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Extreme Takeover

October 29th, 2009

0606_st_2004_chevy_tahoe_performance_upgrade_01_thumbEpisode IV: Tahoe on the Town

The Truck: 2004 Chevy Tahoe

Why: Because as far as high-end luxury goes, these Tahoes were seriously lacking. Even the Limiteds don’t hold a candle to the Denalis and Escalades.

The Victim: Lisa Pirosanto, 28

Why: Lisa works in Newport Beach as a professional matchmaker, and this grocery-getter was just too boring in a sea of Range Rovers and Benzes

The Plan:

Make the boring SUV as high-end looking as possible-without breaking the bank and without getting all “bling”. What started out as a simple makeover quickly became our most ambitious effort to date.

The Parts:

Weld Evo wheels, Nitto tires, DJM Cal Max lowering kit, Baer brake rotors, Street Scene bumpers and grille, Grippin door handles, Nu Image gauge cluster, and Elite accessories.

The Players:

Billet Superstore, Auto-B-Craft, Charly Henley, the StreetTrucks Staff, & friends.





Starting this month, all of our victims will now receive an arsenal of supplies from Meguiar’s! The kit includes the complete NXT Generation line, Gold Class cleaning supplies, Hot Rims cleaner, and clay bar kit. No more excuses for dirty Takeover projects! First priority: Rolling stock. We went with the super sleek (and super strong) BC-009 new from Weld Evo. They measure 22 x 9.5 inches and were wrapped with the always cool 285/45/22 NT 420s from Nitto.



These wheels show a lot of brake, so we decided to check out the new DecelaRotors from Baer Brakes. They employ a reverse slot and drill pattern and are finished in silver zinc plating.

There’s nothing that bugs us more than the fender gap left on most SUVs after they bolt on big wheels. We solved that problem with a Cal Max 2/3 drop from DJM Suspension. The rear uses coils, shocks and relocation parts, while the front simply uses torsion keys.

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Chrome and black bumpers just won’t cut it, so we opted for bumper covers from Street Scene. We chose the front bumper design that most closely resembles the factory Denali bumper.
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Street Scene also supplied their chromed Speed Grille inserts, bow tie and chrome antenna. We decided to dress up the gauges with a stainless steel gauge dial and chrome bezel from Nu Image. This kit features blue night vision and silver needles.
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Luckily, the door handles on this particular Tahoe were already color matched, but we decided to one up all those Escalades with a billet handle set from Grippin. These happen to match the grooves on the wheel spokes perfectly. Bringing up the rear, we picked up a chrome license plate frame and custom hitch cover from Elite Auto Accessories. It’s all in the details!
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Since we were still awaiting most of the parts, but we did have the grille, we started by installing it and also removing all of the items that would not be returning to the vehicle. We removed the top cover and the bolts before popping the stock grille assembly out. Once we ditched the stock gold bow tie, the Speed Grille insert simply lays over top of the stock grate.
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Then the shell is turned over and the inserts are clipped in place with the many provided clips. Next the chrome bow tie is bolted up using the provided hardware.


