1966 Chevy C10 Stepside: If You Want Success, Try Starting with the Best!
Black ’N’ Mild
The approach to building a custom truck often takes two paths. The first is where you search for a project vehicle, trying for the lowest possible price, reasoning that much of the truck will be replaced with something new. The original shell is the only concern at that point since aftermarket parts will be used to modernize the vehicle. The donor is rough but cheap. The second approach suggests you buy the best you can afford, if you want to be money ahead in the long run. Starting with an already restored vehicle eliminates dozens of trips to the parts store, the internet, and the salvage yard. It also dispenses with rust repair, media blasting, and costly bodywork to restore damaged sheet metal. You might even be able to live with the original paint. It always shortens the build time and that’s great for morale! You’re behind the wheel quicker!
The arrow-straight, C10 in the photos is a good example. The original owner, Mike Smith and builder, Rodney Sherman laid a solid framework, restoring the ’66 truck to pristine condition with just a few upgrades. When it was time for Mike to move onto a new project, he contacted the guys from StreetHeat in Melbourne, Florida, placing the truck with them on consignment. Matt Verzi and Gavin Broome, owners of StreetHeat, were the right choice. Consummate car and truck builders, the pair teamed up several years ago. Their vehicles have been featured in numerous magazines around the country and shipped to customers worldwide. Mike had them add a few details to the truck, in the hopes of attracting a buyer, which quickly paid off. One of the first customers to spot the truck on the StreetHeat website flew in, drove the truck, and came away with exactly the right reaction. Before the door was fully closed after the test drive, he smiled and said I’ll take it and how quickly can you throw in an LSA? Of course, the engine swap was right down StreetHeat’s alley, a favorite choice for the pair since the motor was first released.
Working with a beautifully restored truck shortened the rejuvenation process immeasurably, and in only 25 days, the team eliminated the somewhat dated elements of the otherwise slick C10, replacing them with a collection of ultramodern aftermarket components. First to go was the generic 350 under the hood. The new, supercharged LSA V-8 is highly entertaining. It has to be because it’s the same engine found in the ZL1 Camaro and CTSV Cadillac. Installation was fairly straightforward, thanks to a spot-on set of CPP motor mounts and the GM Connect and Cruise package that bundles the engine with a GM 4L85E four-speed auto trans, harness, ECU, TCU, and liquid intercooler. StreetHeat positioned the intercooler in front of the new two-core aluminum radiator and fabricated a custom-built reserve tank in the process. They followed up with a B&M trans cooler for a little extra insurance, then devised a cool-air intake using a K&N filter in a custom housing.
The rear-mounted aluminum fuel cell and Walboro pump feed plenty of go-juice to the potent 6.2L fuel-injected V-8. Scavenging spent gases is accomplished with Doug Thorley ceramic-coated headers that dump into a 2 1/2-inch, stainless steel, StreetHeat-fabricated exhaust with an H-pipe and a pair of Magnaflow, three-chamber stainless mufflers. The package puts out a staggering 580hp and that’s with stock pulleys. Smaller ones are on the way to bump up the numbers even more—a move guaranteed to unleash that dormant 17-year-old lurking inside all of us. With that much power on tap, improved braking was a must. The original master cylinder went away, replaced by a Hydro-Boost brake conversion that became the perfect adjunct to the Wilwood four-wheel disc brake setup with dual-piston, 11 1/2-inch, drilled and slotted rotors.
The chassis had been stripped, primed, and painted Satin Black by the original builder, suspension upgrades were easy, beginning with the CPP bolt-on C-Notch for proper axle clearance. The potent power plant made handling a top priority. The truck was equipped with a two-link rear that holds a 12-bolt Auburn Posi unit, a billet yoke, and 3.73 gears. In order to guarantee flat cornering in the twisties, the next round incorporated Hotchkis sway bars, front and rear, a CPP adjustable Panhard bar, and CPP drop springs, 3-inch lower versions in the front and 4 in the rear. CPP drop spindles completed the makeover with a profile that’s not high, not slammed, just right. The classic ride rolls on four 20x8.5 Billet Specialties Turbine two-piece polished billet wheels, wrapped in 245/40/20 Toyo Extensa HP all-season rubber.
With the half-century old truck now able to hold its own on any autocross track (as well as terrify the neighborhood Porsche contingent!), just a few cosmetics were left on the list. So much had already been done, so the StreetHeat team needed only a few tweaks to complete the transformation. The classic lines of the shortbed Stepside were what attracted the buyer in the first place, so it needed few exterior changes. The mirror-smooth, Dupont Black paint, sprayed by Rodney Sherman, was already a mile deep. The bed was outfitted with pine planks, sprayed with six coats of clear, buffed to a high luster, and separated by stainless-steel strips. A subtle gas filler cap had been cut into the driver-side rear fender. Interior upgrades began with yards of Dynomat sound and heat insulation, coupled with the all-electric, Vintage Air, Gen IV, Sure Fit A/C unit. The factory gauges were swapped for Dakota Digital’s new HDX analog-digital package, complete with color-changing LEDs, TFT message center, and user-defined warning lights and buzzers. A Billet Specialties wheel spins on a painted ididit tilt column. Keeping occupants comfortable and entertained starts with the Chevrolet bench seat, now redone in Black and Terra Cotta leather with door panels painted to match. The Retro Autosound system plays through JL Audio 5-inch component sets in the kick panels and 6X9s behind the seat.
The rejuvenated ride looks good, goes fast, and is a hoot to drive. It also went together quickly, thanks, to buying the best to begin with and having to make it, well, just a little bit better.
INSIDE THE BUILDYear/Make/Model: 1966 Chevy C10 Stepside
Builder: StreetHeat; Melbourne, Florida
Front Suspension: CPP drop spindles, CPP 3-inch drop springs, Hotchkis sway bar, Wilwood dual-piston, 11 1/2-inch, drilled rotors
Rear Suspension: Chevy two-link, CPP bolt-on C-Notch, 12-bolt Auburn Posi rear, a billet yoke, and 3.73 gears, CPP 4-inch drop springs, Hotchkis sway bar, CPP adjustable Panhard bar, Strange axles, Wilwood dual-piston, 11 1/2-inch, drilled rotors
Shocks: Delco shocks
GM Connect and Cruise packages, supercharged LSA 376ci V-8, GM 4L85E four-speed auto trans, harness, ECU, TCU, and liquid intercooler, Doug Thorley ceramic-coated headers, stainless-steel 2 1/2-inch exhaust, H-pipe, Magnaflow mufflers
BODY: Dupont Gloss Black paint, custom gas filler door, pine planks and stainless-steel strips in bed, aftermarket headlights, re-chromed bumpers
INTERIOR: Dash painted to match and fitted with Dakota Digital HDX instruments, Vintage Air Gen IV A/C, Billet Specialties wheel, ididit column, Chevrolet bench seat in Black and Terra Cotta leather, Black carpet
Stereo: Custom Autosound stereo with JL Audio 6 1/2-inch and 6X9-inch speakers
WHEELS AND TIRES:
Wheels: 20x8.5 Billet Specialties Turbine
TIRES: 245/40/20 Toyo Extensa HP
Special Thanks From Owner: Murphy Cadillac, KMW Fabrication, Charlie’s Customs, Josh Miller, Bill Monaghan, and Boris Maryanovsky from Street Machinery.