This Chevy Avalanche definitely gets plenty of notice as it cruises the trails. Built up by our sister publication, Truckin's SUV magazine, the bright-yellow Avalanche features enough eye-catching exterior modifications and off-road-worthy upgrades to warrant a more critical look at this hybrid SUV/pickup.
In stock condition, the project Avalanche sported a light pewter-metallic paintjob, was at normal ride height, and its footprint was a set of conservative rolling stock. As you glance at the photos that grace these pages, things have obviously been changed. The unique Avalanche platform is a bold introduction by Chevrolet and demonstrates what can be achieved by taking the best attributes of a sport utility vehicle and a pickup truck and combining the two in a hybrid/crossover platform. The Avalanche certainly has plenty of utility, fulfilling its role as a five-person plush people-mover one moment, and the next admirably stepping into a tough cargo-hauling role using its 8-foot bed. With its unique Midgate design, the Avalanche can be configured in a number of different ways to tackle most any load-carrying chore.
Built on the Suburban platform, the Avalanche has all of the positive attributes of a large SUV: plush confines, plenty of power, excellent ride, a lot of available space, and the ability to trailer with ease. However, the purpose of a project vehicle is to think outside the box and build upon and improve a vehicle's stock abilities and design.
The Build UpWithout a doubt, the most noticed (and most discussed) change to the Avalanche is its bright-yellow paintjob, highlighted with satin-black trim. The paint, a special House of Kolor blend, was expertly applied by Bernt Karlsson of Classics By Bernt in Anaheim, California. The Avalanche's yellow/black scheme was both labor-intensive and creatively inspired and serves to set the tone for the rest of the project's buildup. Needless to say, the paint does impress the retinas, and more than one onlooker has dubbed the Avalanche: The Bumblebee.
Of more importance to our readers, however, is the vehicle's off-road-ready stance. Prior to the painting process, the Avalanche paid a visit to Trader's headquarters in Whittier, California, where it underwent a lifting process courtesy of a Fabtech 6-inch lift kit. This was an excellent choice for the Avalanche since the company's systems never use shortcuts, which makes them reliable and ensures a vehicle that rides well. Second, the company is one of the few companies that makes a 6-inch lift for the Avalanche (it is the same suspension that would be installed on a late-model Suburban). For a more detailed look at the kit and its installation, you may want to refer to Truckin's SUV, Feb. '02 issue, which features an in-depth feature on the components and the process.
The lift goes a long way in giving the Avalanche an aggressive stance and towering attitude, and it cleared the way for the larger rolling stock planned for the wheelwells. The Chevy rides on BFGoodrich's new Mud-Terrain T/A tires, and this impressive rubber measures 17x35 inches. During the modification process, Truckin's SUV learned that the 17x9.5-inch wheels they would require for the tires would somewhat limit style choices. After perusing hundreds of wheels from dozens of manufacturers, they came across the perfect wheel from Center Line in the form of its stylish Corona billet model. This polished wheel offers an aggressive look and stylish lines that perfectly complement the Mud-Terrains.
With the lift kit in place and the wheelwells filled with impressive rolling stock, attention was turned to some additional exterior styling cues. While at Bernt's, the stock side steps had been removed, and in their place, a set of Westin Automotive Platinum Series Step Bars were bolted on. These 3-inch-diameter stainless steel steps feature a non-skid recessed step area, custom mounting brackets, and a highly polished chrome finish. Up front, Ron Weaver of R.W. Automotive in Sylmar, California, custom-fabricated a front prerunner-style brushguard for the Avalanche. The brushguard fits perfectly within the Chevy's overall design, and you have to look very closely to see how Ron welded the unit because he spent a lot of time and effort grinding and smoothing the final piece. To give the Avalanche more seeing power on those dark off-road nights, mounted within the brushguard is a set of Pro XT Super Racing Halogen lights from PIAA.
In order to give the Avalanche a slight power boost and to better expedite the elimination of exhaust gases, the big Chevy took a trip to Jardine Performance Exhaust in Corona, California, where it underwent a bolt-on of one of its after-cat exhaust systems. Jardine already had an excellent kit for the Suburban, and this system matched up nicely to the Avalanche platform, using the stock hangers and mounting positions.
The Final GoodsWith all of these modifications complete, it became very evident that it was a winner. With its bright-yellow paint, black accents, exterior body pieces, high-strung attitude, and more, the Avalanche was indeed a force to be reckoned with. While driving the vehicle, it impresses with its excellent driveability and ride, despite the fact that it was now 6 inches above stock height and sports some fairly beefy rolling stock. The one-off body pieces combine nicely with the aftermarket bolt-ons to create a cohesive final effect. Judging by the neck-snapping stares and the excited comments it garners on the road, it seems the upgrades had been done to a tee.
|Owner ||Primedia Truck Group Project Vehicle |
|Make/model ||'02 Chevrolet Avalanche Z71 |
|Engine ||GM 5300 5.3L V-8 |
|Suspension ||Chevrolet Z71 suspension; 6-inch Fabtech |
| ||lift kit |
|Wheels/tires ||Center Line 17x9.5-inch Corona/BFGoodrich |
| ||35-inch Mud-Terrain T/A |
|Exhaust ||Jardine Performance Exhaust stainless steel |
| ||after-cat system |
|Additional features ||Bodywork/prep by Classics By Bernt; RW |
Automotive front brushguard; Westin Automotive
Platinum Series step bars; PIAA Super Racing
halogen lights; Audiovox audio/video system