One of the hottest trends in luxury lowriding is taking a Ford Explorer and put a Navigator front end on it, making it a look like its more expensive Lincoln cousin. Now, thanks to MerTek Automotive Products in Gardena, California, you can do something similar to your Chevy/GMC Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon or pickup with the Cadillac Escalade front-end conversion kit.

MerTek Automotive Products manufactures and distributes more than 100 custom body kits; from complete model conversions like the Escalade kit and 4Runner kit for SUVs and pickups to bumper conversions and chrome body packages. They also offer a full line of truck and SUV grilles with billet inserts pre-installed. The Caddy kit is the latest addition, and a natural. "It's the hottest GM body kit on the truck scene; and MerTek is the world's only supplier of an aftermarket kit," said product manager Ford L. Hunt.

These exact replacements for factory Cadillac parts are manufactured to the same precise specifications as any OE component. Each kit comes complete with hood, fenders, grille, grille brackets, bumper cover, bumper re-bar, bumper shocks, bumper brackets, headlights, turn signal/clearance lights and even the tow hooks. Components are also available separately.

The MerTek Escalade conversion bolts on, without modification, to most late-model GM trucks and SUVS including 1988-2000 Chevrolet and GMC C/K series pickups, 1988-'99 Suburbans, 1988-'94 full-size Blazers/Jimmys, 1995-'99 Tahoes, and 1992-'99 Yukons. There's no shortage of kits at MerTek (they had 30 in stock the day that we visited) and the retail pricing is reasonable for such a product. Shipping is modest for the entire kit. Call for a catalog or check out their Web site for all the details.

To see just how well the parts fit, we picked up a kit from US Auto Parts, a MerTek retailer and asked Greg at G's Auto Body (in Long Beach, California) if they would install the kit on technical editor Saul Vargas' '93 Tahoe two-door. After some discussion with Greg, we also decided to take the truck a couple of steps further. First, by adding a billet grille insert from T-Rex (in Corona, California), and by modifying OE Escalade body cladding to make the truck look like a two-door Escalade... something that the factory never produced.

We followed Alfonso at G's as he made quick work of the installation, without the need of printed instructions. Every part fit perfectly, as expected, and all of the OE hardware, fasteners and connectors were used. This month we'll show you the highlights of the front end and grille installation. In Part Two we'll show you how G's modified the factory four-door body cladding to fit the two-door and prepped for paint.


T-REX BILLET GRILLE INSTALLATION