The Beast - 97 Chevrolet K One Thousand Five Hundred


Sep 6, 2022
Alright. I'll admit it. Not only to everyone else, but to myself as well. I'm building my Chevy. Maybe not into a category such as a "prerunner" or prelander, overlander, rock crawler, mudder, etc... but I'm building it to suite my needs and asthetic desires.

The story begins a little bit back. I had an '07 Tacoma that I was dead set on building into a long travel go anywhere type truck. But after realizing it's pretty dumb to build and abuse your dd and putting myself at risk of breaking in the middle of the desert and being stranded with no tow truck or trailer, I decided to sell it.


The plan then was to buy a Tahoe as a new dd and camping rig that I could sleep in, tow with, and take on road trips. To also buy a trailer. And last but not least, buy a dedicated toy. My friend hit me up with an offer I couldn't refuse and I bought it that weekend. It was, hmm, I think either a '99 or '01 single cab Mazda b3000 I dubbed the "Go Kart". Light weight, short wheel base, and all the rotational fun that a toy needs.


The plan was to cage it right off the bat and work my way out, but the Ford engine did Ford things and died about a month after I bought it. Sad days. Whatever.

I continued to dd my "race car" 😂 while I figured out what I wanted to do.


I never did figure out what I wanted to do. In fact, long story, I was actually planning on moving to Switzerland right when the engine died on the go kart. So long story short, I sold the race car and parked the go kart in the parking lot of my old apartment complex, bought a more sensible dd, dubbed "The Great White Jelly Bean" (kind of a Hot Tub Time Machine reference lol), didn't end up going to Switzerland, and just drove around on an endless road trip until I found somewhere I wanted to call home.


I eventually drove until I found home in Montana. I got a job in construction and it became very apparent I needed a truck again. Not only that, but I missed driving jeep trails way out into bfe to go camping. And so I found THE BEAST!!!



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Not wanting to miss out on what seemed like a good find, I went and picked it up right away.

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It very quickly earned it's nickname "The Beast" when right after I bought it we got a pretty gnarly storm and it just pushed through everything I threw at it and went wherever I pointed it. It felt unstoppable. It felt like a beast.

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As soon as the snow melted and the sun came out, I gave it some love and made it mine. I ditched the useless steps, peeled off any random stickers from the previous owner, took off the bug guard, got some fresh non sun faded wiper arms, got rid of the valance - because ground clearance, hell yeah, cranked the torsion bars a bit - because more ground clearance duh (plus the rake looked terrible and torsions ride like poo anyways so what difference did it make ride quality wise), and of course like every vehicle I buy I bought fresh headlights, corner lights, and tail lights.

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I used it for work.

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And as soon as the slosh pits in the hills were firm enough, I took it out camping right away! (Not to be confused with overlanding)

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And that brings us 'till now!
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Now let me just make this clear. Of course, like we all do, I started considering what I could do to it. What would make it better? What would it look like built? What's this thing REALLY capable of? No! We're not going down that rabbit hole. We're not building the tow truck. I have a toy that I still need to go pick up and go get caged and replace the motor in 😂 I bought this truck as a reliable and useful dd that I could use for work, take camping, and tow the go kart with... NOT to build hahahahaha

And then I almost died.

Real talk. I had brain surgery and I'm extremely lucky to be here right now.

What I failed to mention is that I just couldn't seem to coordinate fixing, building, and reintroducing the go kart back into my life. It had become a burden. And so, with that, I offered it to a very good friend of mine. I told him he could have it if he just went and got it and he was happy to do so. The weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I knew it would be in good hands.

So... I sold my Tacoma to build a dedicated toy and I never even built it!

While I've been recovering from my surgery, I've sat and laid in bed and on the couch all day every day for weeks just letting my mind wander. I downloaded Instagram again and found all my desert friends and I'm pretty sure that's where it all went wrong lmao. Next thing I know I'm looking at tires, fenders, lights, drawing bumper designs, searching for camper shells, etc. Before long I was planning a trip down to California. Mostly because - damn - I really just want to see my friends! But while I'm at it, I might as well pick up a few things and get a few things done, right?!

