Chris Caldwell is one of those talented guys who can pretty much build a vehicle with his own two hands. He has the skills to weld together a full frame out of bare steel and can even paint a vehicle to a glass-like shine. He works as the shop manger of Chaotic Rods & Customs and has owned a few nice rides himself. The most notable vehicle in his past is a '94 Chevy Suburban outfitted with '59 Cadillac taillights and a fully flaked-out paintjob. It was a cool, retro-themed SUV, but Chris sold it so he could work on the next big thing.
This time around, Chris decided to take a crack at GM's newly designed '07 Chevy Silverado. If you're an avid reader of Sport Truck, you probably remember seeing this truck on the cover of the November '07 issue, though it was a lot different back then and was still in its factory white paintjob. Despite the fact that it looked stock, it caught our eyes because it was the first 'bagged and body-dropped version of the new Silverado truck.
When we first saw photos of Chris's truck, we were in awe and more than happy to meet up with him at Chaotic for a cover shoot. Chris had made a mad rush to drop the truck and meet our print deadline. To do this, he ditched the new factory frame and suspension in order to build his own body-drop-less chassis. Chris explained that in order to have a minimal amount of negative camber with big wheels attached, it had to be done this way.
After our shoot, Chris continued to spend every bit of his free time slaving away on his truck in order to have it done for the SEMA Show. Because we shot the truck right outside the shop, Chris rolled it right back in and completed everything to get it mobile again. He was then able to drive the truck for a little while and enjoy the fruits of his labor. Soon enough, it had to be blown apart for a complete custom paintjob and left in the shop. While dismantled, the body was shaved along with the inside of the tubbed and notched bed.
The hardest part of the shave job on this Chevy was the tailgate because there was no upper rail under the plastic lip. Chris filled in this top section of the tailgate with sheetmetal to match it to the rest of the bed. Then, the handle was shaved and Chris made a push-release out of an oval-shaped piece of sheetmetal. He cut a hole for it on the tailgate and created a lever system to release the locks when pushed. Chris also airbrushed the Chaotic logo on the button to hide it in the paint.
With the exterior of the truck finished in a high-quality shine, the interior also needed its share of love. To clean up the rather classy factory interior, Chris smoothed and painted the front pillar covers, upper door panels, and upper pieces of the dash. To showcase the nasty Rockford Fosgate audio system, speaker pods were fiberglassed and attached to the door panels. Next, a custom center console that hosts three subwoofers was built from wood and fiberglass. To operate the system, Chris purchased a mobile computer from CompuRide Technologies.
The last goal for this truck involved the ability to tuck a set of 26-inch wheels and tires while still planting body on the ground. At a meeting with the folks from Nitto Tire, Chris earned himself a spot in the Nitto booth at SEMA as well as a first-run set of NT420S 26-inch tires designed for light trucks and SUVs. After a few calls to the boys at KMC Wheels, Chris was also able to hook up a deal to get a set of 26-inch Slide wheels. Only weeks before the show, the wheels and tires were bolted on the front, and the rearend was narrowed to allow them to fit between the bedsides. Chaotic eventually completed the work, the truck was loaded on a rig, and Chris, his wife Lina, and friend/driver William Bernard "Rocky" Fox IV made the 23-hour drive to Las Vegas.
The truck was a major success at SEMA, garnering huge crowds of onlookers. Once the show was over and the second photo shoot of the truck finished, we rode in it only an inch off the pavement. We can tell you that not only was the ride smooth, but it was like we were famous with all the people taking photos of us.
The project turned out amazing, and Chris was able to prove his talents to his sponsors. Since he was able to make their investments in this truck profitable, the build only set him back $5,000. By putting together a major project like this and being able to deliver it on time, it's no wonder that Chris got away so cheap.
Finishing this truck in time...
Finishing this truck in time wouldn't have been possible without the backing of Chaotic's owner, Mike, everyone at the shop who pitched in their labor, and the patience of my wife Lina and daughter Dezrae.
THE BEGINNING This is a photo...
This is a photo of Chris's truck taken in June of '07. Chris put on a set of 22s, and as you can see they looked like training wheels on this truck. That is partly why he decided to go with such big wheels in the end.