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Ridetech Air Suspension Install Project Artemis!

It’s an exciting day here for the team at Street Trucks as we remove the first bolts from our 2021 primary project truck, Project Artemis. This 1998 GMC Sierra is getting a complete makeover. From front to back, including an all-new air-ride suspension from Ridetech, a retro-fit wood bed floor, all new interior pieces, and tons of upgrades to its original 5.7-liter V-8 engine. There’s no custom fabricating involved with this project, and we’re using only off-the-shelf bolt-on parts. It’s gonna be a good one!

This is an everyman’s project that caters to hundreds of thousands of truck enthusiasts alike. We understand that these projects take time and money that not everyone can spare. But we can at least show you what to do while you wait for the right time to make your next move.

Our project this year is to build a custom, bagged OBS Chevy truck that is reliable and ready to cruise with the whole family. So, meet Artemis, a 1998 GMC Sierra that has been female owned since it came off the lot. She’s been well maintained, and she’s ready to be reborn!

The name Artemis seemed perfect for this future trophy winner because it means “goddess of the hunt.” Artemis is also the main character’s name in my favorite movie of all time, “Ready Player One!” In the movie, Artemis is a gold/pewter-colored female character. In an online virtual reality game being played by a normal person in the real world. When playing as the character, she turns into a more confident, prouder version of herself. Just as we do when we are driving our custom truck around town, right? Customizing your character to a gamer is customizing a truck to a gearhead. So, we combined the two lifestyles, and a name was born: Project Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt for Trophies!

Stage one for this multi-stage resto-mod is to get the suspension replaced. We don’t want to be cutting and grinding the frame with a nice paint job or custom wrap. Definitely don’t want any greasy mechanics getting in and out of our nice new interior. So, we called up Ridetech, told the crew our goals, and they helped us order a complete, turn-key air-ride system designed to fit ’88-’98 Chevy and GMC C1500 trucks. When I say complete, I mean absolutely everything you need to fully bag your OBS without needing to run to the parts store. Suspension components, compressors, air springs, electronics, hoses and even all the fittings you will need, guaranteed! We were so impressed by the ease of ordering and the logistics behind this entire process, and we can’t recommend it enough for your GMT400.

This running-driving, three-door GMC has only 124,000 original miles and absolutely no mechanical issues that we know of. She’s a perfect project truck!

Once the complete kit arrived, we packed everything up and headed out to SaltWorks Fab in Myakka, Florida, for the install. Thom Ophof is the man behind all the metal magic that comes out of this amazing shop. We were impressed by his confidence when he assigned a few of his best men to tackle the teardown. Chris Hagerty and Telly Violleto were excited to break away from their high-end fab work for a couple of days to bag our OBS. We were there pestering them throughout the whole process. This issue we will focus on the front, the next issue will be the back. Then we have something special coming for Artemis—and his name is Glarb!

As we arrived at SaltWorks Fab in Myakka, Florida, the first thing we saw was this amazing, bagged GMC that was built by this crew. Not that we had any concerns before, but this was all the visual we needed to know we made the right choice!

SaltWorks Fab is a wonderful mix of metal-shaping, chassis-building and complete turn-key custom builds that range from your standard styled hotrods, full blown custom cars, resto-mods and even Pro Touring racers.

This is the office of one of the techs who took time to help us on our build. Not a bad view to have every day, right?

This complete frame-off 4×4 Toyota will definitely be in the pages of Street Trucks once it’s complete. The level of detail is unreal!

OK. Back to reality. Time to get Artemis on the lift and unload all the parts.

All the equipment from Ridetech came packaged with such great care that not a single piece was scratched or missing. We unboxed and laid it all out nicely so the crew can get to work.

With the truck on the lift, we took the time to inspect the rest of the chassis and engine to make sure we didn’t miss anything while buying this 23-year-old truck.

The OEM front suspension is all still in great shape, but it’s completely covered in grease. It’s going to make for some messy hands!

First to come off is the bed. A few bolts from the bottom and some plugs for the taillights are all you need to remove before taking off the bed. Better ask a few friends for some muscle assistance.

The next thing to be removed were the wheels and front sway bar. Ridetech provides a new sway bar so this one can be tossed out.

Safety first! Telly wrapped chain around the spring so it doesn’t fly out when he removes the spindle. Pretty smart!

The tie-rod end is carefully removed so to not damage the threads. The Ridetech kit comes with new inner tie-rod ends, but these outters will be reused.

A nice big pile of parts in the corner is a sign of progress! Now, it’s time to bolt on the new Ridetech suspension components.

For the upper control arms, we installed these StrongArms that are designed for ’88-’98 Chevy C1500 trucks. They are developed by Ridetech in Jasper, Indiana, on an actual running, driving vehicle, so you know they fit.

The front kit includes these CoolRide airbags designed to be used with the Ridetech lower arms. Everything comes with the kit including air springs, brackets, HQ Series shocks, bolt-on shock mounts and hardware.

Before the bag can go in, the press-on style air fitting needs to be installed on it. Don’t skip this step or you will regret it!

With the top hat mounted to the air spring, it can be bolted into place using the factory shock hole to secure the top of the bag mount.

To get as much drop as possible, Ridetech provides these 2-inch drop spindles that allow you to slam your ride and increase ride quality. They are forged from heavy duty steel and will increase the track width by a quarter inch per side.

With the upper bag mount loosely bolted in, the lower control arm can be installed, and the bottom of the air spring can be tightened.

Moving on, the shock needs to be relocated since the air spring takes the location of the OEM one. So Ridetech engineered this perfectly fitting shock relocation kit that bolts to the frame and the lower control arms.

With the suspension components in place, the brake can be reinstalled. We once again ordered a set of EBC rotors and pads as we have had nothing but great experiences with this brand.

To finish up the front, the new Ridetech MuscleBar needs to be bolted up. Using precision CNC tubing benders, Investment cast steel bar ends, and Delrin lined mount bushings, Ridetech can produce sway bars with unheard of dimensional and rate accuracy.

For Artemis to sit at the correct level anytime she’s cruising down the road, we ordered these RidePROx. These height sensors digitally measure your vehicle’s exact suspension movement to provide accurate and repeatable vehicle height adjustment. Even when the vehicle has a heavy load, it will sit perfectly every time.

The completed front is a thing of beauty. Modern engineering meets good old fashioned American metal.

With a jack under the control arm, Chris was able to drop the lift to see how low we can go. From the looks of it, we are gonna get down!

Before we bolt on wheels, we want to check clearance on everything from brakes to sway bars. Luckily, SaltWorks has a set of GuniWheels on site like all shops should. These universal-fit wheels have solid tires that are capable of holding the weight of your build while you move it around the shop. Pretty cool!

IN the next issue, we will walk through the back install and show you how it all works. Then feast your eyes on a teaser of the final look before we throw some wheels on Artemis. Stay tuned! For Part 2 CLICK HERE

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