Becoming involved in the build of your very first classic truck can be the ultimate learning experience. From the time spent researching your favorite make and model to when you find it and swap cash for a title, it’s just the beginning. For Todd Zientek of Shorewood, Illinois, the first chance he had to channel his inner hot rodder started with a 1963 Chevy C10 pickup once he graduated from college. With all the right intentions of building a neat restomod-styled truck, he delivered the prize to his parents’ garage and started the teardown with neighborhood friend Evan Vandarakis who brought plenty of mechanical knowledge to the mix.
Having never taken on anything like this before every chapter was part of the learning curve. The pair worked tirelessly to first refresh the chassis and then moved onto bodywork with Todd’s mom even lending a hand with wet sanding. This clearly showed that there was plenty of family support on tap. The truck made it to the mocked-up roller stage but was then sidetracked when life’s priorities began to shift. It was eventually sold off as he started a career and family, however he never forgot about his passion to build a hopped-up hauler. One thing remained a constant in his life, regular visits to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet to watch plenty of nitro-fueled drag racing on a regular basis over the last 20 years since the track opened. Coupled with attending demolition derbies and local car shows with his dad growing up, it was only a matter of time till he got involved in the build of another truck.
One of the coolest things is that he has been able to share these experiences with his daughter, Madigan, who enjoys racing even more than he does. The pair regularly spends plenty of time both at the racetrack and at car shows studying the latest styles and comparing notes. Having seen a number of wicked rides to roll out of Nichols Paint & Fabrication in Watseka, he made an appointment to meet with shop owner Justin Nichols to discuss a pickup he had been building in the back of his mind since he was in his teens. On the visit he spied a 1963 Chevy C10 in the back lot of the shop that had recently arrived from Oklahoma. It was heavily patina’d and in need of a full redo, making it a perfect base for the project. The pair went over a number of key elements for the build, sharing many of the same ideas of what would make the truck bitchin. Todd told us, “I’ve always been drawn to the 1960-1966 Chevy C10 pickups with their classic styling and subtle curves, complemented by just the right amount of stainless trim across the cab and bed.” Sounds perfect to us! It wasn’t long before a deal was made with Todd and Madigan’s ideas starting to come to life right before their eyes.
The team at Nichols tore the truck down to bare bones and blasted the frame clean to get started. The spine was then shortened 2 inches out back and treated to modified crossmembers. Out back a Chevy 12-bolt rear was packed with 3.90:1 gears turning 31-spline axles and suspended in place by a combination of a custom triangulated four-link by Nichols and ‘bags from Slam Specialties to set the stance. Wanting to make the truck handle like it was on rails, a Fatman Fabrication IFS was deftly matched to Wilwood Engineering forged 2-inch drop spindles and ‘bags from Slam Specialties to bury the nose in the street. To add plenty of stopping power a Wilwood power dual master pushes fluid through stainless lines to matching drilled and vented discs at each corner with four-piston calipers. Wanting to keep a classic element, linking it all to the street a set of 15-inch steelies from Coker Tire were capped with a set of Coker/BFGoodrich Silvertown wide whitewall radials accented by trim rings and bullet-style caps.
Harkening back to the days when muscle cars ruled Main Street in Joliet, Todd wanted plenty of tire-searing muscle nailed to the ‘rails. Nothing says power better than a Chevy LS V-8 so the team sourced a low-mile 5.3L mill and massaged it to perfection for the application. From the factory the V-8 features a cast-iron block filled with a cast-iron crank linked to powdered metal I-beam rods wearing hypereutectic pistons urged by a hydraulic roller cam for beat. A pair of stock aluminum heads make plenty of seamless power while up top sequential fuel injection delivers the goods. The team then dressed the engine with a custom cover accented by matching inner fenders. Spent gases flow through custom long-tube headers to a 3-inch stainless exhaust and Flowmaster 40-Series mufflers. To channel the power a warmed-over GM 4L80E trans links to a custom driveshaft.
Seeing that the truck’s vintage sheetmetal had seen better days, the cab and bed were first stripped to identify existing issues needing attention. Once they were corrected there were a number of custom updates to separate the truck from the rest. The bed was first shortened 2 inches to match the new wheelbase followed by shortening the stainless trim to match, adding a handmade tailgate and roll pan while also incorporating a set of 1990 Cadillac taillights. Up front the hood and grille were given a custom touch and the panels were then all metal finished and gapped to perfection. After looking at all the color options Todd and Madigan decided on Matrix black gloss with accents in black satin. Justin loaded his spray gun and laid down a 10-foot-deep coating to bring the truck to life.
Focusing on the interior, Madigan had studied plenty of C10s she had seen over the years at a number of events. She wanted to instill a warm feeling inside the cab by introducing a warm color combination, starting with the factory dash being painted a two-tone tan and creme. It was then filled with custom dials from Dakota Digital to monitor the vitals while a custom CON2R steering wheel mounted to a polished ididit tilt column navigates the road through a rack-and-pinion. Shifts fly through a mile-high stick from Lokar while cool breezes are by Vintage Air and tunes flow through a Retrosound head unit with punch from Kicker Audio. For plenty of comfort VOS Upholstery & Custom Auto Trim of Lansing covered a Glide Engineering bench with tasty pleats in tan and creme vinyl accented by complementing loop carpeting. This is one subtle C10 that has endless style and power for this father and daughter to enjoy for decades to come, and to us that’s the real deal!
1963 Chevrolet C10
Todd & Madigan Zientek
2007 Chevy 5.3L LS V-8
Matrix / Black, gloss and satin by Nichols Paint & Fab
Front, Fatman Fabrication IFS, Wilwood 2-inch dropped forged spindles, Slam Specialties airbags; rear, custom triangulated four-link, Slam Specialties airbags
Vinyl in tan and creme by VOS Upholstery & Custom Auto Trim with tan loop carpet
Retrosound head unit with Kicker Audio speaker and amp
Coker Tire 15×8 and 15×10 Steelies, Coker BFGoodrich Silvertown