2015 GMC Sierra HD- Bulletproofing the GMC
More is Better
More is better. Never mind the naysayers who say that less is more. Nobody makes their decision to watch the big game at the sports bar that has the smallest TVs, or stands over a pizza wishing there were fewer slices. The same goes for truck lifts- it’s the higher the better.
The folks over at Tough Country of El Campo, TX, makers of fine bumpers, headache racks, running boards and side steps, were happy with their Devious Customs-built creation for a while (many of you may remember this build from our Vol. 41 #8 issue), but after a successful year showing the truck, they imagined what it would be like to have their very capable 2015 GMC Sierra another five-or-so inches taller. That thought of going bigger turned into a phone call over to Bulletproof Suspension to see what the options were, and a 10-12-inch kit was quickly ordered. To make the transformation that much better, a set of high arching Atlas Springs leafs, and a set of six ICON Vehicle Dynamics 2.0 remote reservoir shocks were ordered as well. To keep things nice and sturdy we also ordered a set of Air Lift Loadmaster 5000 ’bags. The Bulletproof kit will let the Silverado ride around on 40x15.5R20 Toyo Open Country M/T tires mounted to RBP 20x12 Assassin Wheels that gives it a whole new look.
Since the Tough Country headquarters is located near Houston, we wanted to stay with doing the work at shops that are known for killer laid out trucks, but actually build all sorts of custom vehicles; we brought the truck to our pal Bill Carlton and the talented crew at Ekstensive Metalworks. They made quick work of the lift, even with all the extras we were throwing at the truck. In fact, the truck was done in time to revisit SEMA this past November and star in the Tough Country booth. Follow along as Ekstensive installs these top-shelf Bulletproof, Icon, and Atlas components, which will really set this Sierra HD apart from the rest.
Our kit from Bulletproof arrived in a huge box that was damn heavy. Good sign though as all the parts were built of heavy wall DOM tubing, featured smooth welds and looked great. The Bulletproof Suspension Chevy 2500 10-12 Inch Lift Kit features a one piece lift cage, aircraft grade Chromoly nine-piece Heim outer steering with 4140 hardened steel bushings, differential drop brackets, sway bar links, and a Uni-Ball A-arm upgrade is available. Bulletproof recommends a set of Atlas Springs handmade performance rear leafs as an upgrade, so we did just that.
We also decided to upgrade our kit with these super cool ICON Vehicle Dynamics 2.0 Aluminum Series Remote Reservoir shocks. Along with the extra inches, we wanted the added looks and support of the dual reservoir setup up front.
We first removed the sway bar links using our trusty impact wrench, and let the sway bar hang down as we continued the removal process.
The tie rods need to be unbolted, so we buzzed off the nut and hit it with a large hammer to unseat it from the spindle. The tire rod ends would be replaced with heim fittings in a later step.
The lower A-arm bolt was then loosened and let be for the moment, as we still needed to dismantle the rest of the front suspension before the hub and rotor could be removed.
We disconnected the brake line and removed it as it would be replaced with new steel braided lines from the kit. The ABS line was only disconnected as it would be reused later on in assembly.
The brake caliper was next on the list to be removed and we made short work of it, quickly buzzing out the mounting bolts with the impact.
With the caliper out of the way and hanging, we had more room to remove the upper and lower bolts from the shock and remove it as well.
Eight bolts hold the axle to the differential and we quickly removed those again using the impact, and left it attached to the spindle and removed them together. We separated them later before reassembly.
With the front hub and axles out of the way, we now had access to the upper and lower A-arms. We removed the cam mounting bolts from either side and removed them as well.
Next up was to unload the torsion bars by removing the bolt from each of the torsion keys and removed them from the crossmember and the lower A-arms.
Before the driveshaft and diff could be removed, we had to drop the subframe from a previous lift. It was muscled out of the way and then we set to work removing the driveshaft bolts, and then unbolted the differential. We will reinstall it into its new home in a later step.
