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Power and Precision: LT4-Powered 1971 C10

Nathen McEown’s LT4-Powered 1971 C10

It takes a lot of work to get the exact truck that you want. Whether you are putting in the work on your own or relying on talented shops to help reach the desired level of results, building a full custom show truck requires sizeable investments of both time and money. Whichever path is taken to get the finish line, one variable commonality regarding timeline is present across the board. These kinds of trucks just to appear overnight though—especially during the 2020 era for reasons we are all too familiar with. Delays in receiving parts have created a bottleneck the last few years, and we are finally starting to see great deal of completed rides making their way out of that bottle and into the light of day where they belong. It’s an exciting time for enthusiasts who get to study the workmanship that has been under wraps for an extended period, but for guys like Nathen McEown who have shown extreme patience to drive their in-progress project vehicle, there has never been a more exciting yet trying time in their customizing careers. 

Nathen first became interested in modified trucks back when he was in high school. Of course, cash and spare time are both hard to come by during those days, but he did what he could with his ’95 S10. His Dime was a lot further along than most kids’ rides that age however, as Nathen was quick to describe. “My truck was ‘bagged and had a set of Boyd Coddington wheels on it”, he boasts. “Although I loved that truck at the time, I woke up one day long after graduating high school and told myself that it was time to build my REAL dream truck.”

While the next project Nathen had in mind would not be another S10, it did share the same Bowtie badging, although the truck he was after was substantially older. A ’71 C10 became his new obsession. At this point in his life, he arguably had even less spare time available than when he was in school, but Nathen now had grownup money that he was interested in using to have a classic Chevy truck built from the ground up using top shelf components with the help high-end craftsmen to put it all together.

Even though it has been a long time since tinkering with his old Chevy mini truck, Nathen still enjoys the aesthetic of a pickup that has a much-lower-than-stock ride height. To drastically alter his C10’s factory frame to attain a slammed altitude, Crave Custom Fab in Florida was recruited to graft on Porterbuilt Stage 3 front and rear suspension systems to give the chassis a nicely equipped foundation to build upon. The full height adjustability of ‘bags was the only viable option since Nathen planned on driving his truck but also wanted to see it sit as low as possible when parked. To assist in making that happen, an Accuair e-Level package was also installed, along with dual 3-gallon SquareTank air tanks for a large capacity of on-board air.

Adding to the C10’s heavily upgraded suspension setup, Wilwood 14-inch vented rotors were added to each corner to promote much more controlled stopping power when the truck is in motion. With a healthy manual braking system in place, Nathen began shopping around for the perfect set of wheels to bolt onto the truck. We all know that wheels can make or break the overall look of a vehicle, especially on a 52-year-old truck. Obviously, he understood the importance of the selection, which is why he went all out and chose a set of Avant Garde Luxury wheels. The staggered set of 20×8.5 front and 22×10 AGL24 series wheels feature a carbon fiber barrel with a forged aluminum spoke design that has been coated in a matte black finish. These wheels embody both performance and luxury, as do the Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires that have been chosen to cover them.

With the truck’s chassis well taken care of, Nathen then set his focus on swapping in an exciting engine that would really make a difference underneath the hood. What he ordered for his C10 was a supercharged LT4 Wet Sump 6.2L crate engine, which is the same power plant that equipped in the C7 Corvette Z06! This engine is the second most powerful engine ever offered in a regular-production Chevrolet vehicle with its 640HP and 630-lb-ft of torque straight out of the box. The 1.7L Eaton TVS supercharger creates more than 9-lbs of boost in the process of making that performance output. To maximize this power, a SuperMatic 10L90E 10-speed automatic transmission that can be found in Camaro SS ZL1 models, as well as late-model GM full-size trucks and SUVs was utilized for its advanced balance of performance and efficiency. Smithy Customs took on the installation of the drivetrain system, which also included adding a Speartech fuel injection, Drive Junky serpentine drive system, Griffin radiator and a MagnaFlow exhaust setup into the equation.

Nathen’s ’71 was really starting to come together, and to keep the ball rolling, his C10 received the bodywork required to get the panels straight before a handful of custom touches were added to its every-growing portfolio. The engine bay was outfitted with Slosh Tubz wheel tubs and as well as a smoothed firewall, and the bed was raised and finished off with a Mar-K wood floor kit and a center panel that lifts to access to the chassis below. There are also storage compartments lurking beneath the surface that will come in handy for extended road trips.

Next, the gas filler was shaved clean from the Chevy’s surface and was relocated back behind the rear side light marker for a much smoother appearance. After some more minor tweaks to the exterior, the truck was then sent over to Mo’s Image Customs in Miami for a fresh coat of Lemans Blue paint. The color selection was on-point with the performance-centered direction Nathen’s truck was headed.

The inner cab of Nathen’s ’71 was also slated to receive a heavy dose of matching Lemans Blue paint, along with a full rehab treatment. Sublime Heights in Houston, TX joined the project at this point to create and upholster a pair of one-off door panels, bucket seats and a center console to divide them. A custom carbon fiber glove box was designed to tie in with the AG Luxury wheels, and a Billet Specialties steering wheel, Dakota Digital VHX Series gauges, a JL Audio stereo and a Vintage Air climate control system were added to the list of impressive in-cab inclusions.

With a lot of work and a good amount of luck, Nathen’s C10 came together in just under 2 years. While there are normal delays to be considered with any custom project, the shortage of certain products during that weird COVID lockdown proved to be the largest hurdle while trying to stay on track with his timeline. Once the dust settled, Nathen can honestly say that he enjoyed the entirety of the process from start to finish, with the first cruise after completion being the best part, naturally. His ’71 features a unique design that makes it stand on its own in a crowd and the elements of true performance that allows it to sprint away with the quickness when the pedal is mashed to the metal.


BUILD SPECS

OWNER

  • Nathen McEown
  • 1971 Chevy C10
  • Houston, TX

ENGINE/DRIVETRAIN

  • Shop: Smithy Customs, Houston, Texas
  • New LT4 wet sump 6.2L 376 crate engine
  • 10L90 GM Performance automatic transmission
  • Porterbuilt LT motor mount package
  • Speartech fuel injection system
  • Drive Junky serpentine drive system
  • Griffin radiator
  • Magnaflow exhaust

CHASSIS/SUSPENSION

  • Shop: Crave Custom Fab, Florida
  • Porterbuilt Stage 3 front and rear kits
  • (2) 3-gallon SquareTank composite tanks
  • Accuair e-Level system
  • Rick’s stainless fuel tank w/ level II fuel pump and sender

WHEELS, TIRES & BRAKES

  • 20×8.5 and 22×10 Avant Garde Luxury AGL21 carbon barrel wheels
  • 245/40ZR20 and 295/35ZR22 Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires
  • Wilwood front and rear 14-inch vented rotors, manual brakes

BODY & PAINT

  • Shop: Mo’s Image Customs, Miami, FL and Smithy Customs
  • Lemans blue paint
  • Hot Rod Innovations ’69-’72 C10 grille kit
  • Bumpers painted matte black
  • Slosh Tubz tubs
  • Raised bed w/ Mar-K wood kit
  • Shaved gas door, filler relocated to rear side light marker
  • Custom fabrication to display Square Tanks
  • Chrome exhaust w/ three separate compartments

INTERIOR/STEREO

  • Shop: Sublime Heights, Houston, TX
  • Custom seats and upholstery
  • Dakota Digital VHX series gauges
  • Billet Specialties steering wheel
  • One-off carbon fiber glove boxVintage Air A/C
  • JL Audio stereo