Redneck Cadillac: 1997 GMC 3500 Dualie
Dare to be Different
Johnny Oates always trod on a different path. Growing up in a small town in eastern Texas, he constantly went against the grain. When teachers told him to analyze a problem, he would look at it in a wholly different way. When everyone said “get a lifted truck,” he decided to make things a bit more interesting. When it came time to purchase a truck, the adult-aged Johnny did what most high-schoolers do—he went looking for something that was cheap and in need of love.
A friend in Waco, Texas, found a ’97 GMC C3500 dualie he knew Johnny would like sitting in a repo lot. Johnny, a resident of Natchitoches, Louisiana, paid the asking price, sight unseen. When he arrived at the lot and actually saw the truck, he was shocked. “It was a pile of junk,” Johnny tells us. “It didn’t run and seemed like it was missing everything.” Johnny was luckily able to drag it home and get busy customizing the dilapidated dualie his own way.
Johnny wanted to go with larger wheels, but he soon realized he had to narrow the rear end to make them fit. At that point, he figured he would just build a whole new suspension setup. He started with the front by adding 3-inch Belltech drop spindles with Ekstensive Metal Works cups and Slam Specialties 8-inch airbags. The rear end was narrowed so the wheels could tuck up into the fenderwells, and two Firestone 3,500-pound sleeve airbags were added. A tube crossmember was fabricated and serves as an upper ’bag mount, while Monroe shocks damp everything. A three-link suspension holds the rear end up under the truck, and air for the adjustable system is supplied by an engine-driven compressor and two backup electric compressors.
While the bed was off the dualie, Johnny sheetmetal’d the bed floor, added wheeltubs, and continued the body lines into the cab corners (C-pillar behind the back doors), which GMC seemed to forget to do from the factory. All four doors were shaved smooth, along with the tailgate. When Johnny got the truck, it had a custom Cadillac front end. He decided to undo the mod, replacing it with the stock GMC front end. A 30-bar Trenz billet grille and a cowl induction hood were added as well. A roll pan with a custom-molded reverse camera added some luxury to the older-style model. Hidden connectors for a gooseneck trailer hookup, 12-volt accessories, and on-board air were grafted into the inner bedside.
Johnny’s friend happened to have 2 gallons of Chrysler PR4 Flame Red paint suitable for the project. Johnny painted the entire dualie fire red—amazingly, inside his two-car garage—while his wife, Renee, lent a hand for the interior. Johnny found two bench seats from a junkyard and dropped them off with the upholstery shop, and brand-new black carpet was installed. The dash and other plastic parts were dyed with SEM satin black dye. A period-Suburban overhead console, which houses the suspension switches, was installed in the ceiling. For audio, a Power Acoustik flip-out head unit was added along with Power Acoustik components throughout the cabin of the dualie. A rear enclosure houses shallow-mount Pioneer 12-inch subwoofers.
Deep inside the 0.030-bored-over 454ci Vortec V-8 powerplant, Johnny added a mild cam along with performance injectors, a custom air intake, an Airaid Poweraid throttle body spacer, Flowmaster mufflers, and a Hypertech programmer. The computers and overflow reservoirs had to be relocated to accommodate the new wheeltubs and firewall. A set of custom-cut 22-inch semi wheels was added to the GMC.
Johnny is a member of the Negative Camber truck club and has made a name for himself in Louisiana with his talents. He wishes to give his thanks to Thomas Mizell for all his help, Steven Stracener for the suspension work, Joel Teekel, Chris Hylton, and Eric Luttmer. The biggest thank you goes to his wife, Renee, for her endless devotion and patience. Redneck Cadillac has definitely come from the ground up.