When we first met Juan Carlo Ibarra, it was at the benefit show for the late automotive editor, Courtney Halowell, in Clearwater, Florida. There were more than 150 vehicles on display but Juan received the coveted Courtney Pick, earned for the three beautiful classic trucks he displayed at the event. Juan manages multiple rental properties in the Miami area and his cars and trucks are pure hobby, one that he has been enjoying for more than two decades. One of the best examples of his talent is this white ’48 GMC. He took the truck in on trade and it was a sad little basket case with a frame and body but no suspension. There was something about the pile of parts, however, that convinced him the automotive antique needed a fresh start.

Juan does all his own work and began the rejuvenation process by C-notching the frame, then welding in an ’81 Camaro front clip using 2-inch dropped spindles. The original plan for the rear was to create a simple four-link but sometimes, trucks write their own story and you just become a willing participant. No sooner was the new four-link in position when he realized he would have to create some adjustability in the new front end, a problem he solved with a set of airbags. The lowered front end looked good and, as we all know, one thing leads to another. It wasn’t long before the plan changed entirely, with Juan scrubbing the first idea for the rear and creating a new back half to replace the original chassis rails. It incorporated a deeper C-notch and he mounted the four-link upside down to ensure proper clearance now that the truck was resting comfortably on the asphalt. A pair of Viair 480s, mounted left and right on the rear chassis rails, feed the polished five-gallon reserve tank and activate the four Slam Specialties bags through SMC valves. Four Doetsch gas-filled shocks, with multistage valving ensure a comfortable ride on the street while guaranteeing precise handling at speed. Modern Coys wheels got the ancient pickup rolling in new millennium style with 18x7s up front and 20x8s in the rear, all wrapped in Nankang rubber. Juan is a perfectionist when he builds, taking the time to grind all the welds smooth before he sent more than a dozen different chassis pieces to Bulls Eye Powder Coating in Miami. They sent the pieces back covered in a beautiful shade of Copper Pearl. For contrast, the custom-made, 17-gallon aluminum fuel tank was powdercoated Wrinkle Black. All the colors and innovative engineering on the chassis are visible, thanks to a linear actuator that raises the bed floor at the touch of a button, a feature that always wows spectators.

Once the modern suspension components were in place and altitude was under the driver’s control, it was time for motive power. The tired original six-banger was made into a planter and a new 350 Chevy was mounted low in the chassis. Upgraded with a Holly 570 cfm carburetor, MSD HEI ignition, and ceramic coated headers feeding twin Magnaflow mufflers, the new V-8 sends 300 hp to the modern Turbo 350 automatic and Camaro 12-bolt rear. As pretty as it is powerful, the engine was accented with custom pieces that include a custom made aluminum air cleaner, a one-of-a-kind triangular accent, and valve covers, all painted to match. The smooth firewall holds the polished Wilwood master cylinder along with the modern A/C connections for the Vintage Air A/C.