Got that Big Block
Do you remember the ‘90s truck wars, when GM and Ford were offering quick (for the time) muscle trucks off the lot? The Ford Lightning and Chevy 454SS; regular cab, 2WD pickups with pony car power were just what we needed. Looking back, a 255hp big block Chevy is anemic, but at the time it was a breath of fresh air. Ford kept the Lightning option going into the round body style and added a blower, so by many measures, Ford won the war.
The bowtie faithful, however, never got over the 454SS; they’ve enjoyed a cult following since day one. Adding proper heads and induction, or a performance-built BBC, really makes these trucks entertaining. Chevy truck aficionado Joey Gonzales wanted the ultimate 454SS, and enlisted Tre 5 Customs and IKandy Paintworks, both in the Phoenix area, to get it done.
Tre 5 went across town to GSI Machine and Fabrication for a full chassis to place the 454SS upon. Thanks to a huge notch, improved geometry and plenty of planning and effort, the GSI frame allows the C1500 to set gingerly on the ground as well as rip up the highway. Now-defunct AccuAir components including ELevel controller and an EndoCVT tank work in concert with air bags and Ridetech shocks at each corner for an adjustable and always-comfortable ride. Under the bed is a Currie Enterprises Ford 9-inch rear axle, selected because its strength for, ah, shall we say hauling. Staggering 14” Baer Brakes (yet another Phoenix-based participant) live behind 22 and 24” Intro wheels; the rears are a whopping 15” wide!
Putting that 9” rearend and huge rear tires to work is a Don Hardy-built 418-inch LS monster. As if that wasn’t enough, a Whipple supercharger is nestled happily between the heads, doing its part to coax over 900hp from the monochromatic mill. No, it’s not 454 cubes in a 454SS, but I don’t hear anyone complaining! A Phoenix Transmissions 4L80E does what it can to make use of the power, and an EFI system from Holley keeps things in check.
While a stock outward appearance was an important aspect of this truck (other than the stance and wheels!), that hardly means it was a scuff-and-spray redo. Once Tre 5 was finished shaving the impact strips from the bumpers, building the insane bed floor, including lift-up center section, fabbing engine compartment panels and installing Hart-Fab inner fenders, the 454SS was turned over to IKandy Paintworks for untold hours of block sanding. The end result looks like the paint is wet, and I know that phrase gets tossed around a lot these days, but we saw this bad dog in person at the 2019 SEMA Show and ’19 Git Down and we’re still impressed 10 months later.
At a glance, the cabin is reminiscent of the stock maroon situation, but the coloring is where the similarities end. Ceballos Upholstery (guess where they are) slicked everything up for a modern feel but the familiar power door lock and power window switches remain, as do the boxy dash shapes. An ididit column offers a much simpler look, crowned with a billet wheel. Also chosen for simplicity over stock was a Restomod AC system, as well as an HDX instrument system. We created this package in our most technology-soaked series just in time to ride the wave of these so-called “Old Body Style” (OBS for short) trucks, and this particular unit was treated to a one-off overlay (gauge face) touting the truck’s nickname, Blackjack.
As mentioned, Blackjack has already made several public appearances and it draws a huge crowd each time. We’ve been watching a steady stream of collaborations between Tre 5 and IKandy over the years, and it seems like each one pushes the envelope just a bit more than the last. For those of us who drooled over the 454SS, and lesser “Sport” models, in the early ‘90s, Joey G’s OBS is an incredible throwback.