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2004 GMC Sierra - Busted Knuckles

Project Novakane: How To Really Build A Performance Truck

Dan Ward
Aug 1, 2010
Photographers: Dan Ward
If you look up a muscle truck in the dictionary, it will have a high-horsepower engine, manual transmission, lowered suspension, big brakes, Spartan interior, and a driver with bad intentions. What it won't have is a factory automatic transmission, clashing styling, and an interior designed for shows-not the track. We're still a little bitter that Chevy never made the original standard cab shortbed SS that debuted at SEMA in 2002 and with this latest project, we'll show you how to add serious power to your LS-engine, make your fullsize truck handle like a sports car, and do it all on a realistic budget.
Photo 2/4   |   Rendering by North Face Graphix
This 2004 GMC Sierra was picked up for a measly $3,900 at a used car lot in Phoenix. It's a beat-up work truck, but it has what we needed: a 4.8L V-8, five-speed manual transmission, and no modifications. With such a low initial investment, we're going to do two buildups on the once used-and abused pickup to provide you with great bolt-on ideas and dyno-proven, track-tested parts. No fluff, no B.S.-just parts that will make a positive impact on your truck.
In recent years, go-fast trucks like the Ford Lightning sold for around $34,000, the Silverado SS was in the $38K range, and for $50K, you could drive a V-10-powered Dodge SRT-10 Viper truck. Each of those trucks was engineered with performance in mind, but with production and cost limitations, none of these trucks filled your blood with adrenaline each and every time the ignition was fired.
We plan on building our in-house GMC Sierra with a budget of $25,000, not including the purchase price of $3,900, putting our grand total of just under $29K. For less than what you would have spent on a new "performance" truck years ago, we'll show you how to build one, using almost all handtools in your garage, that will outperform all of these trucks in every area.
Photo 3/4   |   With an arsenal of impressive aftermarket components, we'll easily turn this beat-up work truck into a street assassin.
Stage one will focus on easy-to-install bolt-ons parts that many of you are already familiar with, but you may not know the exact details of how they affect your truck's performance. We'll put the truck on the dyno, run it on the track, and give you the 411. This way, your hard-earned dollars are spent on parts that deliver and not just ones that are shiny and make empty promises. During this stage, we'll lower the Sierra with parts from Hotchkis and McGaughy's, add sinister-looking wheels from BMF, grippy tires from Nitto, and brakes that could halt a jumbo jet from AP Racing via Stillen. More LS-engine power will come from an air intake, headers, exhaust, and programmer from Banks, performance cam from Comp Cams, new 102mm LSX intake manifold from FAST, ignition by MSD, and a little go-juice from NOS. Cooling chores will be handled by Flex-a-Lite, Royal Purple, and DEI. Keeping those ponies hooked to the pavement will be an Eaton Detroit Truetrac limited slip with a 3.73 cog from G2 gears, and capped with a Mag-Hytec diff cover. These mods alone should shave more than two seconds off our 1/4-mile times and should have our fullsize Sierra handling on rails.
Stage two is where the men are separated from the boys. LS engines are this generation's small-block 350, and we'll show you how to install one of GM Performance Parts' latest LS engine upgrades-the LSX 376. Engineered for boost, we'll make ridiculous power from this engine that will have our 4,300-pound GMC rolling in the low 11-second territory. We're still working on the supercharger method, but with a methanol injection kit from Snow Performance, we know that it will produce safe, consistent power. We don't wear skirts or watch hair band videos and rowing our own gears was always part of this build. We'll swap out the clunky factory five-speed in favor of Tremec's latest bad-boy, the T-56 Magnum, courtesy of Hurst Driveline Conversions. Capable of handling up to 700 lb-ft of torque, this monster will be engaged by a RAM clutch and a Hurst short-throw shifter.
Photo 4/4   |   Exstensive dyno testing and real-world track data acquisition will give you the facts about performance—not the fluff.
Sound like fun? You betcha, but even better than the fun, we'll show you how you too can have a dependable truck that will haul the mail and keep a smile on your face. Knowing that you did the work yourself is a huge source of pride and looking over at a stoplight only to see a new Mustang pull up will have your right foot ready to hurt their feelings. Project Novakane, leaving other wannabe rides feeling a little woozy.


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