crunch, and the axle alignment wasn't properly setup. With the narrower 7" wide stock wheels it wasn't a bit deal, but with the +2" wider 20x9's on the back it was clear we had about a 1/2" offset on the axle. The pic above right shows how "inset" that tire is - the opposite side almost poked. We cleared that up that day; re-centering the axle made for better tire clearance in the back, as these wheels are pushed ALL the way out to the edge. The added with on our 20x11" wheel is all inboard from here.



            Above left shows the clearance to the (modified) ball joint stud with the Belltech drop spindle and ball joint on the 17x7" stock wheels. I took a shot (above right) with the truck on the lift to show the new 20x9" wheel, and the added clearance is apparent. Now we can add stock replacement ball joints and not have to chop the stud and nut off to clear the 17" wheels. But once we do that... I'm stuck with these wheels and tires as my only option, as the 17" wheels would not longer clear the full length ball joint. Instead of installing the new ball joints I punted - going to wait until I paint these wheels a different color before I limit my choices.



            This kit was supposed to be 100% bolt on, but of course since we have a C-notch kit on this one the bolt holes are all covered up. We tossed around a few ideas and settled on "let's cut and weld" to fix it. So the bags go on the axle exactly where the Air Lift kit instructions show, and set ride height and added the bracket to allow for some expansion / lift with some air. We needed to raise the rear about 1.5", so inflated that's where we want to end up with the bags.



            Evan did the surgery and welding, then primed and painted the whole area with gloss black paint. Routed are lines from both bags to a regular Schrader valve by the rear license plate. Now we can raise or lower the rear with an air chuck - at least until the compressor / controller kit from Air Lift arrives.



            This pic shows the "leveled" ride height we started with, which I have since raised up another 1/2" or so. I've been driving the truck for almost 4 months like this, waiting for the time to install the compressor / leveling controller, after it arrived 2 months ago. The ride is definitely FIRMER now with the inflated bags, but the axle never once has touched the rear bump stop.

            I have since hauled all sorts of loads in the bed of this truck, including 500+ pounds of steel parts more than once. No issues whatsoever with hauling stuff now, at least. Wish it rode a little better, but we'll look at this next. This was my walk-around video from the day we installed the bags.

            continued below
            Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
            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

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            • #36
              continued from above

              COOLANT TEMP ISSUE

              June 24th was a very hot day here in Texas and I was using this truck to driving all over town, making deliveries and pick ups of parts with vendors. I had the AC on high and was parked for a minute waiting for a vendor, then loaded up, and as I was leaving - SPLOOGE! Dumped a bunch of coolant as the radiator cap popped. This overtemp issue lasted only seconds before I shut off the engine and pulled over.



              I let everything cool down for 15 minutes then limped back to the shop to refill the coolant (water + maybe 20% coolant) in the aluminum radiator. What happened?



              Turns out the relay powering the electric fan burned out, so the fan wasn't coming on. This wasn't an issue driving above 40 mph, but below that and at idle, with the AC on full blast and with 98F summer heat, it was too much. We've replaced the relay but will likely upgrade to a higher amperage unit, or a solid state relay, to prevent this from happening in the future.

              DE-BOLTING THE WHEELS

              In early June 2020 I couldn't look at these silly wheels any longer. After fruitless searches on what these bolts do I just decided to remove one and see... sure enough, it was fake. Did nothing, didn't seal anything, just a blind hole in the heavy cast wheel. I took 100+ bolts out of the 4 wheels and they totaled 1.7 pounds.




              Maybe 20 minutes to get all of these off, pick up all of the bolts, and nothing else was needed. My only regret was not doing this THE DAY these wheels were mounted. Big improvement in looks, and if the black band was all the same color it would look better still.



              This is the current ride height, above, with the rear bags lifted just a hair for a slight rake. This way I can pick up heavy loads of parts and never worry about bottoming the rear suspension. The truck stayed like this for a few months until 2020 struck.

              IF A TREE FALLS IN THE WOODS...

