Growing up in a hot-rodding family, Eric Steinbrecher loved anything with a motor. The family collection included a garage full of street rods and Eric’s motocross racing bikes. His father passed down the hobby the old-fashioned way, by teaching Eric how to do bodywork and paint in the family garage. Eric became a customizer early on when at the age of 12 he tore apart one of his racing motorcycles and painted the frame.
When Eric left for college, his priorities shifted to his education. He took a break from all things motorized to ensure good grades and acceptance to dental school. But old hobbies can only lay dormant for so long, and during his sophomore year of dental school, he started to get the itch for a project car. Having never tried it, Eric wanted to get into drag racing; so, he bought a Subaru STI because of its AWD platform, reasonable price and ease of customization. The next thing he knew, he had taken it apart in his garage, ready to be fitted with a 2.8L race motor and big turbos. The car ended up on the cover of an import magazine and Eric was hooked on building vehicles again.
Having completed dental school and with a successful practice underway, Eric felt the project itch once again. Recalling trucks that his father had in the ’70s, he fell in love with a well-known bay blue ’67 C-10 for sale on eBay. Laid low with a notched rear and pancaked cross member, the truck had the look that Eric wanted, so he bought it. Once the truck arrived, though, the romance turned sour when he realized it was poorly built and the motor and transmission were shot.
Eric immediately tore it down. He removed and rebuilt the engine and transmission and sold them off to fund a replacement blown big-block power plant. The frame received updates and fresh powder coating, while the body got a color change with a new coat of paint. The completely revived and refreshed truck didn’t stay in Eric’s garage long. The quality of the workmanship attracted an offer and the truck was soon sold.
Another project immediately took its place when Eric started to build a truck for his wife. The project was about halfway completed when it stalled in the paint shop. Frustrated, Eric sold it as a rolling project and found a truck with the paintwork already done. The ’72 Super Cheyenne he found shined with a freshly-applied deep-black finish. Eric blew the truck apart and reassembled it in just more than four months’ worth of nights and weekends in his garage.
He posted pictures of the truck to his Instagram account and various truck forums where it garnered some well-earned attention. An offer to buy it soon followed and Eric’s garage was empty once again.
“What started as a hobby has definitely grown into something bigger, but Eric insists it’s all just for fun.”
With a growing family and dental practice, Eric thought about slowing down some. He purchased a project truck and let it sit for a while until some major news spurred him to action: His mother was diagnosed with cancer. In order to deal with his grief he took some “therapy time” and got working in his garage. Soon the “Tootsie truck” (his mother’s nickname) grew to become a full-custom show truck. While many of the components were sourced from the aftermarket, Eric did most of the prep and assembly work in his garage. The build received attention in the truck world and graced the pages of the summer 2015 issue of the C-10 Builder’s Guide (“Tootsie,” pg. 30). It also competed for top honors at shows like Goodguys and Sacramento Autorama and was featured at SEMA.
During the past nine years spent building trucks in his garage, Eric has learned a few things through experience. Whether a vehicle is a nice driver or a full custom show truck, he has a rendering done for each project. It reminds him of his goal and prevents potentially costly “project creep.” Eric tells us, “A full tube chassis is nice, but it comes down to budget. Performance-wise it’s better, but it will cost. Most truck guys are blue-collar guys. Bolt-on components give that guy the ability to do it himself in his garage.” Even with his most involved projects Eric claims he does 90% of the work himself, “It’s something anybody with a mechanical background can do. With all of the boards and forums out there to offer support, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Even the manufacturers can walk you through problem areas over the phone.”
“Once business and family duties are done, he still gets out into the garage for a few hours every night. This has ensured that the family love for all things motorized has been passed down to his kids.”
As to which style of project he prefers, Eric says that while he is firmly in love with the 1967-72 C-10s his tastes have changed throughout the years. “I’ve run the gamut. I’ve done the full custom with my ’67—I shaved everything on it. And I’ve done full-trim trucks. For me as I’ve gotten older and maybe a little more conservative, I really like the trim. I like to keep the body pretty much bone-stock. It’s more about the classic look with new-age running gear.” Asked if he had a favorite, Eric is quick to reply, “I like every single year, but I’m more partial to 1967-68 and 1971-72.” Eric recalls, “My dad owned a ’70s truck back in the day and it just stuck with me. It’s the one truck I like to build.” He said his more recent builds have been a little more carefree, “With a full custom truck like Tootsie, I was afraid to take my eyes off it ever at a show.”
His latest build, dubbed “Cheap Trick,” sports an original patina paint job. “It’s great because you can drive it anywhere, park it anywhere and not worry about it,” Eric says.
What started as a hobby has definitely grown into something bigger, but Eric insists it’s all just for fun. With three growing kids now becoming involved in sports, most of his free time is spoken for. But once business and family duties are done, he still gets out into the garage for a few hours every night. This has ensured that the family love for all things motorized has been passed down to his kids. His daughter, the oldest, has requested a ’bagged, pink ’60s Cadillac convertible for her first car. Eric hopes that once his two younger sons hit the right age, they will join dad in the garage to build their first trucks.