Chevy Thunder
Michael Lau
San Luis Obispo, CA
Author: Michael Lau
Model: Tylene Buck

I have been driving trucks ever since I could remember. My first truck was a standard-cab GMC 4x4 pick-up. It was slate gray, with some nice rims, chrome rocker panels, bed caps, and a stereo system. Noting very fancy, but it was cool enough in to have back in in high school where everyone wished they had a truck like mine.

Then one day I went to a stereo show for fun and I saw what I thought was the baddest ride in the world: a new slammed sport truck. Back then, it didn’t take much to stop a teenage kid in his tracks. But I saw the beauty in making something truly original. On that day I decided I was going to build a sport truck, and not just a "stock and drop" pick-up, but one that was wild, crazy, and different from all the rest.

In 1994 my dream started to become a reality when I bought a new Chevrolet extended-cab pick-up. The purchase set me off on a 14 month journey to create what I thought a cool sport truck was supposed to be. After spending countless hours and a lot of money on the truck, you have what you see before your eyes… Chevy Thunder.

The journey from dream-to-reality began the day I took the truck to a good friend of mine, Brian Mitchell, the owner of Stereo First in Modesto, CA. Brian has built many sport trucks and I knew he was truly an expert in stereo installations as well as custom truck modifications. He performed the first order of business: an altitude adjustment which came courtesy of Chisholm Suspension parts. The drop consists of 3-inch lower control arms with 2-inch drop springs up front, and 5-inch drop leaf springs with 2-inch drop shackles in the rear. A custom C-notch was performed at Custom Mike's, located in Newman, CA. While at Custom Mike's, a new Fuel Safe cell was installed in the location of the spare tire so the stock gas tank could be used for another purpose Brian and I had dreamed up.

From there, the truck was taken over to Kal Koncepts in Bakersfield, CA, where Dion, Kyle, and Craig, the masters of wild and custom paint, performed the body modifications and color enhancement for your viewing pleasure. Body modifications include shaved cowl, third brake light, gas filler door, and stake bed pockets. A flush-mounted tonneau cover was also installed.

The shaved taillights and tailgate handle clean up the rear. The airbrushed "Chevy Thunder" logo really sets the truck apart.

The guys really outdid themselves on the rear of the truck. The tailgate handle and stock brake lights were shaved and custom brake lights in the shape of lightning bolts were laser cut into the roll pan. The guys went all out and applied wild blue, orange, yellow, magenta, and silver graphics all over the truck. Then Craig Frasier of Air Syndicate applied the awesome airbrushed effects to really make the paint stand out. Craig also applied unique ghost lightning bolt effects and a "Chevy Thunder" logo on the tailgate.

For the coolest effect possible, matching custom graphics were applied to the hood and tonneau cover by the guys at Kal Koncepts.

After the paint dried, a smooth chrome bumper and polished billet grille were installed. This accomplished the different look that I was after which set the truck apart from the sport truck norm of painted grilles and bumpers.

A smooth chrome front bumper and chrome grille with a polished billet insert contrast nicely against the dark, Indigo Blue paint.

The truck then returned to Brian's shop to the build my favorite part of the whole truck: the engine. Performance modifications include a Vortech supercharger and a custom plumbed Top Gun Nitrous system. Jacob's Ultra Team ignition along with Edelbrock intake manifold and headers were installed. An Art Carr modified transmission was also installed to help get the power to the rear wheels.

I wanted a motor that would stand out from the rest, so nothing was left untouched. Every part of the engine was either polished, chromed, or painted. Polished and chromed parts include the supercharger, manifold, valve covers, pulleys, and all the brackets. Anything that could be removed was polished. Then Larry and Brian did a masterful job custom-bending polished hardlines and steel-braiding hoses to replace the stock ones. Probably one of the coolest tricks in the engine compartment was moving the whole brake computer and proportioning valve to an out-of-sight location under the truck. To finish off the motor, polished Empire Motorsports aluminum pieces were installed. The engine is truly one of a kind.

Anything that could be removed was polished or chrome plated by Stanislaus Chrome. I owe Brian and Larry a lot for building me one of the baddest motors around.

Take a closer look

Another engine view


Brian and I then focused on the bed of the truck. We wanted to do something different from all the rest and create a bed kit that was truly unique. After spending a lot of time brainstorming, we came up with what you see here. Custom panels were made out of wood and fiberglass to cover the sides and the wheelwells in the bed. They were then upholstered in matching gray material. The coolest part is the plexi-mirror, which was set in the upholstery to give the bed a 3-D affect. The mirror creates an illusion of six polished nitrous bottles in the bed instead of the three that are really there. The bed floor was raised 2-inches to give us room to flush-mount the Snap-On tools. A polished fire extinguisher and flashlight were mounted on either side panel. It took a lot of time to build the bed, but the end result is truly worth the effort.

