DAILY DRIVEREvery day is a good day to go four-wheelin’!
Growing up with a father that loved to work on his own cars and swap engines, as well as go camping and four wheeling, really peaked George Szabo’s interest in these pastimes. Young George and his father would go camping two or three times a month in the mountains near their home in Bend, Oregon. As he grew up with cars, a sprint car racer/friend got him even more interested in muscle cars, and gave him the bug to build his own 4WD vehicles. By his mid-20s, he had gone through four Suburbans and a couple of Chevy pickups, all of which he built into hard running 4WD mountain climbers. As an electrician in his early-30s, George was still building and driving 4WD Suburbans to work and to go rock climbing on the weekends. It was during this period that he started a business called Extreme Dyno Tuning and Performance. A company called Suspension Specialties shares the same building. They build a lot of serious, body-off 4WD trucks with custom lift kits, install aftermarket lift kits and do custom 4WD chassis modifications. When George finally stepped-up to the 2003, 2500 long bed, crew cab 4WD Chevy you see in this feature, he wanted it to be the best he’d ever had. He enlisted the help of Suspension Specialties to accomplish most all of the chassis and suspension modifications.
This new vehicle really provided George with a platform where he could put all of his experience to work. There were a few things he wanted to accomplish to make this the “badest” 4WD pickup he’d ever owned. First of all, he wanted to have more horsepower out of the stock 496 cid GM BB, so he added a Whipple supercharger with a 12 lb. pulley, K&N air filter and a 200 hp Nitrous Express system. He also added JBA custom headers that flow into a 3-inch exhaust system. This gave him 500 hp without nitrous and about 700 hp when he hits the bottle.
Of course, the OE GM automatic transmission couldn’t possibly take this kind of power, so it was replaced with a modified Allison 5-speed that has extra clutches. A modified custom driveshaft with Spicer U-joints and a lengthened yolk took the power to the thirdmembers which couldn’t handle it either. So they were replaced with Rock Crusher Dana 60s equipped with 5:13 gears and lockers (front and rear). The front brakes were also upgraded to Super Duty disc brakes. For wheels, George chose Weld Scorpio 16.5x12 with 44x18.5x16.5 TSL Super Swamper tires. He also keeps a set of 49-inch tires mounted and ready for special occasions.
The 18-inch lift kit was custom built by Suspension Specialties using King shocks with remote reservoirs (front-and-rear) and 2-inch diameter 4-link bars front-and-rear. Notice in the photos the huge diameter rod ends attaching the 4-links in a staggered pattern to the bottom of the frame both front-and-rear. Longer Panhard bars (front-and-rear) and a lengthened steering draglink with a custom Pitman arm were fabricated by Suspension Specialties and Full Throttle Suspension.
The body remains relatively stock except for the smooth fiberglass Gaylord Tonneau cover, tinted glass, Keystone fiberglass Good Hood, Bushwacker fender flares, flamed grill insert, Billet Iron Cross door handles, 12-inch electric Kodiak steps and an ARB front bumper with 9000 lb. capacity T-Max winch.
In the interior, George has added a few creature comforts and some good four wheeling safety devices like a fire extinguisher, shovel and GPS Navigation system. The stock GM bucket seats feature black Wet Okole water proof seat covers made from wet suit material with custom embroidered Chevrolet scripts. George carried the “flamed” theme (from the grill) over into the interior as well. The instrument’s backgrounds have been changed to Nu-Image Glo Flame graphics behind the number-and-needle style gauges, while the gas, brake and E-brake pedals have also been swapped for polished metal, flamed style pedals. In the back of each front seat head rest there is a 6-inch DVD screen for the back seat passengers, and another DVD screen is on the dash for the front seat passenger to watch movies or check turning instructions from the Pioneer GPS navigation system. A Panasonic CD player, connected to a pair of 800-watt JL Audio amps, pushes the power through six interior speakers.
While George’s motivation to build this truck really started at an early age, he still says it’s all that sand, mud, speed and fun out there just ready to be taken that keeps him motivated! His offroad involvement goes beyond four-wheeling. He also sponsors, through his business, (Extreme Dyno Tuning and Performance) the Auto Cross of Central Oregon. Even though George has a number of muscle cars, a dyno tuning business, and is a member of the Deschutes County Mustang Club and the Classic Chevy Club, he still prefers to drive this 18-inch lifted street giant everywhere he goes, even traveling state-to-state on hunting trips and vacations. It’s his daily driver!