It could have been the premier of an exciting new television show geared toward classic truck freaks with a bent for wild and crazy road trips. Imagine the opening sequence with a burning map just like the beginning of Bonanza, when all of a sudden an old truck crashes through the flames and hauls buns to a signpost up ahead that reads, "Next stop the AutoZone."
Our saga begins only four weeks prior to Custom Classic Trucks' scheduled departure with the guys at Painless Performance in Fort Worth, Texas, on Rod & Custom magazine's annual Americruise. As loyal CCT readers can attest, we have been working feverishly to prepare our '72 Ford F-100 entered in the Build-Off against Classic Trucks to be done in time to show up for Americruise-well, long story short, things didn't quite turn out that way. No problem-as fate would have it, we had just picked up a '79 Chevy C-10 Big 10 with only 75,000 original miles for only $1,600. So maybe this is a tech story after all-anyone knows a person can't just go out and pay $1,600 for a truck and then drive it all over the country without checking it over first. And since our name is Custom Classic Trucks, there was no way we were going to leave the C-10 stock-some cool things had to be done before we could roll out in style and comfort.
The first step and perhaps one of the most fun things about buying a new/old truck is to begin with a good detail job. The original owner had special-ordered the Chevy Big 10 from De Anza Chevrolet in Riverside, California, to use as a farm truck on his plum ranch. Inside the cab, the interior was covered from top to bottom with 28 years' worth of rotting plums that had turned into a gooey prune paste that had solidified to a dark brown resin. On the outside, thanks to being kept in a barn at night, the '79's original paint was still in pretty good shape, with the only real body damage being typical for a truck that spent almost 30 years driving in between rows of trees each day.
We started the C-10's exterior cleanup with a bucket full of hot water mixed with a heavy concentration of Mothers' California Gold car wash soap. While washing the door jambs, we noticed the Mothers mixture made short work out of dissolving the prune residue from all the interior areas. Before we knew it, we had the bench seat out of the truck, its Mexican blanket-style seat cover cut off, and the seat scrubbed down to look as good as new. From here the next chore was to tear out the original GM rubber floor covering and hit the mud-caked cab floor with the Mothers concentrate, followed with a heavy blast from a garden hose. The last step was to dry it off with a towel in one hand, followed with an air nozzle hooked up to a 60-psi line.
The benefits of detailing a truck one has just bought are bi-fold, the obvious being the aging process has been slowed and the initial stages of a restoration have begun, but as the truck is cleaned, it is also the time to take a close look and evaluate its mechanical condition. At this point, with only three weeks left before it was time to leave with the '79 for Americruise, we made a list of priorities. In addition to handling anything associated with a full service, we decided the C-10 should be set up to be the ultimate high-speed cruiser with the latest technology available for a '73-87 C-10. It is one thing for a drivetrain to be able to sustain high speeds for days on end, but equally important are the conditions that can lead to driver fatigue. For the guy who only uses his classic truck to cruise to the local convenience store, noise levels, ride quality, and fuel economy probably do not matter. However, if a person wants to spend up to 12 hours in the cab pulling down the long-hard miles without dying from discomfort-induced exhaustion, there are measures that can be taken, and interestingly enough, the benefits overlap.
Left to right: Jeff Wise and Danny Nix of Classic Performance Products with the Big 10 aft
For front suspension, we used CPP tubular upper and lower control arms equipped with CPP F