When I saw the fit, finish, and detail of Gregg Ovist’s 2005 Chevy Silverado, when he told me about the years of planning and designing he put into it, I thought, “There’s no way he drives this truck. It’s got to be a trailer queen.”
Boy was I wrong.
“It’s definitely going to get driven,” Gregg told me. “I’m planning on driving this truck a lot.”
Gregg grew up around hot rodding. His dad and uncle and older brother built custom cars and trucks. He learned his shop technique by watching his uncle carefully lay out and organize the parts he was using to build a 1929 Ford Coupe. And, of course, Gregg was into Hot Wheels (he still owns hundreds of them) and building model cars (he still has 10 boxes of them). “Good distractions that get you hooked when you’re young,” as he described them.
So it’s not surprising that when he purchased the Silverado in 2005, he immediately did some customization. Gregg made some small body modifications to the roll pan, shaved the tailgate handle, and added custom wheels. The truck had a nice look, and won several trophies at shows.
“I drove it over 100,000 miles,” Gregg told me. “One of the things that I’ve always made it a point to do with the show cars that I had – I drive them daily. I don’t put them in the garage and cover them. This truck wasn’t an exception.”
After a few years, Gregg decided to customize the interior. “I was trying to step up my game in the truck scene,” he told me. “I’ve always been one to push the envelope.”
That decision proved to be fateful, leading to a cascading series of modifications that resulted in the Chevy being the state-of-the-art custom it is today.
Gregg dropped the Silverado off at a shop for some stereo work. Another of the shop’s customers pulled his car in and scratched the side of Gregg’s truck. “It was a valid accident,” Gregg said, “not clowning around, not neglect. It was just one of those things that happened.” But there was some damage.
So with half the interior out of it, the interior project got put on hold and Gregg set out to repair the passenger side door and bed. He took it to Miranda’s Customs in Phoenix to have Luis repaint the damage.
“Luis did an amazing job with the paint and body work,” Gregg said. “The body modifications and custom work add a great look to the truck.”
“Then I thought, I might as well pay the difference and paint the whole truck,” Gregg recalled. “There’s no sense painting just one side. And I might as well change the color. At this point I’ve got the interior half out, and I’m evaluating the entire exterior. I rethought my whole idea.”
Gregg picked a color, Bentley Phantom blue, but that wasn’t the end of it. Not even close. “I was re-evaluating the project on almost a daily basis for probably a month,” he said.
Gregg figured that before he painted it, he might as well do some more body modifications. Essentially, he got into tearing the whole truck apart. He shaved the taillights, re-shaved and relocated the tailgate handle and made some adjustments to the roll pan.
Of course, if you’re going to have a classy Bentley paint job, you might as well have a classy Mercedes sunroof as well. Gregg installed a dual pane glass roof from a S550. The front panel of the 4’ by 3’ sunroof opens up over the stationary rear panel.
Happy (for the time being) with the body modifications, he had Luis paint the Chevy the beautiful blue you see in the pictures. Gregg loves the fact that the pearl and metallic in the paint makes it look darker in shade or night, but like a lighter blue when the sun hits it. To make it a little bit different, Gregg had Luis paint the door pillars and roof black.
About one year after the fateful accident visit, the Silverado was back at the interior shop. It took that long, because, Gregg said, “I just kept evaluating every aspect until I was happy. I started putting it together more meticulously than I thought I would. And it was coming together really nice.”
That was in 2014, and Gregg was approached by MHT Wheels to put the truck in that year’s SEMA Show to show off some new custom wheels they’d designed. Not only did they sponsor Gregg’s truck at the show, but he was also involved with the design process for the wheels, which Gregg said was really educational.
His Chevy was a hit at SEMA, sitting there with the newly completed body work and paint job, with green wheels on driver’s side and yellow on the passenger side. But even then, the interior was still not completed.
