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Detroit Speed and Engineering has long been known for their corner carving suspension systems for first and second gen Camaros, Chevy IIs, Mustangs, and other high performance coupes. But as pro touring-style pickup builds have grown in popularity in recent years and DSE noticed that the segment was underserved by the available offerings, the company has turned its attention toward these platforms as well.
“C10 has been on our list for a while,” says Chris Stein-Martin of Detroit Speed. “That platform has seen a huge uptick in popularity recently. We started off with the square-bodies (1973-1991 model years), and we began developing the second gen C10 components shortly thereafter. Honestly it stems mostly from customers calling us and asking when we were going to develop these C10 systems. There’s a lot of suspension components available for these trucks now, but people were telling us that they just weren’t satisfied with what was out there. So the push to develop these systems really just came from the feedback that we were getting.”
DSE’s Speed front suspension kit for second gen C10s lowers the nose of the truck by about four and a half inches in total, while the SpeedMAX system can drop it by as much as six inches.
As a result, Detroit Speed now offers two types of suspension systems for the second gen C10 – the Speed kit and the SpeedMAX kit. While the two systems take different approaches to enhancing handling, ride quality, and ride height adjustment, both are direct bolt-in systems that can be dialed in for street or track use – or a bit of both. “Like our other suspension systems, it really comes down to tuning,” says Stein-Martin. “They’re developed to perform on the street and on the track.”
The Speed front end kit for second gen C10s is the more budget-minded solution of the two and utilizes the factory suspension mounting points for a true bolt-on system. “This system is more street focused,” he explains. “These are meant primarily for folks who’re looking to lower the vehicle, enhance the handling, and get improved braking as well.” This kit includes a specially designed forged aluminum drop spindle with a hub pack-style bearing, and it’s compatible with GMT800 brake system components to provide you with a lot of options for modern stopping power.
SpeedMAX kits are available with single or double-adjustable coil-overs that can allow you to change the vehicle’s ride height as well as the damping characteristics of the shocks. Different spring rates are on offer as well.
Lowering springs are also part of the mix, delivering a total drop of about 4.5 inches when combined with DSE’s spindle design.. “Everyone wants to get low with trucks these days,” Stein-Martin notes. “This system will get you there. Of course you’ll get a more controlled ride from the new spring rates, and in terms of braking, you can now use modern stock replacement parts that are much more advanced than the hardware that the factory was using half a century ago.” An anti-roll bar is optionally available with this system as well, which can tighten up body control and yield more neutral handling characteristics at the limit.
The SpeedMAX system for second gen C10s offers a more comprehensive suspension package for those who’re looking to really take their truck’s handling performance to another level, but thanks to some clever engineering, it requires no fabrication to be installed. “This is a clean-sheet suspension design for the second gen C10,” he tells us. “The kit is the entire suspension system from top to bottom, but it directly bolts onto the frame because we were able to use the same style of frame rails as the factory system. Usually our premium suspension systems require some level of fabrication to be adapted to a platform; this one does not. That’s a huge advantage for these enthusiasts – it’s something that you could literally install in the vehicle over a weekend. Yet at the same time, you’re making huge changes to your vehicle’s handling capability – the crossmember and tubular control arm design is totally different, as are the mounting locations.”
Along with a choice of single, double, and non-adjustable coil-overs and a variety of spring rates, the SpeedMAX kit includes a tubular sway bar and a quick-ratio rack and pinion steering system as well as the forged drop spindles and hub packs that come as part of the Speed kit. “So here that ride can also be adjustable, and you have the option to get the truck even lower than you can with the Speed kit,” Stein-Martin says. “And since this is a completely new design, it allowed us to optimize the suspension geometry for a lowered ride height, which is something you can’t do as comprehensively with a factory-style suspension system. A drop spindle can correct some of the changes to the geometry that occur when you lower a vehicle, but when you’re relocating the mounting points of the suspension like we did with the SpeedMAX kit, you can create something that’s truly optimized for that ride height.”
The SpeedMAX system uses DSE-developed shock mounting points and geometry, but the system bolts directly to the frame rails and requires no fabrication whatsoever.
