Modern technology allows us to do hundreds of tasks faster than ever, but there are still a few that take just as long as they always did.
You can bake a potato in the microwave in 10 minutes instead of the hour or more it takes in the oven. You can email a message in a matter of seconds as opposed to the days it takes the mailman. But other things: mowing the lawn, driving to Phoenix, building a custom truck still take about the same amount of time. There is no high-speed button to push to make those jobs go faster.
Actually, when it comes to building a custom truck, we're starting to wonder if maybe there is a high-speed button Russ Kemmit knows about that we don't. We met Russ at the Goodguys Spring Nationals in Scottsdale-on the other side of Phoenix from his home in Peoria, Arizona.
We weren't surprised to find out that his beautiful golden orange '68 GMC had been finished only a few weeks before the event. What did widen our eyes a little bit was finding out that the blow-it-apart-and-completely-rebuild-the-whole-thing project hadn't begun until the fall of 2009. When Russ had purchased the truck at the end of the summer, it was a one-owner survivor still wearing white paint and running the factory six-cylinder engine. It was driveable, he told us, and he could describe it in two words: plain Jane.
Russ had owned the truck a month when he started the build. By September, he had blown apart the whole thing. He sent the frame and body to the sandblaster. When they came back, the body went to Sainz Auto Body & Frame in Phoenix for bodywork and paint, while the frame, rearend housing, A-arms, springs, inner fenders, core support, and transmission went to get powdercoated at Affordable Powder Coating, also in Phoenix.
A month later, Russ, working at the pace of an Indy car pit crew, was reassembling the chassis with the powdercoated original 'rails. The frontend and steering system from a '72 Chevy was installed along with a set of 21/2-inch drop spindles. In the rear, Russ used a Dana 44 rearend with a locker and 3.73:1 gears. Stock springs were retained all around and Monroe shocks were added front and rear. Fuel lines and a 21-gallon gas tank from a Chevy Blazer were installed for eventual service and disc brakes were added all the way around.
In November, work began on the '72 Chevy 383 stroker engine that would replace the original six-cylinder engine. You can see that it turned out immaculate, but looks don't move you down the road. The 383 is loaded with 10:1 Manley pistons, and features Dart Iron Eagle heads. Induction is handled by an Edelbrock carburetor and intake manifold combo. An MSD ignition fires the mixture, and exhaust exits through Hooker headers to Flowmaster mufflers. The factory three-speed was swapped for a 700-R4 from Sav-On Transmission in Phoenix.
With the end of the year approaching and the body back from the paint shop, Russ installed the engine and transmission, then added the air-conditioning system from Vintage Air and wired the gauges, including a tach and a vacuum gauge.
At Sainz Auto Body, the truck underwent some sheetmetal straightening on the cab and bed. It also went through a color change, from factory kitchen appliance white to a glowing House Of Kolor hue called Bittersweet.