The bed is truly different with a plexi-mirror provided by Plastics 2000 which was flush-mounted in the upholstered panels.
The removable upholstered panel in the middle of the bed is the opening to the Fuel Safe Cell gas filler.


In the cab the upholstery was left mainly stock. This was mainly due to the custom stereo system that was installed. However, polished aluminum pieces were installed to highlight the interior. The dash panels, air vents, A/C cover, pedals, and gear shifter were all provided by Empire Motor Sports. A polished Budnik steering wheel was also installed.

A Budnik Bladerunner steering wheel replaces the stock one. Note the Clarion Equalizer that is flush-mounted in the sunvisor.
Polished Aluminum pieces from Empire Motor Sports were used to accent the interior. All the grooves in panels were powdercoated blue by Central Coast Powerdercoating to match the exterior of the vehicle
Each door holds an 8-inch midbass driver that is housed in a custom fiberglass enclosure. A Chevy symbol was embroidered in each interior door panel.


My other love beside sport trucks has to be stereo systems. When I built this truck, I wanted to incorporate a one of a kind system to take to shows. And wouldn't you know it, my good friend Brian Mitchell is the king when it comes to building competition systems. Anyone can build a wild and crazy system that catches your eye, but we wanted to build a stealth system so that when you looked into the truck you could not see anything. This is the reason why the interior upholstery was left mainly stock. The system in the truck has won many awards and has qualified for the IASCA Finals the last two years.


The system starts with a Clarion CD changer mounted in the center console. Check out the custom silk-screened "Chevy Thunder" logo on the cover.
The high-end speakers are mounted in the kick panels. The stock kick panels were modified to achieve the factory look.


The system starts with a Clarion CD changer, then the signal goes to a Clarion EQ. From there, the signal travels to Lanzar Noisegate and Audio Control EQTs for system tuning. The tuned signal is then split by a pair of Audio Control 24xs crossovers to 3 Lanzar Opti200 amplifiers. One amplifier drives a pair of Oz Audio tweeters and mids mounted in the kickpanels, the second amplifier powers a pair of 8-inch Morel mid-bass drivers mounted in the doors, and the last amplifier pushes the two Lanzar Pro 12-inch subwoofers mounted in the stock gas tank. That's right, the gas tank! This is the main reason why the Fuel Safe Cell was installed. We took out the stock gas tank, split it in half, made it into a bandpass enclosure, mounted two 12's in it, sealed it back up with fiberglass, and ported it into the cab. It was something unique that had never been done.


This is what the stock gas tank looked like before the speakers were installed and the tank was sealed back together. Sound deadening material was used to dampen the box. Using the stock gas tank for the sub enclosure allowed us to retain all the factory interior space, as well as being a trick feature of the system.


The other aspect of the system that is truly unique is the rear seat. All the amplifiers and processors were mounted in the rear seat out of view, yet the seat is still totally functional. To do this, we removed foam from the rear seat and then welded in brackets to mount the amplifier and processor racks. We then re-foamed the seat around the racks and flush-mounted all the processors and amplifiers onto it. Needless to say, this took a tremendous amount of time, but the final effect is well worth the effort.

As you can see, when the rear seat is folded up, it is completely functional and hides the stereo equipment.
The top half of the seat holds the signal processors. They are all flush-mounted into the seat. The factory cover is used to hide all the equipment from view. If you look closely, you can see that all the processors are powdercoated blue to match the truck and are silk screened with the "Chevy Thunder" logo.
The bottom half of the seat holds three amplifiers. They are also flush-mounted in the seat and the factory cover hides them from view. The amps are also powdercoated and silk screened with the "Chevy Thunder" logo. Notice the port on the right side floor where bass enters the cab from the subwoofers mounted in the gas tank.


Rolling stock for the truck consists of 17-inch Weld Racing 5-spoke Tomahawk wheels with 255/50r17 BFGoodrich ZR4 tires. They came courtesy of Price Truck Stop located in New Mexico.

And there you have it, an in-depth look at a truck that turned my dream into reality. I think it its still pretty cool after being completed for over two years now. It has already appeared in Truckin' Magazine and was the cover truck on the 1997 Sport Truck Magazine calendar. Building the truck of your deams is an enlighting and gratifying process, but it always leaves you wanting more.


'94 Chevrolet C-1500
Supercharged 5.7L
Chisholm 5/7 drop
Audio System by:
Stereo First
Paint by:
Kal Koncepts


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