’89 Chevy Silverado Fast and Low, This Blown Truck Is Clearly…
We live in an age of instant gratification, but the old saying, “If you want it bad, you get it bad,” certainly applies when the creative process is hurried. Great art takes whatever time it takes, especially when you are talking about building award-winning custom trucks. The combination of imagination and craftsmanship is a delicate blend that can’t be rushed, often needing years before the truck first rolls into the winner’s circle.
Mel White from Boynton Beach, Florida, understands the methodical approach to success.
“I started work on my Pro-Street Chevrolet in my late 30s, and now that I’m 50, it’s finally complete,” Mel says. “The construction process had lots of hiccups along the way. Things got scratched, things got lost, and family issues complicated the process. There was a time when I thought I went too deep with a frame-off restoration and might not be able to pull it off. In the end, however, the hard work was worth it and now my truck is a rolling dream.”
The beginnings of his dream truck trace back to a red ’89 Chevrolet Silverado purchased brand-new by a very excited 20-year-old.
“I knew right then that this was an amazing body style and, if I had the money one day, I would Pro-Street one.”
That first ride planted a seed that took a while to germinate. Years later at age 35, Mel discovered this’97 Chevrolet Silverado at a Car-Max dealership. It was a beautiful truck, but after owning it for six months, he drove it into his shop one night and completely disassembled it. He smiles when he recalls his wife coming into the garage and seeing the fenders hanging on the wall and doors separated from the body.
She asked, “What did you do to that truck that was working perfectly?”
“It’s time to make it mine,” Mel replied. At the time, however, he didn’t realize the process would take 15 years!
Since everything starts with a firm foundation, the chassis began with a new back half by Neil Armstrong of Neil Armstrong Engineering in Lake Worth, Florida. Neil is a talented craftsman who Mel first met as a teenager. After learning that Mel wanted to build something aggressive for the street, Neil’s initial guidance was simple.
“Go get the biggest tire you can find, and I will make it fit,” he says.
Mel returned with a set of 22.5-inch-wide Hoosier tires. Neil, dealing with almost 4 feet of rubber, met the challenge by narrowing a Ford 9-inch using a pair of stub axles. The rear was upgraded with 3.90 gears, Wilwood disc brakes and an air shocks/air bags combination held in place with ladder bars and diagonal link. Up front, factory components were enhanced with 2-inch drop spindles and modified shocks to accommodate the new air bags. An Accuair compressor powers the system using a 3-gallon reserve tank and compressor, both located under the sheetmetal bed on the driver’s side. The rest of the chassis is strengthened with an 8-point cage with drop down bars for the doors, built more for the street than for the strip. The ‘Big‘N Littles’ begin with slim JEGS SSR rims up front paired with fat Sanders Bead Locks in the rear. Mickey T and Hosier rubber provide a shed load of traction.
Moving quickly was always part of the plan. The aggressive party piece squeezed into the engine compartment began at the Daytona Turkey Run when Mel met Roy Anania, a specialist in Pro mod and nostalgia motors. Mel explained what he was building, and Roy suggested a 454 with a 671 blower producing about 600 hp. Mel quickly vetoed the idea, saying he did not want something that everyone else had.
Roy counters, “How about with a 540ci Merlin with an 871 blower making around 1,000 hp?”
“Where do I sign?” says Mel with a smile.
The Merlin block has a 10.2-inch deck height that can handle up to a 4.75-inch stroke, and the 8.5 compression is the right number to handle the 8 pounds of boost from the BDS 871 Roots-style supercharger. The truck runs a pair of 850 cfm Pro System high-performance carbs, soon to be replaced with a fuel injection setup as part of Mel’s “relentless refinement” approach. The Cerakote ceramic exhaust system reduces back pressure using custom headers that feed huge 5-inch collectors and 5-inch Flowmasters, dumping in front of the rear wheels.
Collecting engine room style points, the sheetmetal inner fender panels conceal wiring and braided hoses, creating a sanitary look. Subtle gray paint accents on the blower, valve covers and the intake blades on the Garlits “Hat” air cleaner contrast with shiny black everywhere. The “Hat” was one of Mel’s earliest purchases that later served as inspiration for the carb setup on the Merlin. Power from the big V-8 is transmitted through a Turbo 400 automatic with a reverse manual valve body and a red trans brake button on the Coan Engineering Kwik-Shift ratchet shifter. The combination pumps out a fairly insane 975 hp on pump gas with 8 pounds of boost, creating enough torque (750 lb-ft) to buckle the neighborhood asphalt!