So here we are. I've decided to build The Beast. Like I previously mentioned, I'm building it to suit my lifestyle and to satisfy my aesthetic desires. I like driving jeep trails to go camping, running through the desert at moderate speeds, going on longer road trips (again, not to be confused with overlanding 😂), I like driving down low maintenance dirt roads to get to a hiking trailhead, and I've also really been getting back into photography over the last year and so I'd really like a multipurpose vehicle I can drive through all the elements in and through all types of terrain, get to wherever I need to go, and sleep out of.

I've always been a big fan of having good light. I do a lot of night driving. Whether it's finding a place to camp late at night, driving down a long dark stretch of road on a road trip, or just trying to keep an eye out for deer, good quality light has always been important to me. So I started drawing up light bar and bumper ideas.

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Next, I've always hated the taper on the front of The Beast and how my tires stick out up front.


So I've tried not to get carried away, but since I didn't die, I thought I'd treat myself a little before all the medical bills really start pouring in. I might as well enjoy what I've worked hard for at least a LITTLE bit, right? And I mean shit I still never even built the go kart! I might as well have a relatively capable truck that meets my needs and looks good doing it.

I've decided to go with the following...

- 33, maybe 35" mud tires
- 3" bulge fenders
- KYB Monomax shocks
- Either a front facing light bar or a super simple tube bumper
- 6 China Baja Designs knockoff lights
- 2 yellow Baja Desigs SAE lights
And last but not least, I'm still looking around for a camper shell

And that should do it for now!

Do I have plans? Meh. Kinda, not really. Mostly I just want to keep using the shit out of it! Maybe after I've paid all my medical bills I'll pick up where I've left off and we'll go from there. Really I'd like to take this thing out to the Midwest next year and go storm chasing and try and get some rad photos of some tornadoes! But build wise, I guess ultimately I'd like to ditch the torsion bars and try and somehow get on coilovers up front. And mayyyyybe get on coilovers out back with the stock tank and a panhard setup. Other then that I honestly don't really have any other plans besides use the shit out of it!
Where's the spot to get trick tabs these days? I've got 8 lights I'll be trying to mount. I was planning on swinging by Kartek, but given my condition, I'd rather not head into San Bernardino if I can help it.
Where's the spot to get trick tabs these days? I've got 8 lights I'll be trying to mount. I was planning on swinging by Kartek, but given my condition, I'd rather not head into San Bernardino if I can help it.

Check here, they probably have something similar.

Super stoked to throw my old Jump Champs race tires on and get an alignment tomorrow!

Also super bummed I'll be missing the swap meet 😔

Btw! I'll be picking up my fenders sometime this week. Would they be safe in the bed of my truck at 70mph or can they potentially blow up and out of the bed?

I've picked up bedsides and driven on the interstate with zero problems, but fenders are significantly lighter so I'm a little concerned.
Btw! I'll be picking up my fenders sometime this week. Would they be safe in the bed of my truck at 70mph or can they potentially blow up and out of the bed?

I've picked up bedsides and driven on the interstate with zero problems, but fenders are significantly lighter so I'm a little concerned.
Just throw a couple straps X'd across them. Or put them in the back seat. They'll fit no problem,
Didn't even think about putting them in the cab lol definitely gonna do that! Not used to that full size life still hahaha
Welp! Fenders didn't blow away lol but I only drive 60mph with special thanks to my custom BLGT sticker so there's that too lol 😂


Did my rounds and drove all over Southern California the other day. Picked up fenders from Roadrunner, SAE lights from Baja Designs, tabs and end caps from Kartek, and even stopped by Schumacher Metal Works shop to pick up my u joint steering shaft that he offers! That was a last second impulse buy haha but something I subtly wanted to upgrade anyways.








I was also VERY tempted to order a long travel kit while I was there, but honestly I'm super content with the idea of a modestly capable trail rig that can still be used for day to day life, towing, and work. Kevin has a coilover conversion in the works so I'm excited to see what he comes up with because that sounds more like what I'm looking for.

