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2004 GMC Sierra - Novakane

Lean, Mean, Go-Fast Machine

Dan Ward
Dec 9, 2013
Photographers: Dan Ward
I was about nine years old riding in the back of my buddy's older bother's '65 Mustang when I became acquainted with speed. Coming back from a little league game, he opened up the 289ci V-8 down a Georgia back road and I remember laughing like only a little boy can when I saw the old speedo needle creep past 100 mph. From that moment, I've been fascinated with going fast. Fast forward some 25 years and I'm the proud owner of one of the fastest trucks I've ever been in—our very own Project Novakane. Admittedly, it's not the fastest pickup in a straight line, and it doesn't have Texas Mile top speed, but what it does have is a rowdy attitude that never apologizes for smoky donuts, insane full-throttle drifts, and the occasional backward entrance into the speed stop cones. It's everything I loved about going fast when I was a kid, and no passenger has ever gotten out of it after a couple of burnouts that wasn't either smiling or ready to puke.
During my 10-plus years at the magazine, I've seen trends trickle down to the truck scene from street rods and muscle cars, whether it's clean and simple paint styles, high-end interiors, or detailed high-tech engines. I also saw all of these muscle car owners flinging their cars around the track at local autocross and race events. Rather than let the car guys have all of fun, I set out to design and build a truck that would rival the performance of these high-dollar machines—but in a pickup. The formula was simple, find a light regular-cab truck (if 4,200 pounds can be called light), add as much power as I could afford, and try to make the whole thing handle. It had to look menacing, it had to sound rowdy, and it needed to back all of that up with legit power. Once the donor truck was purchased at a used car lot in Phoenix for $3,900, Project Novakane was born.
Built in stages within these pages over the last two years, I'll give you a quick overview of how the entire package came together. After enjoying the truck with a traditional lowering kit for a few months, I reached out to fabricator extraordinaire Aaron Iha, of Chassis by Aaron Iha, in Covina, California. A plan was devised to give those six-figure muscle cars a genuine run for their money by way of a race-inspired suspension with maximum wheel travel at each corner to achieve extreme levels of grip. Boxed CNC-cut upper and lower A-arms work in conjunction with McGaughy's 2-inch drop spindles and QA1 coilovers to drop the front a total of seven inches. The rear frame was back-halved with a C-notch, matching QA1 coilovers, and Chassis by Aaron Iha's own triangulated four-link with adjustable aluminum upper links. Hotchkis front and rear sway bars ensure the body stays flat when being pushed hard around corners. AP Racing big brakes from Stillen bring race-winning technology to each corner and are force-fed by a Hydratech hydra-boost setup. Influencing the project's name, 20-inch BMF Novakane wheels are wrapped in ultra high-performance Nitto NT-05 rubber front and rear. Off-road wheels on a lowered muscle truck was a definite gamble, but we all think the look fits the theme much like Frank Castle wearing a Punisher T-shirt. Thanks to a solid and slammed foundation, the Sierra was now ready to make the most of the high-powered LS3 engine.
Photo 5/13   |   2004 Gmc Sierra
Sourcing an LSX376 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance, I topped it off with a Magnacharger TVS2300 supercharger stuffing 12psi of atmosphere into the LS3's aluminum heads. Strapped onto Westech Performance Group's engine dyno, the combo made 694 hp and 673 lb-ft of torque. With an ear-to-ear smile on everyone's faces, the mighty LS small-block was bolted onto the framerails with American Racing Headers long-tube ceramic-coated headers for maximum flow, an ATI eight-rib serpentine belt conversion to prevent belt slippage, and the entire combination is controlled by Holley's Dominator ECU, Holley LS engine harness, and Holley's drive-by-wire system. No chrome or anything shiny is found under the hood. Keeping it old-school hot-roddish, most everything in the engine compartment is semi-gloss black including the 12-point ARP fasteners throughout the engine. Three pedals are found inside the truck because I wanted to row my own gears and the thought of fourth gear smoky donuts was too enticing. Backed to the LSX376 is a Tremec T-56 Magnum six-speed with a Ram twin-disc clutch and Hurst short-throw shifter from Hurst Driveline Conversions. Unbridled joy is felt every time a new gear is selected and the tidal wave of torque thrusts the GMC forward like it was launched from a slingshot.
With these modifications, the truck was fast and handled better than any truck I had piloted, however if you look at the "before" photo, then you'll understand the body of the Sierra didn't have a straight panel on it. The paint and body pros at L&G Enterprises in San Dimas, California, worked their magic and transformed the body into an arrow-straight metal sculpture covered in PPG's Envirobase black with flat clear and stripes unlike any other muscle truck. Theresa Contreras, L&G's resident paint artist, masked off Camaro-style bare metal stripes complete with grinder marks before applying the black on the hood and tailgate. The look is incredibly sinister and custom-truck cool. Other body mods include a Sir Michael's rear roll pan, bodyworked Chevy HD hood to fit the GMC, Recon LED lights, shaved tailgate handle, and T-Rex X-metal grille inside an LMC Truck grille shell and LMC bumper. From head-on, the truck looks so pissed off most motorists look in their rearview mirrors and engage their blinkers to get out of the way. For those that don't move over, I let them hear the fury of a 3-inch TIG-welded exhaust flowing from a Banks' Monster muffler and Stylin' Trucks' through-the-body exhaust tip. It's an unforgettable sound.
