After an accomplished career filled with purpose-driven work, or fulfilling the arduous tasks of hard labor for years on end, even the best workers may begin to look forward to some quality time away from the grindstone. A dignified retirement has been earned along with the newfound respect that is befitting an experienced veteran of the work force. Yeah, it’s finally time to put your feet up and bask in the sun.
Chevy trucks are hard workers too. It’s why they were made. They are a reflection of their owners lives. Maybe they should be due the same considerations the person behind the steering wheel receives when their working days are done. John Gessner of Mooresville, North Carolina, knows a good, hard working truck when he sees one. He executed the ultimate nod to tough trucks with his C10 Chevy short-bed pickup truck.
This particular truck spent its working days laboring with a landscape firm in nearby Gastonia, North Carolina. When found, it was a well used, and somewhat abused, 1969 model. John had already acquired a similar 1967 C10 Chevy in New Orleans, Louisiana, that received some significant upgrades, but when he saw this neglected working man’s special, the pathway to a fully realized retirement for this forlorn working truck became clear.
The gardener’s indignities were largely ignored as John embarked upon a journey to bring the former landscape truck to a place it had never been before — the lap of luxury — but with plenty of horsepower and powerful bite. John brought the truck home and welcomed it into his backyard shop. With the help of his friend Kevin Lee, they began a three-year odyssey to make John’s vision a reality.
The truck was disassembled and, literally, everything about it was remade into a state-of-the-art hot rod with a working man’s pedigree. The landscape truck was a blank canvas, ready for a makeover, while the driver C10 from New Orleans became a donor truck. It would go on to donate a considerable portion of its recently freshened sheet metal to the project, as well as a 2001 Corvette LS engine, and a 4L60E automatic transmission.
Probably the only original metal left on this truck is the cab, everything else is either replaced or modified. – John Gessner.
A quick look at the undercarriage of this former hauler begins to reveal the extent of what has been done to this once-plebeian C10 Chevy. The original stock frame has been fully boxed and reworked for a lower stance with VSM custom rear framerails and outfitted with powdercoated CPP suspension arms in front. A power rack-and-pinion steering setup points the truck down the road, while Wilwood 14-inch discs (front) and 12-inch discs (rear) handle the stopping chores.
The rolling stock consists of Vision Legend Series wheels, sized 8.5 x 20 (front) and 9.5 x 20 (rear). They are wrapped with BF Goodrich rubber all around. The 2.5-inch, polished-stainless-steel exhaust system and the driveshaft are routed through the Heidt’s Big C10 crossmember such that no undercarriage components are located below the bottom of the chassis.
The frame is finished in a black copper vein powdercoat which contrasts nicely with the truck’s mostly silver paint work. Powdercoated NASCAR truck control arms and Aldan coilover shocks keep the polished and thoroughly stunning Winters Performance quick-change racing rearend in place. A 3.77 gear ratio is currently used to transfer power to the pavement. The guys at CRC Powder Coating stayed plenty busy finishing parts to John’s specifications, and even the aluminum gas tank got the treatment before it was installed into the frame. Making sure this C10 Chevy truck stays where John puts it, is an E-Stopp electronic emergency brake.
Under The Hood
The powerplant of this revitalized C10 is a custom-built LS1 engine, backed by a 4L60E automatic transmission, and was originally equipped in a 2001 Corvette. The Inglese EFI incorporates the latest technology, while aluminum stacks lend some visual panache maintaining the appearance of a Weber carburetor system.
The LS coil packs are mounted to the truck’s firewall leaving plenty of room to display the old-school, small-block-style PML valve covers that were powdercoated and adapted to the LS heads. 1957 Corvette Indigo Gold satin paint covers the block and intake. A Vintage Air front runner system keeps the engine accessories positioned, and polished stainless-steel headers route the exhaust gases away from the occupants.
Body Mods And Paint
Extensive, but subtle, body modifications include a bed floor raised three inches to clear the reworked frame and to accommodate the truck’s resulting lowered ride-height. John chose to section the inner-bedside panels and the inner-tailgate panel to maintain a stock appearance. The bed also has all of the stake pockets filled in, and a custom pop-up fuel filler door was installed on the driver’s side of the bed.
The firewall was smoothed and reshaped to make room for the truck’s three computers and accompanying wiring that manages the engine, transmission, and fuel injection system. The driver’s floor has also received a metal massage to create some additional leg room and driving comfort while racking up miles on lengthy road trips. 1960 Impala rear view mirrors provide hindsight, and United Pacific Long Beach LED headlights light up the road at night.
The NASCAR influence continues with the attention bestowed upon the front and rear bumpers. They have been sectioned and pulled inward, making them flush with the front fenders and the bedsides. Further, a front bumper license plate filler-panel has been grafted into the rear bumper, along with custom exhaust outlets that exit through the bumper. Meanwhile, the front has received a set of Hella driving and fog lamps that have been recessed into the bumper. The work to the bumpers reduces the overall length of the truck by almost a foot, and further enhances its sleek appearance.
There is a lot of work in those bumpers. We would cut them, and try them out for fit, then cut them some more until they looked right – John Gessner.
The paint work on this C-10 features Axalta coatings throughout, expertly applied by Jeff Armal. Axalta Chromax Chroma basecoat shows off the Sonic Titanium Effect topcoat with Artic Blizzard White Effect on the roof of the cab. A contrasting metallic grey covers the grill and bumpers, and produces a pleasing scale of metallic hues from roof to road. Further evidence of the exacting attention to detail this truck received are the polished-stainless bolts, and the powdercoated custom-made brackets, the copper-zinc brake lines, and the electrical wiring hidden throughout the truck.
Inside the cab, no creature comfort was neglected. The complete interior received a layer of Dynamat Xtreme insulation material in an effort to deaden excess noise and keep the extreme temperatures at bay. An ididit tilt steering column with a column shifter received the powdercoating treatment. A Dakota Digital Vintage VHX gauge panel keeps tabs on the vital engine functions. Scat Pro Car bucket seats were recovered in black leather with gray buffalo hide accents. Upholstery work was handled by Scott Rayfield of Gastonia. Air-conditioning, five-point racing belts, and a Jensen stereo round out the amenities.
Not many people have seen this truck, but it did win a top ten award in ten minutes, one time – John Gessner.
John is mostly focused on building this truck into just the ride he wants it to be. It’s been mostly complete for two years now, but there’s always room for updates and changes from a builder’s perspective. He hasn’t entered it into many shows, but he did recount an experience from the time he and his friend, Kevin Lee, decided to take it to the Goodguys Southeastern Nationals at Charlotte Motor Speedway. A fuel pump decided to give up just as they were about to leave for the show on Friday morning. So, John had a replacement pump shipped in by overnight freight and installed it the following morning.
They hustled the truck to the show, and while John was filling out the registration forms, Kevin was driving it into the show field. With ten minutes to spare before the noon cutoff, the Goodguys judges bestowed a top ten award upon the truck in just the nick of time. I suppose they know a winner when they see one.
Currently, John is making up a cowl-induction hood for the C10 (they’re never really done), and is considering another big outing with Goodguys at the North Carolina Nationals at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh. Should you find yourself anywhere near the Tar Heel state, during the fourth weekend in April, consider keeping your eyes wide open for the landscape truck that found a new lease on life during retirement.