photos by: the author
Who Says SUVs are Destined to be Slow Family Haulers?
It’s safe to say that we love our General Motors cars: legends such as the Chevy Camaro and Corvette and Buick Grand National, can get our pulse racing at an alarming tempo. These iconic machines set the standard by which all others are judged. But what about high-performance trucks and SUVs? No, we aren’t talking about your cousin’s beat up old 4×4 pickup riding high on 44-inch Super Swampers and slogging through the local mud pit on a Friday night—though that kind of adolescent hijinks can be extremely fun. We have a very different and somewhat more sophisticated vehicle in mind. The kind that could perhaps be appropriated as a getaway car by the villain in a James Bond movie.
“When Alex Sica of Clermont, Florida was looking for a project, he knew he wanted something more distinctive than what he normally saw around town.”
When Alex Sica of Clermont, Florida was looking for a project, he knew he wanted something more distinctive than what he normally saw around town. As it happened, he needed to look no further than his parents’ garage to find this 2005 GMC Yukon Denali. Alex says, “It was my father’s truck, and when I turned 16, I bought it from him. My dad had recently retired from the custom automotive industry and the Yukon became a father/son project throughout high school. I kept improving the truck during and after my college years, making it faster and handle better.”
To get more attitude, one of the first modifications that the duo tackled was lowering the big GMC with McGaughy’s spindles and springs, achieving a 2-inch drop up front and 3 inches in the rear. Carving corners is not what large SUVs are designed to do, but Alex wanted his rig to drive aggressively. That necessitated upgrades to other components of the suspension, including a Ridetech Musclebar front sway bar, an Eibach rear unit, a panhard bar from Spohn Performance, and self-leveling rear air shocks. Powerstop cross-drilled rotors working in conjunction with stock calipers bring the Yukon to a halt without any unwanted drama. The 22-inch MHT Dub Skillz Flat Black wheels, wrapped in 305/40/22 Firestone Destination ST rubber, were a more recent addition. Alex remembers, “I had large chrome wheels on there for a while, but I was attracting too much attention from the police. I haven’t been pulled over once since I installed the new ones.”
We feel that Alex made a wise decision, as the flat black wheels perfectly complement the inky-black finish on the rest of the truck, resulting in a slick, almost sinister appearance. Contributing to that aesthetic is the fiberglass Ram Air hood and custom-built front and rear spoilers. An astute observer may notice subtle styling cues drawn from different Corvette models, such as a rear bumper modification that made way for the Z06 inspired quad exhaust tips. Likewise, the charcoal-toned accent stripes on both fenders are derived from the Gran Sport and coordinate well with the overall theme of the build. Most of Alex’s Denali still wears its original black paint, code WA 8555, and thanks to his tireless detailing and polishing, it displays a shine deeper than the pockets of a Texas oil tycoon.
The interior of the GMC is a tasteful combination of stock appointments and custom flourishes. The two-tone grey and smoke upholstery was stitched by Treadwell Auto Trim in Titusville, Florida and adds an understated competition look. When asked about the truck’s ‘LQ4’ designation, Alex says, “I wanted the truck to be built similar to what a factory concept vehicle would be, and most of those cars and trucks have names like that.” In the rear, Alex installed two upholstered cargo storage areas that flank a NOS nitrous oxide cylinder—yes, this full-grown GMC is on the bottle. Dark tinted windows add a bit of mystique and privacy while keeping Alex cool on longer trips.
“Alex installed two upholstered cargo storage areas that flank a NOS nitrous oxide cylinder—yes, this full-grown GMC is on the bottle.”
The 6.0 liter Vortec V-8 engine residing under the hood has also been treated to some performance modifications. In addition to nitrous oxide, the 364 cubic-inch mill was given a performance tune by CHenry Motorsports in Lakeland, Florida. Factory GMC fuel injection disperses the combustible mix to the stock GM 317 aluminum heads. Exhaust is routed through Texas Speed long tube headers flowing into a true dual system by CM Performance.
The resulting tone is a bit mellow at idle, but throaty and aggressive under hard acceleration. With an estimated 415 horsepower and 450 ft. lbs. of torque, we’re guessing the only thing that the Denali can’t pass is a gas station. Alex is constantly striving to improve the overall performance of the LQ4 and he says, “In the future, I’m planning on installing a bigger cam, different cylinder heads, and a 3,000-stall torque converter.”
A 4L60e four-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting duties and transmits the power to a 3.73:1 rearend. On our photo shoot, we asked Alex for a smoky burnout and he replied, “It’s all-wheel drive, it really won’t do one. It just goes.” Both the 2005 Yukon Denali and Cadillac Escalade are AWD; the Chevrolet Tahoe and base-model GMC Yukon could not be had with that option.
“Though Mr. Sica is far from a villain, his 2005 GMC Yukon Denali LQ4 makes a perfect getaway car.”
Though the build of Alex’s Yukon displays restraint and refinement, it still garners plenty of attention wherever it goes. Alex tells us, “I find my hobby to be car shows and cruises. The truck has won awards at Disney Car Masters Weekend, which is judged by Chip Foose, and has also won at the Good Guys All American Nationals, among others.”
Though GM performance cars will always be in style, it’s quite refreshing to see an SUV built with a competition look and executed with a high level of detail. Alex says proudly, “I built this truck because it’s different, you never see another one at car shows. Many of the parts on this Yukon are not mass-produced, but custom made. I love driving this thing, it’s a blast.” Though Mr. Sica is far from a villain, his 2005 GMC Yukon Denali LQ4 makes a perfect getaway car.
- CAR: 2005 Yukon Denali XL
- OWNER: Alex Sica
- ENGINE BLOCK: Stock; LQ4
- CRANKSHAFT: Stock; LQ4
- PISTONS: Stock; LQ4
- CAMSHAFT: Stock; LQ4
- CYLINDER HEADS: 317 castings
- COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.5:1
- INDUCTION: Stock LQ4 intake, Volant cold-air kit
- POWER ADDER: Nitrous Oxide Systems; wet kit, 100 shot
- IGNITION: Stock coil packs, MSD 8.5mm wires
- EXHAUST: Texas Speed long-tune headers, custom-bent stainless X-pipe, CM Performance muffler
- FUEL DELIVERY: Stock
- OILING: Stock
- TUNING: CHenry Motorsports
- TRANSMISSION: Stock, 4L60E
- CONVERTER: Stock
- DRIVESHAFT: Stock
- REAREND: Stock; 3.73 gears
- SUSPENSION: Spohn rear control arms and Panhard bar, Ridetech front sway bar, Eibach rear sway bar, McGaughy’s front/rear springs and front lowering spindles
- CHASSIS MODS: None
- BRAKES: Stock
- WHEELS: MHT Dub Skillz; 22×9.5
- TIRES : Firestone ST; 305/40/22
- HP/TQ: 415/450
Dave’s a very passionate musclecar aficionado. An automotive painter by trade, he’s done a complete restoration on his very first car, a 1970 Pontiac LeMans that he’s owned for over 20 years. Dave’s superior photographic skills, writing talents and Florida location make him an ideal year-round contributor.