The Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational—where competitors duke it out in a variety of performance categories including autocross, road course, acceleration, and braking—is an invitation-only showdown restricted to street-driven vehicles. As you’d expect, the majority of the competition consists of low, lean, street machines and muscle cars with an obvious physical advantage over boxy pickup trucks. For Rob Phillips’ ’69 Chevy C10 to finish in the middle of that kind of field, which it did at the 2010 OUSCI, is a proud victory.

Fifteen years ago, the truck was a white, bone-stock stepside in some guy’s driveway. “I drove by this thing for more than a year on my way to work. I wanted it so bad,” Rob told us. “One day, I saw the owner sticking a For Sale sign on it. I almost caused an accident whipping around to go back. I pulled in, jumped out, and yelled ‘Sold! I’ll take it!’ I didn’t even ask how much. Turns out, he was asking $3,500, which is a lot of money when you’re 17. I had to beg my mom until she said yes, and co-signed the loan for me to buy it.”

Unknown to Rob, his sweet new ride had unseen rust everywhere. His father, who lived in Oklahoma, helped him by locating a $400 ’68 cab and front clip. Rob drove down with a neighbor’s old trailer and hauled the replacement sheetmetal home to Minnesota.

After a few years of daily driving, Rob stripped down the truck and painted it Corvette Millennium Yellow. “It was a terrible paintjob,” he admitted. By this time, the Chevy was running a 500-horse Chevy small-block with nitrous, and running in the high 11s at the local dragstrip.

When Rob moved from Minnesota to California in 2002, the C10 came with him, but it just collected dust for a few years. He was starting to pay attention to the truck again when his skills as a builder started to get noticed. One day he met Chip Foose, whose Overhaulin’ television series was in its early seasons. When Rob asked, half jokingly, how somebody might get to build cars on the show, Chip invited him to come by and pitch in. At the end of the seven-day build, Rob thanked Chip for the opportunity and was asked to stay on, which he did for three years, eventually getting promoted to project manager. When the series ended, Rob used his experience to open a shop of his own, Phillips & Company Hot Rods, in Long Beach.

In addition to building projects for his customers, he started giving some attention to the neglected yellow C10. His ideas for the rebuild had been simple, but after doing so many radical automotive makeovers on Overhaulin’, simple wasn’t easy anymore. “I went overboard a little. I blame Chip for that,” he laughed.

Swapping the stepside bed with fleetside panels was just one of many changes. Rob cleaned up the ’68 cab by shaving the handles, emblems, and marker lights. The cowl vents were filled, and the gutters shaved and replaced with ’34 Ford-style ’rails—but the wipers were kept in case it ever rains in Southern California (the truck is a driver). The grille was smoothed, and parking lights and turn signals relocated to the headlights from Yogi’s. Both bumpers were shortened and modified. The tailgate was smoothed and the handle moved to the inside. Marquez Design provided the billet-bezeled taillights. The Mar-K oak bed floor was finished with a cherry stain. The crew at Lanzini Bodyworks performed extensive sheetmetal work before shooting the paint. The lower color is copper metallic, and the top is black, with a titanium silver stripe breaking things up. Famed ’striper Dennis Ricklefs added his pinstriping. Artistic Silver Plating made sure the brightwork was as brilliant as the rest of the finish.

Gary at Magnum Superchargers did the machining assembled the short-block, and Rob did assembly on the 468ci Chevy big-block with Edelbrock aluminum heads that now powers the C10. Mass-Flo EFI on an Edelbrock manifold keeps the fuel and air coming. On the exhaust side, Hedman headers and MagnaFlow pipes and mufflers handle spent gases and sound a nice note. S&W Transmission put together a Turbo 400 and converter, connected to the rearend by a Drivelines driveshaft. The GM 12-bolt features a 3.73:1 gear ratio and an Eaton Detroit Locker differential.

Inside the cab, the stock tach-equipped dash remains, but the rest is modified, from the LeCarra steering wheel on a GM tilt column to all that black upholstery from Katzkin Leather. Cobra Daytona racing seats, Simpson harnesses, and a chrome-moly harness bar built by Emmanual Rojas were added after Rob caught the autocross bug. Classic Auto Air A/C keeps everything cool, and an Eclipse head unit and Kicker audio components, installed by Geoff Curtis, insure that the big-block doesn’t drown out the soundtrack.

Rob says he had never seen an autocross race before April 2010, when he was displaying his truck at the Goodguys Del Mar Nationals. On Sunday, after watching the action for two days, he decided to put the C10 through the cones just for fun and was hooked. He got busy setting up his suspension to make the stock-framed pickup more competitive in the sport of surefooted g-Machines. The most successful component, hands down, he said, is the Hotchkis suspension setup. He runs a Hotchis Sport Suspension TVS kit, with front and rear anti-roll bars, front and rear springs, front centerlink, rear Panhard bar, and steering componentry. The AFCO double-adjustable racing shocks provided another big improvement in handling. He also switched to lightweight MHT Mach X forged three-piece wheels (19x12 and 19x10) wrapped in huge Nitto meats measuring 335/30R19 and 275/35R19. The 14-inch Baer brakes all around have been on for 3,500 miles and still grab like a pit bull jaw.

The OUSCI was a great shakedown for the suspenion. Now Rob and support crew/fiancé Jessica Goud (the other key to his success) can’t wait for the next chance to run the C10 through the cones. CCT

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