Chalk One Up for Bought Over Built

by Fuelish Media

When you’ve reached ‘Senior Master Tech’ status for any major automaker, you’re pretty much qualified to build just about any kind of custom ride under the sun. Eric Gray of Sterling, VA has worked for 28 years as a Ford mechanic and has attained his much-respected title by working hard and taking great pride in his profession. Over the years, he has owned a large number of customized cars and trucks – most of which have been Chevys, but that’s beside the point. While he has lived by the “built not bought” mantra his entire custom-owning life, it was now time for him to flip the script on that approach, which is a big deal for a hands-on guy like Eric. 

 “When I decided to go for a classic C10, I really wanted one that was ‘bagged that I could drive like my old Ford Lightning but still be a cruiser that didn’t eat fuel like I eat tacos”, Eric says. Now, for those who don’t know Eric personally, his Lightning was his most prolific custom vehicle experience to date. He had built that truck to be a true 10-second runner at the track and drove it everywhere and made a lot of amazing friends doing so. When it came to building a C10 that performed the way he liked and looked the way he wanted would require a great deal of effort and money, but he began mentally preparing to embark on the journey – until he saw his readymade dream truck on Instagram. 

Who says nothing good can come from gluing your phone to your face sometimes? While social media does have its pitfalls, it does come through in the clutch every now and again – surely Eric could attest to that. “I have followed
@Juankybuilt on Instagram for a while, and when he posted a photo of the C10 he was in the process of building, I just knew that was the truck for me. I loved the balance of the faux patina exterior and clean interior and engine compartment. I also knew that a truck like that was way out of my price range though”, Eric admits. 

Juan Ibarra, the man behind JuankyBuilt out of Miami started out as a hobbyist auto customizer but is now fully invested into creating highly desirable works of art, which Eric could also attest to. “When I saw that Juan was done with the C10 and put it up for sale, I quickly backed out of the ’72 long bed I was minutes away from buying, and gave him a call”, he says. “We worked out a price, and here I am now with the ‘bought not built’ title hanging over my head, but it was simply worth it on all fronts for me.” 

Eric saved himself years of labor and thousands of dollars taking the ‘bought’ turn, but most importantly he put his health first above all when making the decision to purchase a finished truck. “Having survived two heart attacks at the age of 34, and losing my father a month later, I decided that my time was better spent behind the wheel of a pre-built truck rather than laying on my back in the garage doing all the work myself. Plus, I still wouldn’t have been able to pull off a truck this nice on my own.” 

While Eric loved what Juan had done with the truck, there were still a few tweaks he wanted to see done to truly make the truck his own. Even though the truck is the same visually overall, there were some intricacies he needed to see come to pass before he could ultimately feel the truck was his own. To help with this portion of the customization, Eric reached out to Jason Mode of New Creations in Lattimore, North Carolina, to lend a hand. “Jason agreed to take on some extra metal and paint work on the truck and was able to install some Hart Fab wheels tubs as well”, Eric adds. “He’ll be redoing the bed at some point in the future too. Jason really made me feel like he would treat my truck like his own, and I appreciated that due to my newfound learning experience dealing with a higher end vehicle. I trusted a couple of the ‘big names’ out there and it didn’t end well for me.”

Even though Eric would’ve loved the experience of building his own C10 from scratch, there was just too much going for this particular ’69 that he came across to outweigh big potential factors that posed the largest threats to his success. “I had already started dreaming of cutting that long bed I was about to buy into a short bed, leaving the welds exposed, running a big LS with a blower, going low with Porterbuilt everything – you know exactly what I mean”, he says with a hint of reminiscence of a build that never happened in his voice. “Being an old hot rodder and always wanting to do things myself, buying a complete truck was never the first option until it was the right option for me.” 

What’s next for Eric and his C10? Driving. So. Much. Driving. “Having done the local car scene over the years, I’ve had enough of it”, he says triumphantly. “I can’t stay at a cars ‘n coffee type of thing longer than 15 minutes anymore. I’ll leave and just go driving. With this truck, I’ve enjoyed traveling the country attending a lot of the higher end truck shows that aren’t even remotely close to the Washington D.C. area where I live. Name a big show, and I’ve probably already been there.” 

Genuine guys like Eric are into custom vehicles for all the right reasons. Sure, it’s great to have a sweet truck to cruise around in, but at the end of the day, there is so much more that it represents. “Chevy or Ford, it makes no difference. People are what make the community and make traveling all of those miles worth it. Trophies are nice, but memories with friends are better. Thanks to everyone who helped get my truck to where it is today. It just wouldn’t be the same without their involvement.”


  • 2015 GM 350 crate engine 
  • Chevy TH350 transmission 
  • Two-piece driveshaft 
  • Be Cool aluminum radiator 
  • Powermaster alternator 
  • Edelbrock intake manifold 
  • Chevrolet valve covers 
  • Holley Sniper fuel injection 
  • 1969 Camaro dual snorkel air cleaner 
  • HEI ignition 
  • Custom 16-gallon fuel cell
  • Taylor plug wires 
  • Hedman headers 
  • Dual 2.5-inch exhaust system w/ dumps 
  • Billet Specialties front drive system
  • Custom Jack Daniels radiator overflow tank 
  • Factory 10-bolt rearend
  • Factory 1969 Chevy frame 
  • Front and rear Porterbuilt Dropmember systems with airbags
  • Fully painted frame 
  • CPP drop spindles and steering column
  • Aeroquip Startlite chassis plumbing hoses
  • Rack and pinion steering 
  • Wilwood disc brakes
  • 20x8.5 and 20x10 American Racing Daytona wheels 
  • 245/35R20 and 245/30R22 Nitto tires 
  • Body and paintwork by DZ Custom, Miami, FL 
  • Additional bodywork and customization by Jason Mode of New Creations, Lattimore, NC 
  • Walnut bed floor 
  • Hart Fab wheel tubs
  • Snowden custom bench seat 
  • Vinyl and GM Highlander blue plaid upholstery 
  • LMC Truck carpet and seat belts 
  • CPP steering column
  • Billet Specialties steering wheel 
  • Vintage Air A/C 
  • Classic Autosound head unit
  • Sony speakers
  • Build by Juan Ibarra of Juanky Built

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