Whether you think of a second chance from the traditional redemption story perspective – offender-to-good-citizen, for example – or something a little more relevant, like the time you almost ran out of oil in the old small block, but noticed the oil pressure dropping drastically before it locked up – a second chance can make or break you, and, in most instances, highlight the core of your character.
In this case, that ‘second chance’ opportunity to perfect your dream truck was realized in short order – and actually turned out way better than anticipated.
Enter Jesse Vaughn, the owner, creator, and innovator behind Level 7 Motorsports in Marion, Illinois. Jesse has made a name for himself creating top-tier truck builds (think Capone, the 1000hp ’70 C10 that graced these pages in the March ’21 issue) that are not only race-inspired in look, but can walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk in the twisty turns and cone-killin’ part of the truck community.
It all began in 2012 when Jesse had success with his race-ready 1997 Nissan 240SX, powered by a built-LS1/T-56 combo (OUSCI competitor and featured in Modified Magazine) – but it was his love for trucks and his need for speed and agility that brought Jesse squarely into the truck world. In 2015, based out of his desire to see how a classic truck could perform in the autocross, road-racing arena, Jesse slipped down to Marietta, Georgia, and purchased a 1978 Chevrolet C10 shortbed still wearing its original two-tone yellow and white paint.
The foundation had been secured.
It wasn’t long after purchasing the truck that Jesse and his team at Level 7 Motorsports began ridding the truck of its antiquated technology, or lack-thereof, and began whipping it into shape for the course. With the help of Holley Performance Products, Ridetech coilover suspension, big LS power, Forgeline wheels and a Bowler-prepped T-56 Magnum, Jesse began hitting the circuit.
At first glance, he had achieved his goal and built a competitive race truck; however, there is way more to this story.
While building a squarebody truck for the first time with a plethora of great components, including parts designed by Jesse himself, is a dream come true – and would be for most in the truck community – Jesse was about to get a big break that would take the yellow and white truck to an entirely different level.
Enter Paul Treadwell, a hardcore Texas truck enthusiast, and generally one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. Paul learned about Jesse and the yellow and white truck from a UNITED BY TRUCKS YouTube video called “We Build Race Trucks!” (yes, that’s a shameless plug for the author’s YouTube channel).
Paul was in the market to build something special in the spirit of collaboration, and had seemingly found the right guy to help him make his dream a reality – even without Jesse knowing it quite yet.
Admittedly so, it wasn’t just Jesse’s intimate knowledge of trucks or the latest go-fast parts that had Paul’s undivided attention; it was the truck’s keen resemblance to a truck Paul knew well growing up. It turns out that Paul’s cousin had a longbed, yellow and white 73-80 truck that resembled Jesse’s ’78. Hearing Paul tell it, ‘It was the first vehicle I ever went 100mph in.” What a rush! Couple the truck resemblance with Paul’s desire to work with Level 7 Motorsports that compelled him to reach out to Jesse one evening.
After a lengthy phone conversation where, truth-be-told, Paul attempted to buy the truck as-is, Jesse underwent a restless night of sleep. What came to fruition by the next morning was a plan – a plan for the two to partner together – to achieve both their goals. More specifically, this was a plan to partner up on a one-of-a-kind, world-class race truck.
Put even more simply, Jesse would build the truck to their agreed-upon specs, race it during the 2021 season under a new division called Level 7 Racing, and Paul would fund the build and ultimately take ownership of the truck. It was a real win-win for them both.
Now, the real work began.
After a few planning calls, a lot of head-scratching, and copious amounts of research…wait, who are we kidding? Jesse knew exactly what he’d build if the opportunity arose. After all, he’d been racing his squarebody truck for several years – in its prior configuration – and knew exactly what it’d take to be competitive in the increasingly more competitive world of classic truck’s autocrossing and road racing.
To that end, Jesse and Paul mapped out a plan that included incorporating some of the most innovative products and components in the racing community as a whole, but had never been incorporated into a classic truck in such a complete package.
As its foundation, Jesse V. sits on a No Limit Engineering Pro-Tech raised-rail chassis with independent rear suspension, custom track width, splined sway bars all around, and a manual Howe rack and pinion. Rounding out the suspension is a set of Viking Performance Crusader triple adjustable shocks with front spring rates at 750lb and rear rates of 550lb, respectively.
Mounted up to the Speedtech Extreme spindles up front are Wilwood Racing 14” Aero rotors with 6-piston Mil-spec anodized calipers and thermlock pistons. In the rear, a set of Wilwood 12.88” Superlight C6 road race rotors with 4-piston Mil-spec anodized calipers and thermlock pistons handle the stopping duties. To round out the stopping power, Jesse used his own Level 7 Motorsports race pedal assembly with Tilton master cylinders, remote bias adjuster, and adjustable proportioning valve. To complete the rolling IRS chassis, a set of 18×11.5 Forgeline GA3R wheels wrapped in 315/30/18 Falken RT660 and Yokohama AO52, respectively.
