Q: I have a chance to buy some '80s (I think) Corvette factory rally wheels and tires for a really attractive price. My friend who's willing to give me the long deal bought the wheels at a Corvette swap meet. He was going to use them on a classic Chevelle, but didn't. Now he's moving and needs to empty his garage.
I have a '90 GMC Sonoma that I'd like to use the wheels on. I tried to install them, but they don't quite fit. My friend says they should fit, but I can't figure out where the hang-up is. The wheels don't seem to properly clear the hubs of the front rotors. The wheel centers seem a little tight. I'm also concerned about possible upper control arm interference.The wheels are 16x8.5 and 16x9.5 inches.
The tires are P255/50VR16. Is there some easy way to use these wheels, or should I pass them up?
Rob Cruz, via e-mail
A: You can mount almost any set of tires and wheels on any vehicle if you try hard enough, but that doesn't mean it will be easy. We understand the pull of a super deal, and those Corvette wheels would look sharp on your truck. You need some adapters and a little machine work. A company that specializes in Corvette accessories or a large tire and wheel outlet should be able to get you the proper adapters.
The 16x8.5-inch front wheels are pushing the limits of what will fit under your Sonoma without some serious suspension mods. You will need 1.75-inch front spacers, and the wheel centers will need to be machined for added clearance. Some 2-inch adapters should correct the offset problem on the rear wheels.
Q: My dad has agreed to make his '01 Chevy Suburban into a father-and-son customizing project. Hopefully, he will be ready for another truck by the time I get my license. So I'm hoping to end up with the Suburban. Regardless of whether or not I get the truck, I want my dad to be happy with the results.
Dad set an initial budget of $6,000 to $7,000 (less is always good). I've set initialgoals of $1,000 to lower the truck (could we get an airbag suspension for this much?), $1,000 for custom wheels (we'd like to save money by using the current tires), and $1,000 to split between interior and engine improvements. That leaves $3,000 to $4,000 for exterior mods.
What we'd most like to do is convert the nose to a Cadillac Escalade style. Can that be done on our remaining funds? The Suburban is black. Can we buy fenders that are already black?
We're hoping you can point us in the right direction. We'll send you some photos when we're through. Thanks for your assistance.
Derrick and Darryl D'Oliva
San Jose, California
A: It sounds like you've got a great father. Your goals sound doable as long as you shop wisely. If you're really limited to $7,000, you might want to start with the Caddy conversion. As you've already determined, this will be the most expensive part of the project.
You have two choices for the conversion. You can buy new or used parts. Buying the parts from a wrecking yard can save money, but the costs depend on local supply and demand. You might need to spend money on minor bodywork with the used parts. You might be able to find a used nose that is already black. This is a reasonable prospect, since black is an extremely popular Escalade color. Whether it would be an exact match is a matter of comparing paint codes on both vehicles. Also, exposure to the elements could make one truck more faded than the other.
The easier, one-stop shopping choice is to buy a Cadillac conversion package from a truck accessories company. Companies like Stylin' Concepts [(800) 478-9546, www.stylinconcepts.com] offer complete Escalade conversion kits for '88-'98 GM products and '99-'02 models. A big benefit of getting a kit is that it includes everything you need, including any required wiring harnesses.
Unfortunately for you, the newer models, which feature '04 Caddy styling, cost about twice as much as the earlier Escalade nose conversion kits. A full kit with hood will cost about three grand, leaving a grand for paint. You may (more than likely) be able to recoup part of your investment by selling your current Suburban nose. Late-model front clips are a valuable commodity in the collision repair business. Take your time and do some research, and you should recoup a substantial amount.
A possibility might be to find a body shop that's willing to trade your old nose for the paintwork. To make this whole Caddy swap work within your budget, you'll need to shop around for a painter and spend time selling your leftover parts.
Once you've got the Escalade nose swap handled, your other plans should be relatively easy. If we were building your truck, we'd take care of the wheels next. There can be tremendous differences in the cost of wheels, but by using your existing tires, you should be able to get some distinctive rims for a grand or less.
Lowering would be next on our list. You can't 'bag your truck for a grand unless you do all your own fabricating. You can choose from several traditional lowering techniques for less than a thousand dollars. A modest 2/4 drop can be accomplished for less than $500 and even a 5/7 drop can cost less than $1,000 if you shop the mail-order parts companies. If you combine your wheels and lowering budgets, you might be able to get a larger-diameter wheel and tire package and include the lowering for $2,000 or less.
With your remaining grand, we'd put the largest portion toward performance improvements. You can get dashboard trim kits or custom accessory knobs and levers for a modest amount, but any substantial interior changes such as a monster sound system, video entertainment package, new upholstery, or custom-made consoles will quickly exceed your budget.
A high-performance exhaust system would be our first performance addition. Whether you go with an after-cat system or the whole enchilada will determine how much of your budget is left. We'd add a high-flow air intake system next. Depending on whether you buy headers, you may or may not have enough left for a performance computer chip. If not, adding a new chip later is a simple upgrade.