Ever since he could drive, 28-year-old Matt Clay of Mount Ida, Arkansas, has been fascinated with custom vehicles. Like many enthusiasts, he's owned and worked on several projects over the years, including a '72 Chevy Nova, a Chevy Avalanche, and even an '07 T-Rex three-wheeler. However, Matt's story differs from those of other enthusiasts in one defining way: he's paralyzed from the waist down.
Matt's injury occurred in 2004 while he was living in Wichita, Kansas. One February evening at midnight, he heard a loud crash outside his bedroom window. A driver in a blue sedan had collided with his mother's parked car and sped away as Matt ran outside. Matt quickly jumped in his truck and chased after the car, soon arriving at a DUI checkpoint where he informed police officers of what had happened. Since Matt had recently been hunting, he happened to have his unloaded 12-gauge shotgun in the cab. One of the officers noticed, calling out, "He's got a gun!" In the tense seconds that followed, a single shot broke the silence. An officer had fired through Matt's windshield, piercing his chest. Matt dropped in and out of consciousness, flatlining three times as he was rushed into surgery. Forty-one staples later, Matt survived, but the armor-piercing round had torn through his spinal cord and left him in a wheelchair.
Refusing to be defeated, Matt chose to overcome his disability and follow his passion for trucks. After a lengthy court battle, Matt was awarded a settlement for his wrongful shooting, which he used to purchase a new 2009 GMC Sierra. The truck was delivered over to his friend Wally Wallace, owner of The Tin Shop in Cullman, Alabama. Wally used his metalworking experience to modify the truck's frame, narrowing it 6 inches front and rear and adding a 16-inch C-notch in the back. Baer four-piston disc brakes provide the stopping power, and the truck rolls on 28x9½-inch Vision Hollywood wheels and Fullrun tires.
Just because you're disabled doesn't mean you can't follow your passion.
With the rolling frame complete, power was added by way of a 6.0L V-8 from a 2009 Chevy 2500HD. The six-speed automatic was connected to a modified 1970 Chevy driveshaft and rearend with 3.73 gears. The new rearend was machined to fit the Baer disc brakes, and stabilized with a custom triangulated four-link. Wally then got to work on the body, starting with a 6-inch body drop. Using only sheetmetal and skill, the front bumper was stretched 3 inches, a rear roll pan was added, and the taillights, third brake light, tailgate, and gas door were all shaved. Finally, the interior received even more custom sheetmetal, forming a new dash and transmission tunnel. The Sierra's smooth firewall and hand controls will allow Matt to easily pilot the truck once it's complete. In the future, Matt plans to complete the interior and apply a teal and black paint scheme to the body.
Although Matt had to overcome tremendous adversity to get to where he is today, upon speaking with him you'll realize he's just a regular guy who loves building badass rides. He's always wanted a truck on the cover of Truckin, and after all he's been through, now seemed like as good a time as any to follow that dream. Fortunately for him, this GMC is already well on its way to fame, winning Best Under Construction at both Lay'd Out at the Park and Scrapin the Coast. Matt wants to thank his friend, Wally Wallace from The Tin Shop, for his skillful metalwork and dedication to realizing his dream.
Inside the Build
Year Make Model: 2009 GMC Sierra
Owner and City/State: Matt Clay • Mount Ida, Arkansas
Type: 6.0L V-8
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Rearend: Two-piece shortened driveshaft and 3.73 six-lug rearend from a 1970 Chevy
Front suspension: Frame narrowed 6 inches, AirBagIt Dominator 'bags, ½-inch valves
Rear suspension: Frame narrowed 6 inches, AirBagIt Dominator 'bags, ½-inch valves, 16-inch C-notch, triangulated four-link
Brakes: Baer four-piston disc, braided stainless steel lines
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: 28x9½ Vision Hollywood 6
Tires: 275/25R28 Fullrun HP199