I'm also starting to consider staying on leaf springs for long term plans with this truck. I can't believe I'm saying that because I LOVE the way coil springs feel, but simplicity and towing / on road characteristics are starting to persuade me. Ultimately I still want to buy a trailer because even though I don't have the go kart anymore, I've been stacking parts for the great white jelly bean and would like to ultimately build that into a track car. I've dreamed of driving Laguna Seca ever since I built the civic.
We have progress!

My good friend MotiRacer on here agreed to help me build the front facing light bar I had in mind for my truck. So first things first I couldn't WAIT to finally take all the lights out of their boxes, line them up, and finally get my first preview of just how it's gonna look! SO FREAKING COOL!


Next, of course, his son Seth and I just HAD to roll all the different size tires up and see how they'd look 😂 Not gonna lie, 37" projects looked pretty sweet 🤔


And all credit goes to MotiRacer, he's really got a knack for making ideas come to life. The main tube started taking shape and I started getting really excited! Not only just excited, but I was having a great time hanging out doing truck things with my friend and his family! It's been great visiting, AND doing cool things to the truck!

Light bar is complete! It came out SO GOOD! Even though I was confident with my measurements, I was a little concerned 8 lights would make it look a little too much like a ufo. I think it looks GREAT! In the future I'd like to run 4 racer edition spots in the middle and two floods on the outside, but China lights work for now. Really excited to try out the Baja Designs SAE lights next winter though! As Motiracer would say, I'm ready to go overlanding 😂


Also got the KYB's on and WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

The Bilstein 4600's that came off weren't even blown at all. In fact they still had good compression and slow rebound. I'm really baffled as to why they rode so terribly. The truck was so bouncy before. I thought for sure the 4600's were going to be completely blown out. On the other hand, I wasn't impressed the last time I went with Bilstein 5100's on my '07 Tacoma either. Maybe Bilstein's going down the pooper. Who knows.

What I do know is that the KYB Monomax's work just as well as I remember and I'm 100% satisfied. And they were half the price of 5100's! Firm but not stiff. Slow rebound, no bouncyness. Great handling characteristics. Completely changed the way they truck drives in a great way. Beyond stoked with how it drives now.
Welp! Got home a couple days ago and the fenders went straight into storage lol. They're a bit more complicated to install then I was anticipating. Not hard, just complicated. The inner and outer fenders are spot welded together and the inner fender has all kinds of mounts for engine bay stuff things like wiring harnesses, computer and reservoir mounts, etc. I'm planning on removing them together, cutting off the outer fender, then bolting the fiberglass fender to the inner fender, and mounting them back on the truck together like oem only cooler.

Since that's more work then I want to tackle any time soon, they most likely won't get installed this summer. But with that, I'll probably order bedsides and then install fenders and bedsides all at once next summer 🤷‍♂️ Until then, though, they'll live in storage 😔


Started removing my lightbar for paint and it got awkward quick. Luckily I had a snow shovel handy 😂


And last but not least for now, we have a camper shell!


It's slowly turning into the expedition style vehicle I've been envisioning! Go ahead and let the overland jokes fly haha it's okay I've got thick skin lol. It's definitely not a desert truck that's for sure. Although, the end goal is still to be capable of getting THROUGH the desert at moderate speeds while hanging out with friends. But the overall goal is to turn this thing into a photography rig. Something I can road trip, drive anywhere I need to go, and base out of for a night or two or even a week or 10 days like a previous trip I took to Washington. Pretty stoked it's starting to come together!

Actually!.. while we're on the subject, I'll post one of my photos for eveyone to enjoy 🤙 Hopefully there should be more coming soon. I need to get back out there already!

Nevermind lol the file sizes are too large to upload. I'll have to resize a photo and upload one later.
I've got problems lol. I ordered a 52" lightbar for the windshield too 😂. I just like the luxury of having LOTS of light when I'm out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. Plus it looks cool haha. Well that and bumper height light makes holes look way deeper then what they actually are, so I wanted light coming from above my eye level again for better depth perception.

