I have been around cars for a long time now, and it has gotten to the point where I generally know what to expect when I get behind the wheel of something new. Many cars have some surprising features, but usually these surprises are more of a nice touch, a cherry on top of the ice cream sundae; if you will. Every so often though, I find something that completely throws my expectations out the window. The Chevy Siverado you see above belongs to my photographer friend, Dan Valanzola, who has spent countless hours turning it into something entirely unexpected.
I should say up front that I am not a “truck guy”, so my take on this Silverado comes from a car driver’s perspective. When I see a big pickup like this, I think of its practicality, durability, and value as a sort of workhorse among automobiles. I’ve been in trucks before, and I know them to be loose handling, and generally pretty slow because of their hefty build. That is why I must admit that I did not fully believe Dan when he first told me about his truck’s capabilities. Only when I got behind the wheel to do this article did I finally grasp the reality of what Dan had created, a legitimately fast drag-truck.
This thing is a sleeper for sure. From the outside there is nothing that really calls out its level of performance. The only possible hint is that it has been lowered, and not lifted like most modded trucks. This could lead a curious fellow to question why the truck had been lowered, from which they may deduce a drag setup as a possibility.
Dan has done a few light aesthetic changes to the bumpers, lights, and fenders, but overall it still looks like just a Chevy Silverado. There are no tacky stickers or decals to call attention to its modifications. That said, it does look pretty menacing in its current state with all of its dark accents and lower stance.
It also still functions like a normal Silverado. The bed is still completely useful, it can tow things, and it can still easily hop curbs, despite being lowered. On normal roads, Dan has made no concessions in the truck’s functionality whatsoever, a plus for any modified vehicle.
The same rings true for the inside of the truck as the outside. Dan has left the standard Silverado interior in place, so all the benefits are still there. There is tons of room to spread out, and the bench seat is more like a living room sofa than anything else. Ergonomics are such that you can just relax while you drive. The layout of the dash is simple and the materials are on the cheap side of GM. This is a truck, though, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On the move
It looks like a truck, and it feels like a truck, so it must be a truck right? Turn the key and you are given a solid answer as cammed V8 thunder erupts; this is more than just a truck. Still, nothing quite prepares you for the way it will gain speed when the taps are opened. The transmission leaps down to 2nd, and you are hurled back into the seat. You have to look at the speedometer to realize just how rapidly this truck accelerates, though, because the size and weight of the thing hides a lot of the speed sensation. After a few pulls I find myself convinced that Dan’s Silverado is easily just as fast as my modified Subaru STi up to around 90mph. Impressive to say the least.
Dan has done quite a bit of work to his Silverado (all himself), and the modifications include the following:
- A swapped 6.0L V8 from a 2006 Yukon XL Denali, currently around 425hp
- Mild custom ground camshaft
- Bigger fuel injectors
- Hardened pushrods
- Stiffer valve springs
- Cold air intake
- Long tube headers and full 3” exhaust
- Engine still tuned to run on 87 octane by Black Bear Performance
- High-stall torque converter with a 3000rpm stall speed
- Built transmission
- Lowered suspension (3.5” front, 6” rear)
- Lightweight 17×7 Enkei alloy wheels which came on other trucks as spares
- 275/60/R17 Hankook tires
While this truck hauls plenty of ass from a roll, launching from a stop is where it really shines. To set it up you put it in 4WD, and engage Tow Mode. With the high-stall torque converter installed, you hold the revs at around 2000rpm while your left foot is on the brake pedal. From here you simultaneously mash the gas pedal into the floor as you quickly step off the brake pedal, and the truck shoots forward with an astounding level of ferocity. Everything loose in the cabin is hurled backward, and the view out the window becomes a blur. The speed just piles on with the wide gear ratios, shifts are quick from the automatic transmission, and the monstrous force exerted by the growling V8 never seems to end. This Silverado feels as much a muscle car as it does a practical hauler. The acceleration is unbelievable, especially in the context of a full-size pickup truck.
The numbers are as follows: The quarter mile is dispatched in 13.1 seconds, at around 100mph, and we timed 0-60mph in the 4.5-4.8 second range. Now, a lot of you drag racing buffs, or online forum junkies, may be rolling your eyes because “you’ve seen better”, but allow me to put this in context. Keep in mind that this is a fully functional, street driven pickup truck that weighs around 5000lbs. Lets see what current street cars it is comparable to before anyone makes a full judgement. The list is actually pretty impressive, and includes the Chevy Camaro SS, Ford Mustang GT 5.0, Dodge Challenger SRT-8, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, Subaru WRX STI, Porsche Cayenne S, Audi R8 V8, Porsche 911 Carrera, and Maserati Granturismo. All of those are very respectable street cars, some of which cost six figures, and Dan’s Silverado will run with, or beat, all of them on the drag strip.