“The interior is the reason I actually took the thing apart,” Gregg said, “and I told them I wasn’t going to rush it. I wanted it to be top notch. MHT said ‘We don’t care about the interior, just tint up the windows and roll them up, we just want the exterior with our wheels on it.’
So the Silverado sat at SEMA all week with 28″ custom wheels and no interior. The truck had gotten some pre-show publicity in the Detroit News, and after the show it was named one of the Top 5 Trucks in SEMA by another publication. And while Gregg didn’t get to keep the show wheels, he did a free set of his choice from MHT and those are the wheels that are currently on the truck.
The Chevy was such a hit at SEMA that several companies wanted to be associated with it. Optima (batteries), Verizon Wireless (tablets), Roadwire (interior), Gardner-Westcott (hardware), and FatMat (sound deadening) all provided Gregg with parts.
“I felt like I had to take the truck the next step,” Gregg said. “I decided to make it a full show truck. I tore it down and rebuilt it with a custom hydraulic suspension.”
Most customized pickup trucks use air bag suspensions to adjust the ride height. Gregg wanted something different. He teamed up with Hydroholics, a local hydraulics company (@hydroholics on Instagram) and Andy Day of All Day Fabrication (@alldayfab), to design a radical hydraulic suspension.
Andy determined the proper geometry and built all the components of the entire front and rear suspension by hand. The front suspension is all custom built including the upper and lower control arms and steering links.
The entire rear end of the truck is custom built from the cab back. The key components of the suspension are the hydraulic cylinders mounted 8” in front of rear wheels between wheels and cab.
With the design they developed, the 8″ cylinders give 11″ of suspension travel. The ride height, clearances, and angle of drive line were all taken into consideration, and Gregg says they’re all perfect.
The cylinders are activated by a Hydroholics signature 2-pump, 6-dump setup that is unique to Gregg’s truck, and hydraulics in general. The 48-volt system is run by four Optima batteries mounted in the back of the truck. There’s an extensive amount of electrical work, overflows, and relays mounted on the bottom of the frame to handle the hydraulic flow. The truck comes up and rides on nitrogen charged accumulators for a smooth ride.
To accommodate the suspension travel, the rear end of the truck is attached with a custom wishbone that ties to a crossmember Gregg welded onto the frame right behind the cab. A massive 3″ heim joint, with the proper rubber bushings and hardware, connects the wishbone and crossmember.
One of the details that really impressed me about Gregg’s work was the plumbing for the hydraulics. The installation was performed by Aaron Hunt with Lowform (@_lowform_ on Instagram) in Arizona, who fabricated all of the custom lines, ran all of the wiring through the frame for a clean look, and custom wired an E-level switch box to accommodate the hydraulic switches. The result is a very high tech and attractive system.
“It’s perfect,” Gregg told me. “Aaron is a master at custom suspensions. He is the only person I know that can engineer, design and install an adjustable suspension and have it ride better than a factory vehicle.”
The end result is pretty amazing to watch in action (there’s a video on Gregg’s Instagram account @projectchecm8). The truck three wheels like a lowrider, can lay frame going down the road, and can have the aggressive stance of a street truck.
Gregg wasn’t going to do all that fantastic custom work and hide it, so the bed of the truck has been completely refabricated to allow his work to show. “There’s more metalwork from the cab back than there is in the rest of the truck,” Gregg said.
In addition to the suspension work, Andy Day also did the custom sheet metal work. He tubed the firewall for front wheel clearance when the truck is on ground. Out back, the bed is open in the center to show the wishbone and hydraulic system. The fender wells are triple axle trailer fenders that have been cut in half. Everything is painted or plated or chromed. Even the gas tank has been custom built so it wouldn’t stick out into the bed.
Gregg’s attention to detail impacted pretty much every aspect of the truck. He gives a lot of credit to Maxx with Double X Designs. Maxx has been a driving force towards some of the major details like painting and chroming the front suspension, the design and finish of the engine components, the chopping and sectioning of the front bumper, and many other small customizations.
