There were probably a few moments when he didn’t think he was going to have the truck finished in time for its first show. Gary Vinson told us that the most memorable experience he had during the six-month build-up of his Chevy pickup was seeing it finished the night before its first show.
Parts had been piling up for a ’71 GMC project that Gary was planning when his attention shifted. It happened the day his friend Larry told him about the ’72 Chevy Cheyenne Super owned by his neighbor. The GMC was “a little too far gone,” as Gary put it, and he had always liked ’72s. So he made the 30-mile trip from Gadsden, Alabama, to Oxford to see the Chevy and fell in love with it. The condition was fair, with a little rust in the bottom of of the doors, but it was a better starting point than the GMC (and would accept a lot of the parts he’d already collected), so Gary gave the owner $7,500 for the truck. “The guy’s wife wasn’t too happy when she got home and found out about it,” he remembers.
Gary worked on the Chevy and drove it for several years. After going through a divorce, he had to buy the truck from his ex-wife, again paying $7,500 to get it back. When the 350 engine dropped a valve, Gary says he “got a wild hair” and located a Chevy 402 that had powered a race car, ambitiously planting that between the fenders of the ’72. With Brodix heads and 11.5:1 compression, the big-block turned out to be a whole lot more motor than the truck needed. As luck would have it, the guy who originally built the engine wanted it back and was willing to trade a milder 383 to get it.
The 383, machined and assembled at Prater’s Auto Machine Shop in Fort Payne, Alabama, is well-suited for the pickup. The aluminum cylinder heads are from Holley, along with the intake and carb. The aluminum air cleaner sits way up on a riser atop the Holley Performance 770 Street Avenger carb, separated by a spacer plate from the street dominator intake manifold. A pair of Hooker Super Competition headers carry the exhaust to polished stainless exhaust pipes and mufflers. Zoops brackets and polished aluminum pulleys provide some shiny eye candy at the front of the engine.
Backing up the small-block is a column-shifted Chevy TH350 transmission with a B&M Holeshot converter. At the distant end of the driveshaft is a Chevy 12-bolt rearend.
The stock rear suspension was modified with 3-inch dropped springs.The front suspension is also stock with the exception of 2½-inch drop spindles—keeping things simple while improving the stance.
During the process of the build-up, Gary connected with Will Posey, Jimmy Posey, Jason Latham, Barry Alford, Gavin Graham, and Joseph Smith at Big Oak Garage in Hokes Bluff, Alabama. He credits everyone at the shop for taking the Chevy to the next level.
Barry and Gavin restored the exterior sheetmetal to new condition, keeping the stock headlights and taillights, bumpers, and door handles. New chrome on the grille and a Goodmark steel cowl induction hood improve the first impression when the truck’s coming up in your rearview mirror.
Gary says he spent many nights on his computer trying to decide on the right paint color for the truck, and kept coming back to classic solid black. Meanwhile, the crew at Big Oak Garage was encouraging him to go with a two-tone combination. As you can see, the shop’s suggestion won out. Gavin Graham broke up the black with white paint between the upper belt molding and the Cheyenne’s distinctive “simulated wood grain” inserts. “I’m glad I went two-tone, since you don’t see many like that,” Gary told us.
It was the crew at Big Oak Garage, incidentally, that suggested a nickname for Gary’s Chevy: Double Down. It’s not a reference to the truck’s two paint colors, but to the fact that he had to buy it twice.
Wheel choice might have been an easier decision than paint. A set of 20-inch Foose Legend chrome five-spokes fill the wheel openings and help set the overall style of the truck. Low-profile 295/45R20 BFGoodrich g-Force radials wrap around the 20x10 rear wheels, with 255/35R20 tires on 20x8s in front.
With all that black and white on the outside, the Cheyenne really benefits from the injection of color on the inside. Hudson’s Rod & Customs in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, did a beautiful job covering the bench seat and door panels with pure red leather. The steering wheel, a Stiletto model from Billet Specialties, got the same treatment. The rest of the modifications are appropriately mild, including some under-dash instruments. The stock air conditioning was improved by a conversion to R134 refrigerant and a Sanden compressor underhood.
We like to ask people to tell us the most challenging part of their truck project. For Gary, it was “trying to find a stopping point.” Looking back, the night before the show was probably a great stopping point. The 200-mile trip from Gadsden to Nashville was the first of several road trips Gary’s taken with the truck since it’s been finished—and the Goodguys Nashville Nats was just the first of several national events where the ’72 Chevy has gotten a lot of attention. There will be more. CCT