Shop trucks are part of life for any joint that’s painting, restoring, and upgrading power in various cars and trucks. Errands need to be run, and supplies have to be picked up. Classic Car Studio Speed Shop is known for performing incredible upgrades on cool, vintage rides. They can’t make their runs around town in some ordinary Chevrolet Silverado. A quick set of wheels and a meaner exhaust setup wasn’t going to get it done.
Enter this 1986 Chevrolet C-10, which began life as your ordinary short wheelbase truck, powered by a 5.0-liter small block V8, and still rocking its original in paint straight out of the 80s. What it has become is something even more badass. A truck that can not only haul up and down any canyon road but definitely carry goods back and forth to the shop, should you ever want to stop driving it and get any work done.
At first glance, from the lower ride height to the massive HRE wheels concealing big Wilwood brakes, you can quickly tell this isn’t your daddy’s old Chevy. I met up with my contact at a Starbucks at sunrise in Malibu, California. The truck parked among luxury SUVs looked like it had not only crashed a fancy party, but drank all the booze and punched the host.
(Full Disclosure: The folks that rep Classic Car Studios Speed Shop and I keep in touch, and during a recent trip to LA, after a quick note about what this truck is packing, they let me take this beast for a spin around the canyons.)
What Is This?
The Chevrolet C10 was the stable truck out of Detroit for decades. The third generation, like this 1986 short wheelbase short bed example, was around from 1973 to 1987. Engine options included a 5.0-liter 160 horsepower V8 because that’s all the sad power that big of an engine could muster back in the day, and a more potent (remember, this is in 1980s numbers) 5.7-liter 185 horsepower V8. Should these measly small blocks not be enough to satisfy your hunger for power, an optional 7.4-liter 240 horsepower V8 could be equipped.
By 2018 standards these engines all seem weak, but back then these were stout. The guys at CCS weren’t satisfied with such meager outputs, and decided to go with an LT4 engine swap from the Chevrolet Performance parts bin to bring the output up to date.
Numbers That Matter
Now packing the supercharged 6.2 liter V8 found in the current C7 Corvette Z06, this truck has 640 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque to be thrown about as you see fit. I like when people use Corvette setups into more basic GM truck packages.
The boring 4-speed automatic transmission from the ‘80s wasn’t up to snuff, so the team swapped in a Magnum T56 transmission with the added option of a slick S1 sequential shifter. You read that right: a sequential setup in a 1980s pickup. Pull back on the lever for an upshift, and push forward for a downshift. Putting that power down is no easy task, so a Centerforce clutch manages the task of keeping the bite clean on the way to a John’s Industries Ford 9-inch rear.
Getting Around Town
Firing up this truck was an awakening. The LT4 engine is a robust package that deeply rumbles and its big supercharger whines to life as soon as you twist the ignition key. I strapped into big-bolstered Recaro bucket seats and stared straight through a large-diameter three-spoke Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel.
Surprisingly the C10 was compliant and agile, but that’s because the team at Classic Cars Studios went to town updating and configuring the suspension to keep you comfortable on normal roads, while keeping your ass in check in the corners. Along the Pacific Coast Highway’s gentle curves, the C10 cruised along as smoothly as a simple sedan, but would quickly punch past a slow-moving tourist in a Mustang convertible with ease. As I turned toward the canyons, and started to climb, I was impressed with how easily this truck would gobble up bumps and grooves in the pavement, while not disrupting me in those heavily bolstered Recaro buckets.
The LT4 was a smooth power plant when I wanted it to be. It will definitely light up the tires when you need to get back to the office. It’s also more fuel efficient than the old small block GM used back in the 80s. When the time comes to visit the gas station, there’s a Fuel Safe Systems fuel cell in the bed, which is much safer — and cooler looking — than the sometimes explosive fuel tank setup GM installed in the 1980s.
Should it ever leave balmy Southern California, CCS installed a Vintage Air system to keep occupants cool or warm, which still looks the 1980s part. The sporty Recaro seats and may look a bit boy racer for this C10, but they’re remarkably comfortable, and the Sparco harnesses installed actually work with a normal seat belt buckle in the center. If the LT4 doesn’t provide a good enough soundtrack, there’s a Kicker system installed, which hooks into a smartphone via a bluetooth connected app. I didn’t use this at all, as I kept the crank windows rolled down and listened to that Magnaflow exhaust howl.
On The Windy Roads
. Bolting up a RideTech suspension paired with a 4-link rear, this Chevy is smooth and balanced on any bumpy road, but is an absolute joy when things get twisty. There’s even a half roll cage installed to stiffen things up a bit, while keeping passengers a bit safer if this ever gets into an accident. Flying around the canyons in Malibu, I tested the C10's ability over dozens of miles.
I loved seeing cars passing in the opposite direction shocked to see how this truck would make its way around a corner. This shouldn’t have been possible, but the C10 hooked up brilliantly, and stayed flat turn after turn. It was a blast. Popping gear changes with that S1 sequential shifter rocked, and felt like a proper racer.
Up Malibu Canyon, there’s a quick tunnel that I met with a big punch of the throttle, annoying the heck out of a few hybrid-driving morning commuters just trying to get to work in one piece. The rumble was addictive, and the power delivery from that big supercharged V8 was awesome. There wasn’t a single stretch of straight road that didn’t incite a stab of the gas, putting a big grin on my face.
When I did get a little heavy with my right foot, the massive Wilwood brakes under those big 20-inch HRE wheels scrubbed off the speed. One interesting note is that this thing didn’t have power brakes, so I had to set them up each time I got ready to slam that center pedal. The power brake system wasn’t going to work with the firewall in the old 1980s setup, and the shop is actively looking into ways to make it work in this package. For now, they’re actually in good shape once I got used to the pedal behavior.
What’s Really Good?
The ride quality blew me away in this C10. I’ve driven plenty of parts bin-loaded performance upgrades in my time, and you can tell the Classic Car Studio techs put some effort into calibrating this truck. Since they’re going to drive it all the time it has to be usable and well-sorted.
The dash is updated with a clean look, matched up with Dakota Digital HDX gauges with a classic setup paired with digital readings for the speedometer, odometer, and clock. There’s even a digital gear indicator between the two main gauges, lit up in red. I dig that it’s all a simple white on black face setup, that still looks old school.
On the outside, the body is finished with a cool patina-finished BASF Glasurit paint, which totally looks like it has spent a ton of time wasting away outside, and nails the part of this truck. It’s a workhorse, not some classic car show trophy winner, and it looks every bit the part.
The purpose of this truck is to be a worker bee that can move around when the driver wants to have a little fun. Sure, it could have power brakes, windows, and mirrors, but that would take away from the cool factor and throw in extra wiring and complications to mess with.
It’s a brick of a body, and when you want to go fast in a straight line, or in a corner, you’re going to feel that it isn’t as aerodynamic as a proper sports car.
What Classic Car Studio Speed Shop has come up with is awesome. The truck definitely would be reliable enough for daily driving to be a functional shop truck and easily carries itself well on fun roads. They’ve probably put over $100,000 into this build, and that’s probably more than most crews will get to play with.
Any shop hand would be happy to have to do their duties in this sort of beast. Even if you go with a more accessible budget LS series engine swap and a conventional gearbox, it beats the usual appliance white base work package trucks most shops put into circulation. More shops should take this approach and inject a little more fun into their workdays.