2004 Chevy Silverado - Silver Autocross

"Yeah, I want to auto-X the truck..." (Laughter)

John Ulaszek Apr 1, 2005 0 Comment(s)

Step By Step

My '04, pre-mod Silverado. The key to my buildup is the optional ($375) all wheel drive AutoTrac transfer case. The AWD setting sends power to the wheels with traction just like the SS truck. While there is about a 300-pound weight penalty, it allows for phenomenal traction at the drag strip with a relatively narrow all-season tire. An additional benefit is the ability to switch over to 2WD for dyno tuning, slightly better mileage and the occasional burnout.

This view shows just how high a stock Silverado K1500 regular cab is lifted in the rear. While this stance allows for a 9200-pound towing capacity it looks odd in person and detracts from the ultimate handling capability. I focused my suspension efforts on the rear and worked forward.

Right now, the GMHTP faithful are left with precious few options for RWD V-8 performance while we wait for a Camaro replacement. But one of them is an AWD, 325 c.i. V-8 powered, 4.10 geared, four wheel disc brake two seater that can be yours for under 30 grand--if you are willing to get behind the wheel of a truck.

Chevrolet and GMC trucks are available in just about every configuration imaginable, with the exception of the one that seems most obvious to the readers of GMHTP, a Silverado SS regular cab. For the past several years Chevrolet and John Moss have conspired to bait us with the promise of a reasonably priced Regular Cab SS model with the plan of switching us into a stylish but underpowered extended cab model. When I realized the Silverado SS regular cab shown at SEMA last year was just another tease, I decided to take matters into my own hands and headed to the Chevy dealer to option out a regular cab truck that, with a little help from the aftermarket, would satisfy my need for a reasonably priced and performing daily driver. A quick test drive in a Silverado SS provided a baseline for ride, handling, and acceleration. Choosing a regular cab 1500 model narrowed the largest engine option to the 5.3 and transmission to an automatic. Luckily 4.10 gears, AWD transfer case, locking differential, and towing package are available options. As luck would have it, the dealer had a 5.3 AWD truck optioned out perfectly for my little experiment, and after a little haggling I was driving home in a 2004 Silverado for significantly less than the $29,620 sticker price.

After leaving the dealership I arrived at a red light, and I figured it was time to see how badly the 5.3 and 4.10 gears would shred the 245/75-16 tires. The light turned green, I put the hammer down, and then...crickets chirping...nothing. I meekly crawled away from the light, and finally at about 4000 rpm the 5.3 started to show signs of life. It felt good up to the 1-2 shift, where it suddenly fell on its face for a geriatric shift into second gear. After checking the window sticker to confirm I bought a 5.3 not a 4.3, I suspected torque management was the problem. While underwhelmed by the Silverado's performance I knew it had potential, it just needed an attitude adjustment.

In this story I use HP Tuners' VCM software to remove the factory imposed limitations on the 325-inch powerplant, and make a series of systematic changes which I hope will exceed the handling and acceleration of the Silverado SS while matching its excellent ride quality and road manners. While some of my results are subjective I also intend to quantify my results at an autocross course. Many of the modifications are specific to 4x4s or regular cab trucks, but all '99 and up full size Chevy trucks can benefit from some of these mods.

In the next episode I'll install Stainless Works' new full length headers and cat-back and follow up with a wideband dyno tune session using HP Tuners' new wideband interface.

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