“He’s been my biggest fan from day one,” Gregg told me. “He has a keen eye for detail and has the ability to innovate custom parts. He no longer allows me to change my mind since I have bombarded him with texts and pics for months!”
The front bumper has been cut and raised to tuck into the body. Maxx took out 3 inches front to back, which brought it in closer, and he raised it up 1¼ inches to close the gap even further. “A lot of people might not recognize that modification,” he told me, “but I know it’s there. I think it’s done very well. And it wasn’t easy at all.”
The gas filler door is factory stock, but the thumb hole has been shaved, along with the tailgate and the bed caps. The roll pan and hood struts have been customized and the hinges modified to clear the modifications on the fender well. Even the bar on the underside of the hood that catches on the latch has been chromed. The process of finding one at a junkyard, drilling it out, chroming it and bolting it on his hood took Gregg four weeks.
Gregg found aluminum door handle inserts he liked, but he had to buy them individually because they had been discontinued. It took two years to get all four. Then because Gregg had them chromed, they were thicker and not fitting correctly so he had to take the door handles apart to fit them in. While he was in there he added LED lights to the handle that light up when you lock or unlock the truck.
The all black interior incorporates many Bentley design features. It has Bentley diamond stitch upholstery, with LED lighting that Gregg installed. He’s got an Invicta watch that he’s going to install as the dashboard clock.
The Silverado uses the original LS engine and automatic transmission. Gregg’s tweaked the LS a little bit, but it and the transmission are largely stock. “I’m a self aware kind of guy,” he said. “If I put more horsepower in that truck I’m just going to break it. I purposely did not do a lot of engine upgrades.” But rest assured the LS is just as thoroughly detailed as the rest of the truck, including a hand built custom overflow tank that’s been chromed and painted to tie it back to the rest of the Chevy.
It’s no accident that Gregg’s truck comes across as well thought out and planned. “I was very precise on what I wanted,” he told me. “I went through magazines and printed every article about ‘04 to ‘07 Chevy and GMC crew cab show trucks and taped them on my wall. I scratched out and wrote notes on every single one of those pictures on what I did and did not want to do. It’ll be eight years this November. I’ve changed my mind more than 100 times during this process.”
With the incredible amount of care and work that’s gone into the truck to get it where it is, I asked Gregg if he was still going to be driving it around town.
“Yes,” he replied. “It owes me a lot of driving. I’d much rather have rock chips than dust. I’ll never look at vehicles any differently than that.”
The Silverado hasn’t just caught my eye. The crossover appeal of Gregg’s truck will have it featured in Street Trucks and Truck Hub magazines this year and Lowrider magazine in 2021. And the Chevy will be back at some Arizona car shows next year as well.
Gregg’s license plate says CHECM8, He says it’s indicative of the fact that “when I pull into a show, I’m expecting to turn some heads. I’m not the guy who thinks he has the biggest and baddest. But people have said I’m going to hurt some feelings when I start to show this.”
Gregg made a point of telling me how much folks like Luis, Andy, Steve, Aaron, and Maxx have helped out with his truck. “Without these guys CHECM8 would not be a one of a kind custom truck done to this caliber,” he said. “I appreciate their abilities and support during this build.”
Another great thing about the build is that Gregg freely shares what he’s learning with others to support the trucking community. “Since I’ve been building my truck, I’ve probably helped three of four other guys to build trucks with similar ideas. I’ve allowed others to look at the truck to inspire them to build their own.
“There’s another gentleman in Arizona with a Silverado as well. He’s been following me since day one. He’s probably measured and photographed my truck a dozen times to build his. I’m an innovator but I try to support everyone possible. Someone’s probably already building a truck better than mine right now anyway”
I don’t know about that. Gregg’s Silverado has raised the bar pretty high.
Photos courtesy of Gregg Ovist
Click here to see more photos of the CHECM8 Sliverado
You can follow Gregg on Instagram via @projectchecm8