Building a custom truck is a lot like assembling an elaborate puzzle. All the pieces must fit just right in order to produce a top-quality, detailed-to-the-nines ride that is going to drop jaws and spin heads. Pulling off such a project requires assembling a stack of quality custom parts and having the knowledge and skill to cut, notch, shave, grind, and smooth the truck out of stock life and into the custom truck limelight.
As a Feature Editor for Truckin', I live and breathe customized trucks. When I am not behind the keyboard or the camera lens, I'm planted behind the wheel of my latest custom truck project. Red Rocker is the result of my hiatus from custom truck ownership and successfully blends elements of my past two show trucks together with a twist to create the smoothed, flame-licked, and hot rod-styled Chevy C10 beauty blazing across these pages. This fiery Bow Tie brick project got its heartbeat two years ago following the '03 SEMA Show, where Hill's Hot Rods owner Jason Hill and I began discussing putting together a heavily modified square-body project. After returning home from SEMA, a flame was ignited under the project.
Going off of the look I had constructed in my head and after nailing down the stance, wheels, and paint, I contacted Ed White of Fast Eddy's Hot Rod Art in Katy, Texas, to create a rendering to give Red Rocker some visual identity. With the finished vision established, Jason Hill, Nathan Hunter, Randall Tharp, Ron Knowles, and Corey Jilek got busy at Hill's Hot Rods turning the flamed and 'bagged C10 concept into a slammed and stunning reality.
Knowing off the bat this truck was destined for more than just a basic facelift, out came the air tools and off came the bed, front clip, and doors. With a path cleared to the suspension and the frame, the build team began prepping the chassis for the adjustable suspension setup by step-notching the rear 'rails, relocating the front crossmember up 2 inches to allow the front control arms to sit flat and welding in the parallel four-link brackets. To get the truck to sit down over the 20x8.5-inch front and 22x10-inch rear Bonspeed Delta billet wheels and Nitto NT 555 Extreme P255/35ZR20 front and P285/35ZR22 rear low-profile tires, Superior 2-inch drop spindles from Classic Performance Products were teamed with an Air Ride Technologies CoolRide front airbag kit that included Firestone 224C 'bags and custom-valved shocks. Out back, an Air Ride Technologies polished, stainless parallel four-link; polished, stainless Panhard bar; and a set of Firestone F-9000 tapered sleeve air springs work in harmony to hammer the rear. Fit with a custom-fabricated step notch, Red Rocker has no problem tucking a healthy portion of the rear 22-inch Bonspeed rollers. Planning for this blazing box-style to see a fair share of road time, a bad-to-the-bone set of performance binders was mounted up from Baer Brake Systems in the form of a performance Baer Claw system. The front 20s are halted by Baer two-piston calipers and 13-1/8-inch rotors, while the rear 22s are brought to a standstill by Baer one-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors. After the majority of the chassis fabrication was complete, air suspension plumbing was installed, including Air Ride Technologies Big Red 1/2-inch electric valves, 1/2-inch air line, a Big Red Ride Pro Compressor System featuring two Viair 400 compressors, two six-gallon reserve air tanks, and a Ride Pro E digital controller. After the low, cool, and smooth custom suspension attitude was established, the stock exterior landscape was brought to a custom boil with a plethora of wild body alterations.
To get a smooth, wrinkle-free finish, all of Red Rocker's factory body annoyances had to go, so the Hill's Hot Rods team warmed up the welder for a spark-showering session of metalwork. Gone from the exterior makeup are the door handles, key locks, driprails, factory mirrors, factory C10 cab trim, cab seams, emblems, side markers, taillights, stake pockets, tailgate handle, cowl vents, and windshield wiper holes. The tail end was tricked up further with a steel Grant Fabrication roll pan, which works in harmony with a Fender Bender International custom tailgate skin fitted with a Hitech LED Products 54-inch LED taillight for optimum tail-end smoothness. A Gaylord's X-2000 tonneau cover was placed over the bed and further accentuates the seamless theme. Bringing the nose of Red Rocker up to date is a '91 Suburban front clip fitted with Precision Billet Grille inserts and a fresh chrome grille surround and chrome replacement bumper from LMC Truck. Once the metal artwork was complete, the truck was delivered to Jimmy Davis at Vision Audio in Lubbock for the construction of the elaborate, vintage Corvette-style dash, custom waterfall center console, and rear cab structure.
At the beginning of this buildup, I and the entire welding, grinding, and fabricating team agreed that in order for this truck to be a standout on the show scene and set a whole new level of cool for square-body Bow Ties, the interior had to be topnotch and completely custom. We're not just talking about some custom-upholstered seats and door panels with a few billet trinkets and some audio gear but a fully molded and sculpted custom cockpit that screams hot rod and shouts elegance. Master wood and fiberglass craftsman Jimmy Davis spent countless hours inside the cab of Red Rocker, creating the classic Corvette-inspired dash, rear cab structure, and street rod-styled center console that flows between the reshaped '91 Suburban bucket seats. A custom dash center panel was built to house four Infinity 6-1/2-inch Perfect 6.1 component set speakers. Also, a custom speaker bar, stretching the length of the dash face, houses the Infinity tweeters and holds the Alpine head unit, while an Infinity 10-inch subwoofer, mounted in a custom subwoofer port in the center console, handles bass chores. Delivering tunes with authority are Infinity amplifiers mounted behind the seats on the back cab wall. Quality cabling, fuse blocks, and RCAs from Hooker Audio link all of the in-cab electronics together and ensure that the system's performance stays in check when this custom truck editor's favorite hair band hits come thundering out of the speakers. With the interior sculpting task complete and the symphony of sound equipment in place, the truck was trailered back to Hill's Hot Rods, where the rich, red basecoat with pearl-flaked hot licks was applied.
