What did you do during your COVID “break”? Quarantine life wasn’t easy for many reasons, that’s for sure. But it did give many of us the gift of extra time to take on new extensive projects. While the after effects of the weird stretch of time that was 2020 and 2021 are still being felt to some degree, it was a unique period that threw some folks into a sinking state of boredom, while it at the same time lit a fire underneath the butts of many others.
Meet Chris Christian of Montgomery, Texas. Chris is an airline captain, so he is used to being high in the sky most of the time, but he found his feet on the ground more than he was used to during the lockdown phase of COVID. With some extra time to kill, Chris figured it would be a good time to go out and buy an old truck to work on. He landed an ’80 GMC mostly in part of his very first truck being a ’76 C10. It was the perfect opportunity to finally build the truck he could only dream about in high school.
“I’ve always loved cars and trucks since my Hot Wheels and Micro Machines days”, Chris says. “As I got older and began my career, I found myself with less time to spend in the garage with an in-depth truck project. Plus, there are some things that I feel I’d rather leave to the professionals. As luck would have it, I saw on Facebook that Jason Cassidy of Cassidy Customs in nearby Montgomery, Texas, was also looking for a truck project to fill his downtime at his shop. Naturally, I reached out to Jason to see if he would be interested in helping me out with my GMC, and to my surprise, he agreed!”
Now, if the name Jason Cassidy rings a bell, it’s for good reason. Jason is an established American country music artist, which meant that his career also slowed down to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. His tour dates were put on hold for the foreseeable future, so he had nothing but time on his hands with no gigs on the calendar. To keep himself busy, Jason poured all his energy into Cassidy Customs, his passion project where he can express himself through the fabrication of one-off vehicles of all types. Chris and Jason met at the exact right moment to make the most of a time that robbed them of the ‘normal’ schedules they were used to.
Chris and Jason got together and put a plan together for the GMC. What first started out as a simple build that included new paint, an LS swap and a static suspension drop quickly snowballed into something much more due to the guys getting along and building a friendship throughout the process. “Jason is a music artist by profession, but he is a total gear head at heart”, Chris admits. “We didn’t really vocalize what we were going to end up building, but the truck was headed toward full show truck status – no doubt about it.”
The GMC started off as a long bed, which wasn’t the direction the guys wanted to continue in. To remedy that, Jason moved the cab and front end to a short bed frame. Air ride was a definite must, but during the time of quarantine, parts were way more scarce than usual. Chassis Fab out in Houston became the go-to source for all the components to get this truck planted on the pavement. Then, Jason made the bed from scratch with larger wheel tubs and access panel for the fuel tank and air system.
Upgraded Wilwood disc brakes kits were incorporated into the project for performance stopping power, and to give the GMC a quick custom appearance upgrade, a staggered set of 22- and 24-inch US Mag Desperado wheels were bolted onto the hubs. Just like that, Chris’ truck had that right stance and the rolling hardware that would soon make all the difference in the Squarebody’s transformation.
While laying the truck out wasn’t in the cards from the start of the project, the inclusion of an LS swap was. Moving forward on that front, Jason began the process of building a 2006 5.3L mill to drop between the frame rails. The LS was decked out with Speed Engineering headers, a Black Widow muffler equipped exhaust, an aluminum Griffin radiator, a ported LS3 intake manifold and other notable mods to record 350hp at the wheels on the truck’s appointment on the dyno – not too shabby.
Once the final engine tweaks were finalized, a set of Slosh Tubz inner fender tubs were put into position underneath the hood, which then set off the rest of the body overhaul. Jason began by shaving the drip rails and cargo lamp before working the entire body laser straight. Like many builds, the hardest part during this phase was deciding on which color(s) to paint the truck. “It was a tough decision”, Chris says. “In the end, it was a combination of a custom blue and gray that edged out the other options we were considering.
With the truck taking shape at breakneck speed, Jason then moved into the interior where he included a freshly upholstered Snowden bench seat, Dakota Digital gauges, a full sound system featuring a JBL amp, speakers and 10-inch sub, as well as a Vintage Air A/C system to battle the toughest of Texas heat waves. Aside from replacing the necessities and treating the dash to the same cool blue paint as the exterior, the cab was updated properly without being overstated.
While the story of this particular truck does have a lot to do with the whole COVID fiasco that held back so many of us, it does take to the background to Chris seizing the opportunity to finally go forward with a truck he would’ve killed to have back when he was a kid. “The coolest part of the project was watching my ideas come to life via Jason’s fabrication”, he says. “The truck’s first show was Lone Star Throwdown ’22, and it brought home a trophy. Every show since then, it has also won an award as well. It was a great experience to work with Jason on this Squarebody – plus it was the perfect way to stay sane through the last two tough years.”
CHRIS CHRISTIAN • ‘80 GMC C15
- 2006 LS 5.3L assembled by Jason Cassidy at Cassidy Customs, Montgomery, Texas
- 2006 GM 4L60 transmission
- Comp Cams camshaft
- GM 799 cylinder heads
- Griffin aluminum radiator
- Holley two-piece LS valve covers
- Ported LS3 intake manifold using adapter plates to fit 5.3L heads
- 1 3/4-inch Speed Engineering long tube headers
- Black Widow muffler equipped exhaust
- Slosh Tubz front wheel coverings
- Modified factory GM SWB frame with air ride by Cassidy Customs
- CPP front spindles
- Dual Viair 480 compressors
- Chad Criss Design polished air ride manifold
- Chassis Fab front control arms and rear ladder bars
- Powdercoated GM 12-bolt rear end
- Boyd 19-gallon custom fuel cell
- Wilwood brake kits and master cylinder
- Custom Supply Warehouse forward mount 7-inch dual brake booster kit
- 22 and 24-inch US Mags Desperado wheels
- 265/30/22 and 295/30/24 Venom Ragnarok tires
- Custom blue and gray paint by Cassidy Customs
- Shaved drip rails, cargo lamp, full custom bed with remotely controlled panel to access fuel/air tank
- 1976 GMC grille
- Mar-K Manufacturing aluminum trim/moldings
- Dakota Digital gauges
- JBL amp, front and rear speakers and subwoofer
- Vintage Air A/C system complete with control panel
- Wiring by Josh Hendon @ Hardcore Kustoms
- Snowden custom seats w/ black upholstery
- Black carpeting