Brian Vowell’s 1977 Silverado is Easy on the Eyes and Hard to Forget
When Brian Vowell set out to build a cool squarebody shop truck, little did he know that this project would turn into what it did. As the owner of Frontier Shop Supplies in Mesa, Arizona, he wanted something that he could actually use as a somewhat practical shop hauler. You know, a vehicle where you can still throw something in the bed without worrying about a scratch or ding. Need to help one of your dudes move a couch from the thrift store to his bachelor crib? Bring it.
The search for the proper candidate didn’t take long. Brian’s buddy, Tino Garza, had the perfect truck to turn the plan to reality. As he explains it, “Tino had this green ‘77 square that he’d been hanging onto for a while. It was a really solid truck with great patina. He asked me if I wanted it and that’s all it took. I bought it immediately and set out to make it my own.”
The truck was dropped off at Tre 5 Customs in Peoria, Arizona, and Jeremy Rice and crew jumped on it with the quickness. Their first focus was modernizing the chassis. The beat-down stock suspension was removed from the truck and the frame was stripped down to the bare essentials. Porterbuilt Extreme Dropmembers, front and rear, were added to the frame rails along with Slam Specialties air bags and KYB shocks on all 4 corners. Up front, a Mustang II steering rack was bolted on to keep the wheels aimed while CPP 2” drop spindles were added to make sure the altitude was low enough. In the back, a 4-link with Watts link locates the 12-bolt rear end that has been narrowed 4” and stuffed with an Auburn limited slip differential with 3.73 gears. A custom mounting setup was fabricated to hold the batteries, dual 3-gallon AccuAir EndoVT tanks, and dual Viair compressors. Once fabrication was complete, the entire chassis was powdercoated and reassembled.
During the final assembly process, AZ Pro Performance Revelator 14” front and 13” rear disc brake kits were added along with a new CPP master cylinder and plumbed with stainless steel lines throughout.
Before they could drop the cab back onto the chassis, Brian and Jeremy discussed options for the drivetrain. After quick consideration, they decided to scrap the original carbureted 350 cubic inch small block Chevy in favor of a more modern 5.3L LS that they acquired from Best Salvage of Tuscon. The engine was cleaned and treated to a Chevy orange makeover. An All American Billet accessory drive system handles charging, AC, and power steering duties up front. Down low, a short-sump F-body oil pan was swapped in favor of the truck oil pan, which simply hangs down too far for an application with a ride height this low. A Champion aluminum radiator with dual electric fans keeps everything cool. Ceramic coated Sanderson headers connect to a custom stainless steel exhaust system with Magnaflow stainless mufflers. Boyd Welding built the custom tank that supplies the fuel when Brian stands on the make-it-loud pedal.
Behind the engine, a 4L65E transmission rebuilt by A&S Transmission was bolted up along with a 2,000RPM stall speed converter for reliability, as well as cruising comfort. A Summit Racing trans cooler helps keep temps in check. The engine and transmission are controlled via a Modern Vintage standalone harness with factory GM computer tuned by Mark Clark at Speed Sports in Chandler, Arizona.
Under the hood, Slosh Tubz cover Brian’s treads while allowing complete articulation of the suspension and tire clearance while steering. The stock rear wheel wells were widened 2” for extra clearance and the bed floor was raised for frame and suspension clearance while the inside of the bed was given a coat of black liner for durability.
Things begin to get interesting inside the cab. Steve Yiu at Elevated Design of Phoenix tackled the upholstery makeover. He wrapped the headliner, dash, door panels, and plastics in Ultraleather to match the TMI Products two-tone split bench seat. Dakota Digital Syndicate Series gauges and a Retro Sound Bluetooth audio system keep Brian informed and entertained on road trips. In the factory ashtray, a CTP Concepts e-Level controller was mounted for easy access.
At the time Tre 5 was putting the truck together, Brian was perfectly content with the patina finish and the cab and bed were assembled onto the newly-reworked chassis as is, with lovingly-worn, scratched and chipped green paint. This truck was built to be a driver and he didn’t want shiny paint to sway his intentions of keeping it that way. But, as with any project, there comes a time when you simply want to change things up. The tired paint and patina remained for a few years before Brian decided to call on the previous owner for a some help. Conveniently, Tino owns Maxbuilt Customs of Indio, California. After the two talked things over, the truck was delivered to Maxbuilt where the sheetmetal was prepped and rolled into the paint booth. “Tino absolutely killed it on the paint. So many people told me the yellow wasn’t gonna look good. But when I was a kid, my neighbor had a yellow square that I always loved. It had to be the right yellow. Tino and I went back and forth at least a dozen times before we found the right color and it’s amazing.” It ain’t easy being yellow, but Brian’s C10 pulls it off with authority.
To top off the new paint, a fresh set of 20×8.5 and 20×10 US Mags Scottsdale wheels and Toyo Proxes ST II P255/40VR20 and P295/40VR20 tires were bolted on to replace the previously installed 20” Delmo specials.
Once the build was wrapped up, Brian was anxious to pick the truck up and start enjoying some miles behind the wheel. “Jeremy Rice and the crew at Tre 5 built this truck in about 120 days from start to finish. Against Jeremy’s advice, I picked it up 3 days after it was finished – with only 50 miles under its belt – and it took it for a not-so-leisurely blast to the Pomona swap meet. I averaged 80-90 MPH both ways and the truck never skipped a beat.” Impressive, to say the least.
In fact, Brian was so impressed with his experience and the final product delivered by Tre 5 Customs, that he and Jeremy began discussions of joining forces as partners in the business. As the saying goes, “…and the rest is history.” The two teamed up a couple years ago and have increased the reach and depth of the business beyond their expectations. It’s just like your mama always told you, “Always put your best foot forward – you never know who’s watching.” Thanks, mom.