CLASSIC pick-up trucks are possibly the hottest trend in street machining at the moment. They look killer no matter the modification style, whether lifted with beefy 4×4 underpinnings, raked heavily with a nasty pro street vibe, or slammed to the ground on air suspension like Chris Hicks’s ’65 C10 here.
First published in the March 2021 issue of Street Machine
Freshly finished by Kyle Smith and the team at Smith Concepts in Brookvale, this short-bed Chevy blends street machine, lowrider and custom car touches. It’s an epic beach cruiser that’s nice enough to take trophies at shows. And yet it started from much humbler beginnings.
“It was a pretty shabby satin-black truck imported into Queensland,” says Kyle. “A gentleman had it as a daily and parts-hauler for a few years, and we found it online. We picked it up as a semi-running/driving six-pot and three-on-the-tree rig, got it transported down here and stripped it straight down.”
While the original recipe called for tidying up the paint and throwing a better drivetrain in, things soon rolled out of control and the chassis was chopped up in preparation for a far more righteous stance. While classic pick-ups can haul stacks of lumber, getting them to sit at a cool ride height requires plenty of cutting and welding of the frame.
“It was going to be a three-to-four-month build, but then it turned into a full ground-up build with a lot more work involved,” explains Kyle, who immediately hit the internet and purchased a full front end from GSI Machine & Fabrication in the USA.
“I visited GSI’s shop last March and have had some catalogues in my shop, so I know their products well, and with the choices I had it was easier to get one off the shelf and shipped to me from the USA in a few months,” he says. “It’s a robotically welded piece with great geometry and is made to suit a small-block crate engine, so that makes it an easy project.”
Utilising tube control arms and Fox-body rack-and-pinion steering, the new front end helps drag the C10’s ride and handling into the 21st century, aided by the Ididit collapsible steering column, which replaces the old chest harpoon that Chevy used. Slam Specialties air springs also give epic cruising practicality while allowing for an unbeatable stance when parked.
With a late-model Vortec 350ci small-block crate motor and TH350 auto jammed between the rails up front, Kyle and the Smith Concepts crew whipped up custom inner guards to hide the 20×7.5in Detroit Steel smoothies and square-body Chevy disc brakes. Then it was on to the epic chassis notch required to get the C10’s floorpan sitting flat on terra firma.
“Mex’s Garage in Queensland cut out the parallel four-link and Watt’s link, which we fitted up,” Kyle explains. “We fitted the airbag mounting plates externally on the chassis rails to give more stability when cornering, on the advice of Ben from Mex’s. We then had to lift up the bed floor and build a new frame for that to clear the suspension and notch.”
With the altitude sorted, attention turned to the bodywork, and, with Smith Concepts known for their wild lowrider-inspired paintjobs, it is another stunner. However, with the truck being an import from the land of Bondo jockeys and cheap resprays, Kyle and the team did have to do a little digging before they could get to work. “I think the truck had six or seven paintjobs under the satin black,” Kyle laughs.
“The client originally wanted the truck to be satin black, but I told him, ‘You can’t do all this work to paint it satin black.’ He told me to pick a colour, so I picked this DNA Cherry. We also gave the tubs a bit of a bulge in the wheelarches to suit the 20×8.5in Detroit Steel wheels.”
After the Smith Customs crew ditched the original tailgate hinges in favour of a latching mechanism from a VU Commodore ute, Shags and Aaron from OG Customs whipped up a smoothed tailgate skin for the truck. Kira Jurado from OG Customs Upholstery then came up with a killer trim job that ties in with the dark caramel-brown hue of the original timber Kyle refitted in the now-shallower tray.
“The theme for the interior was to give a smoky, cigar lounge feel, so that is how we came up with the distressed leather look,” explains Kyle. “The DNA Cherry on the body and the colour of the leather blend together beautifully. It’s nice when projects come together and flow right through the whole car. When multiple people are involved in builds, it can sometimes be hard to make them cohesive and flow, but the C10 came out great.
“The build was something new to us, being our first full build from start to finish all in-house. It was challenging, for sure, but extremely rewarding to see the finished product and be driving it. The build is only brand new, so we’re hoping to clock up a lot more kilometres and then take it to a few shows. But it was built to be driven and have an element of class.”
With such a killer result, we can’t wait to see it rolling past beaches soon!
KEEP ON TRUCKING
WHILE Aussies love utes, our star-spangled brethren in the USA favour full-size pick-ups. As traditional muscle cars and other old tin have gotten rarer and far more expensive, lately many punters have been turning their attention to these modern American workhorses.
While most passenger-car frames feature upswept chassis-rail sections to sit the passenger cell lower to the road, these pick-ups typically run high-riding rails and need a complete re-engineering of the suspension and steering. Taking inspiration from the mini-truck scene, early adopters fitted air suspension and passenger-car chassis clips to get the ride height down to where it is cool.
However, there are several aftermarket companies now producing complete frames for a range of Ford and Chevy pick-ups. The Roadster Shop, GSI Machine & Fab, Fat Man Products and Art Morrison all build a range of two-wheel drive and jacked-up 4×4 frames to suit both cat’s-eye-flicking ’bagged trucks and mud-bogging off-roaders. In Australia, United Speed Shop has released its own range of Magnum independent front ends and four-link rears, as have several other companies.
While some would think these huge commercial vehicles would be heavyweight behemoths, many of them weigh less than a 20-year-old Commodore, albeit without many of the luxuries. Their farm-oriented, hard-working background also means production tolerances are best described as ‘agricultural’, with panel gaps Clive Palmer could fit through sideways!
1965 CHEVROLET C10 FLEETSIDE
Paint: DNA Cherry Black
Brand: 350ci small-block Chev
ECU: FiTech EFI
Heads: Cast Vortec
Oil system: Hi-Energy sump
Fuel system: FiTech EFI pump and injectors
Cooling: Custom alloy radiator, Spal thermo fans
Exhaust: Custom stainless system
Ignition: MSD distributor and coil
Gearbox: TH350 auto
Converter: Custom Hughes Performance
Diff: Chevy 10-bolt
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Slam Specialties airbags, GSI custom shocks, GSI front clip, Ididit collapsible column
Rear: Slam Specialties airbags, custom Pedders shocks, Mex’s Garage parallel four-link and Watt’s link rear end
Brakes: Chev Silverado discs (f), standard drums (r)
Master cylinder: Chev
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Detroit Steel; 20×7.5 (f), 20×8.5 (r)
Rubber: Pirelli; 235/45R20 (f), 245/45R20 (r)
KYLE SMITH THANKS:
My staff at Smith Concepts, including Ian, Matty, Dave and Sheridan – we took on a huge project and I couldn’t be happier with the execution and delivery in 12 months; OG Customs Upholstery; GSI Machine & Fabrication; Mex’s Garage; Mouse at Rocket Industries; Classic Pick-Up Supplies; Steve at Early Times Autos; Biggie Scrolls; OG Customs for the tailgate skin; Bear at Al’s Automotive; Mitch ‘GREEDZ’ Greedy; last but not least, my wife and kids, who let me work down here for a million hours a week! I couldn’t do it without them!