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Ridetech Air Suspension | Project Artemis Part 1

Ridetech Air Suspension Install Project Artemis!

It’s an exciting day here for the team at Street Trucks as we remove the first bolts from our 2021 primary project truck, Project Artemis. This 1998 GMC Sierra is getting a complete makeover. From front to back, including an all-new air-ride suspension from Ridetech, a retro-fit wood bed floor, all new interior pieces, and tons of upgrades to its original 5.7-liter V-8 engine. There’s no custom fabricating involved with this project, and we’re using only off-the-shelf bolt-on parts. It’s gonna be a good one!

This is an everyman’s project that caters to hundreds of thousands of truck enthusiasts alike. We understand that these projects take time and money that not everyone can spare. But we can at least show you what to do while you wait for the right time to make your next move.

Our project this year is to build a custom, bagged OBS Chevy truck that is reliable and ready to cruise with the whole family. So, meet Artemis, a 1998 GMC Sierra that has been female owned since it came off the lot. She’s been well maintained, and she’s ready to be reborn!

The name Artemis seemed perfect for this future trophy winner because it means “goddess of the hunt.” Artemis is also the main character’s name in my favorite movie of all time, “Ready Player One!” In the movie, Artemis is a gold/pewter-colored female character. In an online virtual reality game being played by a normal person in the real world. When playing as the character, she turns into a more confident, prouder version of herself. Just as we do when we are driving our custom truck around town, right? Customizing your character to a gamer is customizing a truck to a gearhead. So, we combined the two lifestyles, and a name was born: Project Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt for Trophies!

Stage one for this multi-stage resto-mod is to get the suspension replaced. We don’t want to be cutting and grinding the frame with a nice paint job or custom wrap. Definitely don’t want any greasy mechanics getting in and out of our nice new interior. So, we called up Ridetech, told the crew our goals, and they helped us order a complete, turn-key air-ride system designed to fit ’88-’98 Chevy and GMC C1500 trucks. When I say complete, I mean absolutely everything you need to fully bag your OBS without needing to run to the parts store. Suspension components, compressors, air springs, electronics, hoses and even all the fittings you will need, guaranteed! We were so impressed by the ease of ordering and the logistics behind this entire process, and we can’t recommend it enough for your GMT400.

This running-driving, three-door GMC has only 124,000 original miles and absolutely no mechanical issues that we know of. She’s a perfect project truck!

Once the complete kit arrived, we packed everything up and headed out to SaltWorks Fab in Myakka, Florida, for the install. Thom Ophof is the man behind all the metal magic that comes out of this amazing shop. We were impressed by his confidence when he assigned a few of his best men to tackle the teardown. Chris Hagerty and Telly Violleto were excited to break away from their high-end fab work for a couple of days to bag our OBS. We were there pestering them throughout the whole process. This issue we will focus on the front, the next issue will be the back. Then we have something special coming for Artemis—and his name is Glarb!

As we arrived at SaltWorks Fab in Myakka, Florida, the first thing we saw was this amazing, bagged GMC that was built by this crew. Not that we had any concerns before, but this was all the visual we needed to know we made the right choice!
SaltWorks Fab is a wonderful mix of metal-shaping, chassis-building and complete turn-key custom builds that range from your standard styled hotrods, full blown custom cars, resto-mods and even Pro Touring racers.
This is the office of one of the techs who took time to help us on our build. Not a bad view to have every day, right?
This complete frame-off 4×4 Toyota will definitely be in the pages of Street Trucks once it’s complete. The level of detail is unreal!

OK. Back to reality. Time to get Artemis on the lift and unload all the parts.

All the equipment from Ridetech came packaged with such great care that not a single piece was scratched or missing. We unboxed and laid it all out nicely so the crew can get to work.

With the truck on the lift, we took the time to inspect the rest of the chassis and engine to make sure we didn’t miss anything while buying this 23-year-old truck.
The OEM front suspension is all still in great shape, but it’s completely covered in grease. It’s going to make for some messy hands!

First to come off is the bed. A few bolts from the bottom and some plugs for the taillights are all you need to remove before taking off the bed. Better ask a few friends for some muscle assistance.

The next thing to be removed were the wheels and front sway bar. Ridetech provides a new sway bar so this one can be tossed out.
Safety first! Telly wrapped chain around the spring so it doesn’t fly out when he removes the spindle. Pretty smart!
The tie-rod end is carefully removed so to not damage the threads. The Ridetech kit comes with new inner tie-rod ends, but these outters will be reused.
A nice big pile of parts in the corner is a sign of progress! Now, it’s time to bolt on the new Ridetech suspension components.

