One of the cool things about drag-and-drive events is that you see a wide variety of vehicle in attendance, and you never know what you might come across. Chevy’s C10 pickup trucks are one of the most popular vehicles to modify right now, and Mike Clift’s 1969 C10 takes the platform to a new level, one with drag-and-drive in mind and a truckload of horsepower.
Oregon-based bracket racer Clift had attended a few drag-and-drive events and was looking to build something along those lines, and his vehicle of choice was a Chevy C10. Luckily, Clift didn’t have to go far as he located the perfect truck in Salem, Oregon. The 1969 C10 was already just the right colors with its blue and white original paint, patina and all. He brought the truck home and started thinking about what to do with it.
“I wanted a pickup just for fun,” Clift told us. “I know it’s not the aerodynamic or fast thing, for me it’s the fun thing.” Clift picked up the pickup in late 2019 and a year went by as he tried to figure out who he would have build it.
“I knew what I had wanted,” Clift explained. “I saw Richie Crampton’s Shitbox of Doom ‘57 wagon and knew he had built it. I saw it at Drag Week. I wasn’t sure I could get someone to build it like that, maybe a naturally-aspirated 565, something I could drive around. One day, I just made the joke to my wife, Kathy, that I was going to message Richie and have him build me the truck.”
Clift did contact Crampton, who agreed to build the pickup once Clift told him what he had and what he was wanting it to be. He then delivered the C10 to Crampton’s Indy Speed Shop in Brownsburg, Indiana, where the former NHRA Top Fuel driver began work on a full tube chassis for the Chevy.
“I’m a kid of the 1980s and wanted a roots blower sticking out of the hood because I thought it was so cool, but Richie has had several roots blowers and felt a ProCharger was the better way to go,” Clift explained of the power adder that would eventually compress the air going into the Steve Schmidt Racing Engines 555 cubic-inch big-block Chevy powerplant. An air-to-air intercooler keeps the intake air temps at a reasonable level, and a set of Billet Atomizer 245 lb/hr fuel injectors provide the copious amounts of E85 fuel to the engine.
Adam Hodson at Mid America Kustoms tuned the Holley EFI system, and with just 15 psi of boost pressure, the combination put down 1,294 horsepower and 715 lb-ft of torque on a hub dyno, with Clift noting that the engine is built to hold 30 psi.
Key to most of the quickest drag-and-drive-builds is a Gear Vendors overdrive unit, and Clift’s build included one, which was then bolted to a Rossler Turbo 400 automatic to provide a bulletproof transfer of power.
Crampton and his speed shop built the C10’s chassis out of chrome-moly to a 6.0, 25.3 SFI certification. It was powdercoated in gray before the body was dropped back on it. Tony Pedregon, the former NHRA Funny Car driver and two-time champion, painted the interior the bright and glossy blue hue, and back home, Clift had good friend Mitch Kim lay down the pinstriping and lettering.
While it looks like it’s been there for some time, the Equestrian Ranch logo on the door is actually new.
“Kathy has been riding horses all her life and we have eight horses. Our grandkids are involved riding them now. We have six barn stalls and a 50 by 100-foot indoor riding arena. We named the truck MK Equestrian Ranch because I kept calling it the old ranch truck. The main reason I was excited when I bought it was because it was blue and white. I was 18 when I met Kathy, and her dad had a blue and white long-bed, Old Blue, and he used to herd cattle in it to move them from pasture to pasture.”
Once the pickup was back home, Clift went to register the truck so he could make it road-legal and event legal, but ran into quite the snag with the title.
“I paid no attention, just drove it home and figured out that it had a Washington title,” Clift began to explain. “I made an appointment and took it to the local DMV and they told me I have to get the original owner in Port Angeles, Washington, to sign off on it. It’s about as far away as you can get. I paid for a research company to get me their phone numbers, called the owner who was nice at first and then started thinking I was going to scam her and blocked my calls.”
YouTube to the rescue as Clift found a workaround since he couldn’t get the owner to fill out the paperwork.
“I watched the Vermont Loophole video on YouTube and got a Vermont title and license plate in my name now. It was quite the ordeal. I didn’t think I was going to make it to Sick Week. I was working on the loophole thing up until December of 2022 so I could get car insurance on it.”
Clift and his wife Kathy made the trek from Oregon to Florida for the 2023 Sick Week event, which was the second year for the drag-and-drive competition. The quickest he had been on track was low 11s behind the wheel of his First-Gen Camaro, and going into the event, his new C10 build was packing double the horsepower. The chassis design put Clift’s truck into Sick Week’s Ultimate Iron class, which features some of the quickest vehicles you’ll find participating at the event.
During Sunday’s test and tune, which happens the day before the competition kicks off, Clift clicked off an 8.96 at 154 mph. He managed to get a run in to check off his Orlando stop on day one and got on the road to Bradenton. There on day two, the truck slowed down, and Clift decided to bail out of the event and had the C10 towed back to Orlando.
“We went over to Gainesville,” Clift explained. “The truck wasn’t running right and I thought it was the tune. Kyle Morris was helping me with that but it kept slowing down so we brought it home. I pulled drain plug and found aluminum in the oil. I did a compression test and the number two cylinder would go up and down while you were cranking it. The cam button had fallen apart and the cam was trying to grind itself out. It was a big cleanup job, but overall, the bearings looked fine and the System One filter seemed to keep everything clean. It has a Jesel belt drive on it now.”
Though the engine had been repaired, Clift couldn’t venture east for any more drag-and-drive events in 2023 due to work, but he did run it in his local Super Pro bracket class at his local track, Woodburn Dragstrip. There, he improved the truck’s best performance to 8.57 at 159 mph.
“I’ve only made a total of 30 passes in the truck,” Clift told us. “It’s by far the fastest thing I’ve ever driven. It’s been really consistent, but I have not been. There’s an 1/8-mile no-time event in September in Seattle and we are going to try it. By then I’ll have my other pulleys to speed it up and I think we can run into the 4s with those.”
Clift hasn’t given up on drag-and-drive just yet, though, as he has plans to put the C10 on the street once more in 2024.
“Overall, it was a great experience,” Clift said of his Sick Week experience in 2023. “I couldn’t have asked for better weather and the people are great. It’s been busy with work and it’s hard being on the west coast. We are planning on Sick Week for 2024, though.”
The ranch truck will have its work cut out for it as it will once again compete with the big dogs in Unlimited Iron, but if Clift can keep the truck’s reliability up, then he might just have an edge over the competition.