Around the turn of the millennium, automakers greenlit some interesting ideas. Ford thought the time was right for a new Thunderbird; Mopar tried to bring old-school cool into new-age looks with the Prowler; and General Motors, well, they never met a concept they didn’t like. We’re looking at you, Pontiac, and the Aztek.
But GM also had another bright idea – take a truck, add a fake rollbar to it, give it a modular tonneau cover and rear windshield, and see what people thought of it. They called it the Avalanche. Most folks called it awesome.
Looking back at the commercials, Chevrolet really emphasized the versatility of the Avalanche. The vehicle could transform from an SUV to a pickup and back in seconds, making it the one-size-fits-all rig for truck enthusiasts. Here at Off Road Xtreme, we have a transformation of our own in mind, as we intend to take a 2002 Avalanche and turn it into a race-capable vehicle. We’re calling it “Project Resurrection.”
The genesis for Project Resurrection starts with Ken Keck. Ken has been in the truck and off-road industry for more than 20 years. Over that time, he’s gotten to know the ins and outs of off-road racing, vehicle builds, and aftermarket figures.
“My background in off-road stems from my early 20s when I started working for Dick Cepek and then for 4 Wheel Parts,” he said. “I have always loved camping in the desert and riding dirt bikes and quads.”
“When I was introduced to the off-road racing vehicle side, I was hooked,” he continued. “I started building trucks that I could go play with in the dirt. As the years went on, I volunteered in pit crews and even raced with some of the teams. I’ve worked all over the industry, from suspension companies to manufacturers of the fiberglass and so on.”
Ken was an early fan of the Avalanche when it came out in 2001. After buying his own, he spruced it up big time. “I installed a CST lift, Fox shocks, and a Magnuson supercharger,” he said. “It handled great on and off-road. ”
Nowadays, Ken wants to go even bigger on an Avalanche. For Project Resurrection, he’s pulling out all of the stops to deliver a truck that blows everyone away.
Project Resurrection will bring this busted, much-abused 2003 Avalanche into a higher status. In basic terms, we’re going to transform this stock truck into an elite vehicle at home in the desert and on the race course.
The truck we’re starting with has seen better days. It’s clocking around 200,000 miles, and has sustained damage to the front passenger side fender. Neither Ken nor the previous owner had any knowledge on what happened there, but it didn’t bend the frame or affect steering and braking.
The paint is also severely degraded, with clearcoat damage and residue streaks affecting the body’s appearance. Regardless, Ken isn’t concerned about it, as he’s going to fiberglass the body eventually.
Getting back to the vision for Project Resurrection, Ken summarized it: “The purpose for Project Resurrection is to build a race-capable, attention-grabbing vehicle that showcases the best products in the industry and shows their capabilities.” To that end, we’re going to treat this Avalanche to a bevy of aftermarket upgrades.
Since March, we’ve discussed the build plan for Project Resurrection and settled on breaking it into five phases. The starting phase will encompass safety and getting the truck ready for high-speed off-road driving.
Safety entails getting the cage and seats in order. For the cage, we’re going with T.E. Designs, a well-respected fabrication shop that specializes in cage and suspension parts. The seats will be Recaro, whose name in racing and prosumer-grade seats precedes itself.
Once we have this foundation in place, we’ll tackle the long-travel suspension and shock absorbers for the next article. T.E. Designs will once again come into play, as they make fully boxed control arms that will be crucial for strength and integrity. For shocks, those are to-be-determined, but we’re thinking of either FOX or Bilstein.
At this point, we want to start taking care of the drivetrain and footwear for Project Resurrection. Currie will craft a full-floating 9-inch rearend for the Avalanche, which will be beefed up with an Eaton locker and Motive Gear ring and pinion. Wilwood brakes will also be installed for their robust braking power. We’ll also discuss the wheels and tires we’re using, those being Vision beadlocks and Toyo 37-inch Open Country M/Ts, respectively.
For the fourth article, we’ll focus on the power plant. The 5.3-liter V8 offers a good amount of grunt from the factory, but we’re going to need something in the territory of 700 to 800 horsepower. For that, we’re working with CBM Motorsports in Colton, California. As specialists in LS V8s, they’ll be able to produce what we’re looking for. We’ll also need to mate that engine to a stout enough transmission, torque converter, and driveshaft, so we’re looking at all available options to help out there.
For the fifth and final article, we’ll cover odds and ends; things that put the finishing touches on the Avalanche. These will include a Pyrotect fuel cell, Flowmaster exhaust, and a digital gauge pack from Racepak.
We’re Just Getting Started
Project Resurrection is still just in the early days. And it should be noted that COVID-19 didn’t help. But in spite of the setbacks of early 2020, we’re ramping to make sure future 2020 gives us something to smile about.
By the time it’s done, Project Resurrection will be a truck that is near unrecognizable from what it started out as. With new fiberglass, a vinyl wrap, bigger and beefier drivetrain, and a roaring CBM-built LS motor, it’ll be the ultimate form of Avalanche.
Which build phase are you most excited for? Pop down below and let us know in the comments.