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Once Bitten, Twice Shy

by Fuelish Media

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It’s rare that we see trucks built and kept by shop owners knowing how busy things can get with the flurry of customer jobs. Jason Hill of Hill’s Hot Rods in Lubbock, TX, has been carving out hours, mostly on the weekends, to dedicate to his latest project – this orange ’90 454SS. He really hasn’t had it long, but in the time, he’s had with it, he buckled down and created the exact truck he wanted that never was officially released from GM. 

“I’ve been in this business for 28 years or so”, Jason says. “In that time, we cut our teeth on sport trucks, so it’s great to see them making a comeback. We always keep an eye out for clean CK trucks to build or refinish, and we actually ran across this particular pickup while driving down a local street.” The truck was pretty dirty, was a hazy red color, and had incorrect wheels on it, but upon running the VIN and cross referencing the diff, Jason was able to confirm what he suspected – that it was a legit 454SS. 

What Jason had in mind for the truck was to keep it looking as factory as possible, while giving it that old school sport truck look. He was also dead set on painting the truck orange – an option on the 454SS that was never made available for some reason or another. “I’ve always said that GM should’ve done this truck in orange because back in the day, GM always had a performance model offered in orange paint except for this model truck.” With a vision ahead of him, Jason charged forward to build the pickup he’d always wanted to see. 

To start, Jason made the trip to Mesa, AZ to drop in on Switch Suspension for everything he’d need to get the proper static drop ride height. That’s right – this truck was built with a period correct theme in place, which meant no modern air ride components would be utilized to drop the truck. Instead, Jason kept the suspension overhaul old school, and ran with spindles and springs from McGaughy’s, as well as a rear flip kit from Switch to get an approximate 4/6 that’s been dialed in to give Jason just the right altitude he had in mind. To capitalize on the truck’s lower stance, a set of 20-inch Raceline Static wheels (not chosen just because of the name) wrapped in Nitto NT555 G2 rubber seemed to make for a winning addition. 

Jason, along with the rest of the Hill’s “crue” then got down on the truck’s exterior surface to get it ready for that elusive orange paint job. Before it was time to spray, however, a few fresh body parts from LMC had to be ordered first. The grille, insert, door handles, and headlights and taillights are all brand new, as is the front and rear bumpers that were cleaned up for a more streamlined appearance over stock. Who needs a license plate or step pads anyway? After countless stops to the local O’Reilly’s, the guys were finally getting somewhere. The time had come for Jason to finally load his paint gun with a shade of PPG orange that would suit his vision perfectly. “For protection reasons, the entire front end and other components were wrapped and polished by the guys at Distinguished Details in Lubbock. We didn’t want all of our work to get ruined with annoying paint chips and dents from driving this thing around”, Jason adds. 

With the factory engine needing some major attention, Jason gave it a full service overhaul, while adding fresh components to extend the life and performance of the 454. A custom exhaust system, headers, a new radiator, and so much more went into creating a bigger, better mill the truck has ever had under its hood. Some detail work in the valve covers and air cleaner, as well as the rest of the painted bay give Jason’s truck a modestly customized engine that is original to this super cool OBS. 

Next up on the chopping block was the interior, which was updated here and there without going totally overboard and spoiling the aesthetic Jason was trying to keep. The factory dash was dyed to color, and a pair of original survivor seats with the original brown and tan upholstery were thrown into the cab since they were in too good of vintage condition to run with anything else. The door panels were also kept mostly stock with the exception of adding some matching carpeted details that also runs to the back of the cab and onto the subwoofer enclosure as well. Just looking at this truck is like blasting back to the 90’s, and nothing takes you there faster than hoping in the cab and buckling up for a cruise. 

In a matter of six months’ worth of weekends, Jason wrapped up his latest CK project with pride knowing that he has pulled off a feat that’s not always easy to stick to. “Keeping things as ‘factory’ as we did had to be the hardest part of this build”, he admits. “It also happens to be my favorite part about this project, so all the strategizing was well worth it. The look on people’s face when they ask if GM ever made an orange 454SS is priceless. We’ve been keeping tabs on how many times we’ve been asked, and the number is getting pretty high.”

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Jason Hill ‘90 454SS
  • 1990 Chevy TBI 454 engine 
  • GM Performance cylinder heads 
  • Electric CVF water pump and alternator 
  • Dual Electric fans 
  • Radiator by Crawford Radiator, Lubbock, TX 
  • Custom painted Billet Specialties valve covers and air cleaner 
  • Edelbrock intake manifold 
  • Custom length MSD wires 
  • Hooker headers coated by Coating Specialist, Lubbock, TX 
  • Custom Exhaust by Joe at A&B Muffler, Lubbock, TX
  • Flowmaster 40-series mufflers 
  • 1990 GM 700R4 transmission assembled by A-1 Transmission, Lubbock, TX 
  • Driveshaft by Driveline Express, Lubbock, TX 
  • 4/6 static drop
  • McGaughys spindles and springs
  • Switch Suspension flip kit 
  • Monroe shocks 
  • A/C Delco brakes 
  • Stock 14-bolt rear end 
  • 20×8.5 and 20×10 Raceline Static wheels 
  • 255/35R20 and 305/35R20 Nitto NT555 G2 tires 
  • PPG orange paint and bodywork by Jason Hill and Crue at Hill’s Hot Rods, Lubbock, TX
  • LMC Truck grille, insert, headlights, taillights, door handles, glass, smoothed front and rear bumpers 
  • Spray-in bed liner by Gene Messer Accessories, Lubbock, TX
  • Stock survivor CK seats with brown and tan upholstery 
  • Factory door panels with added carpet and custom console 
  • Factory dash dyed to color 
  • Dakota Digital HDX gauges 
  • Retro Sounds head unit 
  • Kicker amps, front and rear speakers and 10-inch subwoofer installed by Jimmy Davis at JD Glassworks, Lubbock, TX

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