Custom Pro Touring 1986 Chevy C10 Silverado
Hip to be Square(body)
A matte-gray expanse of hood blends seamlessly into a broad, open highway in front of the truck. It’s just waiting for a blip of throttle, or maybe even a foot firmly planted until either tires or nerve give out. There’s a 6.2L Chevy crate engine under that prairie-sized hood, and earlier, when we maneuvered the pickup out of the industrial office park where it was hidden, the sound of 640 supercharged horses through Magnaflow mufflers bounced off the concrete walls and rattled the vape juice in the neighboring units. Nobody even noticed, or if they did, they didn’t notice the earthquake was coming from an ’80s-era pickup. With its typical work-truck patina and body lines barely changed since the introduction of the square-body design in 1973, there’s a truck like this in every neighborhood. That truck-next-door appeal is exactly what led Noah Alexander and the crew of Classic Car Studio (CCS) to choose the ’86 Silverado as their shop truck/parts tester, and later to loan it out for test rides, because it’s too good not to share.
If Alexander’s name or shop sound familiar, it may be because Classic Car Studio and its team of builders are the stars of a car show on MotorTrend (formerly Velocity) called Speed is the New Black. If you’re rolling your eyes and picturing thrown wrenches and screaming fabricators, unroll, because Speed is the New Black is a calm, feel-good show whose only TV tropes might be an excessive use of slo-mo grinding sparks. “We don’t do the drama thing,” Alexander tells us. “We just build cars.” Cars and trucks. A look through the CCS website shows that a good third of the vehicles built there are pickups.
It’s not by accident that CCS builds so many hot rod trucks. Alexander and his right-hand man, CCS General Manager Charles Crews, get so excited about customized haulers that they start talking fast when the topic turns to trucks. They get big, dumb smiles on their faces and interrupt one another, each finishing the other’s thoughts.
“Trucks are almost horrible to being with,” Crews says.
“From a driving standpoint,” clarifies Alexander. “But when you hot rod one, it makes you want to drive it.”
“We get the most love when we turn something into something it’s not supposed to be, and everyone knows what a stock truck should be. Everyone had one.” That’s Crews again, moving his hands apart in a truck-shaped gesture, the left held flat to designate the bed and the right rising in the curve of a cab while Alexander nods vigorously and jumps in with, “We realized that when we built our first C10, a ’66 Chevy, and everyone we met had a story about their own C10.”
Most of the trucks CCS builds are for customers, but the Silverado we shook the suburbs with was a more personal project, built purely as a fun runabout for the shop. “We thought it would be cool to have something that looks s**tty but had a lot of cool stuff on it. Throw all the performance parts at it.” We spoke with Crews and Alexander after we’d spent a day in the Silverado, so it was interesting to hear them talk about people’s reactions to trucks, and their desire to build something that flew under the radar with its looks, because that was the exact experience we had in the C10. From the second we slid behind the wheel, we felt more likable. People liked trucks, so they liked us, and if they didn’t like trucks, they didn’t even notice we were there.
The first example came just a mile or so into our drive. We were about to take advantage of the open lanes ahead when we spotted a motorcycle cop eyeing the passing traffic. Quick! Clutch in, slam that shifter handle up into Neutral—it’s a sequential shifter, no H-pattern here—and think quiet thoughts as we coast by. It took us a second to realize the officer not only wasn’t coming after us, he didn’t even see us. If he noticed the rumble at all, he probably assumed there was a Corvette hidden behind us, or maybe, a P-51 Mustang overhead. This is the magic of trucks. They’re invisible, except to people who love trucks.
We were not the only square-body on the road, although we were probably the only one with a red-faded-to-oxblood paint job rolling on 20-inch HRE wheels. It seemed like every driveway we passed had a pickup in it. Fellow drivers of both older trucks and new gave us a nod as we rumbled past. With newfound confidence, we laid into the throttle. There was no lack of torque, and behind the LT4 is a T56 six-speed and a John's Industries 9-inch rear housing 3.73 gears, so the engine can keep pulling forever while barely sipping at the fuel reserves. With the windows down and the highway ahead, we took a second to examine the interior. While the Recaro buckets we were sitting in were clearly not stock, and nor was the suede-wrapped racing wheel with its jazzy red baseball stitch and color-keyed “the wheels are straight” racing tape stripe, the rest of the interior wouldn’t be unfamiliar to the owner of an original ’80s Chevy or GMC. Incorporated in the four-and-two gauge pods are custom Dakota Digital HDX gauges with readouts for speed, time, odometer, and overall mileage. The dash is molded black plastic, the kind of thing that would get a sneering description in a modern truck review, but which is pleasingly nostalgic in this truck, especially when combined with modernized suspension and brakes that minimize the fear of crashing and ending up with a chrome Silverado badge in one’s forehead.
Driveability was big on the priority list for the CCS crew when they built the Silverado. Not only did they intend it for regular shop truck duties but also wanted to be able to autocross it and road-trip it. “We wanted to build something that other enthusiasts could look at and say, ‘Hey, I could do that,’” says Alexander, who always hopes his builds inspire other people to modify, and then drive, their own project vehicles. “For the most part, we made choices that people can recreate, like the RideTech suspension. They are bolt-on parts, and we didn’t do a full aftermarket frame, because the RideTech parts are competitive with plenty of full-chassis vehicles.” The Silverado has tubular control arms and RideTech shocks and sway bar in the front, along with a four-link in the rear, also RideTech. The ride is both more comfortable than a stock C10, and far more performance-oriented. While it might not outmaneuver the Z06 for which the supercharged LT4 was designed, the truck gave us nary a shiver as we flung it into the switchbacks along a mountain route.
Our destination was Lake Piru in Southern California, where our photographer hoped to grab some sunset shots on the far side of the water. Unfortunately, we weren’t alone in craving the picturesque site. There was a TV show filming, and the security guard turned us around with a shrug. As we turned the truck around, a second security guard leaned in the window. “I’m building one of these now!” he said proudly. “It’s a great truck.” We had to agree.