As a student in high school, Howard Kendrick began to find himself admiring the sweet rides cruising around his hometown and taking notice of custom mods made to lowered trucks. Sounds familiar, right? This most likely describes you, as it definitely describes us. Howard started reading Truckin' to get his custom truck fix and as fate would have it, many years later, he ended up in Anaheim, California, which is home to The World's Leading Truck Publication. One sunny afternoon, he ended up in our parking lot with a row filled with lowered, lifted, and custom-painted trucks. He walked into our offices and introduced himself. It didn't take long for us to recognize him, as he's the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's second basemen and all of us at the mag are huge baseball fans. Come to find out, we were fans of his work and he was a fan of ours.
Getting to know each other, he and I talked trucks for hours and hours. When asked what truck he wanted, a quick reply would change the next year of our lives—"I've always wanted a really nice '67-'72 Chevy C10" he said. After that one conversation, the custom truck bug started to eat away at him and one day my phone rang, "Dan, I just bought a '67 C10". With that one purchase, we made a game plan to see his lifelong dream come to fruition. Meeting with Aaron Iha, of Chassis by Aaron, Howard went over his ideas and goals and after some pepperoni pizza, project: The Show was underway.
One thing Aaron and I both really appreciate about Howard is his genuine passion for all things custom, whether it be hot-rods, muscle cars, new exotics, but especially trucks. Don't get this build confused for a guy with a big wallet who wanted something cool. No, this build is an enthusiast's desire to see his dream come true, he just happens to be a professional athlete. Giving Aaron basic free reign over the buildup, the Chevy quickly evolved into a truck like we've never seen before. We're not blowing smoke here—this truck sets the bar to a new height.
Launching the project, this story shows the construction of the chassis, piece by custom piece. Rather than just show you what was created, we decided to get with Aaron and let him tell you how he built the chassis. If you want insight into the mind of someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes custom truck engineering, follow along with The Show buildup, as we'll take you along for every step of this incredilble build.
Before we get started Aaron, is it cool working with a professional athlete?
Working with a professional athlete means two things to me: My hard work is paying off and my name is reaching more and more enthusiasts, regardless of their profession and, I have a reasonable budget to let all my thoughts and ideas be expressed in raw steel. It's amazing to me that such an established athlete would come see me for what I can create with my two hands.
After talking with Howard, what direction did you decide to take on project: The Show?
I was very interested in building the C10 not only for it's great looks and styling, but also for how trendy the C10 is becoming. I researched a lot of really nice C10 projects and some of the ones that were modified to the max still didn't appeal to me. Beginning the project I had concrete ideas, like the frame and suspension, but the over-styling was questionable. My personal taste is comfortable, reliable, user-friendly, and plain badass with a luxurious feel.
What computer program do you use to design the chassis? Besides dimensions and angles, what other parameters can the program recreate?
I use Pro Engineer 3D modeling software. In designing a frame and suspension not only do I create dimension and angles on various parts but I can create stress and loads in given areas. Using this program I animate the suspension travel to iron out caster, camber, toe, and all my driveline angles.
What machine do you use in conjunction with the computer to cut out the sheets of steel?
I have a Torchmate Plasma CNC with a Thermal Dynamics plasma cutter.
What type of welding was used throughout the welding process?
For a lot of the frame and control arm honeycombing and non-visible internal welds, mig welding was used, but more often tig welding was used, as you can see here with the custom control arms.
What gauge steel was used to fab up and reinforce the control arms and crossmembers?
The control arms, just like the frame, are 1/8-inch plate and are also honeycombed throughout for added strength.
Do Dale and Ben do much of the welding in the shop based on your computer-generated design or do you handle both?
Ben and Dale do all the grinding…I am a primadonna…just kidding. Ben and Dale both are proficient in mig and tig welding and we all work on each component as a team. Quality is key!
How many hours, from start to finish were involved in designing and fabbing up the A-arms?
A pair of A-arms typically takes two full days, consisting of machining all the parts, creating a jig, and the actual assembly process. Designing a suspension system can take up to 12 hours.
Why build your own framerails, rather than go with the built-to-order frames that are available? Also, why go with the thinner framerails and reinforce them, rather than using thick ones to start with?
Designing the overall look of a frame I feel is an art form. We could've used big, thick, boxy material to create the frame, but just like the profile of the body, the frame needs to have the same beauty. I can create thicker frame- rails with reinforcement where stress is high, and thinner rails where major strength is not needed. By doing this it creates a fluid profile.
What would you call the "union" of the center frame structure with the back-half, a fish-mouth style or what?
You can call it a fish-mouth style, or you can just call it the best way I think it should be done.
With the cutouts in the rear of the frame, was that done simply to showcase the reinforcement?
The rear cutouts in the frame were not necessarily done for structure, but more to take away from the actual size of that particular area.
How many hours, from start to finish were involved in designing and welding the framerails?
Man-hours involved in designing the frame: 70 hours.
Man-hours involved in building the frame: 400 hours.
For the tranny crossmember, why bolt it on rather than weld it in place?
The tranny crossmember bolts in so that the cab does not have to be removed if the tranny ever needs to be serviced.
Up front, why use the round ends for the control arms?
I used Uniballs on the front control arms for their pure strength and high angle tolerance.
What thickness/gauge are the airbag mounts? Are all the pieces the same thickness?
The airbag mounts and control arm mounts are 3/16-inch plate while most of the frame is 1/8-inch plate.
For the camber/caster adjustments up front, how much work/design went into making those work?
Using Pro Engineer 3D modeling I can animate the suspension travel to iron out caster, camber, toe, and all my driveline angles. The specs are built into the chassis design, so I just have to let the CNC cut them out and weld them together.
Was mounting the front upper A-arms so high on the frame for added clearance?
When I design front suspensions I take into account the track width, the travel, and the size of the motor. After doing that, I find the points where my A-arms need to be mounted and then I design a frame around those points.
The spindles are insane with their use of cool Corvette hubs, tell me more about those...
I wanted to use a hub bearing assembly because it's the most cutting edge in suspension design technology and it's widely used by all the top OEs. Once I've worked with the customer for a wheel design and lug pattern, I can purchase that style hub and build a spindle around it. This allows me to adjust my pivot points and not have to reverse-engineer around someone else's spindle. In the end, I can manipulate the setup how I want it to look.
How did you come up with the independent Ford 9-inch in the rear?
An independent rear suspension is cool in itself, but making one to fit my parameters with the strength required and endless gearing options, we created the independent Ford 9-inch.
How long did it take you do design/fabricate the rearend housing and crossmember?
It took two weeks to design and fabricate, as well as research and contact companies that would aid in my process.
For the tops of the framerails, how much work was it to cut the strips, bang them in place, and weld everything together?
It seems hard, but that was probably one of the easier parts. We used 1/8 x 2-inch cold roll strap. All four corners were completed in one day.
Is the rear crossmember (behind the 9-inch housing) strictly for support, or does it serve another function?
The rear crossmember acts as support for the rear differential, internally there is a sway bar.
Holes cut out in the front and rear frame cross members, are those for style only? Your signature type of deal?
It just gives it a sleek racy feel to a clean molded frame.
Overall, from design to fabricating the frame/A-arms/rearend (not including assembly), how long did that take?
A total of about 11 weeks.