Wherever you find race cars, you'll find trucks, usually pulling double duty as a push truck and a support rig. The push truck is an integral part of any high-speed pursuit at Bonneville. Top-speed runs require high gear ratios to achieve maximum velocity, but these ratios make acceleration from a standing start extremely slow or even impossible on the many early Bonneville cars that did not have transmissions, relying instead on high-gear-only direct drive systems. To early hot-rodders the solution was simple: use a truck to push the race car up to speed, engage clutch, and blast off.
In fact, the cover of the May '54 issue of Hot Rod magazine featured the SO-CAL Speed Shop push truck, famous in hot-rodding circles, sporting its trademark red and white colors, posed behind the racing team's record-setting coupe. For the GM Performance Division's land-speed record attempt in a Saturn Ion, the crew decided to honor the hot rod way with an '04 GMC Canyon reprising the role of the original SO-CAL Speed Shop's push truck. The SO-CAL Speed Shop crew, working under the direction of GM Performance Division, transformed the Canyon support truck into what it likes to call a "professional grade" high-performance vehicle. After speeding across the desert between L.A. and Phoenix (see sidebar) we can say without a doubt the result was a dependable workhorse with the speed and spirit of the Bonneville Salt Flats.
"Our intention was to build on the strengths of the production GMC Canyon to create a fully functional and extremely capable race team support vehicle," said GM concept vehicle project manager David Bolognino. "By combining the heritage of the SO-CAL Speed Shop push truck with the technology of the '04 Canyon, we created a modern interpretation of a classic design."
From what we can see, the all-new Canyon Crew Cab is a great platform to build on. It's got a rigid ladder-type frame, a powerful Vortec 3,500cc inline-five (I-5) engine, and a four-speed Hydra-Matic 4L60-E automatic transmission. The production Vortec 3500's technical features include dual overhead camshafts, variable valve timing, and electronic throttle control. In stock trim, the five-cylinder Vortec 3500 produces 220 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque, comparable to many six-cylinder engines. The Saturn LSR team boosted the customized Canyon's output to 350 hp and 350 lb-ft torque with the addition of a GM Powertrain-developed prototype turbocharger package.
The customized Canyon's interior is prepped racer-style, with a full rollcage, competition five-point seatbelts and shoulder harnesses, and a fire control system. A special gauge cluster and console-mounted CB radio keep the driver informed. The driver and copilot are supported by race-inspired high-side-bolster Recaro sport seats.
The Canyon's distinctive red-and-white SO-CAL Speed Shop paint scheme represents the flying colors of the ION Red Line and belly tank Bonneville racers. The ride height was also dropped, with custom-fit coilover spring perches on the nose and lowering blocks for the rear. The team also whipped up a prototype body-molding package and fabricated a soft tonneau cover to give the push truck a clean, high-performance appearance that's finished with six-spoke Budnik aluminum wheels.
Let's see, Black-leather Recaro...
Let's see, Black-leather Recaro sport seats with red accents throughout the interior, including the five-point harness - it doesn't get any more race-inspired than this.
The Canyon is fitted with...
The Canyon is fitted with an onboard fire suppression system as well as support fire extinguishers in the rear center console. Check out the fine fabrication work on the roll bar.
Here are the tactics that...
Here are the tactics that were used for the rear suspension: lowering blocks on de-arched springs with a rod ended under ride anti-wheel-hop bar; rear antiroll bar worked into the system.`
At first glance the '04 GMC...
At first glance the '04 GMC Canyon's engine bay looks totally stock. Even the polished aluminum of the air-to-water intercooler doesn't look out of place.