A cool truck that turns heads, can be driven any place and at any time, blasts the dragstrip while retaining solid street manners, and can hold its own at any car show is something most performance junkies would love to own. Joe Leager, though, didn’t want to wait around wishing. Instead, he took the initiative to build a beautiful 1966 Chevrolet C10 pickup that checks all the boxes.
Thanks to his father, Dennis Leager, Leager grew up around cars and has owned several Pontiac GTOs, as well as a 2008 Chevrolet Corvette and many other Chevy cars and trucks, over the years. “I have been building engines my whole life with my father and my friends,” explained the young man who loves the adrenaline rush of racing. “I had done some racing at my hometown local track and street racing when I was younger.”
In June of 2018, Leager picked up the pickup with the intention of putting together a cool project car to showcase another enterprising endeavor he was working on – starting his shop, JCL Automotive and Performance in Darlington, Maryland.
“I worked for many other people over the years but, one day, I decided to take a chance at owning my own businesses,” stated Leager, now 26, whose C10 truck has become the mascot for his company. In just a few short years, Leager’s shop has grown into a successful small business focusing on builds, LS engine swaps, cam swaps, and anything from oil changes to assembling performance engines. His C10 pickup, too, has come a long way since its inception, with countless hours invested in the process.
The truck’s former owner, Cody Davis from Oklahoma, had put a ton of work in prior to Leager scooping it up. “Cody got it when it was still in primer and he did the bodywork and paint on it, plus the mild steel 8.50-cert roll cage that ties into the bed frame,” noted Leager, who christened the Jetstream Blue Chevrolet “Sully” in honor of the big, blue character from the Monsters Inc. movie.
Leager loved the truck’s look but wanted to change a few things to suit his specific tastes. Of course, as an experienced engine builder, the drivetrain was one of the first tasks that he tackled.
Under the Chevy’s expansive, custom-built fiberglass cowl hood, Leager installed an iron block-based LQ4 6.0-liter Gen 3 LS small block engine from a 2005 model donor truck. Leager’s longtime and trusted machinist, Bob Mach at Mach Machinery, took point on machining the short block and decking the heads, but Leager assembled the components himself.
Leager bumped up the LQ4’s final displacement from 364 cubic inches to 408 by going with a 4.00-inch square bore/stroke setup utilizing Liberty Performance Components 0.030-inch oversized pistons, Liberty Performance connecting rods capable of supporting 1,400-horsepower, and a Callies DragonSlayer crankshaft before buttoning up the bottom end with a Holley windage tray and pickup tube.
Leager also installed a Brian Tooley Racing Stage 4 turbo camshaft that was spec’ed and received in record time, then bolted on the Trick Flow GenX 225 aluminum cylinder heads which had each received a triple-angle valve job and were fitted with stainless valves, BTR dual valve springs, and Harland Sharp roller rocker arms.
With a final compression ratio of 10:1 confirmed for the engine, Leager next began working on the custom turbo kit. Feeding into the Edelbrock Pro-Flo LS intake by way of a 4-inch Mishimoto front-mount intercooler and Edelbrock throttle body is a massive, T6-flanged Forced Inductions TDI Series 94/106 single turbocharger that hangs on piping from Stainless Works and commands attention as it sits front and center in the engine bay. A ProCharger blow-off valve and twin 60mm TurboSmart wastegates keep the boost in a safe place, while the 5-inch pipe dumps spent gas out behind the passenger side front wheel.
The system spits out more than 1,000 horsepower to the rear Hoosier tires, and Leager smartly selected a three-speed Rossler Turbo 400 reverse manual valve body-equipped transmission built by Kenny Keith along with a 4,000-rpm stall speed PTC torque converter to transfer that power to the ground.
The transmission outputs into a 4-inch steel driveshaft with a steel safety loop before reaching the 9-inch rearend that was rebuilt by Rick Dawson at R&R Automotive. Moser axles complete the job, and the custom back-half four-link suspension incorporates QA1 double-adjustable rear shocks to help keep the Chevy planted firmly, while the front end uses mostly stock componentry.
Completing the exterior of his build, Leager installed stock Chevrolet Monte Carlo disc brakes at all four corners along with Hoosier Tire-wrapped black and gold-accented Belak Industries wheels.
To finish off the truck, Leager looked to the interior and perfected the space with Corbeau microsuede seats, RaceQuip 5-point harnesses, and a custom Holley EFI Pro digital display dash.
Finally, Brian Goldfarb handled the tune-up of the Holley Terminator X EFI system to control the Fuel Injector Clinic 2150cc fuel injectors and keep Leager’s “Sully” C10 running smoothly as he proudly parades it around town. “Brian has amazing knowledge and the ability to figure things out quickly,” Leager noted. “I’m thankful for his help with anything and everything I needed.”
Although the ‘60s era C10 may look like a drag truck, Leager was careful to keep its streetability intact and to honor its heritage so he can drive it wherever, and whenever, he chooses. “It has amazing street manners, despite not having power steering. It’s not made for any type of speeding down sharp turns or on back roads, but it sure looks good cruising!” he proclaimed.
Leager is well known locally and has won his fair share of trophies with “Sully” at countless car shows, but it was a trip to Holley’s LS Fest in September of 2022 that garnered him more recognition than he realized. “LS Fest was my first time taking it outside of my general area and it got a lot more attention than I thought,” he said happily of the validating weekend spent in Kentucky at Beech Bend Raceway Park. “Before LS Fest, I had thought about selling it… but now, I know I can’t.”
With four-digit horsepower on tap, Leager ran the C10 for the first time with its fresh setup in the Truck and SUV class but was more focused on data logging and shaking “Sully” down rather than making a full-tilt run out the back door. Regardless, in the 1/8-mile, he clocked mid-5-second passes and knows there’s plenty still in the tank to propel him into the low-5-second zone as well as the mid-8s in the 1/4-mile.
“I wouldn’t trade the path I chose with this truck for anything,” added Leager, whose father has been there throughout the build of his beautiful blue 1966 Chevrolet C10 “Sully” pickup truck, as well as throughout his entire life, always offering unwavering support and priceless guidance. “The friends I met along the way of this build became family, and they’re the ones who made it all possible.”
Car: 1966 Chevrolet C10
Chassis: 8.50-second roll cage by Cody Davis
Engine: LQ4 6.0-liter LS Iron Block
Cylinder Heads: Trick Flow GenX 225 Aluminum
Crank: Callies DragonSlayer
Rods: Liberty Performance Components
Pistons: Liberty Performance Components
Camshaft: Brian Tooley Racing Stage 4 Hydraulic
Power Adder: Single Forced Inductions TDI Turbocharger
Transmission: Rossler TH400
Torque Converter: PTC
Fuel Management: Holley Terminator X EFI
Rearend: 9” with Moser Axles
Brakes: stock Chevrolet Monte Carlo disks
Wheels: Belak Industries