2004 Tahoe LS - Street Touring Style

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jeffg

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Before we get too deep into what this project includes, I want to talk a little bit about why I am doing it. I have been into "sporty" things my whole life. I built and raced cars, motorcycles, UTVs, mountain bikes, skateboards... you name it. As I have gotten older and the aches and pains of racing are catching up with me, I realized that I still crave my younger life. Building, Racing, Driving will always be a part of me, and I might be running out of time. Some people would probably call this a "midlife crisis" and they might not be wrong. I just look at it like I better do it now before it’s too late.

I started looking at my vehicle-based "bucket list" and one item keep popping up. The Hot Rod Power Tour. I have wanted to do this series of events since the first time I read about it in Car Craft or Motor Trend magazine back in the late 90s. I always thought I would do it in a GTO... something born in the 60's. When I started to think about the logistics of doing the event, I realized that I am close to 2000 miles from the starting point and even farther from the finish. Doing all of that driving in a classic could be challenging. 60's reliability isn’t cheap. Most of the veterans I talked to told me to just ship the car and fly to the starting event. That’s seems like cheating and would likely rob me of a lot of interesting places and adventures along the way.

The Jeep Cherokee SRT8 seemed like a good compromise, at least on paper. It would allow me to haul the stuff I need, have a bit more room, and provide a reasonable amount of "fun" along the way. I found a super clean Cherokee TrackHawk for sale and flew over to test drive it. The power and traction combination are amazing. It handled pretty good for an SUV, but it still wasn’t perfect. The Cherokee is a LOT smaller than I imagined it would be. Narrow might be the right word. I doubt that more than 2 adults would ever fit in the back seat, let alone comfortably.

Flashback to 2007. I bought my 2004 Tahoe LS based on its ability to easily hold 2 car seats. The third-row seats allowed me to haul extended family all over the west coast for vacations. It was a crucial part of my life for about a decade. In 2014, I bought an acreage and started training horses and my wife started providing “farm-like” experiences to troubled youth in our area. The Tahoe got pushed to the wayside in favor of bigger, more towing capable rigs.

I started making a list of the things that I liked about the Cherokee and a few other things I test drove trying to come up with something that would work. It was obvious that it would have to have some power, but it would also have to provide enough creature comforts for a several thousand-mile road trip. Things like AC, Cruise Control, comfortable seats become a priority after a few hundred miles. All the things in my list easily fit within the confines of the “old Tahoe” parked about back, but we would need to do a lot of sorting. Handling has never been that great. Body roll was enormous, suspension was soft and way too high. The lighting, both interior and exterior was lacking. I have started this project log to help document all the things I am going to try to fix these areas. I am going to try to keep is simple at first and progress further only where necessary.

If you made it this far and are still reading, congratulations. Without further ado.. on to the build.

Platform:
2004 Chevrolet Tahoe LS 5.3L FlexFuel
Project Areas:
Interior
– I am going to focus on comfort in preparation for the long drive. No race buckets or complicated harnesses. Lots of cup holders.
Handling – I am going to focus on getting the Tahoe stop handling like a Tahoe. I will be lowering the truck with an emphasis on handling. Other mods will come along as needed.
Powertrain – This is where I have the most progress in my planning. The truck will be getting a build LQ9 with internal parts to support 6-8 psi from a Magnusson TVS2300. The truck will be getting a mildly built 4l80e. The rear end will get an LSD. I expect to find the next weak link in the chain.
Appearance – The truck shows its age. The clear coat has failed, the plastic is dull. I will be refreshing and modifying the truck to try to make it more aggressive. Improved lighting is a must.

Updates will likely not be as fast as everyone would like, but I promise to do my best. I will try to document both the successes and failures and give you some idea of what goes into a build like this. Thank you for sticking with me so far. Looking forward to the feedback and questions.
 

SirReal63

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Nice plan. I would say if you do not already have the LQ9 then skip it and go for the LQ4, it is cheaper and the biggest difference is the LQ9 has higher compression via pistons and command a higher price than an LQ4, and you will need to drop compression anyway to play nice with boost. No sense in paying more than you have to.
 

Sam Harris

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Great start! Appreciate the details, and explanation for why you're doing what you're doing. Regarding the boat-like handling, I would highly recommend some Hellwig front and rear sway bars. I know you'll be lowering, and there are a number of things you can do to accomplish much better handling, but I was absolutely shocked at the difference these made with my ride. The body roll is extremely diminished.

