2020 Colorado... in a canyon... in Colorado... Bison.

spectre6000

Observer
After much research and deliberation, I special ordered my truck exactly the way I wanted it. My timing could have been better, but it was built the week of 11/18, and I picked it up from the dealer about a month later.

2020 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
- 2.8L diesel
- Block heater
- Exhaust relocation*
- Bose**

When I read about Chevy's ZR2 package coming with front and rear lockers, I thought it was pretty exciting, and when I got into the market for a new truck, I'd be giving a serious look. When I first read the specs for the Bison package, I was floored that an OEM would go that deep. AEV is a standup outfit that makes quality kit, and with an OEM's development budget I figured it was going to be epic in the ways that matter most. I was not disappointed. The hardcore metallurgy in the skid plates is worth the cost of admission for the protection combined with the weight savings. Add to that the preservation of crash safety and all the engineering and testing that went into it, and I was sold. The bumpers continue the theme by keeping weight low, add easy bolt-on winch capability, all while preserving cooling capacity. The rest is just icing on the cake.

* Fixes the departure angle issues from the stock diesel exhaust
** I was told by a dealership inventory manager that there are three ways to get the top spec infotainment system: Order it specifically for $500, order it with navigation for $500, or order it with the Bose sound system for $500. Since it comes with Apple CarPlay, the navigation was moot. If it's $500 either way, might as well get the nice stereo, and combined with everything that comes with the Bison package, and that's pretty much all the options that matter.

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spectre6000

Observer
Build criteria in order of priority:
• Daily driver
... Reliability
... Fuel efficiency
... Baby
... Getting work done
• Road trips
... We do about 1K miles/year
• Camping
... Me, my wife, and the baby (for now) in Colorado
• Off road capability
... We live in the mountains in Colorado, some degree of off road capability goes in the daily driver category
... Nothing insane, but want to take it on some reasonably challenging trails

This is subject to change, but I think every build should have a set of parameters it's built to for guidance.
 

spectre6000

Observer
The very first thing I did was install a bulkhead plug fitting for the block heater. It serves the Daily Driver parameter. GM says the block heater is recommended below 0°F... unless you're above (some altitude lower than here), and it doesn't have a temperature recommendation for anything above that. Additionally, having the coolant warmed up prior to starting the truck lessens wear on the engine, gets it up to heat faster for fuel economy, and gets the cab warmed up quicker for a baby whose least favorite thing in existence is cold.

From the factory, I assume for liability reasons, the plug is too short to really be any good. As a result, in order to use it you have to open the hood, and then it hangs on the fender, or over the shiny plastic grille, or some other undesirable place. Additionally, the remote start won't work with the hood open, and that's one more way to keep baby happy and me and my wife comfortable. If a feature is difficult to use, it's not very likely to be used. If I'm having to open the hood with frozen road schmutz on it, lean over a similarly schmutzy fender to fish out the plug, and then I can't use another desirable feature for the trouble, that's really not a good scenario.

I went with a NOCO GCP2. It's a bulkhead AC port plug for automotive applications. It has a rubber plug that seals well, two female ends, and it's slightly longer than the single plug version.

My intent was to mount it somewhere it would be inconspicuous; it's not exactly a showy modification. Additionally, I wanted it somewhere that wouldn't be too expensive to replace if I needed to reverse it for some reason.

My initial thought was that I would put it here in the fog light insert:
site 3.JPG
It turned out not to be as flat as I thought, and there's a bracket behind it that would need some significant alteration. So, no go.

Next identified location was this panel:
site 4.JPG
This ended up being a pretty flimsy panel, and I was concerned it might interfere with the winch down the road.

At this point, I was more or less out of especially inconspicuous locations, and was hoping to find one where it would blend in:
site 2.JPG
This was the biggest, flattest, blackest part. Big structural member behind it, also really expensive...

About the only flat part remaining on that quadrant of the truck was this:
site 1.JPG
It's reasonably flat, in a good location, nothing behind it, and AEV sells that part as a set for $175. It wasn't an ideal location though because the black plastic/rubber stands out like a sore thumb on the white. Since the part is plastic and only so wide, taking a 2" chunk out of the middle might weaken it substantially. My wife suggested it added a decent asymmetry, the black works well with the rest of the ensemble, and if I don't put it somewhere I won't use it, so... I slept on it.

In the morning, I fabbed up a little reinforcing metal ring to both strengthen the weakened plastic part and give the screws something to bite into. Hopefully, that mitigates the weakening of the part to some degree... Then I girded my loins and drilled into my brand new truck...
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On the other hand, it turned out to be pretty ideal! The cable is just long enough to not leave any appreciable slack, but also not be tight at all. Additionally, the hard cover of the split in the cable turned out to lie right at the one point it comes close to anything it could chafe on... AND that part is formed such that it's a very soft angle rather than a sharp edge! Nice!
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The back of the bulkhead port is in the bottom left corner. The bracket in the center is where the cable comes close, and the hard plastic splitter cover can be seen on the far side of the bracket.

