No Small Task – This was a Fully Transformed Machine by the end of it.
What to do when you have an aging Suburban at home that has lost much of it’s luster, owes you nothing and really isn’t worth much with over 200K on the odometer but you still like the rig? Time to re-purpose it. That’s exactly what we’re doing here. Take a well used 2004 Suburban, tear out the drivetrain and suspension and start over. 40″ Nitto Mud Grapplers, well over 500hp LS power, Custom Rock Krawler solid axle conversion, and Prodigy Shocks, lockers, updated trans and T-case, extensive body modifications, paint and interior upgrades. Check out the first details below as we are just getting rolling on this huge project.
So far we’ve torn the drivetrain out of the Chevy and swapped an AAM 9.25″ Dodge Axle under the front end complete with an ARB Air Locker and Nitro Ring and Pinion. That combo is mocked up to the 4 link Rock Krawler suspension conversion and Prodigy Shocks. We’re still working out the ride height with the goal to set it as low as possible and still have a very functional suspension controlling the Nitto 40″ Tires on DV8 Beadlock wheels. We chose the Dodge axle after researching the ABS components and realizing that the Dodge uses the identical parts as the Chevy which should keep the ABS functional and the ABS warning lights off once this machine is back on the road.
Massive bodywork changes are needed to give us the clearance required for the big Nitto’s. Specifically a Mcneil Racing Fiberglass front clip is being installed along with newer style Spyder Lights projector light assemblies. The racing parts have required a lot of custom brackets and adding the newer front fascia meant building a custom sheetmetal duct/mount assembly to align the newer somewhat longer nose. Our in house fabricator made patterns then cut and welded the sheetmetal panels finally bolting them into place.
The Suburban itself has one particularly rare option which we intend to keep. It has a factory dana 60 rear steer axle. Not many Suburban’s were built this way and given the long wheelbase the rear steer is incredibly helpful during tight maneuvers. Unlike from the factory we’ll be setting the rear steer up for manual control and building lock out pins into the knuckles for highway use. We’re rebuilding the axle using Nitro Gears and a new Auburn Ected electric locker featuring 4 pinions and extremely strong aircraft grade alloy internals. Rear suspension consists of custom Atlas Springs and another pair of Prodigy Shocks will eventually be installed along with appropriate bump stops.
This project is just getting started, but it’s already in high gear. We’re working quickly to get it back on the road in the next couple of months and will be updating this blog regularly as we progress so check back often or subscribe to the blog.
After our last update on the Nitro Suburban build we found ourselves at Easter Jeep Safari thinking about what would be next on the agenda, but delayed (and not in a bad way) as we wheeled, tested product, and worked the big vendor show in Moab. Since returning to the shop we have been busy sorting out the details on what seems to be an ever increasing scope of projects within the bigger build.
Suspension. After initially installing a set of shock hoops up front for the Prodigy coilovers we concluded we needed to build a different set that would put the top mounts further up in the wheelwells in order to increase the uptravel at the lowest possible ride height we could get. That meant cutting the old (but new) shock hoops off the frame and starting over. A lot of work, but required if we wanted to get the front suspension to operate as intended. Our friends over at Build It Offroad bent up the new ones and they’ve since been hard welded into the frame. We’ve yet to finalize the bumpstop location, but have picked up 5 more inches of articulation at this point up front. With all 4 tires still on the ground we can now lift a front tire 43 inches vertically.
Out back we’re still developing the precise locations of the shocks, but did decide we’re going to box much of the frame as part of that mounting process as the open C-channel simply doesn’t look beefy enough to work well and we don’t want a broken chassis down the road. That decision will add more fab time to the project, but should give us more flexibility to get the shock mounts exactly where they need to be when we get there again.
Steering– Another area that has seen a lot of trial and error. The goal is to have hydro assist using a steering box as the valve assembly to drive the piston. That means we have a mechanical linkage between the box and the knuckles that needs to clear everything under full flex in all positions. Packaging all this has been challenging to say the least and we’re still finalizing the details, but it’s getting close. We’re expecting more components for our combination to arrive in the next few days.
Rear steer– Yes, we’re keeping the OE system intact, but with a huge upgrade with custom links using 1 ton tie rods and extreme duty machined fasteners to connect to the cylinder. The original components we’re about 1/2″ diameter rods and we knew we’d bend them the first time we smacked a sidewall offroad. Fingers crossed the steering ram itself holds up ok, but only one way to find that out.