              2020 has been a rat bastard of a year! We had a big storm blow through on August 16th and, while we never heard the crash, a tree fell onto the roof, windshield, hood, and front fender of the truck, doing some real damage.



              This tree was long dead, and on our neighbor's commercial property. Texas case law is pretty clear on trees, it's a natural event and nobody is liable. But when the tree was dead for years it can be considered neglect, and the owner owner property where the tree was might be liable. It's a big mess is what it is.



              I took the video below the morning after this happened. The damage was pretty obvious - roof caved in, windshield busted, hood, fender, even popped a driving light out. This is not what I needed, but hey - its 2020.



              I went and talked to the neighbor, who quickly sent a tree crew to come by and chainsaw the tree into smaller chunks and haul it all away. I used the tractor to lift the tree off the roof, then drove it to a car wash to get all of the busted limbs and twigs out of the bed and clear off the exterior to see how bad it was.



              With the paint cleared off the damage was apparent. Roof skin is toast and the dents in the hood are enough to warrant replacement, ditto the fender. I had a friend do an estimate but at $5600 is is a bit daunting, and I don't think anyone will foot the bill for this. It's gonna be on my dime, more than likely. So if I am going to cover the costs, it will be time for an upgrade....

              SILVERADO SS CONVERSION DURING BODY REPAIRS



              Looks like now is as good of a time as any to turn my 2000 Silverado into a Silverado SS clone. This was a specialty truck Chevrolet built from 2003-2006. Yes, it is a total cliche, and yes, I am that basic.



              I have to replace the hood, a headlight, and fender anyway, plus the front chrome bumper had a big dent in it (some a-hole backed into me in a parking lot) and the original grill was already busted. So I might as well get the hardware to convert to the 2003-07 front end: fenders, hood, headlights, grill, headlight mounts, bumper, and bumper brackets. Then it isn't too far of a jump to the SS front end, which is a unique set of grills and a lower bumper cover. I've read up on this for several years, as it was always part of the long term upgrades for this truck.



              I thought briefly about a color change but that is REALLY hard to do well without a LOT of extra spending - so it will stay white. And I will include a white rear bumper. Within 5 days of the "tree incident" I had already researched and ordered all of the body panels, bumper, brackets, headlights, and grill. Most of the shipment is here or inbound, all except the hood - which is 2 months out. Damn pandemic!

              MISC REPAIRS

              When the truck was on the lift recently we noticed the pinion seal is leaking, as are the "slip joint" connections for the ARH exhaust aft of the headers. We will tackle those repairs with the bed is removed, which needs to happen during the Air Lift compressor / controller install.



              Right now that is the least of my worries, heh.

              DE-BADGE AND REMOVE RUB STRIPS

              On August 19th, two days after the tree incident and right after washing the truck, I decided to get off my butt and start on the de-badging and rub strip removal. I had meant to do this 2 years earlier, and now if I screwed up the paint removing these plastics I can at least have the paint repaired during the impending paint and body work.



              I left the truck sitting in the hot sun for hours and broke out a few tools: some plastic wedges, a hunk of heavy string, and an eraser wheel on a drill. The badges were easy to get off just with the wedge.



              For the side rub strips, these were ON THERE good. I started them with the wedge, then slipped a hunk of string underneath and "sawed" through the adhesive foam. At a certain point I just started pulling the rub strip off. This left a LOT of gummy foam adhesive in place.



              Then using a $20 eraser wheel on a drill I was able to "Erase" the adhesive foam. It wasn't easy but it wasn't harmful to the paint or clear coat, luckily. I ran out of steam about an hour in (it was hot as hell outside) and soaked the rest with WD-40 - which will help loosen the adhesion for additional work in the near future. It already looked good only half done on one side, above right.

              WHAT NEXT?

              I will chronicle the 2003 / Silverado SS conversion, showing all of the custom bits we will have to make (GM doesn't support vehicles after 10 years so many of the SS parts are no longer available). I will likely have the wheels refinished in one color while the truck is at the painter (on the 17" wheels/tires), too. Lots to do!

              Cheers,

              Terry @ Vorshlag
              Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
              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

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