The Cadillac Escalade front clip uses a billet grille insert to further change the overall
It's not everyday you see a common workhorse transformed into a prize-winning thoroughbred, or a piece of common coal turned into a glittering diamond. These things, for the most part, do not happen in the real world and, when they do, are almost always accompanied by their associates - trickery, deception, skullduggery, and a highly developed slight-of-hand show played before a backdrop of smoke and mirrors. Having said all of that, let us say that the vehicle on these pages really has been transformed from a mundane, run-of-the-mill, do-it-all hauler to a real showstopper.
So you ask, just how and why did the transformation of this particular '99 Chevrolet Crew Cab take place? It all started when Craig Rowley decided what he really needed to transport his very neat, highly modified '88 Astro van (see feature in Feb. '00 Mini Truckin') was a 24-foot enclosed trailer and a serious Crew Cab dualie tow rig. It wasn't too much later that Craig suffered a severe case of polisher's elbow accompanied by a mild show vehicle burnout virus and retreated from the scene for a brief period of time. Not one to just sit around and watch the world go by, he decided to try his hand at drag racing, and as before, the dualie was pressed into service as the designated tow vehicle. Craig quickly came to terms with the fact that the go-fast obsession was a very expensive compulsion with very little chance of monetary recovery. It was at that point he decided to sell the drag car and return to the truck scene in a big way.
Serving in an advisory capacity, Scott Bullock at Showcase Custom Automotive in St. Louis, helped Craig prepare the big dualie for its return as a featured vehicle, rather than as a towing tool. And as always, the first order of business on the alteration agenda was getting it to sit right. After all, if you don't establish the right attitude in the beginning, it really doesn't matter what you do from there. To get this process headed in the right direction, Kevin Holland and Konfused Kustoms in Gulfport, Mississippi, installed Air Ride Technologies airbags at all four corners and a bridge at the rear to get the big guy down on the ground. Because Craig wanted to be able to move the ride height up and down rapidly, he decided to secure a couple of nitrogen tanks in the rear portion of the 8-foot bed rather than a large compressor and several auxiliary air tanks. Then, to complement the low-down look, a full set of APP 19-inch wheels from Bantz Custom Wheel encased in Toyo rubber was installed at all four corners.
Of course, having the right attitude means that you should have the power to back up whatever image you decide to portray. In this case, that meant making a few tweaks to the factory-installed 454ci engine. A computer programmer was added, as were a pair of JBA headers, Dynomax mufflers, a K&N filter system, some 4.10:1 gears, a set of underdrive pulleys, and just for that extra margin of excess required by any self-respecting ex-racer, a 125hp ZEX nitrous system. All of these little adjustments brought the estimated power up to a respectable 400 hp and made it possible for the big rig to pass through the quarter-mile in 15.1 seconds at 91 mph. Not bad for a heavyweight dualie with the frontal area of a small building.
With the right attitude and enough power to back it up, it was time to get serious about adding a touch of flash and individuality to the overall appearance. So, it was off to Yo-Bob Graphics & Design in Columbia, Illinois, where some serious adjustments to the body would be made. The first thing to go was the original Chevrolet front clip, followed by the handles on all four doors and tailgate, along with the rear bumper and hitch. The front clip was replaced by a complete Cadillac Escalade nose and the door handles by a quartet of neat little chrome-plated Mazda Miata pieces. In addition, the original taillights were removed, filled, and replaced, as was the rear bumper replaced with a Sir Michaels roll pan sporting Maltese cross-shaped LED taillights.
To finish the smoother look, the exterior of the tailgate was shaved, and the handle was moved to the inside of the bed. Finally, when everything was smoothed, straightened, aligned, and sanded, the truck was ready for paint. Again, the guys at Yo-Bob Graphics and Design would be selected to apply the finish. Because color is almost as important as attitude, the guys went right to the House of Kolor chips and pulled out a Bitter Sweet Pearl and White to be used as the two basic colors, then accented them with tribal designs and airbrushed highlights in a variety of complementary colors. When all the layers of tape and paper had been removed, Dan Patterson was called in to lay down the yards of hot orange pinstriping that would outline and define the pattern. The final addition to the exterior treatment was a spray-on bedliner by Midwest Superliner. The liner not only squelches sound transition and protects the bed, it also incorporates the Negative Camber club logo in the design and is in the colors which complement the exterior body.
Now the truck had the proper attitude, plenty of power, and pulsating colors.What more could one expect, you ask? Well, naturally, we all know the interior has to live up to the expectations created by the exterior. To make that a reality, Craig added a couple of Auto Meter gauges to the A-pillar, a Billet Accessories Direct tribal-style wheel on the end of the steering column, some Bitter Sweet Pearl paint to the plastic trim pieces, and a TV to the dash, with the added bonus of PlayStation 2 action. Then, it was handed off to Joel at Superior Interiors in Dupo, Illinois, where the seats and door panels would be covered with materials selected to not only complement the exterior color, but to bring some of the visual design inside. To mimic the Bitter Sweet Pearl and its scale pattern, a brown ostrich material was selected for seat inserts, door-panel inserts, and the steering wheel wrap. The contrasting color is gray leather, which is far less vivid than the exterior combination, yet picks up some of the accent colors used in the tribal graphics. The combination works very well - the interior lives up to the exterior's advertised expectations, while the lucky occupants are treated to plush leather seating and a mini entertainment center.
It always seems simple when you see the finished product, but the truth is, it took one year and a tremendous amount of help from friends and family too numerous to mention to complete this truck. It looks like Craig and his wife Rosalyn will be rejoining their friends in the Negative Camber truck club for a bit of open-road cruising this summer. Our only question is, if Craig should decide to tow this one, what size rig will that require?