For the upper control arms, we installed these StrongArms that are designed for ’88-’98 Chevy C1500 trucks. They are developed by Ridetech in Jasper, Indiana, on an actual running, driving vehicle, so you know they fit.
The front kit includes these CoolRide airbags designed to be used with the Ridetech lower arms. Everything comes with the kit including air springs, brackets, HQ Series shocks, bolt-on shock mounts and hardware.
Before the bag can go in, the press-on style air fitting needs to be installed on it. Don’t skip this step or you will regret it!
With the top hat mounted to the air spring, it can be bolted into place using the factory shock hole to secure the top of the bag mount.
To get as much drop as possible, Ridetech provides these 2-inch drop spindles that allow you to slam your ride and increase ride quality. They are forged from heavy duty steel and will increase the track width by a quarter inch per side.

With the upper bag mount loosely bolted in, the lower control arm can be installed, and the bottom of the air spring can be tightened.

Moving on, the shock needs to be relocated since the air spring takes the location of the OEM one. So Ridetech engineered this perfectly fitting shock relocation kit that bolts to the frame and the lower control arms.

With the suspension components in place, the brake can be reinstalled. We once again ordered a set of EBC rotors and pads as we have had nothing but great experiences with this brand.

To finish up the front, the new Ridetech MuscleBar needs to be bolted up. Using precision CNC tubing benders, Investment cast steel bar ends, and Delrin lined mount bushings, Ridetech can produce sway bars with unheard of dimensional and rate accuracy.
For Artemis to sit at the correct level anytime she’s cruising down the road, we ordered these RidePROx. These height sensors digitally measure your vehicle’s exact suspension movement to provide accurate and repeatable vehicle height adjustment. Even when the vehicle has a heavy load, it will sit perfectly every time.
The completed front is a thing of beauty. Modern engineering meets good old fashioned American metal.
With a jack under the control arm, Chris was able to drop the lift to see how low we can go. From the looks of it, we are gonna get down!

Before we bolt on wheels, we want to check clearance on everything from brakes to sway bars. Luckily, SaltWorks has a set of GuniWheels on site like all shops should. These universal-fit wheels have solid tires that are capable of holding the weight of your build while you move it around the shop. Pretty cool!
IN the next issue, we will walk through the back install and show you how it all works. Then feast your eyes on a teaser of the final look before we throw some wheels on Artemis. Stay tuned! For Part 2 CLICK HERE

RideTech Suspension Install 88-98 Chevy OBS CK GMT400 Trucks

Generally, truck trends are unpredictable and cycle quickly through the ranks of the top industry builders and ballers. F-100 bump-sides and pro-touring, patina-paneled C10s are just a few recent examples of popular projects that the average Joe wouldn’t think to produce until they see a fully completed custom gracing the pages of national publications or influential social media channels. These ideas and completed concepts come from the mindset of being unique with the goal of making a statement at massive events like SEMA, LST and Texas Heatwave. With that said, I think it’s safe to say we all see the next major trend hurling down the pipeline like a 6-foot surfer named Bodhi riding a 15-foot wave off Bells Beach during the 50-year storm. (That was a “Point Break” reference if you didn’t catch it. What a great ’90s movie!)

Speaking of the ’90s, if you were a natural born truck junkie finally making it to the legal driving age around those times, you most certainly wanted a Chevy C/K truck since they were literally everywhere. Everyone from utility company employees to school district secretaries used these heavily produced pickups for their day-to-day operations. Even your grandpa’s grocery-getter was most likely an ’89-’98 Chevy. They came in so many different visual styles with factory options galore. Originally designed by Donald Wood in 1983, Chevy was able to move 551,223 of these GMT400 trucks by 1989 alone according to the Standard Catalog, not to mention the popular 454 model released in 1990 that sold 16,953 units over the four years with 13,748 of those units selling in the first year of production alone.

 


This is the 1995 Chevy C/K that we originally picked up for a mere $2,000. We purchased it from the original owner, it has 150,000 miles on the factory installed engine, cold air conditioning and a handwritten chart that records all of the basic maintenance that has ever been done. The perfect project truck, and we named her Stella for “female star” because we intend to make her famous!

With that heavy of a number, it’s easy to see why we not only saw a massive increase of these trucks in magazines, but also why the custom aftermarket scene is heating up so much right now. These trucks are still pretty easy to come by and the demographic of buyers are slightly older and more well-off than your average new-truck enthusiast. The guys who wanted these trucks in their teens are now older, generally successful and more comfortable than they were at 16 years old. These factors are driving the great custom parts manufacturers to focus on these industry icons to get ahead of the curve.

It’s easy to talk the talk, but it’s far more impactful to walk the walk. So, we put on our Airwalks and jumped into the deep end of desire by picking up a running, driving 1995 Chevy C/K truck from the original owner for a smooth $2,000. Cold A/C and a solid cranking 4.3-liter V-6 gave this truck the appeal, but a full gas tank and a fresh oil change just shows that the previous owner still has love for this 20-plus-year-old family member.

In the next few issues we are going to take you through the process of giving this truck new life on the same old roads it’s been cruising down since its inception, first starting with suspension, brakes and wheels/tires, followed up with a facelift for the ages. The plans don’t stop there, but you’re going to need to stick to the script the see the next steps. If you’re not a subscriber already, I implore you to do so. If this truck doesn’t motivate you to go out and start wrenching on your own project, I’m not sure you picked up the right publication. Now let’s get to the good stuff!


