PROJECT LOOKS. MUSCLE. LONGEVITY

PART 11: DRESS IT UP

Almost a full year of ownership of this higher mileage 2012 Silverado 2500HD and we’ve put it through quite the transformation. The whole idea behind this project was to show what kind of issues to prepare for, how to improve the truck’s utility according to your needs, and what kind of aftermarket support is available for 2011-2014 LML Duramax trucks. In recent months we bolted on some major horsepower upgrades with the addition of Profab Performance exhaust manifolds and up-pipes, a 10mm stroker CP4 from Exergy Performance, and a ProMax 64 turbo upgrade from High Tech Turbo. With some custom programming from GDP Tuning, this truck laid down almost 600 hp at the tires and still tows our 29-foot fifth-wheel trailer incredibly well. Early this PART 11: DRESS IT UP TECH | DIESEL WORLD MAGAZINE BY JACOB WHITE spring we replaced the running gear with some more aggressive Mickey Thompson ATZ tires and matte-black 20×9 SD-5 wheels, and we were again impressed by how far the right wheel and tire combination can go toward improving a truck’s looks.

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After a big round of performance upgrades like a higher fl owing VGT turbo, a stroker CP4 injection pump, and some new exhaust manifolds, it was time to focus on cosmetic upgrades for Project LML. The black SD-5 Mickey Thompson wheels were added a few months back, but the new Rough Country Bull Bar, grille insert, and blacked-out LED lighting package really adds to the truck’s overall look.

Since the new tires had a much more aggressive tread and were now sticking out slightly past the factory fenders, some Rugged Flares from EGR USA seemed like an easy improvement. The wider fl are is an easy clip-on install and will help keep mud and debris off the sides of the truck. While the fl ares can be run in the bare matte black, we opted to paint-match ours using a complete spray can kit from Automotive Touchup. We informed them of our exterior paint code and the items we planned on painting, and they put together everything we needed to complete the job at home— from various sandpaper grits to prepare the surface and wet-sand between coats, to adhesion promoter, primer, the base coat, and even the clear coat. Their website offered a couple quick how-to videos that helped us with the DIY project, and the final product came out great.

To dress up the front end of the truck, we reached out to Rough Country, best known for suspension lifts but more recently also offering bumpers, lighting, and tonneau covers. Their LED Bull Bar was an easy bolt-on piece that replaced our factory tow hooks and required no drilling to install. This black powdercoated bar should be very durable, and it adds a sleek, 20-inch light bar for improved night vision on country back roads. On the subject of lighting, we also replaced the hazed-over factory fog lights with a simple bolton, dual 2-inch LED cube lighting system also from Rough Country. These lights use laser-cut brackets to replace the factory lights in the front bumper and will match the black 20-inch light in the Bull Bar. The system is wired to plug directly into the factory harness, so there’s no wiring required and they’ll function off the factory dash switch just like the stock lights did.

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To replace the hazed-over and somewhat useless fog lights, we chose a Rough Country direct-fit dual LED cube package that will mount two pairs of 2-inch LED lights in the factory bumper locations using simple powdercoated brackets.

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The factory fog lights do little for extra lighting on dark country highways, especially after the lenses have turned hazy over time. Rather than spending money on an upgraded bulb to put inside the factory lens, replacing them entirely with state-of-the-art LEDs can make for a great upgrade.

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After removing the factory fog lights from the bumper the stock lights can be removed from their molded plastic pockets, and the new Rough Country LEDs bolt right in their place with no drilling required. Best of all, Rough Country has wired the lights to plug directly into the factory fog light harnesses at the bumper. The new LEDs will work like stock using the factory dash switch.

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For a little extra style and even more lighting, the Rough Country LED Bull Bar is a simple bolt-on upgrade. The black powdercoated bar has great styling with a stamped skid plate and a 20-inch LED light strip to match the dual cube lights.

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Rough Country supplies laser-cut, powdercoated brackets that mount directly to the factory tow hook locations. The tow hook on each frame rail end uses two large bolts that need removed and set aside. New hardware supplied with the bumper will be used here.

We also wanted to upgrade the grille with Rough Country’s powdercoated mesh insert. The two-piece grille insert was a little more labor-intensive than our other upgrades, since the stock grille shell had to be cut and modified to allow the new insert to fit. Luckily, illustrated installation instructions were included and we were able to tackle this job in about two hours’ time. The end result was well worth the time invested, as that textured stealth black grille ties in nicely with the Bull Bar and the matte-black wheels on the truck.

