Cognito Motorsports is based in Bakersfield, at the southern end of California’s San Joaquin Valley, an area that benefits from both the ag industry and petroleum wells lurking beneath the surrounding golden hills. To say Cognito was forged in the furnace of ag and oil field work is to say it like it is, and chances are good if you see a diesel pickup in Bakersfield, it’s involved in one or both industries. Chances are also good its driver runs some kind of Cognito hardware or knows someone who does. Cognito represents the first point in the Triad that produced this cover truck.
Paul Baker is not from Bakersfield. He’s from Boise, Idaho, another time zone and geographic location entirely, but one with a strong truck scene to rival anywhere else in the country. And one where, as in Bakerfield, the trucks are built to work, and to look good doing it.
Baker works for Dennis Dillon, a Chrysler/ Jeep/Dodge/GMC dealer and automotive accessories broker in Boise, so he is essentially a truck builder by trade and was well positioned to take this particular bull by the horns. “Our dealership is capable of being the ‘one stop shop,’” Baker says. “You can buy a truck, have it lifted with wheels, tires, tinted windows, custom paint… and have it all done before you take delivery.”
Dennis Dillon is also the official Cognito dealer for the region, so the stars were, so to speak, in perfect alignment to start on this build. Dillon is the Triad’s second point. The 2016 GMC Sierra 2500 was Baker’s chosen launching pad for the project. Probably 90 percent of the work on this truck would take place on the Dennis Dillon premises, executed by Baker and his team.
Along with Cognito and Dennis Dillon, Fusion Bumpers rounds out the marquee sponsors for this GMC build and represent the Triad’s third point. Fusion was also a natural partner for this project since Fusion HQ is in Payette, less than an hour’s drive northwest of Boise on the Idaho side of the Oregon border.
The Sierra’s Cognito underpinnings revolve around a 7-9” Stage 2 Tow Package. As billed, it is a 7-inch min, 9-inch max lift kit with a 2-inch rear block plus a 4-inch spring lift (using Deaver springs). Suspension damping comes by way of front and rear Fox 2.0 Performance monotube shocks.
Baker augmented the front end with Cognito uniball upper control arms for improved steering at altitude and Cognito traction bars in the rear to combat axle wrap out back. The rear also saw installation of a Firestone Ride Rite bags to level out the ride while Baker puts the Cognito tow package to good use. Steel components including the control arms, traction bars, rear Hellwig sway bar, and the forward subframe connector were coated white to match the truck’s base exterior color.
As an added bonus to buyers, the Cognito kit includes braided stainless brake lines that both look good and serve to improve brake actuation. The whole rolls on Toyo Open Country M/T 37-inch tires wrapped around 22×12-inch American Force Fallout FP8s with custom- finish faceplates that echo the digi-camo effect applied across the rest of the truck. Bright white die-cut letters were cut to make the Toyo logos on the tires pop to dramatic effect. When you take a gander beneath the rig, not hard to do with its lifted stance, it’s also hard not to notice the PPE differential covers and, if you bend your neck just so, the PPE Deep transmission pan all the way up underneath.
Boise Looking Good
Appearances are everything on the big stage—and first impressions are really the only impressions that matter. To this end, the truck needed to look not only capable, but it needed to look good. Baker added an RK Sport ram-air hood and of course Fusion provided the bumpers for the front and rear. The factory grille shell was color-matched white to the body and the insert was removed and coated in contrasting satin black. Baker credits the color-matching and paintwork to Jon Deputy from Westside Body Works in Boise, noting that Deputy has never let him down—in fact, it has been quite the opposite.
Beneath the RK hood, the Duramax draws air through an S&B dry filter and blows exhaust through dual 4-inch black satin Magnaflow pipes. An Edge Insight CTS 2 engine monitor is mounted in the cabin, superseding the instrument cluster and displaying any information the driver could need.
There are a lot of smaller details on Baker’s truck that really serve to tie the whole together and make it a compete visual package. The headlamps were disassembled and color-matched accents added by Ryan Lewin; Rigid Industries LED indicators were added in place of the amber blinkers. The taillight assemblies were upgraded with Recon LED lamps and Rigid Ignite reverse light pods. Rigid LED lamps are also installed in the bumper ports: a central bank up front and dual stacked E-Series in the corners, and single E-Series pods on either side of the license plate well in back. Monster Hook Reaper shackles are clipped to both bumpers to add to both the Sierra’s form and function.
The black-and-gray digital camo wrap was done by Brushworks Signs & Graphics in Caldwell, Idaho (they also did the wheels). It’s a simple enough color scheme but one that really arrests the eye with the macroscopic grayscale pixilation transitioning from the brilliant Summit White front half. The theme was extended to the interior with nearly every bit of trim receiving a similar camo treatment using a hydro-dip method. The seating surfaces were re-skinned in Alea black leather with contrasting white stitching along the seams and in a modified quilt pattern on the seat inserts; a digi-camo stripe runs down the middle to tie everything together.
The interior has also received AV upgrades in the form of Advent LCD screens in the backs of the front-seat headrests and a Kicker 400-watt amp/10-inch subwoofer combination tucked into the under-seat storage in the back row. Baker credits his right-hand man Jesse Smith with wiring up the beast, no small task considering all the auxiliary lighting and electronics. Baker himself rigged up the custom switch mounting panel in the center console. Below it all, Aries Styleguard floor liners replace the factory floormats for good looks and greater protection. At the cabin’s thresholds, AMP PowerSteps have been installed to ease entry and exit into and from the truck’s interior spaces.
Given his occupation, Baker is no stranger to modded trucks, but as clean as this finished product is, it’s notable that this was the man’s first project build for the stage at SEMA. When complimented on his work, he is demure about the whole thing. “You may want to list me as more of a designer than builder,” he says, reserving accolades for the help he received putting the Sierra together. “My typical work is done from behind the desk and our guys in the shop normally build everything. This was my baby so it was treated a bit differently.”
Well played sir. Well played indeed. DW