In order to fit the new shock hoop, we had to cut off the bumpstop mount, then cut away a chunk of the lower part of the upper A-arm tabs, to make clearance for the new drop down mounting points. We used a cutting torch and made short work of all the cuts.
Then we fit the new upper A-arm drop down bracket into the factory tabs and mounted them up loosely, so we could slide the new shock hoop over the top and bolt it down.
In preparation of reinstalling the diff, we bolted up the drop brackets on either side, making sure the center gusset was pointing towards the outside of the truck with the flat side to the bottom, then we reinstalled the diff and left it loose to tighten up later.
Now we were ready to mount up the beefy new cage. Using a jack, we lifted the cage into the factory mounts, making sure we slipped the diff tabs around the diff and bolted it all up into place. We then reconnected the driveshaft to the diff.
Now we were ready to install the new upper A-arms from the kit, then we installed the factory lower arm into the drop down bracket, and installed the rotor and axle-less spindle to the upper and lower arms.
We were now ready to install the ICON 2.0 remote reservoir shocks, and we mounted two on each side.
In order to install the included heim joints, the tie rod end mount on the spindle needed to be drilled out to ¾ inch. We then installed the heim joints that were included in the kit making sure to note that they can only be installed one way as the threads are either right or left handed.
With the steering rods finished, we poured a little Loctite on the axle bolts and reinstalled the axles back onto the differential and tightened them down. The caliper went back on as well. We also installed a new set of steel brake lines, included in the kit, and reconnected the ABS lines.
In order to install the new torsion bar drop brackets, we mocked up where the brackets would go and drilled two 9/16-inch holes. We then mounted up the crossmember and slid in the torsion bars and tightened them up with the impact.
Last on the front suspension was to mount the impact bars. We loosely bolted them up to their mount on the cage and then swung them up to the transmission crossmember. We held it against the crossmember and drilled out a 9/16-inch hole and then mounted up the bars and tightened the keys up.
With the front end all buttoned up, we turned our attention to the rear as there was still a lot of work to do. With the wheels already removed, we unbolted and removed the rear shocks.
We also had to loosen and remove the rear brake lines from their bracket, as they will be replaced with longer lines that are included in the kit.
Supporting the rear axle with a few jacks, it was time to loosen and remove the U bolts. We then removed the bolts that held the leaf springs at the hanger and the shackle. The unbolting we did alone, but when it came to removing the leaf itself, we enlisted another set of hands.
There was no need to fit larger lift blocks under the rear leaf springs as the high arched Atlas Springs did all the lifting needed.
It was now time to fit the rear with its own set of ICON 2.0 and they went in without a hitch. Looked damn good also.
After the shocks and leafs were tightened down, we decided to go an extra step father to add to our comfort and peace of mind, so we added a set of AirLift load stabilization bags. Although not standard to the kit, we felt it was a good addition to our set-up as it provided the stabilization needed to keep our high-rise in check.
We removed the rear bumpstop and mounted the ’bags directly above the leaf spring center mount. In order to mount the ’bag bracket, three holes had to be drilled into the frame and the Ekstensive crew did a great job reinforcing them and painting them to make the frame look nice.
With all the bolts torqued down to spec, we took another look at our handiwork and noticed that the Bulletproof kit was one tidy package! The new steering is a beaut of engineering and toughness, and while the beefy A-arms looked huge when they came out of the package, they looked right at home once installed.
Our Silverado was looking good with its higher stance and visible shock hoops sporting the ICON 2.0 reserve shocks. It gave this truck an aggressive look with the added bonus of extra clearance to drive over just about anything. The new 40x15.5R20 Toyo Open Country M/T tires RBP Assassin Wheels completed the look and were more than capable for a little afternoon off road fun. We can’t wait to head out to El Campo and try the truck out ourselves.
Icon Vehicle DynamicsCorona, CA 92880
Ekstensive MetalworksHouston, TX 77093
RBPCorona, CA 92880
Bulletproof SuspensionsMentone, CA 92359