Usually we include the “after” shot toward the end of the story, but we wanted to show you the before and after side by side so you can see the dramatic transition. Now to walk you through how it was done.
Like most of the projects in the past, we turn to Dallas Maynard of Full Pen Fabrication to make the magic happen. Before he got down to the nitty gritty, Dallas removed the bed and pressure cleaned the frame. Twenty-plus years of rust and road grime is better off in the driveway than in your face—am I right?
While he cleaned the chassis, I laid out all the parts. Our suspension of choice is RideTech’s all new wishbone designed coilover suspension that is completely bolt in and professionally engineered by the team at RideTech. We are also installing Pro Performance’s big brake upgrade that is designed specifically for the ’89-’98 GMT400 trucks.

First on the list is to remove the old suspension hardware. Leaf springs are old news and completely obsolete with this kit.


Using the supplied paper template, Dallas marked the C-notch location and used a cut-off wheel to slice the frame. Before the new structured brackets can go on, he took the time to coat the frame to avoid any more future rusting.

 

A few C-clamps hold the new RideTech notch bracket in place while he drills out all the holes and bolts in the new hardware. Everything we needed was supplied in the kit, saving us trips to the hardware store. The notches are reinforced in multiple planes to maintain structural integrity while improving axle to frame clearance.

Moving on, Dallas installed the wishbone cradle between the frame rails. The cradle accepts a “wishbone” upper link that eliminates the need for a Panhard bar or other lateral locating device.

Next in the list is the lower axle mounts for the coilovers. Compared to the platform’s original leaf springs, RideTech’s wishbone system dramatically improves ride quality and handling and accepts either coilovers or Shockwave for air suspension.


All RideTech coilovers utilize a single-tube cartridge. Known as “monotube,” the design features a significantly larger piston area, which in turn provides more responsive damping than a twin tube shock. A single adjustment knob controls the rebound curve, allowing you to fine tune your truck’s shocks to suit your driving style and specs. Also, we get our first look at this killer brake upgrade from AZ Pro Performance.

The final piece is the lower links that feature RideTech’s patented R-joints. The advanced rod end design offers long service life with zero binding and no noise.
After a quick coat of paint, we can step back to appreciate this amazing system setup. We can’t wait to drive it!
Before the bed could go back on, Dallas had to make a quick cut to the brace under the bed. This gave us that little bit of extra clearance we needed without cutting the actual bed floor.

The front of this truck is next on the list. To make things easy, we simply unbolted the upper and lower control arms, the factory sway bay and steering linkage. Slide it out as one massive unit and ask a friend to help you toss it in the dumpster.


With an empty wheel well, we are ready to bolt in the new upper and lower control arms. All the factory brackets are reused and the coilovers mount in the stock shock location. Really well designed!

Before we can install the new McGaughy’s spindle, we need to make some minor modifications. A simple slice with the cutoff wheel and a drill/tap is all that’s needed. It’s time consuming but definitely not something you can’t do at home. Just use the right tools and be patient.

With the spindles installed, Dallas can now focus his efforts on these massive disc brakes from AZ Pro Performance.

Key features of these brakes:

  • No need to buy new spindles, just modify current spindles
  • Uses new calipers, not rebuilt
  • Precise machined hub
  • Laser cut mounting bracket
  • Fits 19-inch wheels and larger
  • Will work with most aftermarket wheels, since caliper offset is kept to a minimum


Our choice for wheels and tires are 22-inch American Racing Novas that are staggered front and back. The tires are none other than Toyo Tires ST III. The Proxes ST III is the perfect balance of dynamic looks and sport-oriented performance for trucks and SUVs. With a wider tread and a silica-based tread compound, the Proxes ST III stops up to 6 feet shorter in wet conditions while delivering superb handling, excellent all-season performance, consistent wear and a smooth, quiet ride. These tires are also backed by a 40,000-mile warranty.
Our first look at Stella on the ground gives us the chills! Although before we take a test drive, that front end has to be upgraded. We can’t roll with that work truck grille with this amazing stance. The final stance has not been dialed in yet due to some additional weight that will be soon added to the front. More on that later.
Originally founded in 1976, Classic Industries made its name selling small, hard-to-find items for the restoration of early Camaro models from a small facility in Palm Springs, California. The Classic Industries headquarters now features a retail showroom, corporate offices, parts production, complete call center, shipping center and multiple warehouses for the largest inventory of parts and accessories in the restoration and performance industry.
This reproduction black plastic grille is designed for models with dual composite headlamps and made to replace the original. However, it features semi-flush Bowtie emblem mounting pad for a smooth, clean look.

This conversion is as simple as unbolting the original grill and headlights and installing the new. There is an additional step required and we turned to Mr. Tail Light for the parts. The company offers the new headlight plugs and all the mounting hardware you need to take the guesswork out of the process. We can’t convey how simple this process is when you work with great companies like these.