Body Mods- With all the front fiberglass painted we’ve final fitted the fiberglass fenders and hood and fabricated some additional linkage components to allow us to open the 2012 style hood once the grill and headlights are installed. We’ve also opened up the rear wheelwells for additional tire clearance and repainted the rear flares, though not yet mounted them. The rear Mercenary Offroad bumper is fully mocked up, with the front one still waiting it’s turn for installation. Both bumpers are killer and we can’t wait to see how that setup looks after powdercoating.
Drivetrain– The fresh trans and T-case are now bolted to the motor and in the tunnel. We’ve run into a few issues with the power steering pump setup and other accessories up front as well, but have been working through those. The cause has been a switch from the truck type LS intake manifold to a car style. What seemed a minor change has created a bunch of small problems that have required custom (expensive:) brackets to make everything work.
Where it stands- At this point we are making progress everyday, but this is a big project. We still have the fuel system to install/build, finish the suspension with correct length coilovers , install airbumps once the rest of the suspension is done, box the frame as earlier mentioned, finish the Mercenary Offroad front winch bumper and Warn winch and wire up the standalone computer to make this beast run. Those are the big details for now and hopefully on our next update we will have most of these things finished and be onto the small stuff. Stay tuned.
It’s been a while since we updated the progress on our Suburban and mostly that’s the result of us trying to work through the small details that take a long time, but don’t exactly scream progress on a big project like this. That said we are getting closer to seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel finally.
Ride Height– It took us a couple tries to get the correct length Prodigy coilovers and spring rates up front along with reworking the shock towers until we were happy with ride height. We’ve also done a lot of trimming of the wheelwells both front and rear to gain more clearance for the big Nitto 40’s in an effort to keep as much uptravel as possible.
Steering is now plumbed and functionally connected both mechanically from the box to the knuckles and hydraulically to run the ram for maximum assist. We won’t be able to fully test it until the motor is running, but at this point just having the ability to steer the front wheels is making moving the rig around the shop much easier.
The scope of this project has meant we’ve run into lots of small things that take a lot of time to sort out correctly. When we installed the Mercenary Offroad front bumper we realized the factory windshield washer bottle was both in the way and the wrong shape to work with the tapered high clearance bumper. We solved that issue by building a new aluminum tank in the shape of the space available and added both OE pumps into the assembly to keep everything functional when the rig gets back on the road.
Rock slider fabrication is in progress now. This rig is big and heavy and the sliders will need to cope with the weight and look good doing it. Nearly 500lbs of steel has been cut, bent and welded for these. They should take about anything we throw at them.
What’s left? Final welding in a variety of places including the rear suspension mounts will happen soon. Once that’s completed we can reinstall the fuel tank and finish wiring the LS under the hood for initial startup. Completing the exhaust system is also on the agenda along with powercoating a variety of parts including the bumpers, sliders and some suspension components. Once those get back we can began final assembly and hopefully have a couple weeks to shake the beast down before heading to the SEMA show in late October.
Update #4 ** IT WAS FINISHED & SOLD**
With months going on years in the making, we did (almost) finalize all the things we hoped to do with this vehicle. Unfortunately we never got to actually utilize it on the trail, or do any exciting running videos of it – But it DID get to a point where we were very pleased with it. Below are some photos of it in final form – LOOKING BEAUTIFUL!
Congrats to the new owner, as we recently sold this rig at auction on Bring-A-Trailer
FULL & FINAL BUILD SHEET (From Sale)
2004 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 LT Quadrasteer
The time has come to move on to our next big project and to thin the herd and get rid of one. Up for sale is our beloved Suburban “Becky”. Her name is Becky because everywhere she goes people are like “OH MY GOD Becky… Look at that Truck, it is so big”! Becky the Burban was our 2016 SEMA build. In 2016 this rig got a top to bottom overhaul including a whole new front clip, interior, motor, and drivetrain. Since the over haul we have put less than 5k on the truck and we simply don’t drive it enough to make it worth keeping. I hate to see it not being driven and showed off the way I know it should be. Becky puts down well over 500HP, and just as much torque, though it has never been dyno tested. This truck is actually pretty rare as very few 2004 Suburban 2500 Quadrasteers were made, actually we believe there were less than 1,000 ever made. The truck has never been off-roading and has been a pavement princess its entire life. Though it was originally intended to be an Offroad, flexi beast! This truck was a company vehicle, so it has always been excellently maintained and cared for. This Suburban is a Quadrasteer model, however while all the hard parts work, there is a sensor that is preventing the quadrasteer from being functional. If you reset the trucks computers, the quadrasteer will work momentarily, that’s how we know this is simply a sensor issue, and all the hard parts are functional. We are simply bored with the project. While I hate to see Becky go it is time for us to move on. Below is a detailed list of modifications done to Becky since the rebuild in 2016.
