2002 Chevy 3500 HD Crew Cab - Air Strike On The Water
These Toys Can Beat Up Your Toys
On the West Coast, size matters. Baller stylists have to have the biggest, loudest, fastest, brightest, and best. If you can't run with the big dogs, your puppy butt better stay on the porch. In short, go big or go home. There is no other way to stand out on this side of the continent. Extremely tall trucks are the norm rather than the exception, and nobody knows big like tall-truck expert Craig Elder of Temecula, California. Approached by Jim McGill, owner of Ranch Muffler and Truck Accessories in Temecula, to build an eye-catching skyscraper truck, Craig knew just what to do.
Craig has been using extreme technology to create the tallest of the tall here in the West Coast's lifted truck war zone. Each of his aggressive creations is bigger and badder than the previous. Jim gave Craig the reigns to lead the Ranch Muffler crew through the steps necessary to reach stepladder stardom. The guinea pig for this endeavor started life as an '02 Chevy 3500 HD Crew Cab with a bangin' Duramax and a torque-pushing Allison tranny. Insanely enough, they had a three-month window to get this truck from a showroom stocker to a show-stopping jaw-dropper. Starting this project off, the Ranch Muffler hands started with the body mods. Can you imagine having to shave door handles 10 feet up? The first to disappear was the front clip, which was replaced with coveted Cadillac Escalade components. Welders were warmed up to close the holes created by the removal of the door handles and tailgate handle. Finishing the smooth appearance is a Sir Michaels roll pan laid in place of the factory rear bumper. Jeff Miller of Jeff Miller Customs, also of Temecula, was tasked with making sure the canvas was properly smoothed before laying down coats of PPG Monster Yellow sourced from Temecula Valley Paint. Are you seeing a trend here? Clear was sprayed over the whole body before Jeff went polish crazy to bring this vibrant color to life. After returning to the Ranch, finishing touches to the body were applied. Capping the Escalade front is a Trenz billet grille and antenna. APC taillights replace the stockers, and Line-X fills the bed needs.
After the exterior refinements were completed, the tall-truck-to-be was sent off to The Custom Factory in Simi Valley, California, for some comfort zone interior tricks. Flames were on the list, so a gray-tweed headliner embossed with flames was put up to cover the expansive roof of the four-door interior. All the four-door panels received the tweed layout as well, with inserts of flame-licked leather. Bringing it all together is two-tone gray leather seating with a dose of the fiery stuff lapping at your backside. Trenz was once again called for the bling factor, and it came through with a billet flame steering wheel, doorsills, pedals, mirror, and a shifter. As if that weren't enough in the BBQ department, Nu-Image's flamed-out gauge overlay fit right into its new home.
With the stitching finalized, a serious sound system was needed for those fun cruise days. Of course you can't really have a trophy-winner without at least one TV, so for good measure, Jim ordered up a trio. One of Sony's CDXM63D head units sends out the vital info to three Kicker amps before they, in turn, upload 2,800 watts of ear-shattering music to the Kicker 6-1/2-inch separates in the factory locations, as well as the four Kicker 12-inch subs mounted in band pass behind the rear seat. As mentioned, three TVs were wired up for passenger viewing pleasure. One 7-inch flip-down monitor swings from the ceiling, while the other two 7-inchers were squeezed into the headrests. Credit for the powerful, clean A/V install goes to Audio Evolution of Temecula.
At this point, the interior and exterior details were hammered out and the deadline was getting near for Craig, Jim, and the Ranch Muffler boys. Late nights went hand in hand with early mornings while Craig led the way with a super-functional and awesome-looking suspension design.
While the truck was away getting the interior and exterior handled, Craig busied himself with collecting the necessary parts to fabricate and install the new level lift for this behemoth. The Hack Shack supplied 16 1/2-inch valves, three air tanks, 1/2-inch air line, and compressors to feed the upcoming Air Flex huge-by-wide airbags. A call to Sway-A-Way netted a care package of 18-inch shocks, sway bars, and hydraulic bumpstops. A set of 20x12-inch Goudy Wheels was set aside, awaiting the arrival of the 53-inch Goodyear DOT tires from Stazworks in Merillan, Wisconsin. With the parts in stock, the fellas at the Ranch got to the task at hand with welders molding steel and cutters throwing sparks across the floor. The entire stock suspension was tossed into a scrap heap to make way for the custom-fabricated five-link front and three-link rear suspension featuring Donahoe Racing's The Edge Heim-joints in XXL. The front setup is fitted to a Clear Gearz-equipped, gusseted Dana 60. The rearend is linked to a beefed-up Corporate 14-bolt with another Clear Gearz cover to entertain any tailgaters. The factory frame took extensive bracing and plating to contain the ridiculous fabrication necessary to put this truck in the clouds. Drop-down caging was created from heavy-gauge chrome-moly tubing to create a mounting location for the link bars, airbags, and 18-inch shocks. A divorced NP205 transfer case was put into place behind the Allison before being connected to the diffs by way of custom Inland Empire high-angle drivelines. After all the mounts were finished and the air system was given the OK, Ranch Muffler's guys removed everything they created and sent the parts off for final finishing.
Olympic Powdercoating of Escondido, California, and Foss Plating in Santa Fe Springs, California, created the visually stunning contrast between the painted and chromed items. While the suspension parts were away, Jim Miller was again called upon for his magic spray gun. Jim smoothed the framework before laying down a creative mixture of PPG Purple Pearl from front to back, giving the frame a personality of its own. Once back in the capable hands of Ranch Muffler, the reassembly went smoothly, and Craig knew a set of MC Motorsports wheel adapters would make the wheel and tire package of choice stand out just enough to clear the fenders. With the HD as one again, the crew fitted a MagnaFlow 4-inch exhaust and a K&N air intake for a little more power before running off to SEMA to show off their new toy - up on 53s with a foot and a half of air-powered see-saw action.
Seeing as SEMA is in November, Craig had an idea for a show-stopping addition to the massive Chevy for the upcoming summer months. How about a matching boat? Craig stopped off at High Torque Marine (HTM) and promptly purchased an SR24 enclosed bow cat. The boat was optioned with a Mercruiser EFI 502, but that wouldn't cut it. One of ProCharger's air huffers with intercooler was strapped on for a big-block of excitement. Swinging off the transom is a Bravo One drive with single-ram steering. Craig now had a boat capable of 90-plus mph, so it was off to Jim Miller of Jim Miller Customs again for a PPG flamed makeover of the boat's skin and a coat of Monster Yellow on the trailer. Craig unloaded a few of the items from the boat, such as the swim steps, exhaust tips, and vents at Foss Plating for dipping in the chrome tank, while The Custom Shop crew was again at their sewing machines matching up a herd of marine vinyl in matching yellow with blue flames. You must have driving music out on the water. A Pioneer in-dash tells a couple of Kicker amps what to do with the 12 Kicker 6x9s and six Kicker subs when Craig turns up the juice on his favorite tunes. Finishing off the water rocket is Dana Marine aluminum trim installed by Chuck Vogel.
Try not to hurt yourself when you crane your neck to see Jim's truck and Craig's boat driving down the road together. These two guys have created a look that pushes all the bounds of what can be considered sane. With our side of the continent on fire with killer boats and rumbling sky-reaching rigs, it's hard to imagine topping a package like this. In this scene, it truly is go big or go home.