Many vehicles claim to be capable of going anywhere off the beaten path. As impressive as such a feat is, this week’s featured build has been developed to elevate that basic concept in two key ways. First, by modifying a vehicle to be capable of going anywhere off the grid and doing so at a moment's notice. And second, by ensuring that said vehicle is well-mannered and comfortable enough on the road to be a capable daily driver.
The result of this effort is MagnaFlow’s own Project Overland Bison, a majestic beast with enough rugged durability and capability to live up to its legendary bovine namesake. Fortunately for us, the truck was highly capable from the moment it rolled off the assembly line as a brand-new 2021 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison. This is largely thanks to Chevrolet’s collaboration with American Expedition Vehicles (AEV). Just for this trim level, AEV created a winch compatible, stamped-steel front bumper with integrated headlights and stamped-steel rear bumper with sturdy A356-T6 cast-aluminum recovery points. To protect the Bison’s undersides, AEV also fitted the truck with five hot-stamped Boron steel skid plates to protect the front end, engine oil pan, gas tank, transfer case and rear differential. The AEV treatment is rounded out with injection molded fender flares and Bison-specific cast aluminum wheels.
Our first order of business was to see what we could accomplish with bolt-on upgrades that complement the ZR2 Bison’s design, building on the engineering work already accomplished by Chevy and AEV. We wanted to keep the modifications simple to begin with and retain the truck’s recognizable roots.
The vehicle is operated by MagnaFlow Spokesman Richard Waitas, who worked with the rest of the team at our Tech Center to use Project Overland Bison as the development testbed for the MagnaFlow Overland Exhaust System for the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon (#19569). Our Colorado now features the final 50-state legal design that’s currently available from MagnaFlow.com, including a tunable NDT resonator that means we can enjoy dyno-proven performance improvements without sacrificing emissions compliance and a comfortable performance exhaust experience.
We are big fans of great sound, which we strive for in our signature MagnaFlow tone. Yet, that appreciation for sound also extends to the way we listen to our ‘other’ music. Kicker audio upgrades including bolt-on replacement speakers, powered subs and Infotainment compatible amplification solutions make long trips between trails that much more enjoyable.
We also added an S&B cold air intake to explore the benefits of more air to compliment the exhaust letting more air out. While the intake improves performance, it also includes a tunable block-off to enable adjustable sound and air flow which falls in line with the Overland Series exhaust’s own tunable sound features.
When it comes to off-road functionality, our goals were to increase ground clearance, improve protection and visibility, as well as equipment to keep us from getting stranded while out on our adventures. To that end, we installed additional protection in the form of transmission skids and a differential cover from AEV Conversions to round out truck underbody protection. We also installed their 33” tire trim kit so we could accommodate as a set of Milestar 285/70R17 Patagonia X/T Xtreme Performance hybrid tires for improved grip and 10-ply durability on Black Rhino Apache wheels. The truck now also features Eibach Pro Lift Springs to bring up the front end for better clearance and to support future heavy front-end modifications.
We also installed a RIGd Supply Ultraswing, which is a creative and functional solution to allow for the necessary tire storage and adds the bonus of extra fuel can storage and even more space for at camp tailgate utility.
Other off-roading mods include Datin Fab shock skids, a Warn winch, Optima batteries, a complete exterior lighting overhaul from Baja Designs and an sPOD control system. The additional support lighting was easy to integrate with the existing AEV Bison lighting package, which together offer a far more effective lighting solution than the stock lights on other Colorado trim levels.
A Weekend Overlander’s Dream
As mentioned before, it wasn’t sufficient for us to create an awesome off-roader. Our end goal was for this vehicle to be the ultimate weekender overland truck, which is why it now houses an ARE Accessories topper that offers secure storage and a more environmentally resistant sleep area. We also installed a more open and roomier Roam Adventure Co. rooftop awning with separate room, which can be deployed from the ARE Ascend roof basket. Roam’s cases are utilized for weather-tight rooftop basket storage for larger items while at camp and when the bed area is being used for other things.
Load-ready gear bags and hex grid seat organizers from 5.11 Tactical can also be found inside, as well as a Goose Gear 60% seat delete to maximize storage space and organization. Quick storage solutions and having a variety of camping options are what this project is all about. Getting there quickly and efficiently without a day spent packing!
Recently, we’ve begun the second phase of upgrades for Project Overland Bison, where we’ll be diving deep into much more extensive modifications to truly tailor the truck’s capabilities to our project’s ultimate goals. We want to improve the off-roading capabilities of the truck even further without sacrificing interior comfort. One of the major upgrades we’ve made so far at this stage is the addition of a 50-state legal Magnuson-based 1.9L supercharger from Mallet Cars. Thanks to the additional power the Bison’s 3.6L V6 now provides, the vehicle can cope with the additional weight of all its gear with ease. We even observed a notable increase in fuel economy to the tune of 2-3 MPG!
The next mods will make the most of that the boost in power as we are going with a bigger set of Milestar Patagonia tires (35” this time), and, because of this, we had to get a set of roomier Highmark fender flares from AEV Conversions to be able to accommodate them. The next upgrades will include a set of King Shocks and Deaver Springs to be installed in the rear. We will also be working with our long-time friends at Camburg Racing to debut some new adjustable upper control arms and ZR2-specific suspension load-control devices with the help of Hellwig suspension. As the ZR2 platform continues to grow in popularity we will help other partner companies in releasing new products that can complement our mission with Project Overland Bison.
We still have plans for more upgrades down the road, but we’re also very pleased with how the truck has turned out so far. Richard has put tens of thousands of miles on the vehicle already, going from state to state and event to event comfortably and, thanks to its Overland Series exhaust, relatively quietly without any tiresome exhaust drone. He plans to add a few more bells and whistles that will further enhance the camp sleep and kitchen areas of the truck, which will be featured when Project Overland Bison is on display at our booth at SEMA 2021!
Looking to upgrade the exhaust in your vehicle? Search no further than MagnaFlow.com, where you can search for the exact exhaust system, component or catalytic converter you need by vehicle year, make, model, trim and more!
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