More Comparisons I
I love the magazine! You seem to have the highest article-to-advertisement ratio. I really enjoy all your articles and how-to pieces. The last issue with the Hot-Rod Hauler comparison was great. I currently have an '01 Chevy 5.3 L V-8 standard cab, which is my first V-8 since high school, and I love it. Everything I've done has been inspired by your magazine and the trucks you've done coverage on.
When I purchased my truck, it already had a Flowmaster dual exhaust and a Snug Top with a carpet kit for the bed. Other than that, it was stock. Not having had a V-8 for a while, I was quite content with the power, so I decided to start with the suspension and appearance. I installed a 2/4 drop from DJM and followed with 18x10-inch American Racing Torque Thrusts, which go well with the silver color of the truck.
My main goal is performance and being functional, which is why I opted for less rim and more tire. I have front and rear 255/55R18 Yokohamas. Because the truck is so heavy and tends to roll in turns, I decided, based on an article in your magazine, to go with the Hotchkis front and rear antisway bars. Now it handles like a sports car. I also put in a Green Filter until I figure out what to do with the motor. Next up will be a brake rotor upgrade, but I haven't decided which way to go yet. I also wanted to increase the airflow to the motor with a cold-air intake, but haven't decided on that because I'm contemplating a supercharger.
With all the different aftermarket options, I'm now stuck on which way to go. After reading your truck comparison article, I was wondering if you intend to do more comparison articles with aftermarket products such as superchargers, programmers, intakes, exhausts, and suspensions. I'd like to continue upgrading my truck and find it easier to decide on a product when it's compared with another, and since you cover products in your magazine so well, I thought you'd be the ones to help me out. Keep up the good work. Thanks.
Sean, Lodi, California
Thanks for the compliments. We enjoyed doing the Factory Fast truck comparison, and you can look for more in upcoming issues. If you want to see the ultimate comparison, check out our Truck of the Year rundown is this issue. As for product comparisons, it's not something that we do on a regular basis. We know you're looking for the best products out there for your truck, and a head-to-head shootout of said superchargers would help you narrow the field, but look at it from our perspective. The logistics of getting one truck and bolting on five different superchargers within a reasonable window of time would be tough, let alone getting five different supercharger companies to give us a unit for testing purposes only.
Another reason is this. Say you have five supercharger companies, which all spend money advertising in the magazine, participating in the shootout. Eventually, you'll end up with one winner and four other folks who will be unhappy with the results, especially when compared directly with their competitors. So, in the interest of keeping some advertising in the magazine, we test products on an individual basis. If we install a performance product, chances are we're going to test it against stock to measure any performance gains. This holds true for headers, air intakes, superchargers, exhausts, and so on. And the testing data on the product only shows what this particular product did on this particular day on this particular truck under these particular conditions. Results can vary depending on something as simple as weather conditions and the tire pressures of the vehicle on the dyno. We know other publications have done this in the past, but ask the "losers" in the match up if they feel the test was fair and accurate. As it stands now, we'll only be testing products on a one-on-one basis.
More Comparisons II
I just recently purchased an '03 SS Chevy Silverado and am already looking into doing quite a few mods, as you might expect. There seems to be a lot of different data on the truck's PCM and a lot of different routes available. Hypertech, Diablo, and Wester's Garage offer the most readily available upgrades, and all three come in at very close price ranges. One of the key factors about these brands is their ease in use, therefore making them more appealing. A lot of us might not understand all the options available from something such as LS-1 programmers, although power gains are, I believe, comparable.
Would it be possible for you guys to do a side-by-side comparison of the above-mentioned forms of upgrading the truck's PCM? Although I have the SS, I'm pretty sure that the data would be fairly consistent with most trucks. It would give us a baseline to go by; horsepower gained versus price and ease of install. I have subscribed to your magazine for many years and can't remember an issue that I didn't enjoy. I'm looking forward to seeing some custom mods on the SS in the near future. Thanks and keep up the good work.
Ben Key, Pensacola, Florida
Congrats on your new SS Chevy. With a few upgrades, you can make a good truck even better. Regarding the programmers, you're right. In terms of function, they all do about the same thing; readjust the timing and fuel curves for optimal performance. Some offer other functions, such as remove the factory speed limiter, adjust transmission shifts, and compensate for tire size changes. As for a head-to-head comparison, we'll pass (see the answer to More Comparisons I). We did do a story on a Hypertech Power Programmer last year and documented the power gains it made. The other problem with testing these units on the SS truck is that it's all-wheel drive, and there aren't too many dynos out there that you can run an AWD truck on. The programmers are great, but if you're in the market for some serious horsepower, a supercharger is the way to go. The folks at MagnaCharger told us that kits for the SS trucks are flying off the shelves. Stay tuned; we'll have more upgrade stories on the SS Silverado in the near future.
