Every once in a very long while, something comes by that is almost too good to be true. Our natural caution warns us against those situations but, with a little luck and good timing, you occasionally find one that really works. Voted one of the Top Kits last year by Kit Car Magazine, the Super Stepside is now in full production. This unique new truck is catching on like wildfire, thanks to its combination of engineering excellence, ease of installation, break-through styling, and low ($4,700.00) price. Personally, It’s been quite a while since my last kit but the first time I met builder Don Fuselier and saw the prototype, I knew I had to have this one.
You begin to understand the genius behind this kit when you see the list of donor cars. Fuselier designed the body to fit almost fifty different General Motors cars. (See www.superstepside.com for a complete list of the 1980 to 1990 Buick, Olds, Pontiac and Caprice 4-door sedans and wagons.) These cars are readily available, quite inexpensive, and generally equipped with big V-8s, air, automatic, and more. They ride considerably better than most pickups and thanks to the 700 pound weight savings, the overall performance is strong.
The four-piece fiberglass kit takes only a weekend to install with the first day devoted to preparing the donor car and the second, actually mounting the kit. A free, 32-page illustrated manual can be downloaded from the website, showing every step of the way. The original chassis, the front doors, windshield, part of the roof, and much of the original interior are reused. As a rebody, the kit simply changes the outer skin.
The conversion process begins on Day One by unbolting the front fenders, hood, grille, and bumper. A line is drawn across the roof behind the front doors as the first step in removing the rear portion of the body. The back seat is removed and a line drawn on the floor pan, just behind the body mounting bolts. Cut the roof and the floor with a Sawzall and with the help of a friend, lift off the rear clip. Shorten each rear chassis rail about a foot, add a rectangular steel brace across the back, and reposition the gas tank in the new location.
Day Two begins with mounting the pair of fiberglass rocker panels. Position them so that they align with the front edge of the door, then lock them in place temporarily with sheet metal screws. Next, use the special support brackets supplied with the kit to connect the fiberglass pickup bed to the chassis. The rear clip is aligned with the rear edge of the doors, then bonded to the cut edge of the roof. Once it’s in place, the one-piece, tilt forward front end uses kit-supplied hinges that bolt to the original GM bumper mounting brackets. Baer Claw latches hold the clip securely to the cowl and the original hood release can be reused. With the front and rear clips in place, a small piece of plywood is used to close the gap between the bottom edge of the rear window and the original Caprice floor. At this point, the body is mounted and you can drive your Corvette-styled pickup carefully around the block.
Obviously, there are still a few more details before your kit is complete. Headlights in the prototype Stepside are mounted to brackets on either side of the radiator support. They shine through tinted Plexiglas windows. On my version, ‘99 Malibu headlights were substituted for a unique look. Remember, personalizing is half the fun. The stock Caprice tail lenses were trimmed and reused, lighting up the four Corvette-style holes in the rear. There are no wiring hassles. Just plug ‘em back in.
While the sensual styling of the Stepside creates considerable attention, it also demands careful thought when selecting accessories. The electric Pace Edwards Bed Locker tonneau cover works from the remote, protects the oak bed and 20" KMC spare tire from the elements, and is strong enough to stand on when closed. It also helped decide the color scheme with its hammered black cover now part of a black band around the middle of the truck, reinforced by the dark tinted windows and black Turbo Tail rear spoiler. To guarantee the truck never went anywhere unnoticed, bright House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl was added to the top and bottom as the perfect contrast. Continuing the look, the set of KMC "SS" rims match the Super Stepside logo perfectly. Wrapped in Dunlop rubber, the 20" rims up front and 22" versions in the rear give the truck an aggressive stance.
Since the interior had to be as radical as the exterior, I assembled an elaborate list of Blaupunkt electronics that included AM and FM stereo, Serius satellite radio, a 10-CD player in the glove compartment, Travel Pilot GPS navigation, DVD player in the center console with additional monitors in the sun visor, and an Acelle rear view camera that feeds all three screens. Fifteen Blaupunkt speakers are mounted throughout the cab to ensure concert hall sounds. Metra cables and fuses protect the system and their Sound Suppression material elimited outside noise. A Grant wheel and Dakota Digital dash eliminate any vestige of Caprice origins, making it quite difficult to identify the donor car. All of the electronics were highlighted in StreetGlow orange Hot Wirez to make them stand out against the black interior. Stereo expert Mike Ohren, from Jacksonville, Florida, handled the installation.
Reds hydraulics in Miami handled the new air suspension, using Chassis Tech air bags, twin 450 Viair compressors, two 3.5 gallon reserve tanks, and SMC valves. The Dakota Digital Automatic Ride Control brings the truck to a predetermined ride height whenever the ignition is turned on, minimizing tire wear.
Under the hood, the 5L V-8 was already quick enough but we installed a K&N air filter, Hooker Headers, dual Flowmaster mufflers and Quick Time Performance electric cut outs for a little extra power and awesome sound. Twin Optima batteries ensure plenty of power while the chrome dress up kit adds sparkle when the tilt forward hood opens for display. Since the conversion eliminated about seven hundred pounds of dead weight, the truck acts like it dines on Nitrous at every stoplight.
How is the truck to live with? Trust me. You won’t need the Nav system to find the ‘Center of Attention.’ The Super Stepside will get you there every time. For more information about the products used in this build up, contact the following:
Article and pictures by Joe Greeves.