I was about nine years old riding in the back of my buddy's older bother's '65 Mustang when I became acquainted with speed. Coming back from a little league game, he opened up the 289ci V-8 down a Georgia back road and I remember laughing like only a little boy can when I saw the old speedo needle creep past 100 mph. From that moment, I've been fascinated with going fast. Fast forward some 25 years and I'm the proud owner of one of the fastest trucks I've ever been in—our very own Project Novakane. Admittedly, it's not the fastest pickup in a straight line, and it doesn't have Texas Mile top speed, but what it does have is a rowdy attitude that never apologizes for smoky donuts, insane full-throttle drifts, and the occasional backward entrance into the speed stop cones. It's everything I loved about going fast when I was a kid, and no passenger has ever gotten out of it after a couple of burnouts that wasn't either smiling or ready to puke.

During my 10-plus years at the magazine, I've seen trends trickle down to the truck scene from street rods and muscle cars, whether it's clean and simple paint styles, high-end interiors, or detailed high-tech engines. I also saw all of these muscle car owners flinging their cars around the track at local autocross and race events. Rather than let the car guys have all of fun, I set out to design and build a truck that would rival the performance of these high-dollar machines—but in a pickup. The formula was simple, find a light regular-cab truck (if 4,200 pounds can be called light), add as much power as I could afford, and try to make the whole thing handle. It had to look menacing, it had to sound rowdy, and it needed to back all of that up with legit power. Once the donor truck was purchased at a used car lot in Phoenix for $3,900, Project Novakane was born.

Built in stages within these pages over the last two years, I'll give you a quick overview of how the entire package came together. After enjoying the truck with a traditional lowering kit for a few months, I reached out to fabricator extraordinaire Aaron Iha, of Chassis by Aaron Iha, in Covina, California. A plan was devised to give those six-figure muscle cars a genuine run for their money by way of a race-inspired suspension with maximum wheel travel at each corner to achieve extreme levels of grip. Boxed CNC-cut upper and lower A-arms work in conjunction with McGaughy's 2-inch drop spindles and QA1 coilovers to drop the front a total of seven inches. The rear frame was back-halved with a C-notch, matching QA1 coilovers, and Chassis by Aaron Iha's own triangulated four-link with adjustable aluminum upper links. Hotchkis front and rear sway bars ensure the body stays flat when being pushed hard around corners. AP Racing big brakes from Stillen bring race-winning technology to each corner and are force-fed by a Hydratech hydra-boost setup. Influencing the project's name, 20-inch BMF Novakane wheels are wrapped in ultra high-performance Nitto NT-05 rubber front and rear. Off-road wheels on a lowered muscle truck was a definite gamble, but we all think the look fits the theme much like Frank Castle wearing a Punisher T-shirt. Thanks to a solid and slammed foundation, the Sierra was now ready to make the most of the high-powered LS3 engine.

Sourcing an LSX376 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance, I topped it off with a Magnacharger TVS2300 supercharger stuffing 12psi of atmosphere into the LS3's aluminum heads. Strapped onto Westech Performance Group's engine dyno, the combo made 694 hp and 673 lb-ft of torque. With an ear-to-ear smile on everyone's faces, the mighty LS small-block was bolted onto the framerails with American Racing Headers long-tube ceramic-coated headers for maximum flow, an ATI eight-rib serpentine belt conversion to prevent belt slippage, and the entire combination is controlled by Holley's Dominator ECU, Holley LS engine harness, and Holley's drive-by-wire system. No chrome or anything shiny is found under the hood. Keeping it old-school hot-roddish, most everything in the engine compartment is semi-gloss black including the 12-point ARP fasteners throughout the engine. Three pedals are found inside the truck because I wanted to row my own gears and the thought of fourth gear smoky donuts was too enticing. Backed to the LSX376 is a Tremec T-56 Magnum six-speed with a Ram twin-disc clutch and Hurst short-throw shifter from Hurst Driveline Conversions. Unbridled joy is felt every time a new gear is selected and the tidal wave of torque thrusts the GMC forward like it was launched from a slingshot.