It all comes down to the lack of a rear-wheel-drive V-8-powered sedan. But if a car won't do it, then a truck might. Chevrolet started all this business about year ago, showing up at the Woodward Dream Cruise with a minimal Silverado that had a hopped-up 6.0L and a six-speed, to prove a point. The premise was simple: The parts bins are filled with this stuff, so why not raid them and build an affordable alternative to a tough sedan? Herewith, three separate Silverado 1500 solutions.
The virtual demise of the F-body puts Berger Chevrolet in a quandary. The Camaro has been its mainstay since day one, but save for the C5, Chevrolet doesn't market a rear-drive passenger car of any sort. So trucks are it, and owner Matt Berger and ace marketer Dennis Barker are running with a notion of their own. Their experiment with the ubiquitous super truck is based on an '03 Silverado that they fitted with a stock LS6 engine and corresponding T56 double-overdrive transmission. Except for a 3- and 4-inch drop, special Bilstein shock absorbers, and 20-inch rubber, the truck is in showroom condition. Though strictly a teaser at Tour time, it is Berger's intention to offer the 1500 in a super-truck production series, should it be produced at all.
Behind the wheel, you feel like you're in a ... truck, not a fullsize sedan. The buckets in the Berger are secure and comfortable, and there's a rather large void between the two. A chrome-plated Hurst shifter stands upright in the middle of it, well to the side of the driver. At first, the sensation is awkward and the stick is far enough away that it precludes any notion of being in the close confines of a passenger car. Otherwise, its action is smooth and light, but the length of the stick and the wide gates might be reduced for more clarity. With its ZO6 engine, does the Berger experimental act like a Corvette? No. It acts like a truck with a Corvette engine. In any case, the Berger is completely tractable, swift when you lean on it, comfortable, and righteous unto itself.
The most advanced of the trio presented here, car-builder Donald Hardy's (Lubbock, Texas) sinister '02 Silverado features a 6.0L cylinder block bored 0.030-over and stroked to 4.125 inches via a Lunati crankshaft. With 10.5:1 compression, CNC-ported LS6 cylinder heads, LS6 intake manifold, and 32-gph injectors, the engine puts out 520 hp at the flywheel (450 hp at the wheels). The exhaust system is composed of Doug's long-tube headers with 15/8-inch primaries that dump into a 2.5-inch pipe with a Flowmaster muffler. The Comp XR269HR hydraulic roller was installed 4 degrees advanced. Donald's tune-up is old school only in the "there's no substitute for cubic inches" adage.
Throttle response with the 3.73:1 axle is instantaneous and lusty. A 2,200-stall converter shuttles the torque with alacrity, but the upshifts don't jar your wig loose and are muted and comfortable even under the harshest whip. On the other end of the spectrum, Donald enlisted Baer Eradispeed brakes, and 245/40 and 295/40 BFGs on sublime machined-surfaced 20-inch Budniks to work with the Air Ride suspension system.
While we've seen and experienced the good and the bad attributes of airbags, Donald's Silverado could be the Air Lift poster child. It feels like conventional springs are working underneath. It doesn't bobble, bump, or wallow no matter what you do to it, even though the sidewalls on those 20s are rubber-band skinny. Regardless, Hardy has built a cogent, intelligent everyday driver that defies most of the modern cues and reels in 18 mpg.
Small is the marketing honcho at Flowmaster, so you know what exhaust system is on his personal 1500. It's got the original 5.3L V-8 in there, but it's topped off with a MagnaCharger blower pushing a respectable 6 psi. Otherwise, the package is stock. In the interest of movin' cool on those crowded Santa Rosa roads, Richard has retained the 4L60E automatic as well as the original 3.42:1 gearset. The ride is so cushy and benign, you think big sedan.
There's virtually nothing to give up its identity. Looks like a stocker with a 2/4 slam (ala Hotchkis) and shiny wheels (Billet Specialties 8x18 with Yokohama Geolander 265/60 fatties). And that suits Small just fine. He's not after scorched tarmac; he's got a big red Chevelle to do that. He wanted to upgrade the engine, and where young Donald Hardy hails from, there are no stipulations on emissions. The Magnuson blower looks as though it were born on the engine and is governed by a special computer program.
In terms of grunt, the heavy Chevy comes off the mark with tire squeal followed by wicked black strips on the pavement. The upshift is strong and the rush of power (such as it is) maintains until you run the tach into oblivion. The programming puts driveability on a higher plane by holding the gears longer before the upshift, but compared to the pull of Hardy's stroker motor, it's still a case for big cubes. Richard's runner returns about 19 mpg. CHP While we've seen and experienced the good and the bad attributes of airbags, Donald's Silverado could be the Air Lift poster child. It feels like conventional springs are working underneath. It doesn't bobble, bump, or wallow no matter what you do to it, even though the sidewalls on those 20s are rubber-band skinny. Regardless, Hardy has built a cogent, intelligent everyday driver that defies most of the modern cues and reels in 18 mpg.