GMC Canyon Crew Cab - So-Cal-Styled Canyon

Revisiting The Past By Building The Futur

Dan Ward
Aug 1, 2004
Photographers: Peter S. Linney
Photo 2/2   |   custom Gmc Canyon front View
Ever wonder how those Bonneville Salt Flats race cars go so fast with limited transmissions - often no transmissions - and restrictive gear ratios? By using trucks, that's how. For years, racers have used what they call push trucks to literally push the race car down the Bonneville salt until the machine got up to speed. Reaching deep into its heritage, So-Cal Speed Shop of Pomona, California, teamed with GMC to create a Canyon race push truck and, before they knew it, built a wild truck that would set records of its own.
Racers take genuine pride in their race cars, pouring time, blood, sweat, and, in defeat, tears into their respective passions. These top-speed racers quickly realized extra help was needed to get their cars with such high-gear ratios down the raceway. An easy, efficient, and practical solution to their needs was a truck fitted with a custom frontend that could push the race car down the Salt Flats until it reached a speed where it could power itself. Many of the trucks were mobile garages with tools, fuel, food, and supplies on-board for quick repairs and pit stops. Many of these prized trucks were beaters because of the vast funds being poured into the race car. For the select few, however, the push truck was almost as nice as the car and provided an additional outlet for these gearheads to show their custom prowess on and off the raceway.
Combining the build talent and quality of GMC, So-Cal Speed Shop built a GMC Canyon that uses the latest in technology and trends yet is firmly rooted in the popular and long-standing heritage of the legendary race shop. Starting with a Crew Cab Canyon equipped with the new 3.5L I-5 engine, the team at So-Cal Speed Shop began the project with the chassis. Up front, the nose of the GMC was lowered thanks to Eibach lowering springs, dropping the Canyon 2-1/2 inches closer to the salt. In the rear, So-Cal used de-arched leaf springs, blocks, and traction bars to drop the rear 4 inches. Budnik was the wheel of choice, due to its retro-styled Muroc II wheels. The front wheelwells are stuffed with 18x8-inch billets wrapped by Pirelli rubber, sized P245/45R18. Out back, the 19x8-inch Budniks are surrounded by P255/45R19 tires. With the suspension safe and secure, attention was placed on powering the Canyon down the Salt Flats.
So-Cal once again teamed with a division of GM to obtain maximum performance from its push truck, but this time it was with the Saturn LSR team. The Vortec 3500 received a custom but very production-ready turbo kit from GM Powertrain. With boost from 9 to 11 psi, the Canyon can put more than 350 hp to the sand with 350 lb-ft of torque ensuring the Canyon never slows down. Prepping the I-5 for that kind of power is heavy-duty equipment, consisting of piston-cooling oil squirters, forged pistons, and a high-strength crankshaft. Wiseco in Mentor, Ohio, performed the engine modifications, and after the engine was blueprinted, the I-5 was shipped back to sunny Southern California.
Speed in triple digits can be a frightening experience without the proper safety equipment. Tackling this issue head-on, So-Cal installed black- and red-leather Recaro racing bucket seats, which were upholstered by Lil' John of Fountain Valley, California, with competition five-point racing DJ harnesses, a full rollcage, and a fire control system. CB radios keep constant communication between the Canyon and the race car, and several of the dash plastics were painted for an extra touch. The gauges also received the custom treatment, thanks to So-Cal logos and chrome trim rings. Interior good looks are nice, but without the proper paint scheme outside, the truck would not be complete.
Addressing the exterior, So-Cal Speed Shop continued its relationship with GMC and designed a paint scheme able to distinguish itself as truly So-Cal-built. Red and white were chosen to represent the heritage of the speed shop, and with the additions of a body side kit, a louvered hood, and a mesh grille, the Canyon was nearly completed.
The only thing left to do was try out the GMC Canyon at Bonneville. Firing up the turbocharged five-cylinder and mashing the throttle sent clouds of salt flying, and the mission to create a modern interpretation of a historical racing legend was accomplished.
Racy Material
Displaying its long-standing heritage of racing, So-Cal Speed Shop brought out some of its amazing race cars that remind us of yesteryear. Records were made to be broken and So-Cal Speed Shops has set and broken plenty of records during its tenure of racing. Seen here are the So-Cal Saturn ION Red Line, Ecotech-powered lakester, and GMC tow rig.

2015 GMC Canyon Specifications

Fair Market Price $20,861
MSRP $20,955
Editors' Overall Rating
Mileage 19 City / 26 Highway
Engine 2.5L I4
Horse Power 202 hp @ 6,300 rpm
Torque 191 ft lb of torque @ 4,400 rpm
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GMC Canyon

Fair Market Price
Editors' Overall Rating
Basic Specifications
MSRP: $20,955
Mileage: 19 / 26
Engine: 2.5L I4
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