Whenever we visit a hot rod shop, we like to look for the builder’s personal projects. You can usually find one or two of them, parked under a cover in some remote corner of the place, out of the way of the customer cars and trucks that get first priority. We like to look for these because even though they are the most neglected projects in a shop, they’re the ones that really show the builder’s personal taste—uninfluenced by the taste of a customer.
This ’77 Chevy C10 is the personal property of Joe Brown and was built at the shop he owns, Hot Rod Joe’s in Lafayette, Louisiana. Joe has built some extraordinarily high-end vehicles, some of which have ended up as Ridler award finalists. While he was building those, this was the one parked in the back, waiting its turn.
Joe bought the one-owner truck from a guy who was closing his old welding shop and retiring. It was in good shape and it was a good deal, but it sat around Hot Rod Joe’s for a few years before Joe had the free time to start on it. He got it blown apart and finished most of the bodywork, when progress stopped. In addition to time, the project needed a direction. “It didn’t really have a direction until I came across a Chevy big-block motor,” Joe told us. “That put everything back in motion and the plan became clear. It was going to be more of a Pro Touring-style pickup, combining modern upgrades with a reasonable budget.”
The best example of that principle might be on the exterior of Joe’s C10. The body and bed modifications aren’t extreme but the results transform the look of the truck. Shaving the drip rails and the door locks (keeping the handles), removing the side trim pieces, and reworking the gaps were small but significant outer improvements. One-piece door glass replaces the stock windows and vents. In the front, the grille/headlights frame was also painted and the busy factory grille was exchanged for a simpler custom version. The headlights were treated to clear lenses. Joe got rid of the bumper guards, smoothed the bumper, and painted it. The rear bumper was eliminated altogether in favor of a welded-in roll pan.
Joe kept the truck on the original frame, but modified the suspension to lower it, keeping with its more aggressive theme. Belltech drop spindles were mounted in front, with stock A-arms and Monroe shocks. C-notches in the ’rails lower the rear, where the stock leafs and shocks were retained. The brakes were upgraded to Wilwood discs—measuring 12 inches at the front wheels and 11 inches at the rear.
In deciding on the right style of wheels to suit the C10, Joe ultimately chose to order a set of custom one-off rims from Intro. He painted the centers of the custom 22x10 and 20x9.5 five-spokes, and added polished center caps. Dark orange pinstriping sets off the paint. The wheel design and size called for low-profile meat, like these g-Force T/A KDW-2 street performance tires from BFGoodrich.
The big-block engine that inspired this build-up in the first place is a ’77 Chevy 454, bored 0.030-over to 460ci. Joe loaded the cylinders with 10.5:1 compression flat-top pistons. Induction is provided by a Ram Jet EFI installation from Street & Performance in Mena, Arkansas, featuring a custom air cleaner. Headers from Hedman Hedders handle the exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers quieting things down just enough. Horsepower is rated at 425. A column-shifted GM 700R4 transmission delivers torque to a M 12-bolt with 3.73:1 gears and an Eaton Posi limited slip differential.
The C10’s performance personality is reflected the most in the cockpit. Joe calls the interior “very mechanical looking, unlike any other Chevy truck.” That’s an understatement. Driver and passenger ride in a pair of Recaro buckets. Steve Holcomb in Nashville upholstered the seats in charcoal leather with orange stitching and inserts. He also covered the custom door panels and center console.