Here's where it ends up. I ran the block heater cable under the brake master over to between the fender and the battery, and it comes out just in front of the distribution box:
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Finished product:
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Checks out:
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Reassembled and back to drivable:
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When I was removing the fender flare as part of this exercise, a heat weld let go on an inner structure that holds some of the clips that attach it to the body. I ended up getting the flare warrantied. You may have noticed that the sliders are missing in this photo; for some reason they didn't come with the truck from the factory and hadn't yet been installed. Same with the exhaust relocation. I did all of it at the same time AND the 500 mile break in oil change once everything made it to the dealership.
 

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spectre6000

Observer
(Continued after hitting the attachment max)

The final element of making the block heater maximally usable was a controller (on the ground in the above photo). It's a Power Badger Engine Block Heater Controller. You tell it when you want the truck ready to start, give it a window of time after that to keep it ready, and it combines that with a temperature sensor and a relay to handle the rest. Set it and forget it. It's weather proof, but I'd still prefer to keep it out of the snow, if for no reason other than so that it accurately reads the ambient temperature. I also wanted a visual reminder to unplug the block heater and keep the plug itself clean.
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I threw this together with a pair of warped and twisted 8' 2X4s left over from some forgotten project. The top hangs out about 2', and has a stainless steel coat hook on the end. With the flag hung, I aim for the left ridge of the hood bulge, and once I touch the flag, I'm home. Additionally, it's easy to be sure I've unplugged from the drivers' seat; far preferable to realizing I'm not sure if I unplugged or not, then having to get out walk around the door and look to make sure I'm not about to cause some damage.


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The pitot flag is a highly visible reminder as I walk out to the truck. These are typically found on small aircraft to keep bugs from making nests inside their pitot tubes (sensors for air speed).
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The last element is the plug/loop. I got a weather proof plug end at the hardware store, cut up an old extension cable that some rodents had already ruined, some stainless safety wire, and heat shrink. I looped it over on itself, bound it tight with the safety wire, and put that whole thing in heat shrink. On the plug end, I put the terminals in heat shrink, tied and folded back the wires so they were far away from said terminals, THEN used the outer jacket as yet another layer of insulation to be sure no electricity could sneak passed my guards. I safety wired that to the end of the plug to keep it handy, and put some dielectric grease on the end. When it's not plugged in, I use the loop to keep the plug clean and hang it from the stainless hook on the gallows stand.
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I'll likely need to rebuild the gallows stand eventually once things warm up enough for paint to stand a chance at drying, but it cost me nothing and didn't take but an hour or so. For now, I'm calling this first addition complete. I've been using it successfully and with minimal effort for about a month now, and I'm very happy with the finished product.
 

Quinn

Observer
Did your truck not come with the OEM rocker protection?

Edit: Whoops, just noticed this; carry on!

You may have noticed that the sliders are missing in this photo; for some reason they didn't come with the truck from the factory and hadn't yet been installed
 

Todd n Natalie

Observer
I'm confused. Why can't the block heater cord hang over the grill for the winter season then just be put back under the hood when it's not required?
 

spectre6000

Observer
A while back, I installed some canvas seat covers on the rear bench. It was intended to protect the leather from my dog (who, unfortunately, died before ever getting to ride in the truck) and the baby. There will be no food in the car, but should the baby manage to get any vaguely food scented vomit in the truck, the door handles are such that the truck would become a very expensive bear trap should I forget to lock it one night during the warmer months.

Seat cover.JPG

This happened not far from me as an example:
 
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1stDeuce

Explorer
1. No food in the car is a rule waiting to be broken. Road trips suck with no muchies, just give it a good vacuum when you get home.
2. I assume your first post has a typo... If you just bought a new truck to do 1000 miles of "road trips" in a year, you have a peculiar notion of what a "road trip" might be...
3. When you're done with this truck in 5 or 10 years, I know a guy who might be interested in it judging by your first few posts... And he even likes the color!! :)

Looking forward to more posts!!
 

WOODY2

Adventurer
After the fact but did you consider a timer placed at the source of power for the extension cord?
 

spectre6000

Observer
1. No food in the car is a rule waiting to be broken. Road trips suck with no muchies, just give it a good vacuum when you get home.
It's a tough one for sure, but my wife likes the soft top on her Jeep in the summer, and despite having bear proof door knobs, the canvas wouldn't keep a squirrel out. We used to take her Jeep on our road trips, and we're pretty good at following that particular rule. Gives us an excuse to get out and walk around.

2. I assume your first post has a typo... If you just bought a new truck to do 1000 miles of "road trips" in a year, you have a peculiar notion of what a "road trip" might be...
Disambiguation: Denver to Dallas is 1K miles, and back is another 1K miles. Denver to Sacramento is 1K (plus 100) miles and back is another 1K (plus 100) miles (also, Moab is in the middle, so that ends up racking up several more miles). At least one of those at least once a year, and we try to do another trip or two on top of that (miles vary).

