The whole point of building a custom truck, or any type of hot rod, is to have something different. Something nobody else has. Something uniquely yours.
Robert Sapp, the builder and owner of this homegrown '72 Chevy Stepside, knows that as well as anybody. He's owned the truck since 2006, but he's had his eye on it almost since the day his brother bought it in the late '70s. In the years that followed, Robert kept his brother informed that he'd like to have the truck someday, and eventually his persistence paid off.
After studying the truck and thinking about how he wanted to build it, Robert realized that nothing less than a frame-up restoration was in order--new drivetrain, rebuilt chassis, tires and wheels, refinished interior-the works. He knew that even with complete inside and out upgrades, he didn't want to make any exterior modifications that would disguise the lines of this last-of-the-series body.
He also knew that he wanted to do the majority of the work himself, despite the challenges that would present. In addition to the usual difficulties faced by anybody building a custom truck at home, Robert would be doing all the work out of a wheelchair. That meant modifying his garage for the job by installing pulleys and jacks to help him work. It also meant relying on his best friends for some tasks, such as hanging the doors and mounting the hood-but Robert says that 90 percent of the build was done by himself. "All my buddies tried to discourage me from doing this," he said, "but I've never let hard work stand in my way."
To achieve the C10's pavement-scraping stance, Robert installed 2 1/2-inch drop spindles up front, notched the framerails in the rear, and added RideTech airbags all around. Power disc brakes from CPP were bolted up front and rear. The stock traction bars were retained, but modified, and the factory gas tank was replaced by an 18-gallon custom stainless tank. The Chevy rolls along on a set of 18-inch Intro Pentia five-spoke billet rims, mounted with P245/45R18 Dunlop SP Sport 9000 radial tires.
The engine compartment that once held the factory I-6 is now home to an impressively dressed 350ci crate motor. Induction comes from an Edelbrock four-barrel carb and intake manifold; exhaust exits via a pair of Hedman headers and Flowmaster mufflers. The custom air cleaner and valve covers were built by Robert, along with all the brackets. The Turbo 400 automatic transmission delivers torque to a Posi rearend with 4.11:1 gears.
The truck hadn't suffered much damage in the years that his brother owned it, but did require a few patch panels. Robert built a new firewall, welded the inner fender holes, eliminated a lot of trim, and smoothed out the body lines. He narrowed the bed center by three inches, completely rebuilt the tailgate and rear bumper, and fabricated handmade latches and custom taillights. The original oak was sanded at a cabinet shop and finished with marine varnish. Hundreds of paint chips were inspected and rejected before Robert spotted the perfect color at a car show. It's Prowler Copper pearl darkened with some Cocoa brown. Tom Wright from Wright-Way Inc. in Garland, Texas, painted the Chevy. Wright-Way is a company that specializes in vehicle automotive mobility equipment and conversions.
For Robert, modifying the cab so that he could drive the truck required a lot more planning and engineering than most enthusiasts have to deal with. The hot rod aftermarket doesn't have much to offer in terms of the hand controls and other components he needs-and he also wanted those components to fit the style of a dressed-up custom interior. Rick Fairless at Strokers Dallas Motorcycle Shop helped him figure out how to adapt custom-made chrome motorcycle hand controls to the C10. Tom and Kenneth Wright at Wright-Way also provided a lot of help with the mechanical conversion. The ididit steering column required no modifications for use with the hand controls. Even the custom billet pedals were designed to protect Roberts feet from getting underneath them.
The seats are rear captain's chairs from an '02 Chevy van, chosen for safety as well as looks, and fit perfectly in the C10. Chris' Trim Shop in Fort Worth upholstered them in deep tan leather with faux snakeskin inserts. The cow/snake combo is carried over onto the door panels, the modified '79 Blazer console, and the Billet Specialties Pomona model steering wheel. Robert built the dash panel and filled it with Dolphin white-face instruments. Classic Air provided the air-conditioning unit, and Walt Green helped rewire the pickup using aviation connections and no kit.
Robert had the Chevy finished in 31 months and wasted no time in starting to put some miles on the homebuilt pickup. He says it gets driven almost every weekend. When he's not behind the wheel, he's frequently paying visits to local hospitals, encouraging rehabilitating spinal cord injury patients, "to show them that not only can they drive a vehicle, they can fulfill their dreams."