I ordered that and a roof basket for the shell. Just something cheap that I can toss firewood and a chainsaw up into and not worry about getting my sleeping area all messy and have to sweep it out or clean oil out of all the time.

Let's think long term though! I'm still toying with the idea of Deaver's. (Holy cow their prices have DOUBLED now too what the heck?!) What are the forum peeps opinions? Links with a panhard bar? Or leaves? Either direction, I'd probably still mount a couple air shocks under the bed for when I would tow. I personally lean towards coil springs, but leaves work well too and they're also a lot more simple and convenient to install.
I just got a jolt of excitement! Lol so... after discussing in another thread on here, and mentioning the Trigger Controller system we used all the time at a shop in Hesperia I used to work at, I couldn't help but start scratching my head and looking into it for my own application.

I hate wiring. But I also don't mind it. It's just time consuming and I'm too much of a perfectionist to just slap something together and not keep everything tidy under the hood and on the dash.

So I pulled some dimensions and used the box from my camera brush as a template to make sure the controller would fit in a few different locations I had in mind. I decided on my typical switch panel location that I use on all my builds. Somewhere near the stereo.


I'll admit I've never been a fan of rocker switches (or the newest push button style controllers out there) and I'm definitely more of a toggle switch kind of guy. BUT... how the heck can you beat the convenience of the technology that's out there now?! I sold myself when I mentioned / remembered that their controllers are wireless so you don't even need to run, not even a single, wire through the firewall. And with my 27 year old truck, the last thing I want to do is pull on dash pieces, pray that nothing breaks, and get upset when something does because it's almost inevitable with that kind of age. Hence the reason I haven't even put a headunit in the thing lol.

That, and, if I do want to hard wire toggle switches in later, I can still utilize the Trigger module. Simple.

So I'm pulling the trigger on the Trigger! Can't wait to appreciate how much quicker and easier it's going to be to wire everything up now! 🤙

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FINALLY!.. an update!

There's been a million reasons as to why I haven't gotten around to wiring up the light bar or getting ANYTHING done really, but I won't even bore you with why. The good news is I finally got the light bar wired!

Can not believe how freaking easy it was to install the Trigger controller! More on that in a future post.

Really regretting not purchasing a deutsch connector kit though. Wiring 4 lights into one channel was NOT fun lol.

Before solder and proper wiring, don't judge me. Pictures just to elaborate how stupid of an idea it was to use this many lights 😂



So stupid lol.

Of course after I got everything wired up I had to go test out the bar! Went to a job site and plugged everything in.

No sparks, smoke, fire, or blown fuses so we're good!


Definitely not bummed about the China lights. For the price and for what I need them for (going camping, 30/45 mph in the desert, and spotting wildlife on the road), they're plenty good! Just what I was looking for. I'm not the biggest fan of the light pattern, but it makes sense as a driving light.


VERY impressed with the light pattern of the SAE lights though! I can't wait to try these out in a snow storm! They seem like they'll be perfect! They don't light up too much directly in front and the cutoff line is nice and sharp. It's a nice little bar of light. And when I walked out in front of the truck to see how bad the glare was, I was impressed! I could look right at them. Sure they were bright, but they didn't shine into my eyese AT ALL. I guess I would explain it's almost like looking at a neighbors really bright porch light. My only complaint is I wish they were brighter or had a brighter option. If they were just a LITTLE bit brighter you'd probably be able to get a LITTLE more distance out of them while still keeping them out of peoples eyes. I've always found the best way to drive in snow is headlights off, corner lights and fog lights on. I'm concerned these may not work at highway speeds during a snow storm - which would be about 70 mph at the fastest, but during heavy snow more like 50-60 mph. Judging by the output I'm going to assume these will work great at speeds up to about 50 mph in relatively heavy snow. We'll see though! I'll keep everyone posted for future reference!20240602_024915.jpg

I've taken plenty of pictures and even took some videos for people curious of the SAE light pattern. I'll post more in the future of course. For now I'm just glad to finally make some progress and knock this off the list! 🤙