It's no secret that cover trucks need to be eye-catching. That's what sells magazines. So, when painter Jason Hill headed for the paint cabinet, I instructed him to stay on the brighter side. The only rule was that it had to be bright-red with lots of traditional flame licks. Craig Kennedy of Auto Air Colors mixed up a custom red for the base by blending Auto Air Colors Flame Red with some blue tints to eliminate the orange pigment. Once the truck was block-sanded to perfection, Red Rocker rolled into the booth and was coated with the bright-red topcoat. After a few days of letting the base color cure, it was time to light the fire and singe the sides of Red Rocker with some traditional flames. Hours of taping and masking were followed by the application of Auto Air Colors' Tequila Yellow Pearl, Coarse White Pearl, and Mango Orange onto the red backdrop to create the blazing inferno that dances down the sides. For depth and definition, the licks were striped in One Shot Orange and Green and the uncontrollable blaze was smothered in PPG Clear. The polishing buffer cleared the fog created from extensive color-sanding, and a cover truck was born. All that remained was to get some off-the-hook threads sewn up, attend to the details, and put it all back together for its '04 SEMA debut.
To make the interior appearance just right, the seats and door panels had to blend perfectly with the elaborate Corvette-style theme. Enter Mark Fisher and partner Lewis Estrada of Fisher Trim in Lubbock, who pulled off the desired look in street rod fashion. Using the '91 Suburban buckets, two shades of Katzkin leather were obtained to achieve a subtle contrast. The outer portion of the buckets received caramel-colored leather to match the dark-tan paint covering the rear cab framework, custom console, and lower dash panels. Moving to the center of the seats, a dark-cream leather was used for bold contrast and was incorporated with a tan snakeskin stripe placed square in the center of the seat bases and backs. Mounted at the top of each seat, custom billet inserts tie in perfectly with the polished '57 Chevy V symbol fixed to the top of the center console. Jimmy Davis tended to the slightly reshaped door panels and dealt the panels a healthy serving of caramel-colored, leatherette material, matching them with the surroundings. A light-tan teardrop inset panel was crafted and applied to the door panels for visual spice, while a matching teardrop was built out of fiberglass and coated in red to give the panels even more character. Shifting focus toward the front of the cab, the hand-fabricated gauge panel with Auto Meter Arctic White instruments was dressed in red for contrast with the center console. The dash center panel, custom speaker crossbar, and steering column were also coated in bright-red liquid to break up the sea of earth tones inside.Polished billet pedals and vents, a column dress-up kit, and a split-grip, Classic-style billet steering wheel from Billet Specialties wrapped in tan leather round out the cockpit's comfort and style points.
With the asphalt-punishing stance, smooth body and paintwork, and off-the-chart interior in check, the reassembly party began and the build team at Hill's Hot Rods was amped to see the truck in its finished state. Fresh replacement glass, door seals, window felts, weatherstripping, and a host of odds and ends from LMC Truck made putting Red Rocker back together a pleasure. Popping the shaved doors open flawlessly is a shaved door handle kit from Autoloc featuring 75-pound solenoids. After turning the final screws on Red Rocker, dropping the engine and transmission back in, and putting the puzzle back together, the truck was hauled to A&B Muffler in Lubbock, where Joe Flynn worked his exhaust magic.
Since the '91 Suburban 350ci V-8 that was originally in the truck was reinstalled, a bit of rumble was needed once the key was clicked. Joe delivered with a 2-1/2-inch pipe that feeds into a Flowmaster Delta Flow 50-series muffler. When the go pedal is nudged, Red Rocker lets out an impressive roar that provides some additional cruising music to go along with the jams wailing in the cab.
Since its debut at SEMA, Red Rocker has been popping up on the West Coast show scene and making jaws hit the pavement with all of its smooth style. When the project began, I spent a lot of time dreaming up names to campaign the truck under. I originally settled on The Blazing Brick, however, once the team at Hill's saw my CD collection, that all changed, and Red Rocker became the truck's new moniker. So, if you are at a show this summer and spot Red Rocker, odds are some '80s heavy metal will be cranked up inside the cab and accompanied by a few vocal-cord-punishing glam-rock screams in the background. Rock on!
Special ThanksTodd Gartshore and Chan Martinez from Baer BrakesCraig and Vince Kennedy from Auto Air ColorsHill's Hot Rods (Jason Hill, Nathan Hunter, Randall Tharp, Ron Knowles, Corey Jilek)Jimmy Davis from Vision AudioJoe Flynn from A&B MufflerRobert Rester from Precision Billet GrillesTony Bicknell and Bret Voelkel from Air Ride TechnologiesKris Karlson from Auto Meter ProductsBrad Fanshaw and Bill Hancock from Bonspeed WheelsBill Gaylord from Gaylord's LidsBob Grant from Grant FabricationMark Fisher and Lewis Estrada from Fisher Auto TrimMarcel Venable and Bret Bumgarner from Line-X of Huntington BeachEd White from Fast Eddy's Hot Rod ArtMichael Guerin from FlowmasterDan Sather from Fender Bender InternationalJeremy from Sign DesignAaron Bedrosian from Hitech LED ProductsLMC TruckInfinityHooker AudioNitto TiresKatzkin' InteriorsAutoloc