CLASSIC LOOKS WITH A MODERN HEART
SQUARE-BODIED CHEVY trucks are currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity, but there was a time not too long ago when you could pick them up dirt cheap. These were the last of the solid-axle Chevys, and they have a nostalgia of a simpler time before adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings. The next generation of trucks (1988-1998) have plenty of advantages over the square bodies, though, one of which is that they are still dirt cheap.
In the end, what motivated Jake Hallenbeck of Marked Motorsports to build this truck is the same as what draws so many to the square body: nostalgia. “This is the truck I was driving when my wife, Angela, 20 years ago,” Jake explains. Although he’s had plenty of Jeeps and rockcrawling buggies, the GMC still held a special place in his heart as the vehicle that sparked his interest in 4x4s.
Jake’s hometown of Reno, Nevada, is called the Biggest Little City for a reason. With some sleuthing he was able to track down the truck and update it with his current skillset, which has grown significantly since his high school days.
Jake applied some of the same tricks he used on past vehicles, including LS power and Super Duty axles. “I put Super Duty axles and leaf springs under my TJ and then later under my JK with 40-inch tires. People think I’m nuts, but the combination works really well on the trail and is stable and predictable on the road. For the price you can’t beat it.”
Nostalgia then motivated Jake to add chrome diff covers and dual chrome shocks at each corner of the truck as a tribute to its oh-so-1990s heritage. The result looks like a show truck at first glance but has enough horsepower and axle for legit wheeling.
1 Power comes from a 6.0L Gen III engine that looks like it came from the factory. The engine has been upgraded with a Comp Cams cam and lifters, beehive valve springs, and a 92mm throttle body with a tune via an HP Tuner to make it all work. Ceramic-coated Pacesetter headers route exhaust gases to a custom 3-inch exhaust fitted with Dynomax and Flowmaster components.
2 The truck only has 116,000 original miles on it, and the interior is in incredibly good shape. Jake went through the extra effort to ensure that all the factory gauges and cruise control would function with the LS engine.
3 This might be the first time you’ve seen chrome shocks in Petersen’s 4-Wheel & OffRoad since David Freiburger took over as editor in 1994, but we think enough time has passed to point out the study in contrasts on this GMC. The Offroad Design solid-axle swap kit and a 1-ton front axle suggest it could do some legit wheeling. At the same time, the dual chrome shocks and chrome diff cover scream “show truck!”
4 The Sterling 101⁄2-inch rear axle came with disc brakes and a limited-slip differential, so all Jake added was a set of 4.88 gears. The factory driveshaft was shortened 11⁄4 inches in the rear and fitted with a flange to mate up to the Ford axle. In the front, a new driveshaft was built with a 1310 double Cardan joint at the transfer case end and a 1350 U-joint at the axle end. Also visible are the two mufflers that were added to the 3-inch exhaust to retain sleeper status. There is more post-disco bling in the form of dual chrome shocks and a chrome diff cover. A shackle flip provides room for the 37s and Firestone airbags keep the truck level, even when towing heavy loads.
5 The front axle is a Dana 60 straight out of a Ford Super Duty. Jake added a Reid Racing knuckle to the passenger side to accept a XXX Traction steering arm on top of the knuckle to reduce bumpsteer. The factory Saginaw steering box was retained, but it uses a pitman arm from Offroad Design. Inside, 4.88 gears were added to compensate for the 37-inch-tall tires.
“More than meets eye” the