Every now and again we run into a truly awesome truck. At this years SEMA Show, Johnsons Hot Rod shop had one of its finest works on display for all to drool on. Not only is the end result of Johnsons labor eye-popping, its also a one-of-a-kind; the truck was completely handbuilt.
The story of this 68 Chevy started in the mid 80s with a famous builder by the name of John Buttera. This new pickup started life as a Blazer and was intended as one of Butteras personal vehicles, so it had to be perfect.
Buttera started the project by building a complete 2x4 tubular frame. The then-new 87 Corvette suspension was broadened to accommodate the wider track width and fully gusseted for additional strength under the heavier weight. In the front setup, Buttera ended up making his own torsion bars to obtain the correct ride height and spring rate. Out back, the Vette IRS was widened and tweaked as well. The quality of metalwork on the frame itself is better than most show cars and is just as shiny underneath as topside.
As you might notice, some of the body lines and features look great but not stock. Since this was originally a Blazer, it took some massaging to get the metal into the form of a truck. By the time the Chevy was ready for the body mallet, Boyd Coddington had entered the picture and the project went to Hot Rods by Boyd for a little collaboration. When all was said and done, Boyds and Buttera had grafted a 68 cab to the Blazer body, slapped some truck doors on, and chopped the whole thing by 2 inches.
Further bodywork included shaving the door handles, the stake pockets, the gate handle, the wipers, the taillamps, and all the driprails marker lamps. On the bottom edge of the body, every pinch weld was removed and smoothed, and a full set of roll pans was welded in. After a good blocking, Boyd painted the truck, but that was back in about 1993.
As the banks loomed, Boyd started to lighten his load and had the basketcase transferred to Bob Johnson. When Johnson received the truck, it came with completed metalwork and a pretty tired and nicked paint job. To complicate things the bed was full of spare parts to the engine, drivetrain, and interior. Johnsons hot rod shop pieced together what you see and reworked all the light body details, fully stripping the truck in the process.
Jeff Pierce and Barry Alford of Johnsons sprayed on layer after layer of PPG to get the wet look. Its been said that only fools and professionals have the cojones to paint a truck black; this shows Johnsons shop to be the latter of the two.
As the paint cured, Johnsons began to throw together the crate 502 Chevy powerhouse. The stock GM Performance motor was treated to a full array of bracketry and accessories matched to a short-style water pump via assemblies and pulleys from March Performance. Barry Grants 750-cfm Demon feeds the motor air while a custom set of headers made by Alan Johnson out of 15/8 tube evacuates spent gas. Coupled to a turbo 400 and cranking out 450 ponies is no joke with the suspension setup. Rather than roasting the 295/55R20 Toyo proxes, it simply goes.
On the inside, a hot rod treatment was given that rivals the exterior. Paul Atkins took to the hides and made custom seats and console, wrapping them in black Connolly leather and finishing it off with a sewn insert. The dash was completed by Boyds, and custom gauges from Classic Instruments inset behind bubble dome lenses. A finishing touch was added by a compliment of wool carpeting and billet accessories. With the legacy now completed, the GMC is finally driveable and handles just like a Vette but faster.