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Buying and Customizing a 1988-1998 Chevy for Under $4,000

Budget Truck Rehab

Patrick McCarthy
Sep 13, 2013
Photographers: Patrick McCarthy
Beginning a new truck project is rife with anticipation. It starts with agonizingly visualizing all the possible build styles, poring over catalogs of shiny new parts, and finally narrowing down the options into one final design. We then wait eagerly for the nondescript brown boxes to appear on our doorsteps, and tear into the contents like kids on Christmas morning. It's a euphoric sensation that never gets old.
In this case, our new project is an old friend. As the highly influential pickup credited with kick-starting the custom truck revolution, the '88-'98 Chevy C/K line has got to be the easiest truck on the market to modify—and the hardest to make stand out. The sheer amount of parts available to customize and rebuild this truck is astounding. As long as the frame is straight and the cab shell isn't damaged, every single part, inside and out, can be purchased through aftermarket suppliers. Being the number one truck in the custom scene also affords us a massive selection of cool accessories to build ours with. We will be doing our best to make sure this truck doesn't get lost in the pack.
This '89 Silverado has definitely seen better days, so it will be a long journey to reach the finish line, but we will persevere. This truck has spent its life wallowing around muddy farmland on the Central California coast for roughly 300,000 miles, so it's rusty and needs just about everything replaced. However, our vision of a clean and fast cruiser got the best of us, so we picked it up for a measly $1,500. Now, we get to look forward to driving a nearly new truck once it's completed, so there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. It may be hard to look at now, but it will be transformed into a sleek and sporty machine that will proudly walk the walk and talk the talk when we cross the finish line. We have dubbed this truck Project Rehab, since it's both being brought back from the dead and returning to the roots of the sport truck movement.
For the first stage of this project, we addressed the dilapidated factory suspension that made the truck completely unfit for use on public roads. We remedied this by replacing every wear item with new components from the local parts house and adding firmer urethane bushings from Energy Suspension. During the teardown and reinstallation process, a DJM 4-inch front and 6-inch rear lowering kit was added to give the C/K a new stance. Topping off the upgrades is a set of classic 18-inch Showwheels Streeter wheels and BFGoodrich tires. These simple upgrades made a drastic improvement to the truck's handling, and gave the old Chevy the perfect attitude for cruising the Southern California streets.
With a new DJM suspension, firmer Energy bushings, 18-inch wheels, and stickier tires, our Chevy is ready to carve corners with sport truck precision. Stay tuned to see how we transform Project Rehab from a beat-up farm truck into a clean and simple street machine.


DJM Suspension
Gardena, CA 90248