Brian Downard’s ’72 C10 Started as an Empty Cab and a Dream

By Tommy Lee Byrd   –   Photography by the Author

Motivation for a project can come from many places. Sometimes, it’s a natural desire to get a vehicle on the road; other times, a life event can either stall or accelerate a project. For Brian Downard, of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a health scare reminded him how quickly things can change, so when he left the hospital there was a renewed sense of urgency around his project vehicles. At the time, Brian had a few projects in the works, and his wife, Lisa, suggested focusing on one vehicle. The result was Brian selling his projects and starting all over again on another one, which turned out to be one of his most in-depth projects to date.

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03 Parked 1972 Chevrolet C10 pickup blue beside a warehouse

Read More: Rod Parsons’ Beyond-Stunning, All-Carbon ’67 C10

Brian is a second-generation hot rodder. He specifically remembers the summer of 1981 when his father’s chopped ’77 Chevy pickup was photographed for Truckin’ magazine and later ended up on the cover. It was a pivotal moment for the young car and truck enthusiast, who would go onto spend his career in the automotive aftermarket, meeting many friends along the way.

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This C10 project started with only a cab and an original GM grille that had been sitting in storage for many years. There was no frame, no interior, and hardly any usable sheetmetal. With an optimistic view on the project, he started gathering parts and getting ideas from friends. Brian is the vice president of sales and marketing at Lokar, so his list of friends and industry contacts is quite long. Much of his advice and direction came from Kevin Ford, a friend and coworker who has a great eye for detail.

04 Angled front view of a blue 1972 Chevrolet C10 with stylish wheels

Brian knew that building a frame out of original parts was out of the question—he had been down that road before, so he put in an order for a Roadster Shop SPEC Series chassis. The chassis features CNC laser-cut framerails with custom crossmembers that allow for many engine and transmission combinations and provide added clearance for a large exhaust. Roadster Shop billet coilovers ride on all four corners and offer easy ride height and ride quality adjustments while a large front sway bar controls body roll. The rear suspension features a parallel four-bar setup with a Panhard bar for stability. The Ford 9-inch rearend housing is packed with a Detroit Truetrac differential, 3.70:1 gears, and 31-spline axles.

05 Detailed engine bay of a blue 1972 Chevrolet C10 showcasing chrome components

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Read More: Daniel Stewart’s 1967 C10 Lookin’ Like a Million Bucks

Braking power comes from a complete Baer system, starting with a ReMaster, which sends fluid to six-piston calipers that are color-matched to the engine bay and interior. The drilled-and-slotted rotors measure 14 inches and look sporty behind the spokes of the Rocket Booster wheels. Brian’s hot rod background led him to the staggered tire and wheel setup, using 18×8.5 wheels and 235/50R18 tires up front and 20×10 wheels and 275/50R20 tires out back.

07 Classic 1972 Chevrolet C10 interior with black quilted seats and vintage dashboard

Underhood is a mostly stock LS3 engine, which served as an active testbed for Lokar’s LS Classic series of components. LS Classic offers several styles, but Brian kept it simple with a round 14-inch air cleaner and big-block, Chevy-style valve covers, complete with a Tonawanda decal on the right side. The LS Classic coil relocation kit adds another old-school detail by running the plug wires through a hollow distributor that bolts to the valley pan. Finally, Brian installed an LS Classic accessory drive kit, which features a Sanden air compressor for the Vintage Air heat and A/C system, a Type II power steering pump, and a Powermaster 180-amp alternator. An XS Power battery sends power through the Painless Performance Products wiring harness and Holley Terminator X Max system, which is tuned by Travis Johnson. A Be Cool LS Swap Module keeps the LS3 cool with a heavy-duty aluminum radiator and dual electric fans. Behind the 495hp combination is a Gearstar 4L60E Stage Four automatic transmission, which features a 3,000-rpm Yank stall converter and a floor-mounted Lokar electronic sport mode shifter.

09 Driver's perspective of the 1972 Chevrolet C10 interior featuring a manual shifter and black upholstery

Read More: A Hill’s Hot Rods–Crafted ’74 K5 Blazer

When it came time to address the body panels, or the lack thereof, Brian called LMC Truck and ordered a new hood, fenders, doors, bed, and tailgate. Michael Young at Street Rods by Michael in Shelbyville, Tennessee, stepped in to handle the metal fabrication, body- and paintwork on the truck. In addition to the new bolt-on sheetmetal, the cab needed attention, including new rocker panels, cab corners, and floorpan work. Street Rods by Michael painted the truck in a custom PPG color called “Blue Me Away,” and then sanded and buffed the fresh materials to a beautiful finish. A custom-mixed bronze color was used in the engine bay, interior, grille insert, and a small inlay in the tailgate to tie the color scheme together. All-new bumpers, mirrors, lights, handles, and windshield wipers came from LMC Truck to finish off the exterior details.

11 Close up of a 1972 Chevrolet C10's dashboard with modern gauges and shifter

An open door reveals a custom interior by Roosters Rod Shop in Gaffney, South Carolina. Before the interior process started, the cab was treated with DEI Boom Mat and floor underlay. Dennis Rostenbach modified a factory bench seat to fold forward and then wrapped it in black leather. Bronze thread was used to tie into painted dash and door panels. Stacy at Lecarra stitched up a custom steering wheel using bronze thread. Then, Brian installed a new Dakota Digital RTX gauge cluster and, of course, used Lokar pedals, interior handles, and window cranks to finish off the interior. Remy Viator at Showtime Electronics in Knoxville, Tennessee, put together a custom stereo system using a Rockville Audio head unit with Kicker amplifier and speakers.

12 Polished five spoke wheel and disc brake on a 1972 Chevrolet C10

Read More: This 1971 Chevy C10 Comes Back to Life

From its earliest beginnings as an empty cab to today’s slick paint, trick upholstery, LS power, and modern suspension, this truck went on quite a journey in a short amount of time. Through the entire build, Brian’s goal was a good-looking, reliable truck that he and his wife could hop in and hit the road. Since its completion, they’ve done exactly that, racking up more than 8,000 miles, with plans for more road trips and cruise nights in the near future.

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Brian Downard’s ’72 C10 Started as an Empty Cab and a Dream.ctp april 2024

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