In the spirit of innovation, Jesse conceptualized and built a custom 9.5 gallon fuel cell in partnership with Fueled by AI, who handled all of the design and fluid dynamic engineering. In addition to the cell, the fuel duties are further handled by a Fueled by AI fuel pump hanger and surge tank and a pair of Walbro 450lph fuel pumps from Holley Performance. The second pump is automated to kick in if system pressure is lost and is solely for redundancy. Holley Performance fuel pressure regulator, fuel rails, fuel filter, ultrapro hose and hose ends round out the fuel system.
So what kind of powerplant does a fuel system like this feed, you ask? A 730hp Don Hardy Racecars-built 13:1 compression 446ci aluminum LS with a forged crankshaft, Wiseco pistons, PRC 280cc CNC ported LS7 heads, Dailey Engineering Dry Sump System, Texas Speed / Level 7 Racing custom-ground cam, and a Nick Williams 102mm throttle body. To help out in the aesthetics and performance department, a set of Holley valve covers, a Holley Mid-Mount accessory drive, an MSD Atomic Intake Manifold, and ID1050cc injectors complete the engine build.
Handling all of the engine and vehicle management is a Motec M150 ECU, Motec PDM30, Motec Can-bus Keypad, and a Motec C127 Dash to display all of the truck’s vitals.
To handle the transfer of power to the Winters Performance 10” independent quick-change rear with Trac-Lok differential, is a state-of-the-art Sadev SCL924, 6-speed sequential transmission and Motec AU pneumatic paddle shift system that, upon hearing for the first time, sounds more like a video game than an actual truck being shifted on the road.
Expending the excess gas from the engine is a set of Ultimate Headers and a Level 7 Motorsports custom-built exhaust using 304 stainless 3” piping merging into a single 4” system with Magnaflow Mufflers.
Finally, the original body panels were massaged and repaired as needed by Hoosier Hot Rods in Indiana, and are now roughly half patina and half new paint.
All-in-all, this world-class race truck came together in roughly nine months and brought with it a new set of friendships, partnerships, and a second chance at perfection. It just goes to show you how one telephone call can change the course of your life and, in this instance, Jesse V., the race truck, was born.
Level 7/Paul Treadwell • ‘78 C10
- Engine: Don Hardy Racecars-built 13:1 Compression 446cu in aluminum LS. Forged crankshaft, Wiseco pistons, GM head gaskets, Dailey Engineering Dry Sump System, Texas Speed / Level 7 custom cam, Nick Williams 102mm throttle body, trunnion upgraded rockers, Johnson short travel lifters, PRC 280cc CNC ported LS7 heads, inconel exhaust valves / stainless intake valves, .660 dual springs, Holley Valve Covers, Holley Mid Mount Accessory Drive, MSD Atomic Intake Manifold, ID1050cc injectors. Made 730hp on the engine dyno
- Management: Motec M150 ECU, Motec PDM30, Motec Can-bus Keypad, Motec C127 Dash
- Fuel System: Custom 9.5 gallon fuel cell conceptualized and built by Level 7 Motorsports. All design and fluid dynamic engineering done by Fueled by Ai. Fueled by Ai fuel pump hanger / surge tank. Walbro 450lph fuel pumps from Holley Performance. One pump running with one redundant pump. The second pump is automated to kick in if system pressure is lost. Holley Performance fuel pressure regulator, fuel rails, fuel filter, Ultrapro hose and hose ends
- Exhaust: Ultimate headers, Level 7 custom built exhaust using 304 stainless 3” piping merging into a single 4” system with Magnaflow Mufflers
- Transmission: Sadev SCL924, 6 speed sequential transmission. Motec AU pneumatic paddle shift system
- Rear-end: Winters Performance 10” Independent quick-change rear with Trac-Lok differential and HD 934 CV’s
- Chassis: No Limit Engineering Pro-Tech Chassis. Raised rail chassis with independent rear suspension, custom track width, manual Howe rack and pinion, Delrin bushings, splined sway bars, Speedtech Extreme spindles
- Front suspension: Custom track width Wide-Ride front. 1200lb splined front sway bar
- Steering components: Howe 10:1 manual rack and pinion. DCE Motorsports MIDI electric power steering. Level 7 Motorsports pedal assembly with steering motor mounting incorporated. Steering maps selectable on the steering wheel
- Rear suspension: No Limit Engineering chassis – Independent rear suspension. Splined rear sway bar
- Brakes: Wilwood Racing 14” 6 piston Aero front w/ Mil-spec anodized calipers and thermlock pistons. Wilwood 12.88” 4 piston Superlight C6 road race rear kit w/ Mil-spec anodized calipers and thermlock pistons. Pads change back and forth from D-20 to D-30 compound. Level 7 Motorsports race pedal assembly with Tilton master cylinders, remote bias adjuster, and adjustable proportioning valve
- Shocks / Springs: Viking Performance Crusader triple adjustable shocks. Front spring rates – 750lb, Rear Rates – 550lb
- Wheels: Forgeline GA3R Wheels, 18×11.5”
- Tires: Falken RT660 / Yokohama AO52 – 315/30/18
- Paint and body: 50% period paint / patina. All bodywork, repair, and paint work was done at Hoosier Hot Rods