I've been an off and on subscriber for the better part of a decade, and when I didn't have a subscription, I bought it off the newsstand. I've kept all of my copies, too. Recently, I read a letter in your column from a fellow truck builder serving in Iraq. I think your response was both generous and supportive of the nation and the industry. For this reason, I have decided to continue my subscription, even if it means that I'll get them late or damaged through my current APO. I am stationed in Greece and cannot bring my '68 Chevy CST with me, but having your magazine will help. Thank you for your support of those serving and please continue with this publication. You guys rock!
SSG Matthew Bainum, Larissa, Greece
Thanks for re-upping for another round of Sport Truck magazine. We appreciate all the things that you do for your country while serving in the Armed Forces. It's got to be tough being away from friends and family, let alone your truck. We have quite a few readers who are overseas and serving our country. Send us some photos of your Chevy for our Readers' Rides column and pass those magazines on to your fellow servicemen.
Well, what started with an e-mail to your magazine has finally come to life.
After reading a guide to used Dakota pickup trucks, I sent an e-mail asking if a V-8 could be installed in an '87 Dakota that has a V-6. I was extremely shocked to see my e-mail and your response in one of the following issues.
Thanks to your advice, I spent about a year searching for the right parts to do the job. With the help of a Schumacher Creative Services motor mount kit, an '83 Dodge Mirada, and a few weeks of work, I'm now the proud owner of an '87 Dodge Dakota with a 318ci engine; what a difference in driving. Before, the truck could only spin the back wheels on ice or rain-covered roads. Today, while standing at a red light, with less than 1/4 travel on the accelerator, I lit up the rear wheels. I'll really have to be careful or else I will be buying a lot of new tires. I would like to share my experiences with you and your readers, so I am in the process of documenting the engine swap. I will send you the copy and some photos if you're interested. Thanks again from a fan for life.
Scott White, Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
We're glad that we could help you in your quest for power, but if we remember correctly, we probably told you it would be easier to go out and get a V-8 truck rather than do the swap. We get a lot of letters about this very thing - swapping out a V-6 powerplant for a V-8. The details can be extensive and expensive. We have one question: What the heck is a Dodge Mirada? We don't have them in The States. We're publishing your letter, in case any readers are interested in your particular swap, and your e-mail address to save us from being the intermediary. For questions regarding a Dakota V-8 swap, drop Scott a line at email@example.com.
Tahoe Window Reality
The rear door windows on my '99 Chevy Tahoe will only go down about 4 inches. It looks as if they could go down an additional 4 or 5 inches. Is there a kit or modification to allow the rear door windows to open any more?
Bob Jones, Miami
We debated on withholding the name on this letter to save the embarrassment. In case you haven't noticed, Bob, the rear doors on your Tahoe have cutouts for the rear wheelwells. Suburbans lack these cutouts, so the rear windows go all the way down. But on the Tahoe, because of these cutouts, they don't. There is no kit that we're aware of that will fix the problem.
I know you have to test what truck the manufacturers send you, but when the grades come down, price is always a factor. Personally, I would take a truck that can haul tow and get me through foul weather over a purpose-built truck. Since they don't make a Lightning Extra Cab with all-wheel drive - or even four-wheel drive - the truck doesn't impress me one bit. Anyone could get either a Chevy Silverado or Dodge Ram in a regular cab, put on almost any supercharger, and basically smoke the Lightning for a lot less than $33,550. Just look at the Silverado in a two-wheel-drive regular cab model with the 5.3L V-8; loaded, it sells for around $23,000-$25,000. Add $4,000 for a nice supercharger and now the truck puts out 400 hp ( according to Powerdyne). Plus, the 2WD Silverado will kill it under braking. The Lightning isn't that impressive since it costs $6,550 more. I think you guys would agree that with the extra $6,550, you could make it look pretty cool.
Craig Wimmler, via e-mail
Sounds like you aren't easily impressed. But we beg to differ with you. The Lightning isn't just about horsepower. In case you missed our Nov. '03 issue, we tested the Lightning, the Chevy SS, and a standard cab Dodge Ram with the Hemi powerplant. By the numbers, the Lightning was the classiest of the field and is still the best bang for the buck in turnkey performance trucks. The supercharged motor makes almost 400 hp, and with some simple upgrades, you can get to 400 easily. It's also a well-balanced handling machine that will give a Mustang a run for its money. And for the price, it's hard to beat. The Silverado SS was a disappointment. For $40,000 you get an all-wheel-drive, leather-clad pickup with an Escalade drivetrain. By the numbers, the Hemi Ram kept right with it in the slalom quarter-mile and even in the braking department. In terms of bang-for-the-buck, the Ram is a great platform from which to build a sport truck since it's in SS territory right out of the box. As for your math on the Silverado, make that $5,000-$6,000 for a supercharger (more for an install) and another grand or two for lowering and handling components. Now you've got something to compete with the Lightning for about the same amount of money in total. Also, you have a truck with no factory warranty anymore since you voided it with the blower. So, which is the better value in the long run?