Thanks to the additional adjustability of the SpeedMAX kit, these systems can be dialed in for responsive cruising or all-out track assaults depending on driver preference. “For us the default tune is mainly about hitting a happy medium between ride quality and handling performance, but as with our other systems, the end goal is to make the vehicle drive like a new Corvette. That’s our benchmark. You can make some settings changes if you want to go full track-mode, but right out of the box it’s a nice balance that’s comfortable on the street and ready for the autocross.”
The components that comprise the Speed kit can be purchased a la carte, but due to the SpeedMAX system’s holistic approach, most of the hardware is bundled together to ensure that drivers will get the performance benefits that they’re expecting from these upgrades. “There are a few different options with the SpeedMAX systems, though,” he points out. “You’ve got the type of coil-over in terms of non-adjustable, single-adjustable, or double-adjustable, and we do have several different the spring rates available to dial the system in for the weight of the engine that’s in the truck. But at the end of the day this was developed as a complete system, and all of the components were uniquely designed to work with this system specifically.”
Detroit Speed and Engineering is also in the final development stages for a pair of rear suspension systems that are designed to complement the second gen C10 Speed and SpeedMAX front suspension kits. “One of those is going to be like the Speed kit for the front end in that it uses more of the factory architecture,” adds Stein-Martin. “And there’s also a version of our QuadraLink system that we’re specifically adapting to this platform as well. And these rear suspension kits were designed and tuned with the expectation of being used with the DSE front end kits to take the truck’s handling several steps even further.”
With the clean-sheet design approach of the SpeedMAX front suspension system, Detroit Speed engineers were able to bring the vehicle’s ride height down significantly while also dialing in the suspension geometry for that lowered stance. The system can be mounted in the stock location or in a one-inch forward position. When a 1967-72 C10 is lowered it becomes more apparent that the wheel does not line up with the fender opening in the factory position, so shifting the wheel location forward by an inch can correct the issue.
Detroit Speed isn't shy about admitting that they want you to get out and enjoy what your C10 is built to do (that's drive, in case you were wondering.) But they do understand that there are different levels of modification, budget or even scope of what an owner will ask out of their truck and as such, have tailored parts kits to line up with what buyers are looking for. Maybe you just want to spruce up what is already there, maybe you are ready to build a truck that'll stomp a mudhole through a Lamborghini's hood on the autocross. Either way, they are willing to help out.
If you aren't wanting to break the bank on your project, or just want to enhance what is already good about your truck, a Speed Kit is the way to go. Detroit Speed offers a Stage 1 and Stage 2 Speed Kit for the C10. Stage 1 starts with 2.5-inch drop Detroit Speed forged aluminum spindle assemblies that are fitted with a GMT800-style (1999-2006 GM truck) hub pack wheel bearing setup and dual bolt patterns, which opens up a wide range of wheel and tire options. The GMT800 style hub pack allows you to run GMT800 brake calipers, pads and rotors, or any aftermarket brake kit that will fit a 1999-2006 GM truck. In addition, 2-inch drop coil springs and shocks will combine for a 4.5-inch drop over stock ride height. Stage 2 is everything Stage 1 has, but adds in a 1 7/16-inch sway bar and hardware. Speed Kits are for the truck owner who wants to enhance their truck's steering and handling, while enhancing their C10's good looks with a properly lowered stance.
By comparison, the Detroit Speed SpeedMAX front suspension kits are the full-fat, take no prisoners answer for someone who wants every last bit of steering and handling advantage that they can get for their C10. SpeedMAX is a fully re-engineered system that uses Detroit Speed-exclusive suspension geometry for superior ride and handling at a lowered ride height. Everything is bolt-on, from the "Detroit Tuned" GMT800 rack and pinion steering system and coil-over shocks and 550 pounds per inch springs that allow for ride height adjustment without disassembling the control arms. The Detroit Speed forged aluminum spindle assemblies also feature the GMT800-style hub pack assembly and all of the features that come with the dual-drilled hubs, including the wide array of brake options. All you have to do as a consumer is decide what kind of shock you want. There are three options: non-adjustable, single-adjustable and dual-adjustable.