Looking forward you updates, and subscribed!
 
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jeffg

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Great start! Appreciate the details, and explanation for why you're doing what you're doing. Regarding the boat-like handling, I would highly recommend some Hellwig front and rear sway bars. I know you'll be lowering, and there are a number of things you can do to accomplish much better handling, but I was absolutely shocked at the difference these made with my ride. The body roll is extremely diminished.

Looking forward you updates, and subscribed!
Thank you for the suggestion. I actually got my hands on a full Eibach lowering kit (keys, rear springs, sway bars) so I am going to try that and see how it does. I am going to pair it with DJM relocation brackets and shock extensions in the rear. Once the hardware gets installed I will measure what I need for shocks. I have had good luck in the past with Bilstein 5100 series shocks, especially for heavier vehicles. I havent ruled out a coilover conversion kit for the front if I need it.
 
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jeffg

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Nice plan. I would say if you do not already have the LQ9 then skip it and go for the LQ4, it is cheaper and the biggest difference is the LQ9 has higher compression via pistons and command a higher price than an LQ4, and you will need to drop compression anyway to play nice with boost. No sense in paying more than you have to.
I had the LQ9 from a previous project that didnt happen so it was kind of a no brainer to use that for this project. I agree though if I had to buy new I would just look for the least expensive 6.0 block and build from there. The LQ9 is build with forged pistons and rods sitting at 10:1 CR. We smoothed all of the internal block casting to get rid of any potential hot spots and polished up the oil galleys in a few places. The heads were stock 317 castings that I sent out for a CNC port and polish. Stainless valves were added along with high lift valve springs. I am only running .560 lift, so nothing super exciting there. Likely going to use a BTR cam in this one. I ordered a couple of different ones so we can see what works.
 

Rocket Man

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Thank you for the suggestion. I actually got my hands on a full Eibach lowering kit (keys, rear springs, sway bars) so I am going to try that and see how it does. I am going to pair it with DJM relocation brackets and shock extensions in the rear. Once the hardware gets installed I will measure what I need for shocks. I have had good luck in the past with Bilstein 5100 series shocks, especially for heavier vehicles. I havent ruled out a coilover conversion kit for the front if I need it.
I would ditch the keys and go with 2” drop spindles unless you go with the coil over conversion, in which case you can lower it with that on stock spindles. Anything other than adjusting the stock keys an inch or so will make the ride suffer. Bilstein 4600’s are best for lowered or stock height, 5100’s if you lift it. I’m running 4600’s with 2” drop spindles on my 02 Denali and it rides nice. I’d like to do the coil over conversion but can’t justify the expense. If I was to do it over, I’d skip the spindles and go with that instead though. 789A4F15-3710-4A9B-877C-5B9A53DA75D2.jpeg
 

m1949

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Before we get too deep into what this project includes, I want to talk a little bit about why I am doing it. I have been into "sporty" things my whole life. I built and raced cars, motorcycles, UTVs, mountain bikes, skateboards... you name it. As I have gotten older and the aches and pains of racing are catching up with me, I realized that I still crave my younger life. Building, Racing, Driving will always be a part of me, and I might be running out of time. Some people would probably call this a "midlife crisis" and they might not be wrong. I just look at it like I better do it now before it’s too late.

I started looking at my vehicle-based "bucket list" and one item keep popping up. The Hot Rod Power Tour. I have wanted to do this series of events since the first time I read about it in Car Craft or Motor Trend magazine back in the late 90s. I always thought I would do it in a GTO... something born in the 60's. When I started to think about the logistics of doing the event, I realized that I am close to 2000 miles from the starting point and even farther from the finish. Doing all of that driving in a classic could be challenging. 60's reliability isn’t cheap. Most of the veterans I talked to told me to just ship the car and fly to the starting event. That’s seems like cheating and would likely rob me of a lot of interesting places and adventures along the way.

The Jeep Cherokee SRT8 seemed like a good compromise, at least on paper. It would allow me to haul the stuff I need, have a bit more room, and provide a reasonable amount of "fun" along the way. I found a super clean Cherokee TrackHawk for sale and flew over to test drive it. The power and traction combination are amazing. It handled pretty good for an SUV, but it still wasn’t perfect. The Cherokee is a LOT smaller than I imagined it would be. Narrow might be the right word. I doubt that more than 2 adults would ever fit in the back seat, let alone comfortably.

