Trucks Invade Detroit!
Eric Geisert – Photography by the Author
Trucks, trucks, and more trucks! It seems customized pickups are everywhere nowadays—from early ’70s Broncos selling at Barrett-Jackson for $375,000 to a hundred vintage and historic pickups showcased in their own building a few months ago at the Grand National Roadster Show. What’s more, it seems there’s no end in sight with this current popular trend.
Mainstream C10s and F-100s certainly take up most of the pie chart but even the weirdo makes and models (we’re lookin’ at you International Harvester and D100 owners) are just as popular a base to build a custom ride. With many shops and manufacturers specifically catering to the truck crowd, this group is being well fed with new products and aftermarket parts all the time.
So it should be no wonder the Detroit Autorama, now in its 70th year of existence, would have two of the eight contenders for the show’s most coveted prize (the Don Ridler Memorial Award) be truck-based creations, with a couple more almost making the cut.
Though some folks don’t appreciate pure “show trucks,” when done correctly, they are a perfect place to highlight new paint designs, bodyworking ideas, interior concepts, and drivetrain ideas to those people who are looking to build their own rides. Check out a few of the trucks that made their mark in Detroit this year.
Jim McDaniel’s ’58 GMC El Cameo is a blend of the lines found on Chevy’s Cameo and El Camino pickups and is based on a Dave Kindig design. Dan Wickett’s Hot Rod Construction in Piedmont, South Carolina, did the extensive bodywork (including sectioning, pie-cutting, and pancaking) to transform the bulky truck (that used to be a ’56 panel truck!) into a sano hauler. Mechanicals include a 348 W engine bumped to 443 cubes (with 560 hp and 569 lb-ft of torque) built at Lee Severt’s Dixie Dyno in McDonough, Georgia, using a Scat crank, Ross pistons, Edelbrock heads, and a Holley HP EFI. The engine is coupled to a TREMEC TR 3550 five-speed trans and power is sent to a Strange Engineering–equipped 9-inch with a 3.70 gear. A custom Art Morrison chassis (modified for this particular project) with coilover shocks and Wilwood 13-inch discs all around rides on Billet Specialties B-forged wheels shod in Pirelli P Zero rubber (285/35-19 and 335/30-20). Special construction went into the CNC-machined taillight housings and lenses by Greening Auto Company and the truck’s floor bed, which appears to float, is made from aluminum with a laminated Zebra wood veneer. A curved tailgate and fitted blade bumpers are also on the list of mods. Hot Rod Construction also fab’d the interior (including stitching all the leatherwork), which uses a cut-down ’60 Chevy truck dashboard, custom gauges and panel from Classic Instruments, and one-off, 3-D-printed El Cameo trim pieces. This truck was one of two that picked up a Great 8 award—the qualifier for competing for the Ridler award.
Rod Parson’s ZR10 was built with a collaboration between Fiber Forged Composites and ZRODZ and Customs because the entire truck body is made of carbon fiber. Purpose-built so Powell can go autocrossing, the ’67 C10-based pickup has all the right parts to do just that. A 434 Moran Motorsports V-8 (using a Dart LS Next aluminum block with Mast Black Label heads) is controlled by a MoTeC M150 ECU and the engine is backed to a Bowler Transmissions six-speed (with straight-cut gears) governed by a paddle-shift steering wheel. The chassis comes from Detroit Speed Engineering and uses an IFS design up front and a QuadraLink out back, plus Brembo disc brakes are on each corner and the Billet Specialties Model 225 wheels are 19-inch and wrapped in Continental rubber. Although the truck’s interior looks like it has a C10 dash, that’s where the similarities end. A full rollcage is found within, as are a pair of high-back racing seats with a Schroth Racing five-point harness to keep the pilot and copilot in their safe place. All in all the truck is an engineering marvel to look at.
Trucks rarely make it to the Great 8 level of competition and this year there were two. Tim Hampel’s ’53 Chevy 3100, which was built at Killer Hot Rods & Customs in Arlington, Texas, has a stock frame narrowed in the rear to accommodate the two rear tire tubs and tubular frame crossmembers. Up front an IFS went in along with a rack-and-pinion steering setup. Both 17- and 18-inch Schott wheels were used for the build. Mostly monochromatic with just a hint of chrome in the fitted bumper blades and wheels, the truck utilized a molded tailgate on the bed and a hydraulic wood floor bed. Underhood is a 462 BBC outfitted with a Dyer blower and twin Holley Sniper throttle bodies. Power is delivered to the 9-inch rear through a TH400 transmission. Inside original seats were reworked in sage green faux leather by Delgado Interiors in Mansfield, Texas. The original dash is complemented by a pair of Classic Instruments gauges. The “Silver Ghost” (as it is called) is understated from the outside—that is until you pop the hood or check out the big meats out back.
Randy Stephens had a front row spot for his PPG Tangelo ’63 C10 that was one of the nicer trucks in the building. The pickup was built at J&B Customs in Clio, Michigan, and at first glance looks to be stock but, the closer you look, the more work you’ll see. What might go unnoticed is some of the body seams have been removed and a one-piece frontend created by tying the front fenders and the grille surround together. The C10 fender badges were removed but other pieces, such as the “custom” cab trim behind the door and the door handles, were left intact. A twin-carb 502 engine with an Edelbrock hi-rise intake manifold was also used, while out back wider wheeltubs and oak wood ’n’ chrome strips finish out the bed box. Inside the truck a two-tone leather design is used on the bucket seats and door panels, plus a center console has been added to house the stereo system.