Not wanting to settle for a fully optioned vehicle with unneeded extra weight, and a sunroof he would never use, Greg Hurlbutt was subconsciously in the drag mindset. Dealership hopping one afternoon, Greg was hunting for the perfect Trailblazer SS, back in 2007. Just as he was ready to leave, a particular parked beauty caught his eye. Greg instantly fell in love. Craving the Trailblazer SS for its practicality, making 395 horsepower [stock] mind you, Greg tried convincing himself to keep it stock, and use it for daily transportation. "I'm sure we've all done this," Greg explains. "We know it isn't going to last long." While this brute is now far from stock, at least he still uses it for daily transportation.
We've all had the bug. At some point, the bug will dig deep into the brains of all like-minded performance driven enthusiasts. Uncontrollably morphing into an actual physical reaction, the buying of parts, mod bugs will eventually strike again, just like one bit Greg on his way home to Gurnee, Illinois one afternoon. Having owned a fine assortment of rides, including an 11-second ‘65 Chevelle 300, Greg was no stranger to the pursuit of horsepower. He started out slowly, still trying to suppress the urge to modify, but Greg knew the "keeping it stock mindset" would not last long. Initially, a K&N air intake and Superchips handheld tuner held him over. At first, and for those with intense will power, little additions like air intakes will mask larger performance desires, merely delaying the inevitable. Needless to say, in a short amount of time, and after removing the exhaust resonators, Greg wanted to capitalize on the throaty Trailblazer's potential, shifting the focus away from stock.
The appeal of a modified Trailblazer was part of the thrill for Greg, as this would be his first foray into a late model EFI build. While searching for more performance avenues, he ultimately crossed paths with Brandon Alley, from Fast Motorsports in Woodstock, Illinois. Sometimes a simple confirmation from a concurrent thinker is all that is needed to pull the trigger on another upgrade, and Brandon was that guy. With the short introductions over with, Greg says, "It has been a friendship that has bled my wallet dry." But, hey, that's the cost of performance, right? Or something like that…
After some professional tuning, with the help of Brandon, the Trailblazer was hitting high-12-second passes, but Greg still needed more. It is safe to say that the "keeping it stock" idea was pretty far back in the rearview at this point (with our applause). When the SS was in the shop for an initial transmission rebuild during the winter, Greg capitalized on the perfect opportunity to add an upgraded torque converter. The snow season had come and gone, replenishing the pockets of Greg Hurlbutt, only to be emptied once again for the addition of a Bullet Racing camshaft, Pacesetter headers, and a new Pacesetter exhaust. Greg says, "The heads, camshaft, and other components work well to offer nice drivability, and ear-to-ear grins arise when the loud pedal goes down. The biggest problem is disciplined street driving when every other sense in my body is telling me to stand on it."
Reminiscing about the rear-wheel cars he'd previously driven, Greg had come to the next decision for the project–making it an even further cry from how it arrived at the dealership. "I had wished since day one that I had purchased a two-wheel drive truck, instead of an all-wheel drive one." It was time to make the transformation from all-wheel drive, to two-wheel drive, while adding a state-of-the-art carbon driveshaft. Dropping the front transfer case and elapsed times like a bad habit, Greg was instantly enthused about his decision, calling it "more fun than an amusement park ride." Greg's past hopes had been turned into physical outcomes with the emotional responses of a true performance fanatic. "It was no longer a run of the mill Trailblazer SS," especially with the addition of True Forged wheels and drag radials, "it now looked and sounded the part."
"There is nothing like the simple thrill of a naturally aspirated motor with just the right combination of old school rumble and modern scream, wrapped into a SUV." Greg has a good point, no matter the speed, although that does help, so long as personal project goals are reached, the mission is accomplished. "I spend less time at the track than I do street driving the truck," and with that being said, his no longer stock, daily driven 457 horsepower Trailblazer is something we'd like to be sitting next to at a red light. Not necessarily waiting to smash the pedal when the light turns green, but to witness the sheer excitement experienced by Greg, anticipating his no-brainer response, and the loud roar following the green.
