1996 Chevy Tahoe - Madillac

A Top-Drawer Tahoe

Travis Noack
Mar 10, 2006
Photographers: Wes Allison
Photo 2/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe front Right View
Creating cutting-edge contemporary custom vehicles with a classic twist has been a trend that has permeated the custom truck scene for quite some time. We have seen late-model Chevy pickups with '57 Chevy Bel Air side trim airbrushed on, along with varying themes taken from classic Corvettes and old woody wagons. Kevin Cox from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, decided that when it came time to build his insane '96 Chevy Tahoe, a look completely original and different was needed.
Photo 3/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe custom Badge View
This airbagged chop top beauty is the result of one of Kevin's customers losing interest in the project. Kevin, along with his father Randy, owns Custom Concepts in Oklahoma City, which is a body and paint business responsible for turning out several high-quality custom vehicles. Those of you who are regular readers will no doubt recognize Kevin's name. His last custom pickup creation was featured in the Mar. '01 issue of Truckin' in a story titled "Rockin' Retro." It was an '84 GMC shortbed painted Porsche Blue and covered with Tangelo flames and lowered down over 18- and 20-inch Budnik Wheels. Shortly after it's feature in Truckin', that truck was traded for our Dec. '01 cover truck named Purgatory, which was a '99 Chevy Extended Cab airbagged, body-dropped, and flamed.
Kevin rolled Purgatory for a while and added his own personal flavor to fit his tastes and then decided it was time again to put his frame-up signature on something. So the truck was sold and the hunt for a new project began. While Kevin pondered what to build next to show off his metalworking and paint skills, he steadily worked on a '96 Tahoe that a customer had dropped off with a list of modifications to complete. To Kevin, it was just another project to finish and get paid for until his shop phone rang one afternoon. It was the owner saying he had lost interest in completing the Tahoe. Kevin quickly offered the owner a deal he could not refuse.
In exchange for handing over the keys and the pink slip to his new Corvette, Kevin would take ownership of the Tahoe and complete it. The owner of the Tahoe agreed, and within a few hours, Kevin had his rolling metal canvas to unleash all his ideas upon. The creation of 'Mad-illac was now underway, and once finished, the custom truck community would be speechless.
This bright-yellow two-door people hauler hugs the ground courtesy of a fully adjustable air suspension system installed at Custom Concepts. Kevin and Randy installed 2-inch Belltech dropped spindles under the nose teamed with Firestone airbags to bring the '01 GMC truck bumper closer to Mother Earth.
Photo 4/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe rear View
At the tail end, an Ektensive Metalworks step notch, Panhard bar, and custom two-link setup update the rear suspension to accept the adjustability of the Firestone air bellows. Plumbing the system are Ektensive 1/2-inch valves, a 3/8-inch air line, and one Nitrogen tank for quick air on demand. Where you find the switches to air up this masterpiece is a mystery; they are hidden on the driver-side door panel, disguised as window switches.
The entire rear floor section was cut out and raised to allow 'Mad-illac to lay frame and still accept the factory rear lower interior plastics. Raising the floor also allowed the factory gas tank to be raised so it would be concealed behind the custom roll pan. After 'Mad-illac was on the ground and sporting a ton of frame and suspension fabrication work, it was time to choose the perfect billet wheels to cap off the radical suspension slam.
Photo 5/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe wheel View
Kevin knew - considering how radical 'Mad-illac was going to be once completed - he was going to have to toss on something unique and eye-catching. He got just that with bonspeed's Sweep billet wheel featuring a unique twisting pattern in the grooved billet spokes. Not one to follow the bigger-is-better trend, and wanting to make 'Mad-illac capture more of a street rod appearance, Kevin went with 20x8-inch bonspeed Sweeps up front and 20x10-inch bonspeed Sweeps in the rear. To cushion the fragile billets from unsightly bends and dings, a set of Michelin Pilot tires measuring P255/35ZR20 up front and P275/35ZR20 at the rear were shoehorned around the mirror image rollers and stuffed under the fenderwells.
Photo 6/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe engine View
Packing the engine compartment with some additional ponies was just as important to Kevin as capturing the ideal exterior looks, so before the body went under the knife and paint was sprayed, a few bolt-on performance enhancements were included in the 'Mad-illac equation. Under the hood of 'Mad-illac, the keen eye will not only notice a multitude of color-matched bits and pieces, but the polished ATI Pro Charger Supercharger running 8 pounds of boost. Complementing the ATI Procharger unit is a Hypertech Power Programmer for supercharged motors. Exhaust chores are handled by 3-inch piping leading to a three-chamber Flowmaster muffler installed by HP Racing in Oklahoma City.
An Empire Motor Sports billet engine bay dress-up kit brings a little extra shine to the doghouse to go with all the glistening painted components. For cranking power, Kevin relies on none other than an Optima battery topped by a Tsunami battery buddy junction box to aid in powering the massive stereo system.
After the Tahoe's frame was planted firmly on the Oklahoma City pavement and the factory 350ci powerplant was aided with a bit more throttle-stomping performance, it was time to dive head first into the bodywork to create the classic Chevy Nomad look Kevin was striving for. After enlisting the help of fellow Custom Concepts body sculptors Shane Hill and Chris Brankel, his father Randy Cox, and his friend Brad Houk, the Tahoe was stripped and prepared for a serious metal makeover.
Photo 7/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe rear Right View
