Sometimes a truck build evolves beyond the original plan. Tastes change, ambitions expand, opportunities appear, a budget snaps its leash, or the motivation for doing the project in the first place takes an unexpected turn and the whole thing takes on a life of its own. In this case, what began as a father and son effort between Jim Ballard and his son Nicholas, was finished as a tribute to Nicholas’ memory.
Jim says he paid a friend $1,000 for the ’77 Chevy C10 at the beginning of 1999. Nicholas was 15 at the time, and the idea was to rebuild the truck for Nicholas to drive when it was finished. Since this was a thorough overhaul as opposed to a simple fix-up, the Chevy was dismantled down to the frame.
The first area of attention was the 350ci Chevy engine. Jim disassembled the small-block and sent it to Button Automotive Machine Shop, in O’Fallon, Missouri for machining. Jim reassembled the engine, filling the 0.040-over cylinders with flat top pistons and adding 307 heads and a mild cam. He paired an Edelbrock intake with a Holley 4-barrel for fuel and air. The finned air cleaner and valve covers are also Edelbrock parts. The 2½-inch pipes send exhaust to a couple of MagnaFlow mufflers.
The front of the engine is...
The front of the engine is highlighted by a serpentine pulley set-up.
The changes to the chassis were kept fairly uncomplicated, consistent with the mild driver theme. The Ballards lowered the truck by cutting the front springs, modifying the control arms and swapping in a new set of shocks. Rear leafs and shocks were kept stock.
Replacing the rusty floor, rocker panels, and other sheetmetal panels was a necessity; making additional exterior upgrades was a priority. External modifications included replacing the previously louvered hood, tailgate, and rear rollpan, filling stake pockets, and shaving all handles, trim, and driprails. Then Jim and Nicholas started thinking about paint colors, leaning toward orange.
Although the truck was still in progress, Nicholas’ attention to the project started getting some competition from dating and other teenage pursuits. That progress slowed down and stayed slow for several years. In 2006, Nicholas lost his life in an accident. Jim retired later that year and he and his wife Toni moved from Missouri to Buckeye, Arizona, near Phoenix. The Chevy went with them. “I just couldn’t part with the truck because of all the memories it held of Nicholas’ dreams for it,” Jim explained. “So I loaded it on a trailer and brought it with us to Buckeye.”
The Chevy 350 engine powering...
The Chevy 350 engine powering the C10 is dressed up with an Edelbrock air cleaner and valve covers, and backed up by a 700R4 transmission from Hughes Performance.
No work got done on the unfinished truck for a few years, until Jim met Tim Perrin and Dennis Knox from Classic American Rides in Gilbert, Arizona. “I explained to Tim how I felt that I had to finish my son’s dream. I told him the ideas that Nicholas and I had for the truck and that I could use their help. He told me to bring the truck over.”
Since then, an ’82 Chevy frontend was added, with hidden headlights and an aftermarket rollpan. Jim built custom tailights for the rear rollpan. Classic American Rides installed the one-piece side glass and the custom tonneau. The power mirrors came from a Chevy SSR pickup.
The bed was slightly tubbed to fit a pair of 335/30ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport high-performance radials, mounted on 18x12 Knuckle rims from Foose Custom Wheels. The front tires are 245/40ZR18s on 18x8½ rims. Wilwood brakes feature 12-inch rotors and a Hydroboost power booster.
When the truck was ready for paint, Classic American Rides connected Jim with Chris Soehren of Elite Automotive Finishes in Mesa. The House Of Kolor Tangelo pearl is the shade of orange Nicholas wanted for the truck.
Nicholas Ballard’s portrait...
Nicholas Ballard’s portrait airbrushed on the tailgate of the ’77 C10 he helped build. The artwork was created by Matt Andrews at Hypnotic Air in Phoenix.
The interior was completely redone. Mike Valencia in Phoenix finished the custom seats, console, and door panels in tan and brown leather with ostrich inserts. Auto Meter gauges were installed in the custom dash behind a Billet Specialties Stiletto steering wheel. Other creature comforts include A/C from Vintage Air and a Kenwood stereo system.
The project was completed in the fall 2011, only a few months ago and only a few weeks before these photos were taken. “I think Nicholas would be proud of it,” Jim told us. Although the goal of finishing the truck for Nicholas couldn’t be fulfilled, the goal of participating in the project together, even for a short time, certainly was. CCT