Weathering the Storm of a Vintage Truck Build
Most guys out there have an idea of what kind of dream vehicle they’d love to have parked in their garage someday. Some lean toward expensive exotic sports cars, while others dig the nostalgia of classic American muscle. Rob Francis, of Mesa, Arizona, happens to find himself drawn to the latter category, as he has been a fan of older GM pickups as far back as when he first started paying attention to cool cars. “It’s always been a dream of mine since high school to build a classic vehicle”, Rob says. “I didn’t want just any vehicle though, I wanted my first project to be a full custom classic truck.”
Rob set the standard for his truck build pretty high in his mind, but before he’d be able to cruise around in a top shelf ride, he’d first have to overcome a rather modest starting point. Although he didn’t have a completed build under his belt at this point, he did already have experience in repairing and maintaining vehicles from when he was younger. “My dad was always into cars, so he had me working on them at a young age”, Rob remembers. “Once I reached high school, I enrolled in an automotive class, and from there I had developed an advanced appreciation for unique cars and trucks.
It was this early exposure that opened Rob’s eyes to scoping out the potential in certain classic trucks. He began scanning local listings for old C10s for sale, but eventually found the right one through a friend. “I got the truck from a buddy who had bought the frame and engine but then ran into money issues, so he had to sell”, Rob says. “The engine was a new crate motor, so I was good there, but the frame and everything else was in bad shape. Everything had to be redone.”
It was at this point where Rob hit a fork in the road. He was able to assess what he could do on his own, and what he would need help with from shops. After doing his own research and listening to those who had nothing but great things to say about their work, he approached local shop Switch Suspension of Mesa, AZ, to help sort things out with the chassis. Seth at Switch was good about offering Rob a clear vision of what was possible for the framework. Ultimately, the factory frame was usable up front, but a Lowboy back half 3-link system was utilized at the rear. CPP drop spindles, Slam Specialties ‘bags and Ridetech adjustable shocks came together to create a pretty solid base for the truck’s evolving air ride system.
Rob was well ahead of the game at this point with the expertise provided by Switch, so when it came to wheel selection, he didn’t just go big – he went really big. 24-inch diameter Intro wheels have been bolted onto each corner, but the rear 15-inch wide units, which set this C10 apart from the vast majority. Pirelli ubber was chosen to cover the large billet hoops, which make for an impressive rolling combo that does justice to all the work put into making the best of the truck’s existing chassis situation.
Orlando Auto Body, also in Mesa, was recruited to assist in the body and paintwork. The exterior was streamlined with the deletion of all door handles, the fuel door, as well as the rear bumper. The bed floor was raised and outfitted with tubs large enough to clear room for the meaty rear wheels. The ‘73’s front end was updated with an ’85 grille swap, giving the truck a later model Squarebody appeal that Rob was after specifically. There really was no debate as far as what color the truck was to be painted. A bold, simple appearance was always in the cards for this rebuild, and the one stage black paint gives the truck a demeanor that makes for a striking first impression.
Inside the cab, Rob was inspired to run with the sinister black color scheme the truck already had going for it. The seating was wrapped in black leather with cool looking CNC octagon stitching to add a shot of unique styling inside the cab. The dash and door panels were given the same treatment for good measure. Dakota Digital gauges and an Intro billet steering wheel give Rob welcomed modern conveniences staring right at him when sitting in the driver seat. The well-balanced sound system might be his favorite addition inside the cab, however. A Retro Sounds head unit and an entire Rockford Fosgate audio arsenal was wired up to give the C10 just as much thump as it does rumble.
While the work to get the truck finished was a lot more than Rob had expected, he started seeing positive feedback on the build before it was officially considered done. “A few years ago, I took the truck to the Goodguys show in AZ even though it wasn’t 100% complete”, he admits. It still ended up winning “Best Squarebody” there, which was a huge boost in confidence going into the final stretch of the detail work.”
With Rob’s first major build project now within his grasp, he has been able to enjoy the hell out of his C10. “It was a few years in the making, but the day I was able to take the truck for its first cruise to see friends and family was what really made it real for me.” As he looks back, Rob considers himself rather lucky – lucky to have the resources to fund the project, as well as being able to track down the right talent to make his dream a reality. “Once I found the right shops to work with, the process became so much easier and enjoyable.”
Rob may put himself through the process again if he ever finds another truck worth the effort. As for now, he has a lot of quality time to spend with this ’73. It has been designed for reliability as well as sheer excitement. “Now that I’ve been through a build, I have a better understanding of options. Next time, I’ll have a more concrete vision up front, so I can focus on cutting down overall build time”, he says of what he can possibly apply to a future project.