We started the Chevy Runaround at 8 o'clock Friday morning in Southern California at the Azusa 4 Wheel Parts Center for tech inspection. We invited every eligible suspension company we could find(15 in all). Nine saw how valuable an experience it could be and had decided to participate. Some of these guys had driven from Tennessee, Louisiana, and even New York. A few of them looked a little worn already and we hadn't even started the program. All of the nine participating members had brought a '99-'06 Chevy and were here for a three-day program, each representing a different suspension company. They were all about to spend the next three days together driving their own trucks, each other's trucks, and watching while a cast of five very different judges try out every truck and give their opinion on it. Had we gone mad? Were we looking for eight simultaneous lawsuits once we announced an overall winner? Well, maybe yes to the first question, but there was a method to our madness: We'd come up with a strategy. We realized that everyone (including ourselves) had biases, and we wanted that to affect the program as little as possible. Along with our five judges, every single suspension representative was filling out an identical judging packet, so in fact we had 14 judges, not just five. And no suspension rep was allowed to judge his own suspension (just to keep it fair).
We'd specified for everyone to bring '99-'06 Chevy 1/2-ton extended cab trucks, Pro Comp Tire & Wheel worked with us to supply every truck a set of 35-inch Xterrains on 17x8 Xtreme Alloy wheels, and we had a little surprise called Shur Trax to help us simulate some typical truck driving.
What was the point of all this? First and foremost, we wanted to create a program where we could give you a true, legitimate majority opinion on how these suspensions worked in the real world and how they compared to each other. With the help of Pro Comp Tire, we made sure that the only differences in these trucks were their suspensions. We picked five very different judges, with different driving styles and different experiences with trucks. And we had nine different specialists who came straight out of the suspension industry. What better mix could we have to judge a program like this?
Besides wanting to create a friendly put-up or shut-up ride-and-drive competition, we knew it would be an invaluable opportunity for each company to really get a look at and feel for each competitor's suspension. Seldom do they have time to swap notes and ideas. We were making them all take a relaxing (not really) vacation together to do some good ol' country drivin'. And we're happy to report we abused the trucks and kits harder than any typical owner ever would, and still every single competitor finished the test.
Over three days, we were able to establish an overall winner, but the program was designed for more than just that. We were also able to come up with the best high-speed and dune performer, the best load hauler, the best kit on light trails, the best priced kit, the most impressive undercarriage, and the suspension that would give you the best bang for your buck.