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More than Meets the Eye: Lowered, LS-Swapped and Turbo'd Chevrolet Colorado Pickup

In Chevrolet’s long history of truck production, the first generation Colorado is one of the more unloved and unappreciated members of the family. Given the herculean task of replacing the venerable S10, the Colorado was a clean slate design cooked up by GM North America, GM Brazil, and longtime collaborator, Isuzu. The result was a modern looking mid-size truck with an interesting five cylinder powertrain that, while perfectly adequate, ultimately didn’t set the truck world on fire.

Chevy Colorado V8 Turbo

Owner Michael Freeman is the type of enthusiast that likes to find these under-appreciated models, pick them up, and put V8s in them. While the Colorado was offered with a 300hp LH8 V8 in the later years of its existence, the particular one certainly did not. This truck spent its life as a humble delivery truck before being stripped of its inline-five and given the LS V8 swap treatment.

Rear View of Chevy Colorado LS-Swap

Turbo LS Power

Interestingly, the 4.8L V8 had its own humble beginnings, spending its first life in an U-Haul box truck. Mounted into the Colorado with Current Performance engine mounts, the LS-based motor was improved with BTR valve springs and pushrods, an Elgin 1840p cam, and ARP head bolts. The power is routed to the wheels through a 4L80E transmission and Circle D torque converter.

Turbo LS-Swap in Chevrolet Colorado

A Fast 102 intake feeds air into the motor before the spent gases hit the turbo. The bed-mounted AEM meth-injection kit helps to keep those gases as cool as possible before entering the combustion chamber.

Meth Injection Kit in Chevrolet Colorado

The turbo was originally not part of the equation. Michael’s original plan for the truck was for it to be a V8-swapped daily, but a friend offered him an unused turbo from another project, and who was he to say no to this boosted destiny? The GT45 turbo is bolstered by a stock v-banded manifold, VS Racing BOV and wastegate, and custom hotside piping. Depending on boost, the Colorado is pushing between 400 and 500hp to the wheels.

Turbo kit in Chevrolet Colorado

Custom Fixes

Getting that power to the wheels, however, took a bit of ingenuity. The rear end is an 8.8 from an Explorer narrowed by using two passenger side axles. The unit was so much narrower than stock that Michael had to notch the frame of the truck for clearance so that the brakes could fit after being lowered.

Rear End of Chevrolet Colorado LS-Swap

Up front, the front knuckles are from a 2010 Ford Crown Victoria. He had to ream the ball joint and tie rod holes to accept the GM ball joints and tie rod. He then cut and extended the upper control arm to correct the resulting negative camber. Unfortunately, the extended upper control arms necessitated longer outer tie rods to compensate for the additional length. Safe to say, this truck is hardly a “bolt-in” affair. Michael has story after story of these little custom fixes that ultimately made the Colorado come together.

Front end of LS-Swap Chevrolet Colorado

Import Influence

To lower the truck, Michael was thankfully able to turn to longtime suspension experts Belltech for the drop leafs, drop ball joints, and shocks to keep everything riding smooth.

Side shot of Chevrolet Colorado with Belltech lowering kit

But one look at the truck gives evidence that this wasn’t a traditional build. The 3M metallic blue wrap is reminiscent of the Corvette’s Rapid Blue, but with the other exterior modifications it has serious import vibes. Michael wanted this project to be different and decided to pull influence from across the sea. Most notable are the 18x9 Enkei RPF1 wheels, made possible by the move to Ford’s 5x114 bolt pattern.

Enkei RPF1 on Nitto NT555G2

Performance + Reliability

Since the truck still has daily duties, Michael wanted a tire that would perform well under spirited driving while maintaining some semblance of on-road decorum. Nitto’s NT555 G2 ultra high-performance tires fit the bill, and the 265/35/18s were the perfect match.

NT555G2 on Chevrolet Colorado

Inside, the truck has largely remained stock. The Holley EFI gauges work with the Terminator X EFI system to keep tabs on the turbo'd V8 swap.

Holly Gauge Cluster in Chevrolet Colorado

Although the Colorado didn’t end up as the daily driver that Michael had originally planned for it to be, the end result is a breath of fresh air into the world of mini-trucks. For a scene that prides itself on out-of-the-box builds, creating something that still surprises can be difficult for builders.

Chevrolet Colorado with turbo LS swap

Reaching outside to pull in influences from different communities, as well as not needing to stick to a formula, Michael has used his talents to take an unloved platform into something that can’t be ignored.

Chevrolet Colorado on Enkei RPF1 wheels

Hard Facts

Engine 4.8L L20 V8, Elgin 1840p cam, BTR dual valve springs, BTR pushrods, ARP head bolts, Fast 102 intake, Fuel Lab mini FPR, SS Teflon fuel lines, custom fuel hat, Summit Racing triple pass radiator, GT45 turbo, custom hotside piping, v-banded stock manifolds, VS Racing BOV, VS Racing wastegate, Walbro 450 fuel pump, Deka 80lb injectors, Holley Terminator X EFI, AEM methanol injection, Current Performance engine mounts
Transmission 4L80E, Circle D torque converter, Custom trans crossmember, custom two piece drive shaft, Ford 8.8 narrowed rear end
Suspension Belltech drop ball joints, Belltech drop leafs, Belltech drop shocks, 2010 Crown Vic front knuckles, 08 GMC Savana outer tie rods, extended upper control arms
Wheels and Tires 18x9 Enkei RPF1, 265/35/18 Nitto NT555 G2 tires
Exterior 3M 2080 Metallic Blue Wrap
  • Cant get enough of turbo V8 power? Check out this 1400hp Twin-Turbo '79 Trans Am!
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