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The grille was reinstalled onto the truck. We spent the rest of the day doing demo work. The first items to go were the front tow hooks. Then we heated the door moldings and peeled them off. We didn’t even need the eraser wheel to get all of the adhesive off.
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Yeah, we know there are running boards on Denalis and Escalades, but who cares. Running boards don’t belong on trucks built after the ’50s! We eighty-sixed the roof rack, too. We were thinking of leaving it off, but Greg at Billet Superstore had a better idea. More on that later.
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Once we had the bumper covers in hand, we drove them over to Auto-B-Craft in Long Beach for prefitment and paint. They popped on without issue, so Jose began the paint process. After a thorough scrubbing with Ajax, adhesive promoter was applied to the surfaces, followed by a coat of filler primer with a flex additive. Charly Henley handles the sales and marketing for both Grippin billet handles and Nu Image components, and he volunteered to help out with the install. We started with the gauge cluster by removing the dash bezel and removing the four bolts that hold the cluster in place.
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With the truck running, the location of the needles is marked to reference later. Then the cluster is unplugged and removed, the bezel is removed, and each needle is lifted off.
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The stock dials were lifted off and the new stainless dial was laid down. With the truck running again, the new silver and white needles were returned to their original positions according to the schematic.
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Then the chrome bezel was snapped in place over the cluster. The four bolts were replaced and the dash bezel was put right back on top. We were surprised at how easy this install was, and it really changes the entire look of the interior. Moving on, Charly removed the door panel to access the door handles. The mounting points vary between the ’99-02 and ’03-up models, but with either application these are some of the easiest door panels to remove.
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Once inside, the door handles are held in with three bolts each. Only one of them is tricky to access. Once the handle is removed, the lock and latch rods must also be removed.
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This pin on the latch side is removed temporarily so that the handle can be removed from the bucket. The stock pin is removed from the pivot side, releasing the stock handle. The new handle is secured with an Allen bolt.
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Charly then reattached the assembly to the two rods and bolted the handle back in place. He ripped through all four handles in about an hour. We arrived at Billet Superstore just in time to see the Nitto tires being mounted onto the Weld Evo wheels. It is important to transfer those tire pressure sensors to the new tires. If you don’t it trips a code on your dash that will never shut up (obviously, we’re speaking from experience).
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We’d say the new 22-inch Weld/Nitto combo is an improvement over the stock setup. These wheels are some of the strongest on the market, and easy to clean thanks to the chrome-plating. The 285/45/22 provides plenty of sidewall to protect your investment, too. Since the front drop happens entirely back at the torsion adjusters, we went ahead and replaced the rusty stock front rotors with the zinc-coated DecelaRotors from Baer. What a difference the rotor alone made.
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Replacement of the DJM torsion key goes like this: The adjuster bolt is removed; and a C-clamp is used to hold the key up so the keeper can be removed. When the tension is released on the bar, it will slide forward and back into the DJM key. The process is then reversed and the bolts are buzzed back to their approximate location. Slight adjustments are normal during the alignment process.


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In the rear, the sway bar end links and shocks were removed and the rear axle was lowered down until the old coil could be removed and the DJM unit installed. One of the D-clamps on the sway bar must be relocated, which requires drilling a hole. Then the new end links were bolted up.
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The lower trailing arms must actually be dropped for better clearance and geometry. Three bolts were installed to hold the bracket in place before the arm was remounted. Lastly, the DJM Cal Max shocks were bolted up. Then the new Baer rotors were mounted.
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Finally, we got to bolt up our new Weld/Nitto combo and see the truck back on the ground. From there it was off to the alignment shop. Soon after, we were back at Auto-B-Craft to check the status of the bumpers; and not a minute too soon. Jose was in the booth spraying the last coat of clear over the factory Dupont white.
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After plenty of heat and cooling time, Jerry pulled the stock valance and fog lights, and then ran two-sided tape all over the stock bumper. The bumper slipped into place without incident and a few self-tappers were strategically placed for good measure. We made up these little brackets from flat steel so the new round fog lights would hang directly in front of the openings in the bumper.
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Moving to the rear, we removed the license plate lights, spare tire lock and license plate, then slipped the bumper back on. Then James and Jerry marked the holes and routed them out with a die grinder. Two-sided tape was put all over the stock bumper and the cover was slipped on for good. The license plate lights would no longer clip properly, so we epoxied them in and held them in place with tape. The rest of the items, including the Elite license plate frame and receiver cover, were also installed at this time.
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Thought we were done? Not Quite. When Greg at Billet Superstore informed us that he offers anything and everything to ‘Cadify’ a Tahoe, we ordered up both an Escalade roof rack and Escalade rear vent caps. The Caddy roof rack installs into the same ‘ nut-serts’ as the stocker. The caps, which Greg painted bright white to match the truck, simply snapped into place.
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Our new vent caps were also painted to match and snapped right into place. There is just one bolt located under the hatch. Lastly, we detailed the revamped Tahoe with Lisa’s complete detail kit, compliments of Meguiar’s. The NXT line of products combined with the micro fiber towels makes for easy cleaning.

The Finished Product:

Like we said, what started out as a simple build ended up being our most ambitious project to date. We classed up this Tahoe a ton and improved on its handling and braking characteristics in the process. Now Lisa can roll with the best of ‘em in the real OC, and school both the busy professionals and trophy housewives. We can’t wait for someone to ask her when Chevy started making a Denali!
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Source Box:
Weld Wheel Industries

Nitto Tires



Baer Brakes

Billet Superstore

DJM Suspension

Elite Automotive Products

Grippin Billet

Nu Image Components

Street Scene Equipment


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