It’s always nice to dream big and plan to build a custom truck with your own hands in your own garage, but sometimes professional help is a definite requirement to get the job done right. Tyler Dahlgren of Orange Beach, Alabama found himself in this exact situation with his ’66 Chevy truck project. Even though he has been interested in all things automotive all of his life thanks to his dad and grandfather, he reached a realization. If he was going to make the most of his latest pick-up build, he was going to need some outside talent to help him reach his ultimate goal for it.
“I bought this ’66 almost 30 years ago”, Tyler says. “I found it listed in a classified ad around my area. It was originally a C20 long bed actually. It was in surprisingly good condition, and I was able to drive it for a year or so before it started having overheating problems. That’s when I decided to park it and start on my plan to customize it to my liking.”
Tyler made some real progress with his Chevy, as he completely disassembled it and had it dipped to remove all the old paint and gunk that had collected throughout the years. He even bought a brand new 454 engine and 700R4 transmission to throw at it. Things were definitely looking up for the project but that forward motion was soon brought to an abrupt halt. “This is about the time life got in the way and forced me to store the truck in a building that belonged to my brother who ended up selling the property in 2019”, Tyler admits. “I was looking at the option to sell it off as-is or go through the trouble to put it back together as best as I could in a hurry or seek professional help and keep the project going.” Obviously (and thankfully), he opted for the latter scenario.
“I weighed my possibilities as far as shops go but I ultimately liked the direction Nick Ryan and Kevin Penhaker of Killer Hot Rods in Arlington, Texas had in mind for the build”, says Tyler. “Their projected final outcome for the truck included making it a short bed on top of an all-new frame powered by an LS3, as well as everything else I only dreamt about seeing done to the truck. I had finally found the help I was desperately looking for.”
The frame the guys had in mind was a Roadster Shop SPEC chassis, which are ideal for custom classic truck rebuilds. This impressive package came complete with Fox coil-overs for the front and rear that would not only give the truck a much more aggressive stance, but also a level of performance handling to match. Fresh Wilwood braking systems were also added to round out the Chevy’s upcoming prowess that Tyler could take full advantage of both on the street and the strip. A staggered set of 19×8 and 20×11 Schott Rail eXL wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson Street comp rubber were also brought in to complete the truck’s heavily updated foundation.
The next phase of the project was to prep the GM Performance LS3 crate engine for its final placement between the frame rails. Although the motor is one heck of an upgrade on its own, Nick and Kevin felt it best to deck it out with a DeWitts aluminum radiator, a Spal fan, Powermaster alternator and a custom intake with a K&N Filter. The go-fast add-ons didn’t stop there, however, as a set of Hooker headers was also included, as was a 2.5-inch Flowmaster stainless exhaust system complete with a Delta 50 muffler for a proper rumble sound. To back the LS3 power plant, the guys chose a 4L65E transmission to back it. This combination is quite a leap from what Tyler originally had in mind with the 454 and 700R4 units but you won’t hear any complaints about what his truck ended up with in the long run.
Running with a fleetside C10 short bed was on the to-do list from the very beginning, but to take the truck even further, the bodywork and metal fab crew consisting of Bruce Luna and Tyler Thompson at Killer Hot Rods envisioned smoothed seams throughout the Chevy’s exterior landscape, as well as smoothed and tucked chrome bumpers and custom sheetmetal work underneath the original GM hood. To give the bed a much more finished appearance, a Mar-K polished oak plank floor was laid down for a timeless addition before the bed was capped off with a custom fiberglass tonneau cover. This will allow Tyler to load up enough stuff to get him comfortably through a weekend trip in style.
Choosing the right paint was the next order of business, but Tyler ultimately wanted a color that would stand the test of time while allowing the truck to command attention from across the show field. A nice shade of red will always meet these demands, and Sherwin Williams’ Barcelona Red metallic proved to be the precise variant of red Tyler was looking for.
The Chevy’s exterior turned out good enough to influence the final decision to double down on the color red while overhauling the cab space. To fill out the dash, Dakota Digital gauges, a RetroSound head unit and Con2R steering wheel where then thrown into the mix. To give the cab a quick dose of comfort and style, TMI Products seats were covered in red ultra leather by Delgado’s Upholstery in Mansfield, Texas. The floors were also given the red treatment, as were the door panels and back cab wall – it all came together so quickly.
In no time, Tyler was soon staring down a completely different truck than what he first started with some three decades ago. The transformation took just under three years to complete and compared to the amount of time he has owned it, Tyler’s Chevy was totally re-imagined and transformed in what seemed like a blink of an eye. “I am happier with the truck than I thought I could ever be”, he says. “I’m also looking forward to many great experiences behind the wheel in the future, and I honestly don’t think I would’ve landed at this point without the help from Nick and Kevin at Killer Hot Rods, as well as everyone else who was involved in the process.”
TYLER DAHLGREN • ‘66 C10
- GM Performance LS3 crate engine
- Spal fan
- DeWitts aluminum radiator
- Powermaster alternator
- Billet Specialties script valve covers
- Custom air intake and K&N filter
- Hooker headers
- Flowmaster 2.5-inch stainless exhaust system and Delta 50 mufflers
- GM 4L65E transmission
- GM Billet torque converter
- 3.5-inch custom driveshaft
- Roadster Shop SPEC chassis
- Fox RS SV coil-overs
- Strange 9-inch rear end
- Wilwood 6-piston 13-inch front and 4-piston rear brake kits
- Boyd Welding 15-gallon aluminum fuel tank
- 19x8 and 20x11 Schott Rail eXL polished wheels
- 255/40/19 and 305/35/20 Mickey Thompson Street Comp tires
- Bodywork and paint by Killer Hot Rods, Arlington, TX (metal fab by Tyler Thompson / Bodywork by Bruce Wayne)
- Sherwin-Williams Barcelona Red Metallic paint
- C10 fleetside short bed
- Mar-K oak wood bed floor
- Custom smoothed seams, roll pan, tucked chrome bumpers, fiberglass tonneau cover, sheetmetal work under hood
- United Pacific taillights
- Chrome work by Ogden Chrome, Ogden, UT
- Custom steel dashboard
- Dakota Digital RTX gauges
- Old Air A/C system
- Vintage Air ProLine vents
- Con2R steering wheel
- RetroSound Hermosa head unit
- TMI Products seat w/custom red ultra leather upholstery
- Red loop carpet
- Custom door panels and console by Delgado’s Upholstery, Mansfield, TX