How does one dare to be different in the world of custom trucks when just about everything and anything has at one time or another been applied or at least tried? It can be pretty difficult nowadays considering some of the modern technological advancements, but if you need help with that question we’d like to point you in the direction of David Neal of Peoria, Illinois. In our travels, we ran into David at Relaxed Atmosphere’s All Star Event in Millington, Tennessee, a few years back and were given the opportunity to photograph his classic 1968 Chevy C-10 pickup truck appropriately named “Shortie.”
The lowdown on David’s truck comes from youthful dreams and a regularly voiced promise. Back in David’s high school years he often told his buddies, during serious gearhead conversations, that he would someday build a sick custom classic truck that many would recognize and remember for years. He wanted to have a clean custom hauler that would look cool while cruising the strip or while sitting low in the grass at an auto show. In 2001, eight Ben Franklins and a firm handshake kicked off the beginning of a build that would become the envy of many custom truck enthusiasts both young and old.
The interesting story behind this truck is the amount of time, persistence, and skill attainment that was required to complete a “weekend warrior” project that would take nearly a decade to finish. This became evident when David explained to me, during the photo shoot, that he went through approximately three cabs before he finally perfected the chopped top. The amount of time spent and hands-on experience is ultimately how David learned to build a custom truck from the frame up along with the technical assistance of his friends Andy Cook, Shawn Ray, Shane Souba, Tim Strange, and Joe Turk.
One of the more notable designs is the forward leaning tailgate and rear section of the cab. Gary Brown of Brown’s Metal Mods in Indianapolis, Indiana, gave David and his friends this idea and it is one that works well with the overall design and gives that touch of uniqueness without it being overly conspicuous.
The truck lacks a lot of chrome or polished exterior enhancements other than some minor trim work, what is under the hood, and on the grille. The bumpers were smoothed, voided of any bolt heads, narrowed, tucked, and painted PPG white. 2003 Jeep Liberty headlights were installed in the stock grille next to the classic amber turn signal and marker lights. The pickup box was updated with a raised metal 1994 Chevy bed floor. The stock gas tank in these trucks came off the assembly line installed behind the seat with a filler cap protruding out of the driver’s side rear cab pillar.
To keep the body of the truck unobstructed and clean, the stock gas tank and filler neck was ditched and a Kustom Tanks gas tank was mounted under the bed in the rear of the truck. Now, the fuel filler hatch is only visible when the custom tailgate is opened. Once all exterior mods were completed, David’s truck received a fresh classic two-tone paint scheme, from Shane Souba, consisting of PPG white and “Dub City Model” yellow paint.
Down under, David boxed the factory frame using 3/16-inch thick plate. To allow the three-link cantilevered Air Lift rear suspension ample vertical travel, the rear rails were C-notched. David body-dropped the C-10 by cutting out two and a half-inches of the framerail under the cab and then reinforcing it with 2×4 3/16-inch rectangular tubing, thus giving the truck maximum drop without sacrificing safety.
The stock floor remained untouched and in the same condition it did the day it rolled off the assembly line at General Motors, but the transmission tunnel was modified and raised two and a half-inches to clear the way for a 2001 4L60E transmission fitted with a custom extended Jenny shifter.
Additional suspension components include Bill Turner dropped control arms, a pair of Viair compressors, and a five-gallon air tank which provides plenty of air on tap for the Air Lift 27c airbags.
Between the nose section framerails sits a modern 2001 Chevy Vortec 5.3-liter engine with aluminum cylinder heads fitted with an Edelbrock intake manifold, Edelbrock carburetor, and an LS6 Comp Cams camshaft, along with lifters, pushrods, rockers, springs, and valves. A two and a half-inch custom exhaust, consisting of Edelbrock ceramic-coated headers and a pair of 40 series Flowmaster mufflers, was bent up and stuffed between the rear framerails offering the Bowtie engine plenty of breathing assistance. The rear end consists of a GM 12-bolt fitted with 3.73:1 gears and all the truck’s movement is kept under control with CPP 12-inch front rotors with four-piston calipers and classic drum brakes in the rear.
Tucked under the fenders is a set of custom painted 22×9 Centerline Ultra Smoothies under the nose and 24×10 under the tail. The wheels were painted PPG white to match the truck’s body except for the polished lip and ’69 Camaro center hub caps.
Much has been said about the exterior of David’s rig, but the interior also deserves some mention. David made a custom dash out of sheet metal pounded into a pretty cool concave shape with a center pod that’s filled with white-face Auto Meter gauges. The stock two-piece sail panel door glass was exchanged for one-piece door glass regulated with billet door cranks. The door panels received a custom touch and the stock bench seat received a little TLC as well consisting of new foam, all of which was upholstered by Jerry at A1 Auto Upholstery in Bartonville, Illinois, in tan Ultraleather. Taupe floor carpeting, Ididit steering column topped off with a leather wrapped billet steering wheel, and a Vintage Air unit finishes off the interior aesthetics and creature comforts. No cruiser is complete without an audio system, so Andy Cook installed an Alpine head unit and Brian Bong and Dan Condre made a custom set of speaker pods.
David Neal’s truck isn’t a crazy wild custom, but yet over the past several years it has gained notable attention. This is proof positive that blending traditional good looks with the right amount of modifications can do wonders for a show and go custom. This was all part of David’s master plan: give the truck a substantial amount of modifications, but at the same time do not make them look so conspicuous. No wonder it took nearly a decade for David to finish building his dream hauler and make good on his promise!