With mental images of Greg's Trailblazer gunning it at the green, we made sure to ask him what the SS is like at the strip. For starters, and like clockwork, he brings the M&H drag radials up to temperature with the assistance of a moderate burnout, taking full advantage of the rear-wheel drive conversion. Keeping that in mind, Greg explains that wheel spin is his biggest challenge when launching, even with 325's for rears. "[I] bump it in the beams shallow, and then get on the converter to about 3,600 rpm before launching." His best 60-foot thus far is 1.53 seconds, but Greg is planning on modifying the rear suspension to improve those figures after the winter replenishes his pockets again. Running his fastest quarter-mile in 11.61 at 115.9 miles per hour, he's itching to find the right torque converter to maximize traction and shave off a little more e.t. Folks, keep in mind this is a truck hovering exceedingly close to 5,000 pounds that we're talking about! Comfortably taking four or five of your closest compadres to the drag strip, ridding in a truck that could also tow a trailer with a drag car is a novel, yet enticing concept to ponder.
Speaking of full-size interiors, Greg wanted to make sure that we saw his Trailblazer's. Occasionally, nicely upholstered interiors of deeply modified cars and trucks can become overwhelmed with track gadgets, massive gauges, and with shift lights so bright they intermittently blind you. Last but not least, stock seats are usually ripped out for race ones, unfortunately sacrificing the caboose padding needed in a daily driver. Take a look at Greg's interior, and you will quickly see why he wanted us to check it out. It's one thing that Greg finally decided to keep stock. Sitting in the truck, the unsuspecting passengers-only interior visual cue is a couple of extra small gauges near the normal ones, hardly even hinting at the fact that this stout truck is capable of pulling most Vettes. Greg didn't want any nonsense to take away the normal, daily driver type visual sensations. Sitting down on the welcomed "clean and comfy" seats is not bad, especially knowing excess thrust is readily available when desired. Greg's Trailblazer is getting over 20 miles per gallon, which is a nice improvement over the stock 16 mpg, considering the upgrades. Rationalizing the mods? You've got it!
Horsepower junkies are constantly looking for another fix, and ways to generate higher numbers. Naturally, we couldn't wait to find out what Greg had up his sleeve. He gladly informed us, explaining that under the hood he has "re-routed and relocated" many components and harnesses, "making room for future modifications, like a turbocharger." It sounds like Greg is strategically scheming to boost his Blazer, such a far cry from initially thinking he would not modify it at all.
Easy enough to illustrate, Greg explains, "I care about every aspect of the truck, and have put loads of time and effort into how it looks, how it sounds, and how it goes." At the end of the day it "has taken quite a bit of time and effort to refine." Looking back, he has tried vastly different combinations to get the setup he was after, "four different exhausts, two different camshafts, and over a half dozen torque converter combinations," all with the help of many distinctive individuals. "Between Brandon at Fast Motorsports and Gregg Nader with Sonnax Performance, I have every avenue I could ever dream of."
There is nothing like the simple thrill of a naturally aspirated motor with just the right combination of old-school rumble and modern scream, wrapped into a SUV.
Car: 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer SS
Owner: Greg Hurlbutt
Block: GM LS2, 364cid
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Heads: Trick Flow Specialties 220cc, ported by Total Engine Airflow, 2.055 intake, 1.57 exhaust valves
Cam: Bullet Racing custom hydraulic roller
Pushrods: Comp Hi-Tech 7.475-inch
Rocker arms: Yella Terra shaft-mount, 1.7 ratio
Pistons: Stock, hypereutectic
Crankshaft: Stock, nodular iron
Rods: Stock, powdered metal
Throttle body: GM LS7 90mm
Fuel injectors: Injector Dynamics 850cc
Fuel pump: Stock
Ignition: Stock coil-near-plug
Engine management: Stock E67, tuned by Brandon Alley at Fast Motorsports
Exhaust system: Pacesetter 1-3/4-inch headers, 3-inch X-pipe, Borla XR-1 4-inch oval muffler
Transmission: 4L70E, built by Sonnax Performance
Torque converter: Sonnax 245mm, 4,000-stall
Driveshaft: Sonnax carbon fiber, 4-inch
Front suspension: DJM upper control arms, stock GM lower control arms, Belltech struts, stock springs
Rear suspension: Stock control arms, Panhard bar, springs, Belltech shocks
Rear end: GM 14-bolt, 4.10 gear, stock axles, Eaton Posi
Wheels: TrueForged Victory 17x7 front, 17x11 rear
Front tires: M&H 215/60/17
Rear tires: M&H drag radials 325/45/17
Race weight: 4,700 pounds
Best ET/mph: 11.61/115.9
Best 60-ft. time: 1.53
Current mileage: 78,573
Miles driven weekly: 300