Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

The Head Turner with Hauling Power

January 2006, by - Also by this author

Can we say “bad ass” in a business-to-business publication? There. We just did. Excuse our French, but the GMC Topkick/Chevy Kodiak pickup by Monroe Truck Equipment is the first real work truck in this industry rag that deserves some enthusiast hyperbole.

Build a solid work truck
If you’re a truck person and in the market, your knee-jerk urge might be “sign me up!” Keep in mind this is, first and foremost, a work truck. And at 17,500 lbs. GVWR for the C4500 and 19,500 for the C5500, it’s a big’un at that. Start with the need, and let the desire take hold later.

Bill Bolin of Rancho Motors in Victorville, Calif. says four of the nine customers who bought the Monroe conversion last year traded in one-ton duallies. The new toy haulers and horse trailers are heavy, especially those with living quarters. The one tons, while having comparable engine sizes and transmissions as the 4500, don’t have the braking system or the gear ratio to handle the real heavy hauling.

Phil Murphy will tell you. Murphy owns an excavation and paving company in Phoenix, Ariz. His smaller 1/2- and one-ton trucks were not doing the job. “In both of them I replaced the rear end, bent and cracked the frames, and went through the brakes, clutch and transmission,” he says. “I realized it’s not the truck, it’s what I’m pulling and hauling.”

Murphy bought himself a 4500 pickup by Monroe and gave it a workout. “I’ve put 9,000 lbs. in the bed while hooked up to a trailer with a forklift on it at 20,000 lbs. and went from Phoenix to Flagstaff,” Murphy says. “The truck never broke sweat. I was going up hills at 55 mph.”

GM added more brawn to the ‘06 models. Four-wheel-drive is now an option, expanding the work possibilities to more rugged environments such as forestry, snowplowing, landscaping, agriculture, tree trimming and utility work.

All new 4x4 C4500 and C5500 models feature an 8,000-lb. front axle rating as standard equipment, an additional 1,000 lbs. better than the base axle of the previous year.

The ‘06 4x4s also offer an exhaust brake option, which helps the vehicle decelerate without using the service brakes. That’s a huge lifesavings in brake pads and important in preventing overheating during long mountain descents.

Add the wow factor
GM lays the foundation of a solid work truck. Then Monroe brings it to life as a pickup.

The mad scientists at Monroe created the signature eight-foot steel bed with bed panel lines that seamlessly match the contours of the Kodiak/TopKick body.

MTE designed a unique subframe for mounting the pickup box to the truck frame, which accommodates a gooseneck or fifth-wheel hitch without extra drilling. In fact, one can be swapped out for the other without invasive surgery.

Hitching is easier with the Hitchcam rear-view camera option, mounted directly above the rear receiver, and in-cab flat-screen monitor.

The familiar GM 3500 Series interior gets a makeover with brushed aluminum or woodgrain dash trim. The Ultra Seating Package includes leather seats with air suspension and a fold-flat rear seat for the crew cab. See the spec sidebar for more option goodies.

We’ve created a monster
“It looks like a pickup truck on steroids, but it’s well done,” says Jim Todd of Classic Chevrolet in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Todd has sold 15 of them in the past three years. “The lines are nice. Before they get in it they say this is the biggest pickup truck they’ve ever seen. When they get out they say it’s like driving an S10.”

An S10? That may be an overstatement, but the truck’s sloped-hood design and large windshield gives drivers the ability to see objects on the ground as close as 13.8 feet from the front bumper. That’s even better than the forward visibility measurements of many compact pickup trucks.

The 53-degree wheel-cut on the 4x2 results in a turning diameter as tight as 38.4 feet — better than a crew-cab dually pickup. Yet at 95 inches tall and proud, you’re staring down any mega pickup or a 79-inch Hummer H2 at a stoplight.

For all its toughness, Murphy is amazed at its drivability. “I thought I’d keep my one ton and only drive [the 4500] when I needed to. I sold my one-ton because I had not driven it in a year. This is just so much easier and user-friendly. It drives as easy as my Suburban.”

As bad-ass (whoops, there we go again) as this package is, the familiar-looking pickup body wins brownie points in residential neighborhoods. “I could’ve gone with just a regular flatbed, but that looks a little bit industrial to bring home,” says Murphy.

Crafting a buzz for your business
Dealers are finding the high profile of the Monroe pickup is upping the business profile of its owners. It’s the prestige of having something bigger than the 3500,” says Bolin. “It’s a status symbol. It’s the Cadillac of trucks.”

“I pull up to a homebuilding site and people have the perception that I must be doing well,” says Murphy.

Todd takes the truck to events and it stops traffic. People come out of the woodwork with cameras. Murphy gets hounded coming out of gas stations. “There’s always someone standing by my truck asking me how I like it,” he says. “Then they ask what I do. I get work from it.”

Murphy peddles a negative soft sell to the admirers. “I’m honest and upfront with them. I say you don’t want this truck unless you need it for its capabilities,” says Murphy, who claims to have sold 13 for his dealer on referrals. “Of course the more I discourage them the more they want to buy it.”

Adopt one yourself
The C4500 starts at around $42,000 MSRP; add another $4,000 for the diesel. The base MSRP of the C5500 Crew Cab 4x4, with the Duramax diesel and Allison transmission, is $58,660. The base pickup bed from Monroe runs over $9,000 MRSP, though the total body package can add as much as $23,000.

Keep an eye out for special GM pricing. The 4500 chassis qualified for last summer’s employee pricing program.

The truck ain’t cheap, but you can make it up over its lifecycle. Remember, you’re dealing with medium-duty components: a 50,000 or 80,000 psi frame, stronger engine and axles, and heavier driveline components. This thing will attack old age better than Regis Philbin.

Don’t go rushing out to your local dealership thinking you can drive one home today. Though the C4500 4x4 and 4x2 pickups are available through all GMC/Chevy dealers, only a handful stocks them, and never more than a few at a time. For the C5500, you’ll have to order through a medium-duty dealer.

If the chassis is in either GM or Monroe’s pool, order-to-delivery for the complete upfit is typically four to eight weeks. Consider this your cooling off period — until you drive it off the lot.

GM expects to sell only about 1,000 this model year, so you’re almost guaranteed to be Mr. Unique in your neck of the woods.

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