3. When you're done with this truck in 5 or 10 years, I know a guy who might be interested in it judging by your first few posts... And he even likes the color!! :)
Glad to hear it! I still have a lot planned, and actually had a major modification done just two hours ago (post coming soon, need photos).
 

spectre6000

Observer
After the fact but did you consider a timer placed at the source of power for the extension cord?

I have one of these mounted to the gallows stand. It operates on a timer and temperature sensor with a little smarts to power a relay. I have it set to be ready to crank by 8AM (so it turns on however many hours ahead of time it thinks it takes to get the engine fully up to temp), then hold that temp (cycles the relay on and off) for the next several (I forget what I set it to) hours after that.
 

spectre6000

Observer
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And here's the latest addition!

As you can see, we get a lot of snow up here. I've had trucks without toppers, but it's pretty much mandatory for the way I like to use them. Since I bought this one new to go with my truck, I got to spec it exactly how I wanted! I did the obligatory internet research, and realized that most of what I was seeing about toppers was people attempting to justify their life choices to strangers. So I undertook a tour of the various topper manufacturers by way of all the local dealers, and came to the conclusion that SnugTop had the highest quality. From there, I knew I wanted to the tool boxes, and that had me in the SnugPro line.

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In addition to the "saddle bags", stepping up to the commercial models gets you an uprated dynamic roof load capacity on the Yakima tracks from 300# to 500# without ARE's extruded aluminum frame getting in the way. The saddle bags are each good for 100#, and are weather tight (though they're exposed to the inside of the bed around the edges). The saddle bags are keyed to the truck key, so that keeps me from having to carry any additional metal in my pocket.
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The rear hatch has a power lock that's operated with the central locking on the truck. There is a separate key that allows the rear hatch to be unlocked manually in the event the truck battery dies, but I don't think I'm likely to keep that on my keys permanently. One of the big questions I anticipate is about visibility loss due to the tool boxes and solid sides. There is some loss of visibility over my right shoulder, but the rear view mirror is not really all that encumbered. The head rests for the rear seats take up the majority of the view on either side of the sliding section, and the boxes are pretty much behind the head rests. The real hit to visibility, and this was a surprise, is the tint on the rear glass! It's pretty dark, and I did not expect it at all. I actually thought my automatic mirror dimming feature was stuck on or something, and ended up craning my neck to see out the window in the rear door as I was leaving the dealer. Between the high tailgate, the boxes, and the roof of the topper, the rear view mirror is reduced to a letterbox opening. Perfectly serviceable, but notably smaller, and only fractionally due to the boxes.

One thing I really liked about the SnugTops was the integral bed clamps. Most, if not all, of the other makes had these big clunky C-clamps that varied from dealer to dealer. The SnugTop ones have a nut and bolt and the bottom of the clamp that are external, but the majority is integral to the fiberglass. The other big standout/notable difference was the latch hardware was of noticeably higher quality.
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The remaining options I went with were the Yakima tracks (I'll get a Rhino rack or something down the road), and the drop down sliding glass in the front. It won't drop down with the boxes installed, but they can be removed. I also opted to NOT have the carpet headliner installed. I have really bad allergies, and that just seems like a dust trap that's sure to set me off. When the weather warms up and I find some time, I intend to spray the fiberglass with bedliner if it bothers me, or I may just leave it bare; all my past toppers have been bare, and it's never bothered me before. Options that weren't really options include a switched LED dome light, and the little box pictured above with USB ports and fuses... I'm not really sure what the fuses are for, but there they are. When the weather warms up, I'll have to dig in and investigate a bit. When I had the topper installed, it was 20° or some such, and really not conducive to crawling around and looking at things.

At this point (and this is highly subject to change), I intend to mount a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit on the rear face of the boxes. I also need to figure out a way to mount our stroller for the baby for more practical day to day things. I'll let it roll like this for a bit, but the next phase is to start using it good and proper and see what's needed where. I expect to purchase the remainder of the armor for the bottom of the truck this summer, and may order a snorkel at the same time (every outing is an air filter otherwise!).
 
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frink84

New member
There will be no food in the car, but should the baby manage to get any vaguely food scented vomit in the truck, the door handles are such that the truck would become a very expensive bear trap should I forget to lock it one night during the warmer months.
1. No food in the car is a rule waiting to be broken. Road trips suck with no muchies, just give it a good vacuum when you get home.
We used to take her Jeep on our road trips, and we're pretty good at following that particular rule. Gives us an excuse to get out and walk around.
That's all good and dandy that you and the wife agree on that, but the baby has their own opinion and often needs food NOW, not at the next scheduled stop. Sometimes a snack is the only thing that calms them down or distracts them from the perils of the world during a road trip.

I was very much in the same boat when it was just my wife and me; no open food in the vehicles! But that changed when my kid came along (He's currently 2 years 2 months, and counting). Part of my monthly maintenance on the vehicles is now taking out the car seat (the seats we have are two buckles, super easy) and shop-vac'ing underneath. There are also covers specifically made to go under car seats if you want to go that route.
 
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