It must be hard to run a shop without constantly thinking up an angle to justify building a truck for yourself as a "business venture." I admire Phil and Jeremy Gerber. They've figured out how to do just that and they still managed to pull off quite the professional coup.
"The initial idea to build this truck was to add the C10 model to our Fast Track performance chassis lineup and expand into the truck market," explains Phil. "When designing a new chassis, we start with a solid, original vehicle in order to take all of the patterns and measurements off of. We bought the truck out of Arizona for like $1,200. It was a rock solid, mostly original longbed."
Obviously, the guys weren't interested in building a longbed chassis, so they quickly got to work mapping out the strategic points of the stock frame and using this data to translate it into a brand-new shortbed chassis.
"This was another hidden benefit of our new chassis. Anyone could buy a cheap, undesirable longbed for under $2,000, then buy a complete shortbed from LMC Trucks and our chassis, and have an incredible start to a project for about the same price as a stock shortbed, or any Camaro, Chevelle, or Mustang shell out there." Jeremy adds, "And you can now beat any of those cars in a truck on the autocross or road course!"
The secret to this success on the track is no accident. It's a formula that the guys have put together through hours of R&D with the rest of their crew at The Roadster Shop in Mundelein, Illinois.
Starting with a set of custom 10-gauge boxed CNC-cut 'rails, TIG-welded crossmembers are then added, and tailored to each vehicle. Instead of the antiquated Mustang II technology, the Roadster Shop has adopted the latest GM offerings in the shape of the C6 Corvette spindle, hung from custom, oversized control arms, 1 1/4-inch upper and 15⁄8-inch lower. That larger diameter is designed to handle the weight of a heavy truck and to cope with the stresses of performance driving. Afco 500-pound double adjustable billet coilover shocks soak up the bumps aided by a splined sway bar.
A Woodward power rack-and-pinion steering system swings the huge 14-inch, six-piston Wilwood brakes back and forth through the corners. Out back, a slightly lighter set of 350-pound Afco shocks mate the Speedway Engineering Mod-Lite Floater rearend to the chassis utilizing similar six-piston Wilwood brakes on a slightly smaller 13-inch rotor. A splined sway bar keeps the tires on the pavement and the body roll to a minimum. Rolling duties come in the form of 19x12 and 20x12 Forgeline RB3C wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Those huge tires up front are 345/35R19 and help the C10 corner like it does.
Once the truck was completed, it was immediately put to work with an E-coated shortbed assembly via LMC Truck and the stock green cab and front sheetmetal. This was the iteration that would provide the guys with the needed R&D to get the chassis design finalized and ready for production.
Phil continues, "It was never really intended to be too much of an autocross or race vehicle, but it handled extremely well despite the relatively small wheels/tires. We ended up having a lot of fun with the truck, but decided that it needed to be completed properly. So in the fall of 2011, it went back under the knife to get refined and finished properly. We chose a custom-mixed orange paint and elected to stay with the stock two-tone and molding package to make the truck relatable to everyone. These are great-looking trucks from the factory and felt that was a hard look to top."
Jose Marscal and his crew at New Vision Collision got the nod for the beautiful custom-mixed PPG orange and white two-tone scheme as well as knocking every square inch of the truck mirror smooth. A mini-tub was fabricated in the bed to clear those massive tires and rearend, and the bumpers were tucked a bit tighter to the body to clean up the overall lines of the truck, but other than that, Phil and the boys decided to leave the C10 more or less unmolested, aesthetically.
"We had a '70 Camaro in the works that was to be our track car for 2012. Unfortunately with the workload of customer cars, that car was nowhere near ready when the spring of 2012 rolled around. So, we decided to make a few mods and turn the truck into our ‘track truck.' We started out with the original 400hp LS6 and TKO five-speed that were in the truck from the previous year. This was a decent combination, but didn't have the grunt to get the job done on the big road courses like Road America. We then pulled the motor and replaced it with a 550hp LS2 that was in another shop project. That motor only lasted one event before we decided to go all in and dropped in the 730hp RHS block LSX that we had built for the Camaro."
Backing the Turnkey Engine-prepped LSX is a Bowler Performance Transmission T-56 Magnum trans mated via a Zoom twin disc clutch. An LS7 intake feeds the big 510ci motor, while the exhaust gasses are spent through a set of Roadster Shop Fast Track headers mated to a pair of Borla XR-1 mufflers.
Inside, the cab retains the same mellow vibe as the exterior, save for the Sparco racing harnesses that surround the '70 Chevelle bucket seats, modified by Custom Interiors by Voss. A set of Auto Meter gauges keeps an eye on the underhood appointments via an American Autowire harness, while steering duties are handled by an ididit column topped by a Grant three-spoke steering wheel. A billet Bowler shifter and center-mounted fire extinguisher are the only other subtle clues of what lies ahead for those who climb in the cab.
Phil closes us out with a couple of track tales, "The C10 has been a blast to drive both on the track and just cruising around. The most memorable moment would have to be this year at one of the test days that we attended at Blackhawk Raceway in South Beloit, Illinois. This is a 1.95-mile road course that has weekly test and tune sessions as well as track days with the local BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, Vette, and Viper clubs. It just so happened that the day we showed up was also the Porsche/BMW club day. I rolled the C10 into the tech line and got a bunch of quiet laughs, points, and stares from the Porsche and Bimmer guys.
"The tech inspector asked if I was in the right place with this truck. He followed that with something along the lines of, ‘I've tech'd thousands of cars in my time, but this has to be my first truck, let alone a '70s pickup,' followed by a sarcastic laugh. He also informed me how he was a head driving instructor for his club and if I needed any advice, he could try to help me out. I responded with ‘I think that I'll just go out and see if I can make this thing go around a few corners, but I'll let you know if I need any help.'
"Twenty minutes later I was staged to run in the advanced group with six to eight Porsches and BMWs. Again, more laughs and pointing and comments on what they would do from a suspension standpoint if they wanted to make a truck handle. First session out, I passed all but one car on the track and was closing in on him until the checkered flag was waved. I even lapped one or two guys out there. The truck was swarmed when I pulled back into the pits by all the drivers and spectators watching me beat up on German supercars.
"Another great moment was at the Popular Hot Rodding Magazine Muscle Car of the Year competition. We were supposed to enter a Camaro that we built for a customer. At the last minute, the customer backed out, not wanting to beat up his brand-new Camaro. We begged the guys from PHR to let us run our C10 in its place, but they did not want a truck running in the Muscle Car event. I tried to claim that it was an El Camino, but that didn't work. Finally they let me run in the exhibition class. The truck kicked some muscle car butt in all three areas of the event finishing Third in the speed stop, Second in the quarter-mile drag race, and First in the autocross. ‘Had it been a muscle car, it would have taken First Place. In a truck. No Kidding. Consider our minds blown.' — PHR"
Which begs the question, should this be the Muscle Car of the Year? We think so…