Motor and Transmission:
– 2004 Chevrolet Suburban LT Quadrasteer 2500 ($15,000)
– 427 Stroker 7.0 liter LS (18,000)
– Fully built 4L80e (7,500)
– TMS 427 LQ9 short block including:
– King racing main bearings HP
– King racing rod bearings HP
– TMS cam bearings
– TMS 4340 Forged crankshaft 4.125″ stroke
– TMS 4340 forged H-beam connecting rods and ARP rod bolts
– TMS Moly rings
– Diamond pistons 4.065″ bore
– This short block is rated to 900HP (1100HP with ARP main stud upgrade)
– PAC 1218 beehive springs good to .600″
– Thompson Motorsports custom ground Camshaft
– Thompson Motorsports custom length Chromoly pushrods
– Thompson Motorsports12Pt 8740 Head studs
– Melling Select High pressure oil pump
– Billet adjustable single roller timing set with IWIS C5R style chain
– Thompson Motorsports high RPM lifter set
– GM Rocker assembly cores
– GM MLS head gaskets
– GM lifter treys
– Dual valve spring upgrade including dual springs and titanium retainers
– 4.125″ STROKER WINDAGE TREY
Axles and Drivetrain:
– Rear Dana60 / Delphi Quadrasteer axle housing with custom Green powder coating.
– Front solid axle swap, AAM 9.25 ($1,700)
– Pure Performance Solid Axle Swap kit ($1,000)
– Nitro Gear and Axle front 9.25 / 5.13 gears ($326)
– Nitro Gear and Axle 9.25 master install kit ($264)
– Nitro Gear and Axle Dana 60 ($300)
– Nitro Gear and Axle Dana 60 Master install kit ($230)
– Nitro Gear and Axle 33 spline front Axle shaft assembly LH ($318)
– Nitro Gear and Axle 33 spline front Axle shaft assembly RH ($329)
– Dana 35 spline axle shafts ($500)
– Nitro Gear and Axle Dana 60 1350 yoke ($73)
– Nitro Gear and Axle GM 8.875 12 bolt 1350 forged yoke ($115)
– ARB Front air locker ($1,115)
– ARB Twin air compressor ($545)
– Auburn Ected rear locker, 35 spline ($970)
– Custom Nitro Gear and Axle front differential cover ($300)
– J.E. Reel custom drive shafts ($1,000)
– McNeil Racing 4-inch bulge front Fiberglass fender flares ($400)
– McNeil Racing Fiberglass Hood ($400)
– Custom Krys Built full body steel rock sliders ($2,000)
– CW Wraps Custom Wrap ($7,500)
– Spyder Headlights ($300)
– Spyder Taillights ($150)
– Mercenary Offroad Front Bumper (2,800)
– Mercenary Offroad rear bumper (2,800)
– Warn 12k Zeon series winch with synthetic rope (1,700)
– Factor55 Ultrahook ($240)
– Factor55 ($99)
– Baja Designs backup pods ($400)
– DV8 Offroad 882 Beadlock Wheels ($1,259)
– 40-inch Nitto Mud Grapplers ($2,000)
– Full Hydro assist steering ($3,500)
– Atlas Custom Leaf kit in the rear ($1,000)
– Pure performance Long arm kit ($3,000)
– Prodigy remote reservoir shocks ($2,000)
– Prodigy Front coil overs ($3,000)
– Currie Anti-Rock Front ($507)
– Currie Anti-Rock rear ($507)
– Full custom interior and kicker sound system ($15,000)
– Custom Krys Built switch panel system ($500)
– AC control module ($95)
– Full weather tec floormat system ($300)
TOTAL INVESTMENT: $101,042