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Busted Knuckles - 1981 Chevy C10 Stepside

Built To Bruise

Maxwell Matthewson
Jan 1, 2012
Photographers: Maxwell Matthewson
Why is it that when we buy a car or truck, we can’t leave well enough alone? We always say, “I’m not going to touch this one. It will be my daily driver so it’s staying stock.” Then a couple of months down the road the engine is out of it and the frame is chopped all to hell. Robbie King of Bentonia, Mississippi, said the same thing when he bought this 1981 C10 Stepside. It was just supposed to be a no frills, beat up, grocery getter. That was up until Robbie pulled the engine out of it. From that day forward the truck has never been the same and Robbie couldn’t be happier.
Photo 2/7   |   busted Knuckles 1981 Chevy C10 Stepside front Angle
After Robbie decided that he couldn’t own a stock vehicle, he took his C10 to the talented John Keith, owner of Keef’s Rod and Custom, knowing that John aka, Keef, knew how to effectively lay out the truck. Keef started with a Z’d frame up front and a C in the rear, which would allow the truck to lay frame. He then bolted on a pair of DJM 2-inch drop spindles and Slam Specialties RE-7 airbags to the front. A custom Satchell link in the rear works to provide vertical movement while also locating the rearend and providing great antiroll stability. Another pair of RE-7 ’bags were installed on the lower bars of the Satchell link and Toxic shocks were used for a smooth ride. Robbie wanted to run a deep-dish wheel in the rear so Keef narrowed the axlehousing a total of five inches. This allowed the 20-inch Centerline Boulevard wheels to tuck neatly into the bedsides. Those Centerlines were finally wrapped in Nitto Invo 225/30R20 tires up front and 295/35R20 tires out back.
As mentioned earlier, Robbie started this project because he pulled the engine out of the truck, but that was to rebuild it. After deciding that this was no longer going to be a beater truck, Robbie decided to trash the original plans and go with something a little more healthy. That something was an LS1 that would be rebuilt by Dana Watkins of Terry, Mississippi. Dana started by porting and polishing a pair of LS6 heads. Then he installed eight, brand-new Diamond pistons and a Comp Cam. The engine was then reassembled and an LS6 intake manifold was bolted on. With the engine in the truck, the power had to get to the ground, so Keef installed a new set of Moser 31-spline axles and an Eaton posi in the narrowed 10-bolt rearend. This should provide the fortitude to hold up to the power that the engine will be putting out, even after Robbie puts it on juice, which he plans on doing in the future. Until then, the engine runs solely on pump gas from the 16-gallon fuel cell.
Photo 3/7   |   busted Knuckles 1981 Chevy C10 Stepside interior
Turning his attention toward the body, Robbie knew the factory doors had seen better days and started looking for replacements. Keef found a pair of doors off of an old C10 fire truck and put them on as a joke, but so many people liked them that they stayed. Going for a clean look, Keef gave the old girl a shave. Gone forever are the factory taillights, third brake light, door handles, driprails, mirrors, and tailgate handle. The driver door has been converted to suicide and a cowl air induction hood installed. To freshen up the look of the front end, the grille shell and headlights have been swapped out for those from a ’91 Suburban and a billet insert installed. The rear bumper has been removed and oval taillights have been molded into the rear of the fenders. An LED third brake light was also flush-mounted into the skin under the rear window. Still to come is a black and blue paint scheme with silver graphic.
Inside the cab, the factory bench has been removed and buckets from a 2000 GTO were wrapped in black leather and installed. A center console was built and also wrapped in black leather. Keef built a custom dash that houses a Dakota Digital display unit. A billet steering wheel brightens up the dark interior while blue accents in the door panels and on the dash also help to break up the sea of black. The headliner has been wrapped in black suede and black carpet covers the floor. For audio, Robbie sought out the help of Express Audio in Pearl, Mississippi. The guys there installed a Pioneer touchscreen head unit in the dash and wired up an amp for the mids and highs and an amp for the 10-inch subwoofer located in the center console. The only thing left to do on the interior is install A/C for those hot Mississippi summers.
Photo 4/7   |   Keef put the fire truck doors on as a joke but after so many people liked them, he went ahead and left them.
Robbie’s C10 has come a long way from where it started. Even though Robbie didn’t want to do anything to the truck, his only regret is not body dropping it. So far, the truck has only been to two shows and won an award at one of them. When asked if he wanted to thank anyone in particular, Robbie said first and foremost his family for all of their support through the build, John "Keef" Keith for all of his help, and the guys at Express Audio. Keep an eye out for the full feature of this truck when it is complete, right here in Truckin’ magazine.



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