2015 GMC Sierra Denali 3500- CrewCAD
Always Follow the Blueprint
When Gulf Shores, Alabama, resident Aaron Kittrell decided it was time to build a truck from the ground up digitally, he found a shop that could fulfill his dream of building a custom truck that would also be a reliable daily driver. At 16, Aaron had bought his first truck—a Chevy S10 to get him to and from school. His father Glenn owned an equipment shop that Aaron worked in afterschool. While he was working, he would leave the mini-truck out in front of the building, but his father wasn’t a fan of the small truck. “When you get older, everything changes,” he said. “You’ll need a man’s truck.” Those words stuck with him. But with his small budget that truck was all he could purchase. As Aaron continued his education and began to learn more about trucks and ways to make his own even better.
Then it came time to sell the Chevy and get something a little more dependable for his daily commute. “It’s hard to have a full custom truck that you can drive on a daily basis,” Aaron says. “Most custom trucks can’t endure the daily grind of weather and road conditions.” Aaron set out to change this and became a first.
During 2014, Aaron had walked into Chris Myers GMC in Daphne, Alabama, and took his father’s words to heart. It was time for a man’s truck. He ordered the biggest and baddest truck they sold, one that would be capable of everything he wanted, the ’15 GMC Sierra Denali 3500. He was working as a parasail captain in Orange Beach, Alabama, and towing large and heavy boats and equipment was a necessity. The large Crew Cab dually could accommodate such a task.
Although his first thought was to leave this brand-new truck alone and enjoy the comforts of the Denali, he knew it wasn’t in his blood to keep it stock. But when you customize a brand-new truck, you often lose most of its functions and reliability. Aaron thought what if a truck could be built perfectly and still maintain all the factory options and serviceability? He contacted Eric at Little Shop Mfg. and tossed around this idea of a perfect build.
Aaron headed over to the shop in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, where Eric and the crew went to the proverbial drawing board. They took a software-based approach to design a new bumper-to-bumper chassis for the truck from scratch. Engineers rely on computers to perfect whatever they are building. One program often used to create these designs that assists in constructing buildings, roadways, and homes is called CAD, which is a computer-aided design. They were able to obtain original 3D engineering models from General Motors for the complete factory truck and used that data to create a highly accurate chassis and suspension design digitally. This allowed them to define all the clearances and improve the design before ever cutting the first sheet metal in a CNC laser. The results were spot on: Every component fit together like Legos and bolted underneath the truck perfectly without changes.
After using this building method successfully bolstered their confidence, and they went on to create many of the main suspension components in SolidWorks, a version of CAD. They proceeded completely through to the production process (laser, brake, assemble, weld, sandblast, powdercoat) before bolting these assemblies in place on the custom-designed chassis for the very first time. The engine in the GMC had to be moved a bit, and a new oil pan was fabricated to be shorter but hold the same volume.
Once the body was reattached and ready for the road, Aaron added a set of direct bolt-on 24-inch 323DullaySportz wheels to break up the monotony of standard wheels that were normally mounted. As a longtime member of Acrophobia, Aaron employed his creativeness and partnership with Little Shop Mfg. to fulfill his dream of having a full custom truck and a dependable daily driver all in one. Using CrewCAD was a totally unique approach to greatness. But it was more than nuts and bolts, it was about friendships that became even stronger through the process.
Inside the buildYear/Make/Model: 2015 GMC Sierra Denali 3500
Owner and City/State: Aaron Kittrell; Gulf Shores, Alabama
Club Affiliation: Acrophobia
Chassis: Little Shop Mfg. SLM engine driven compressor, two Viair 480 backup compressors, AccuAir E-level, 3D printed OEM-style box to keep all air-ride under-the-hood connections accessible
Front Suspension: Custom-built control arms from lasered .188 PNO sheet, Slam Specialties SS8s ’bags, machined 2024 AL hub spacer and adapters
Rear Suspension: Custom-built trailing arms from lasered .188 PNO sheet, Watts link, Firestone 12-inch diameter ’bags, and gooseneck hitch for towability
Engine: DPF and DEF delete, full Spintech oval 4-inch exhaust and muffler, custom-tuned by PPEI, custom reservoirs for fluids, one-off oil pan by Little Shop Mfg, two Optima Yellow-Top batteries
Rearend: Narrowed 11 inches
Body/Paint: Front bumper sectioned to lay flat, CNC lasered wheel housings front and rear, 3D printed AccuAir air-management box, 3D-printed intake-box lid. Interior: Denali package, maintains 100 percent factory features
Wheels & Tires:
Wheels: 24x9; direct bolt 323 Dually Sportz
Tires: 295/40R24; Atturo Az800
Special Thanks From Owner: My Father Glenn Kittrell, Eric Saliba, Josey Sandy, Timothy Dunn, Jason Thorbecke, girlfriend Bozchjonna, 323 Dually Sportz, Acrophobia club brothers, Hellhound Garage, Viair, Optima