Few, if any, vehicles introduced in recent years have met the level of controversy and public scrutiny that has been focused on Chevrolet's Avalanche. Love it or hate it, the General's reconfigurable Sport Utility Truck has polarized enthusiasts' opinion in a manner unseen since the IFS versus live axle wars of the late '80s.
Whatever you think of the body-cladded, uniquely styled 'Lanche, the truck is prime fodder for customizers like Tempe, Arizona-based Kenyatta Goins, whose company, Goins Automotive Group, is a major source for exotic vehicles of all types, specializing in creating wild, one-off 4x4s for pro athletes and as a rolling showcase for automotive aftermarket suppliers. The blue '02 Avalanche chronicled in this story was built by Kenyatta for Genuine Steel and Magna Charger as a display vehicle for last year's Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, where it attracted plenty of curious lookers and a steady stream of admirers.
Surprised that a tricked-out Avalanche would be so popular? We weren't. After all, what's not to like about a 4x4 that combines form, function, and high style? To get the project started, Kenyatta turned to his longtime friend and suspension manufacturer Joe Morrow, who used the Avalanche to prototype an all-new suspension system that is currently marketed by Morrow's company, Truckin Suspension. Basically, the entire front IFS was repositioned downward, effecting much of the lift, but retaining the factory geometry and maximizing suspension travel by utilizing the supple spring rate of the OE torsion bars. The rear lift was accomplished with the installation of Truckin Suspension's custom coil springs and special multi-links that also maintain proper suspension geometry, yet deliver a functional stance that complements the front end's ride height. Damping the front and rear suspension, and providing a way-compliant ride, are Doetsch Tech dampers (two-per-wheel, front; one-per-wheel, rear). For durability and good looks, every suspension component was powdercoated.
To enhance the controversial nature of the Avalanche, Kenyatta fit a wheel and tire combination whose sizing is equally controversial within the off-road community: 18-inch-diameter Weld EVO Espada forged wheels wrapped with 35x12.50R18 BFGoodrich Radial Mud-Terrain K/O tires. We drove the truck with the 18s and were surprised by their traction and compliance on fire roads and in deep sand. As was expected, the big-inch wheels provide a lot of stability on the street, but overall, the jury's still out on whether or not 18-inch - or larger! - wheels and tires will be "The Next Big Thing." Not surprisingly, the big rims perfectly complement the attitude and styling of the big Avalanche, and we guess that was the prevailing reason Kenyatta chose the huge hoops.
Underhood, the terrific power and smoothness of the Chevrolet 5.3L small-block V-8 was given a boost, literally, with the installation of a Magna Charger supercharger. Running a conservative 6 pounds. of pressure, the roots-style Magna Charger blower pumps up engine torque by 100 lb-ft. The Mouse exhales through JBA headers, which were ceramic-coated for protection against the increased combustion heat generated by the blower, and on through a 3-inch-diameter B&B Exhaust system. High-power ignition is courtesy of MSD components, including an MSD multi-spark OFFROAD ignition box and a set of 8.5 mm plug wires. Even with a 6,500-pound curb weight (full of fuel), the Avalanche is able to sprint through the quarter-mile in 15.10 seconds at a speed of 93 mph, which is proof positive of the horsepower being generated by the mildly leaned-on Mouse.
Inside the truck's factory leather-equipped cockpit, Kenyatta went all-out, but the installation of the electronic goodies is ultra-clean, OE-like in fit and finish. The sound system is based on a Blaupunkt San Francisco head unit and a Blaupunkt six-disc CD changer, which sends signals to a 600-watt Xtant mono amp that powers the sub woofer, and a 400-watt, four-channel amp that energizes the quartet of 6-inch, two-way (midbass and tweeter) Xtant component speakers mounted in each of the four doors. The 400-watt Xtant amp also powers an 8-inch Aluma Pro midbass speaker mounted in the scratch-built center console. Speaking of the console, Kenyatta's team neatly tucked a downward-facing Xtant 10-inch subwoofer inside and topped it with clear safety glass, which keeps the console open for storage. Suffice to say, this sound system is powerful and tight. For visual thrills, a Santeca DVD/MP3 player sends images to a trio of 6.5-inch video monitors: one inside the rear of each front seat headrest; one in the passenger side of the dash. There's also a monitor that replaces the OE rearview mirror; it receives images from a rear-facing exterior camera hung off the Avalanche's roof.
As has become de rigueur on customized Avalanches, the body cladding's textured surface was smoothed. Then, Kenyatta built a prerunner-style front bumper (which is currently being manufactured by Genuine Steel) just as G-Cube Designs' Ross Berlanga sketched out the final version of the two-tone graphics. With the exterior focus set, the Goins Automotive Group set off down a path it had traveled many times before. The Avalanche was stripped of its doors, hood, fenders, tailgate, grille, bumpers, and every piece of body cladding and trim in preparation for the fresh paint. Why go to all of that work? If you've ever seen a vehicle that's been the recipient of a pro-quality paint job, you'll know that the detailed results are well worth the extra effort. With the Dupont paint dry, Kenyatta's crew went to work installing the sheetmetal and cladding. Along the way, the crew found time to install Muth mirros and PIAA lights.
Currently valued at $75K, Kenyatta Goins' Avalanche is one slick 4x4. While the Avalanche's original styling and Goins' extensive customization may not represent a typical 4x4, pushing the envelope is what General Motors and Kenyatta Goins set outto do with their respective designs. As Chevrolet's SUT becomes plentiful in the used truck market, we're sure to see an increasing number of modified Avalanches built by enthusiasts from every part of the USA. And although any Avalanche builder will have to go a long way to better the efforts of Kenyatta Goins, OFF-ROAD magazine stands ready to showcase the next radical Avalanche making its mark in the world of custom 4x4 trucks.
|Owner/hometown ||Kenyatta and Anita Goins Tempe, Arizona |
|Make/model ||'02 Chevrolet Avalanche 4x4 |
|Engine ||5.3L V-8 with Magna Charger supercharger, |
MSD ignition, JBA headers, B&B Exhaust
|Suspension ||Truckin Suspension 10-inch lift, Doestch |
|Wheels/tires ||Weld EVO Espada (18x9.5) BFGoodrich |
35x12.50R18 Radial Mud-Terrain T/A KM
|Audio/video system ||Blaupunkt San Francisco head unit and six-disc |
CD player Xtant speakers and amplifiers, Aluma
Pro speaker Santeca video monitors
|Additional features ||Optima batteries, Street Wires audio wiring, |
Muth Signal Mirrors, G-Cube paint design