First on the list was to lower the factory roofline down a few notches. For this task, Kevin relied on Brad Houk to chop the Tahoe's metal hat 3-1/2 inches and make the A- and B-pillars fit like factory. Brad did a beautiful job; he reworked the door frames and added sheetmetal to the roof at the rear window to make the rooflines all flow together. Shane, Chris, and Randy got busy on the other metal modifications that were on the long list by firing up their welders, putting on their welding helmets, and working around the clock.
Photo 8/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe license Plate View
A custom-made tailgate handle relocator takes care of moving the factory handle inside, while a custom-frenched license plate box holds the Tahoe's tag. Replacing the factory rear bumper in seamless molded-in fashion is a Sir Michaels roll pan filled with a Hi-Tech LED stoplight lens. The bulky factory taillights were ditched and their openings filled for extra smoothness. Moving forward, the original door handles were tossed and replaced with rear door handles from a Chevy Malibu, which have been seamlessly sunken into the factory door skins.
Photo 9/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe front View
The factory cowl panel was also smoothed to match the rest of the wrinkle-free bodywork. Up front, a complete Cadillac Escalade front clip was adapted to update the facial appearance. An '01 GMC pickup bumper was narrowed 3-1/2 inches and slid under the slightly cut Escalade grille shell. Street Scene mirrors were mounted up to replace the factory oversized units. After the body alterations were finished, Shane and Chris rolled the Tahoe into the booth and squirted the sheetmetal with PPG Tri-Coat Lamborghini Diablo Pearl Yellow. The color is both unique and eye-catching, and works well with the chop and classic Nomad styling.
Photo 10/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe roof View
Color-sanding and polishing was followed by a trip to B.A.D. (Billet Accessories Direct) where the trick billet aluminum side molding, roof trim, and tailgate trim pieces were made, along with several other billet components found on the inside and outside of this wicked ride. The unique trim pieces resemble those of a classic Chevy Nomad and get onlookers scratching their heads. Once work was completed at B.A.D. on the one-off exterior trim, Brian Datson's Glass Pro in Oklahoma City took the Tahoe in for a while and cut new glass to work with the 3-1/2-inch roof slice.
Photo 11/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe amplifiers View
One thing that separates Kevin from most people who own show vehicles of this caliber is that he actually plans to put some miles on 'Mad-illac. This Tahoe was built to cruise, so knowing that, some ear-piercing tunes needed to fill the cabin for those long road trips. Independent audio professionals Gary Biggs and Mike Maxwell teamed up to pack the inside of 'Mad-illac with one heck of an audio punch. A Pioneer DVD player head unit was chosen to lead the speakers and amps with musical signals, while three 10-inch Tsunami subwoofers rock the plush confines. For clearer, more defined sounds, a Tsunami DB4440 amplifier drives the Tsunami Comp Series mids and separates while a Tsunami DB1100D amplifier pushes the subwoofers.
A Clarion 6.4-inch TV screen mounted up front in the custom-built console aids in visual entertainment. Gary Biggs of Tulsa is responsible for wiring up the audio ensemble using Tsunami wiring. The custom subwoofer enclosure and center console were built by Gary Biggs and Mike Maxwell. A Dolby Digital Surround Sound DVD player feeds the Clarion 6.4-inch screen with plenty of entertainment ammunition. Since the audio in this late-model head-turner is so extensive, an off-the-hook interior had to be built around it.
Photo 12/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe subwoofers View
An inside investigation of 'Mad-illac will reveal a fully smoothed dash painted Lamborghini Diablo Pearl Yellow surrounded by four Fiero bucket seats which have been relieved of their headrests, shortened, and covered with Lambskin Leather. The floor was lined with Malibu Sand tweed along with the headliner. The base of the custom console was covered in Malibu Sand tweed along with custom subwoofer enclosure out back. Upholstery Unlimited in Del City, Oklahoma took charge of the threadwork inside 'Mad-illac.
Photo 13/22   |   1996 Chevrolet Tahoe passenger Side Dashboard View
Surrounding all of the ultra-clean fabric are custom-made billet enhancement pieces made by B.A.D., including sill plates, doorjamb plates, and cup holder filler panel. A B.A.D. one-off billet steering wheel was made to match the 20-inch bonspeed Sweep wheels the Tahoe rolls on.'Mad-illac is a rolling work of art that is a tangible example of the quality work Custom Concepts of Oklahoma City is capable of.
Kevin would like to extend thanks to ATI Procharger, Tsunami, bonspeed, Upholstery Unlimited, Billet Accessories Direct, G&R Auto Parts, Brian Datson's Glass Pro, HP Racing, and Merle's Frame & Wheel Alignment for their participation in the project.
An extra special thanks goes out to Randy Cox (Dad), Shane Hill, Brad Houk, Glen Begae, Chris Brankel, Mitch Henderson, Gary Biggs, and Mike Maxwell for their hard work in creating this stunning piece of automotive art. 'Mad-illac is scheduled to be at this year's SEMA show in Las Vegas, where it will definitely be the talk of the show. The style of a modern show truck and the craftsmanship of a high-dollar street rod make this ride truly stunning. Keeping it simple and classy works every time.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Specifications

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Fair Market Price $43,480
MSRP $46,300
Editors' Overall Rating
Mileage 16 City / 23 Highway
Engine 5.3L V8
Horse Power 355 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque 383 ft lb of torque @ 4,100 rpm
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Chevrolet Tahoe

Fair Market Price
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Editors' Overall Rating
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MSRP: $46,300
Mileage: 16 / 23
Engine: 5.3L V8
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