The final piece to the puzzle was a set of painted Bowtie badges we sourced from Get Lit Customz. In a world full of vinyl decals and vehicle wraps, it’s nice to find someone still investing the time and effort to do custom paintwork for their customers. We used two brand-new factory badges we sourced from the Chevy dealer, disassembled and prepped for paint. Using the truck’s paint code once again and some custom masking techniques, Get Lit Customz was able to spray a super-cool American flag inspired design on each Bowtie that looks really clean on the truck once the badges are installed. The badges are also clear-coated, so they’ll stand up to the elements over time and we won’t have to worry about anything like a vinyl decal fading, deteriorating, or peeling off at the carwash.

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The Rough Country Bull Bar offers a great look and a little extra protection for the front of the truck. After wiring in the light bar and mounting the switch in the cab, we’ll be able to light up the night everywhere we go. We also really like that the design won’t block any airflow through the bumper to the transmission cooler and radiator.

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We decided to replace the factory plastic grille mesh with a more stylish powdercoated insert from Rough Country. The factory grille shell will need to be modified for installation of the new insert, but if you’re patient and take your time it isn’t a hard task with the right tools.

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We found it easiest to use a hand-held jig saw with a multi-purpose blade to cut each individual plastic piece that holds the grille mesh to the outer shell. You could also use a small hand saw or a roto-zip tool, but we found this way made the cleanest cut with the least amount of effort.

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With the lower mesh grille completely removed from the grille shell you can see how much different the new Rough Country piece will look. The new insert came in two pieces and had to be bolted together with the supplied stainless hardware. We also had to put a slight bend/arc in the grille to get it to match the curve of the stock grille shell.

Next month will mark one full year of working on Project Looks. Muscle. Longevity, and we hope you’ve enjoyed following along on the journey. In upcoming installments we’ll be going back to addressing the truck’s performance. While we’re happy with how the truck drives with 600 hp and 1,200 lb-ft of torque, we aren’t naive to the fact that a stock Allison transmission won’t survive long at those levels. We’ll be upgrading to a fully built unit from Merchant Automotive, to be followed with some better transmission cooler lines and a bigger fluid cooler. While looking into the cooling side of things, we’re also planning to upgrade the radiator and intercooler, as well as add some braking upgrades to improve our stopping power while towing heavy through the mountains of Utah and Southeast Idaho.

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Since our aftermarket wheel and tire package sticks out from the factory fenders slightly, we wanted to add some better tire coverage. Rugged Flares from EGR USA offer great coverage and follow the body lines nicely. With a complete paint package from AutomotiveTouchup we were able to paint-match them ourselves.

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The AutomotiveTouchup kit comes with everything needed to do professional-style paintwork at home with the supplied spray cans. The required cleaning cloths, different grits of sandpaper, and a special adhesion promotor will help the primer, base coat, and clear coat stick to the fender flares.

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After scuffing the flares and applying two thin coats of adhesion promotor, the primer could be applied. We laid down four coats of primer to be sure to get solid coverage and a good foundation for the base color to adhere to. You will want to wet-sand the primer before moving on to the base to make sure it goes down smoothly.

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The crew at AutomotiveTouchup used our truck’s specific paint code to mix the base color in the spray cans they sent. This helped make sure we got a near-perfect match on the flares once they are wet-sanded, cleared, and installed on the truck. Again, we went with four coats to make sure the coverage was even on all four flares. In the right light you can really see the metallic coming out of this paint.

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The new flares from EGR hug the body nicely and required no drilling to install. Some simple push-clips attach the rear flares to the factory fender, and the front flares use the inner liner mounting hardware.

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The last of our cosmetic additions come with new Chevy Bowtie badges on the tailgate and grille. The tailgate badge is held on with 3M adhesive tape, so applying heat with a heat gun will help soften that up and ease removal.

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Before pulling the badge off, we outlined the top side with masking tape to help make sure the new one goes back on centered and straight. A magic eraser wheel we picked up at the local auto paint supply store, inserted into a power drill, helped remove the leftover adhesive. This made cleanup easy and quick.

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The new badges from Get Lit Customz top off the looks of this build perfectly. Brand-new badges from GM were disassembled and painted by hand. They even used our truck’s paint code so the design we chose would match the truck’s color perfectly. With a heavy clear-coated finish, they should look great for years to come and won’t peel or fade like a vinyl decal would.

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Using the tape we applied before removing the original badge, adhering the new paint-matched emblem was simple. The entire process took less than 20 minutes. The end result looks incredible and helps the truck stand out in a crowded parking lot.

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Like the one we swapped out on the tailgate, the front badge was replaced with a brand-new emblem from the dealer and paint-matched using our truck’s paint code. The front Bowtie is held to the grille with a couple small clips, so swapping it out is even easier than the rear.


SOURCES

Automotive Touchup
AutomotiveTouchup.com

EGR
EGRusa.com

Lit Customz
Facebook.com/get.lit.at.lit.customz

Rough Country
RoughCountry.com