Flashback to 2007. I bought my 2004 Tahoe LS based on its ability to easily hold 2 car seats. The third-row seats allowed me to haul extended family all over the west coast for vacations. It was a crucial part of my life for about a decade. In 2014, I bought an acreage and started training horses and my wife started providing “farm-like” experiences to troubled youth in our area. The Tahoe got pushed to the wayside in favor of bigger, more towing capable rigs.

I started making a list of the things that I liked about the Cherokee and a few other things I test drove trying to come up with something that would work. It was obvious that it would have to have some power, but it would also have to provide enough creature comforts for a several thousand-mile road trip. Things like AC, Cruise Control, comfortable seats become a priority after a few hundred miles. All the things in my list easily fit within the confines of the “old Tahoe” parked about back, but we would need to do a lot of sorting. Handling has never been that great. Body roll was enormous, suspension was soft and way too high. The lighting, both interior and exterior was lacking. I have started this project log to help document all the things I am going to try to fix these areas. I am going to try to keep is simple at first and progress further only where necessary.

If you made it this far and are still reading, congratulations. Without further ado.. on to the build.

Platform:
2004 Chevrolet Tahoe LS 5.3L FlexFuel
Project Areas:
Interior
– I am going to focus on comfort in preparation for the long drive. No race buckets or complicated harnesses. Lots of cup holders.
Handling – I am going to focus on getting the Tahoe stop handling like a Tahoe. I will be lowering the truck with an emphasis on handling. Other mods will come along as needed.
Powertrain – This is where I have the most progress in my planning. The truck will be getting a build LQ9 with internal parts to support 6-8 psi from a Magnusson TVS2300. The truck will be getting a mildly built 4l80e. The rear end will get an LSD. I expect to find the next weak link in the chain.
Appearance – The truck shows its age. The clear coat has failed, the plastic is dull. I will be refreshing and modifying the truck to try to make it more aggressive. Improved lighting is a must.

Updates will likely not be as fast as everyone would like, but I promise to do my best. I will try to document both the successes and failures and give you some idea of what goes into a build like this. Thank you for sticking with me so far. Looking forward to the feedback and questions.
I like your plan and your panoush to undertake the build and to participate in the Hot Rod Driving Tour. I’m doing something similar to produce a pro touring 2006 Escalade v-Series tribute. I have a thread of the build to date in the 02-06 Escalade forum if you care to have a look at the progress we’ve made. Good luck and happy pro touring hotrodding!
 
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jeffg

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I would ditch the keys and go with 2” drop spindles unless you go with the coil over conversion, in which case you can lower it with that on stock spindles. Anything other than adjusting the stock keys an inch or so will make the ride suffer. Bilstein 4600’s are best for lowered or stock height, 5100’s if you lift it. I’m running 4600’s with 2” drop spindles on my 02 Denali and it rides nice. I’d like to do the coil over conversion but can’t justify the expense. If I was to do it over, I’d skip the spindles and go with that instead though. View attachment 370608
I looked at the drop spindles and the only thing that made me nervous was the trimming of the upper ball joint. The install instructions basically eliminate the cotter pin and rely on staking the nut. I am not comfortable with this approach, but I havent seen it in person so maybe its not that bad.
The front suspension is definitely the challange. I like the approach that Atomic Fab took with the coilover conversion and the lower bracket. I am concerned about the extremely small coilover shock. If I go that direction I will probably do more modifications and install an extended upper perch and run a longer shock. I dont think a small shock will hold enough fluid to not overheat it driving aggressively. Maybe we need to look at bell cranks and do a cantilever front :D

Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions. More to come.
 
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jeffg

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I would ditch the keys and go with 2” drop spindles unless you go with the coil over conversion, in which case you can lower it with that on stock spindles. Anything other than adjusting the stock keys an inch or so will make the ride suffer. Bilstein 4600’s are best for lowered or stock height, 5100’s if you lift it. I’m running 4600’s with 2” drop spindles on my 02 Denali and it rides nice. I’d like to do the coil over conversion but can’t justify the expense. If I was to do it over, I’d skip the spindles and go with that instead though. View attachment 370608
Do you know the PN for the 4600's you are running? Are they just the stock PN for your Denali?
 

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