The craziest thing for me about this truck was not really the speed itself, but the consistency of its performance. It will do hard launches and run low 13’s all day long, and it is easy. Other, possibly much faster, cars can be a little more tricky to get off the line properly, and Dan will be ready to surprise them if they botch up their launch. In fact Dan told me just such a story where a few months back he went up against a guy in a new Corvette Grand Sport. The guy thought he would blow Dan out of the water, but spun his tires a bit too much on the green light. Dan shot ahead of him, and the Vette wound up having to desperately catch up. He overtook Dan up top, but only won by a tenth or two. The guy came up to Dan afterward and told him how much of a scare he had there. For Dan that seems to be the point of building this truck, respect. It is quite fast in its own right, but it also serves to keep in check those people who get even the least bit cocky against it.
Dan’s video of the truck from 0-105mph…… shot in Mexico of course.
While the engine and straight line speed are certainly the centers of attention on this Silverado, I must say that its handling is also fairly decent from a car guy’s perspective. The lowered suspension gets rid of the excessive body roll that is normally found in trucks. Overall I found that its chassis was very confident and approachable for me. While this is far from a Lotus Elise, it isn’t out of its comfort zone being thrown somewhat hard into corners. This did a lot to make me feel in control at the higher speeds this truck can easily achieve on average roads.
The ride quality is also really good. It is low for a pickup truck, but there is still plenty of suspension travel, so bumps are soaked up nicely. It is very easy to drive, and very comfortable just cruising along. As a car guy I must say that lowering a truck like this only serves to improve things from my perspective.
Dan’s Silverado is, in many ways, a real lesson in life; the age old cliché of “don’t judge a book by its cover”. This truck is built to surprise people, and earn some respect in the process. Like many sleepers, it is all about the hilarious look on someone’s face when they cannot believe what they have just seen. I know that look sums up how I felt the first time I felt this thing launch, a proper kick in the ass. It is refreshing to find something, in this day and age, that winds up vastly exceeding my expectations after I have experienced it. I have driven a few six-figure exotic cars that let me down in this regard, so it is no small feat that Dan’s truck has succeeded.
For all its impressive performance on the drag strip, what I really liked most about the Silverado was how well suited it was for fun in the real world. Its driveshaft can only really hold up to around 120mph, and aerodynamically it is a big brick, so the effective range for this truck only goes up to around 100mph. All of that speed is easy to use in the real world, and most of it won’t put you in handcuffs if you’re caught being naughty. The performance is all accessible when you want it, but it is also fairly tame when you don’t. Even just riding around town is fun because the high-stall torque converter allows you to rev the engine at people as you drive by. The all American V8 rumble is a fantastic, something that never gets old when your maturity gets left at home.
As I said before, I am not a truck guy, so that means I don’t know all of the do’s and do not’s of truck culture. Dan has told me that he has gotten a lot of hate on internet forums for lowering instead of lifting, but to me that makes it better. Dan has built his Silverado with a purpose in mind, not to conform to some played out fad, and he has succeeded in making his vision a reality. There are few greater feelings than looking at something you have made happen in its finished (or close to) form. It is nice to think back to all the times along the way where things seemed frustrating and hopeless, realizing that you overcame those obstacles. This Silverado is a rolling success story, one that continues to exceed not only my expectations, but Dan’s as well. He told me that when he started this build his goal was a 14 second time slip. Now his truck is running in the low 13’s, and Dan is hoping to break into the high 12’s with some further tweaks. For me, this is an example of how to go about modifying a car (or truck in this case) the right way, with a clear vision and purpose in mind.
This is one of those unique vehicles that will stick with me for the long haul. The contrast between expectation and reality, as well as the lessons I have learned as a car enthusiast are profound. Lots of cars I drive for this site are predictable, and even forgettable at times, but not this one. This Silverado is the real deal, and Dan should be very proud of it.
Here is a some video taken during the drive, listen to that brutal V8 sound!
Special thanks to Dan Valanzola for letting me review his Silverado
WoM Score: 6.0 Chevy Silverado
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Practicality(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 1
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 9/10