Rather than just covering the bed with a tonneau cover, 714 Motorsports sprayed the bed in protective Bullet Liner, and the team at Chassis by Aaron Iha created aluminum wheel tubs to clear the 315/35R20 Nitto tires and narrowed axle. A large hole was cut into the bed behind the axle for the 20-gallon Aeromotive fuel cell, while Pro Precision Billet battery brackets fitted with Red Top Optima batteries flank the fuel cell and help add some much-needed weight in the bed. Contrasting against the black backdrop, the aluminum wheels tubs, fuel cell trim ring, and billet brackets perfectly complement the bare metal racing stripes and bare aluminum found on the BMF wheels.
The interior of Project Novakane is all business. Once strapped into the Corbeau LG1 seats and Corbeau four-point harness, the first thing you see is the fabricated aluminum dash, Autometer gauges working in conjunction with a Stack race data logger, and Grant steering wheel bolted to an ididit steering column. All of the factory plastic (dash, door panels, steering wheel, etc.) was ditched in favor of aluminum panels expertly shaped and welded by Chassis by Aaron Iha. Rojelio's Upholstery wrapped the headliner, back cab panel, kick panels, and A-pillars in black leather for a clean and finished look. No need for a radio in this ride with the sweet sound of the LSX engine under your right foot. Slick custom billet switches from Keep it Clean Wiring control the lights, ECU power, and engine starter. With the starter push-button depressed, all that is needed to rock and roll is to select first gear and ease the clutch out—it's a rush that never gets old.
Cutting straight to the point, Novakane is a dream come true. Behind the wheel on public roads I feel like Ken Block ready to unleash some YouTube shenanigans at a moment's notice, and out on the track I feel like an assassin ready to inflict my will on the competition. We've raced the truck in California, Texas, and Kentucky, and won several events. It's been the source of headaches, late nights without sleep, maxed-out credit cards, and unadulterated excitement. From the start, this project has been a team effort, and I'd like to personally thank the following in no particular order: Harley, Aaron, Ben, Chris, Dale, Theresa, Luis, Kyle, Sammy, Dr. Jamie, Ernie, Eric, Steve, Bob, Blake, Brock, Tim, Alan, Kevin, Bill, Jesse, Nate, Kris, Drew, Butch, Justin, Max, Jacob, and Matthew. Finally, I'd like to dedicate this truck build to Eddie Orozco, a super-talented welder at Chassis by Aaron Iha's shop who spent many late hours working by my side on the truck and was seriously injured after a skateboarding accident.
Photo 12/13   |   Project Novakane
Inside the Build
Year Make Model:
2004 GMC Sierra
Owner and City/State:
Dan Ward • Foothill Ranch, California
Type: Chevrolet Performance Parts LSX376 6.2L with 12-point ARP fasteners
Induction: Magnacharger TVS2300 supercharger (12 psi), Banks air intake, LS7 90mm throttle body
Exhaust: American Racing Headers 1⅞-inch long-tube headers, Chassis by Aaron Iha 3-inch TIG-welded exhaust, 3-inch Banks Monster muffler
Fuel System: Aeromotive 20-gallon fuel cell with A1000 fuel pump, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, 60-psi injectors, Holley A350 fuel hose (-8AN)
Ignition: MSD truck coils, Moroso 8mm plug wires, DEI heat loom, NGK TR6 plugs
Cooling: Flex-a-Lite dual electric fans, BeCool aluminum radiator, BeCool antifreeze
Tune: Holley Dominator ECU, Holley LS wiring harness with drive-by-wire tuned by Eric Rhee at Westech Performance Group
Built by: Dan Ward
Output: 694 hp and 673 lb-ft (engine dyno) , 596 rwhp and 585 lb-ft (chassis dyno)
Transmission: Tremec T-56 Magnum with Ram 10.5 twin-disc clutch, Hurst billet shifter, McLeod release bearing, Quick Time SFI bellhousing
Rearend: GM 10-bolt with welded and narrowed axle tubes, 3.73 G2 gears, Eaton TrueTrac, Dutchman alloy axles, Mag Hytec diff cover, Royal Purple synthetic gear oil
Front suspension: Lowered 8 inches with Chassis by Aaron Iha CNC-cut upper and lower A-arms, McGaughy's 2-inch drop spindles, QA1 double-adjustable coilovers, Hotchkis 1½-inch sway bar
Rear suspension: Lowered 9 inches with Chassis by Aaron Iha back-half with C-notch, triangulated four-link with adjustable aluminum upper links, QA1 double-adjustable coilovers, Hotchkis 1-inch sway bar
Brakes: AP Racing/Stillen 14.25-inch disc with six-piston calipers (F) and 14-inch disc with four-piston (R), Hydratech Braking hydraboost, Wilwood adjustable proportioning valve
Wheels & tires
Wheels: BMF Novakane 20x9-inch (F) and 20x10 (R)
Tires: Nitto NT-05 275/40R20 (F) and 315/35R20 (R)
Photo 13/13   |   Before I even purchased the truck I had a rendering created by Nate Shrum. This helped put my vision of a muscle truck into 2-D life.



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