Lots of innovations were accomplished inside, beginning with the dash from a Chevy Baja truck. White face Auto Meter gauges keep track of all the action while the tilt steering column holds a custom wheel. High-performance was key, but creature comforts were essential from the outset. The Restomod Air A/C is tucked underneath the passenger side and all the electronics are easily accessed through the central panel.
“Throughout the build, the thought was to plan ahead,” Mel told us. “If I have to work on something, I want to make it easily accessible.”
Those aggressively bolstered seats were custom made by Mel’s friend DJ of DJ’s Interiors in Lake Worth, Florida, featuring double stitching that matches the light gray on the harness and dash. When the soundtrack of the roaring V-8 goes quiet, the entertainment system steps in beginning with twin SounDigital amps powering a pair of JL Audio 12-inch subs mounted behind the seats and two more JL 6.5-inch component sets in the doors. There is no head unit. The latest tunes arrive thanks to Mel’s iPhone that is also used as the controller for the A/C.
Since the ’89 Chevy had already hit a home run with the exterior, Mel’s changes were subtle. The smooth front end features a tucked bumper with air dam and smoked headlights. The elimination of the hood solves blower fitment concerns and presents the details on the monster motor for all to see. In the rear, the LED taillights feature smoked lenses and the appropriate “FAST N LOW” license plate. Almost unnoticed, the bed was moved closer to the rear cab wall to close the gap. Inside the gray powdercoated bed, huge aluminum tubs cover the ultra-wide rear tires while the 20-gallon fuel cell feeds the thirsty engine. Surprisingly, the shiny black truck was painted 12 years ago in Mel’s friend’s garage, and it still looks amazing.
Now that it’s complete, those long construction hours are just a distant memory.
“If I didn’t have the money to buy the right piece, I would hold off until I could afford it,” Mel recalls. “While it might not be good as an investment, my heart is in this truck and when I drive it, I know every nut and bolt!”
Mel drives the truck on the street all the time heading to area car shows. Although it’s more of a cruiser than a racer, he occasionally finds himself next to someone for a brief light-to-light encounter. We think it’s unfortunate that Ferrari already chose the name “Superfast” for its 812 Grand Tourer since this truck could easily claim that title!
1997 Chevrolet Silverado
Boynton Beach, FL
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
Merlin 540 ci Tall Deck, 975 hp
BDS 871 Blower, 8:1 compression
Two 850cfm Pro Systems Racing carbs
Garlits “Hat” air cleaner
Dart Pro 1 heads
Hydraulic roller cam
MSD 6Al electronic ignition
Custom 2 1/2-inch headers into a 5-inch collector
5-inch Cerakote exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers
CVS Racing pulley system
16×30 custom-made double pass radiator
2 SPAL 16-inch fans
Engine work by: South State Speed Shop, Hackensack, NJ
Turbo 400 trans with reverse manual valve body and trans brake
3500 stall speed
Coan Engineering Kwik-Shift Performance shifter
Trans by JW Performance Transmissions, Rockledge, FL
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
Ladder bar with diagonal link
Narrowed Ford 9-inch, 3.90 gears
Moser 35-spline axles
Factory front end components
2-inch drop spindles
Wilwood disc brakes
Accuair air-ride, 3-gallon reserve tank and compressor
Built by Neil Armstrong Engineering in Lake Worth, FL
WHEELS & TIRES
Front: 17×4 JEGS SSR
Mickey Thompson Sportsman 28 X 4.5-17R
Rear: 15×15 Sander Engineering 52-Series, single bead-lock
Hoosier Quick Time DOT 33 X 22.50-15LT
EXTERIOR & PAINT
Tucked front and rear bumpers
Front air dam
Bed moved closer to cab
LED smoked taillights
Gray powder coated bed
Black powdercoated cage
20-gallon fuel cell in bed
Chevrolet black paint
Fiberglass custom dash
Auto Meter gauge package
Restomod Air A/C with iPhone controls
Forever Sharp steering wheel
Custom racing seats by DJ Interiors
SounDigital 800.1 EVOX Mono Channel Amp, 800 Watts
SounDigital 400.4 EVOX 4-Channel Amp, 400 Watts
Two JL Audio 12-inch subs, Two JL Audio 6.5-inch component sets
iPhone controlled sound system
Gray and black theme throughout
Interior by DJ Interiors, Lake Worth, FL
THANKS TO: Splatt, Yogi, Scotty, Niel Armstrong (RIP), Dean and John, Jon Husted, and Corey Gershberg