Ever wonder where those famous fabricators and customizers got their start? Where they acquired the knowledge that we all seek when we need to get our trucks looking good? Some are naturally gifted, but that’s a small number. Some get their start apprenticing with a more experienced customizer and others go to college to acquire their skill set.
Although a college curriculum covers the basics, students don’t always get the real world experience they need, like having to deal with clients or crazy deadlines. Fortunately for the students of the 2012 class of the Automotive Collision Repair Program at Cerritos College they got to meet Gil Lara. He gave the students the opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities on a special project. Gil had recently purchased a ’65 Chevy C-10 long-bed from a friend. The C-10 was originally planned as a father-and-son project but it was never completed, so it sat outdoors for many years before Gil offered to buy it.
Gil developed a liking for the 1960-66 body styles after his best friend Juan Trevino (full disclosure: that’s me!) had just completed his ’65 Suburban, and Gil knew he would want to continue to go to car shows with his friend like they’d been doing for years with their previous builds.
Gil also wanted the students to get some real world experience, learning the art of customizing, and he wanted to five them the chance to work with some of the industry’s best products. Once the ’65 was dropped off at the college it wasn’t long before instructor Charlie Robertson had the students completely dismantle the truck, ready to begin lessons to completely rebuild it from top to bottom. To start things off Gilinformed the students that the truck would be debuting at the 2012 SEMA Show, and as I’m sure you’re aware, that’s no easy task.
Once the truck was disassembled, the body was taken to Kenny Sandblasting, Inc. in El Monte, California, while the students began bodywork on the bed and cab. In the meantime, Gil took the frame and some of the suspension components to Primo Powder Coating in Huntington Beach, California. When he brought the freshened frame back to the college, he also came bearing a complete front suspension setup from Porterbuilt that consisted of a Dropmember cross member complete with control arms and a rear bolt-on notch kit with tubular trailing arms. The students were excited about bolting on all of the Porterbuilt parts, but Gil didn’t stop there, he kept bringing new parts from a variety of manufacturers for the students to work with.
Next on the list for the chassis assembly was installing the rearend and custom panhard bar, along with the Firestone airbags and KYB shocks. Up front, the students installed Slam Specialties airbags from AVS with KYB shocks and a manual rack-and-pinion steering system from Unisteer and an upgraded ABS Power Brakes disc conversion. They also added a CPP fuel cell at the rear of the frame. A set of chrome Wheel Pros American Racing smoothies with chrome baby moon caps with Coker wide white walls made the chassis a roller.
While the students were busy cranking away on the project, Gil was shuttling parts back and forth to different shops. One of his stops was Larry’s Performance in Montebello, California. Larry stripped the Chevy 327 and sent the block to Team C in Bellflower, California, to have it machined and bored to a 350. Once Larry got the block back, he rebuilt it with Engine Tech components.
Engine dressing, tuning and installation was performed by Sammy Maloof at Maloof Racing in San Gabriel, California. A Holley 650 Street Avenger was placed on top of the stock manifold, and Sam also bolted on a set of ceramic-coated Hedman headers and a Tuff Stuff water pump. To dress up the engine, Sam added a set of genuine Mooneyes finned valve covers, and on top of the carbureto he installed a Mooneyes finned air cleaner with K&N air cleaner, and finally a set of Trans Dapt chrome pulleys.
Next stop after picking of the engine was Jerry’s Transmission in Norwalk, California, so the 350-trans could be rebuilt with a GM and B&M kits and a shift kit from American Shifter. Gil took the engine and trans back to the college so the students could mount them to the chassis along with a new two-piece driveshaft.
While all of these parts were being worked on by various shops, the college’s instructors: Charlie Robertson, Richard Lopez, Jason Meyers, Jay Jakahi, Brian Ferre and Phil Hutchison, and the students were doing all of the bodywork. The students learned how to reskin the roof of the cab using a donor cab from Chevy Truck Salvage, and they also learned how to raise the bed floor to clear the frame notch.
Once the students completed the bodywork, it was time to prepare the truck to spray the House of Kolor Bright White Platinum Pearl with a touch of Blue and a Candy Apple Red roof. To complete the beautiful paint job, Gil contacted Tom McWeeny of Kustoms, Inc. to give the students a glimpse into the art of pinstriping. Tom did a great job laying red lines throughout the truck.
The students were starting to feel the pressure of the looming SEMA deadline and the assembly still needed to be completed. After many late nights, the cab and bed were mounted to the frame and the students began bolting on the large quantity of parts from Classic Industries, which included the front and rear bumpers, chrome grille, headlights, taillights and door handles. The truck also got new glass from Classic Industries and it was looking more complete. The students also installed a Wood Bed & Parts pine floor.
The students did some work on the interior, painting it candy apple red, and then Hymie’s Upholstery of Hawaiian Gardens, California, finished things up by installing a Classic Industries red carpet over Dynamat sound deadening material and a Classic Industries two-tone seat cover. Gil installed a Mooneyes red flake 15-inch steering wheel. Under the hood, the students installed a Kinetik battery for plenty of cranking power.
It was truly the eleventh hour. The night before SEMA the teachers and students had a 30-hour crunch. To get the project C-10 ready to load on the trailer. The truck was parked at the Mirka Abrasives booth. It became the talk of the show once word got out that students had built the truck. Of course, the students were extremely proud of their accomplishments. Gil was satisfied that they would all pursue a career in automobile customizing.
When the SEMA Show ended it was time to bring the truck home and finish the last few items necessary to get the truck driveable. Gil dropped off the truck at Starlite Rod & Kustoms in Torrance, California, and the crew there began installing the Painless wiring kit. Next, they plumbed the air ride system, installed Viair compressors and added another Kinetik power cell dedicated to the air ride. The final stop for the truck was Sound Scape in Downey, California, for the installation of a Pioneer audio system consisting of a DEH-X8560BH head unit and Pioneer speakers and amplifier all wired up with Memphis Audio wiring. Finally, the truck was detailed and the paint polished by Mark at So Cal Detailing.
Gil literally drove the truck for the first time to this photo shoot. It was a pleasure meeting up with him, and we both look forward to showing our trucks together. Gil would like to thank everyone involved: Cerritos College Collision Repair Program teachers and students, his father Danny Lara, the crew at Starlite Rod & Kustom, Larry’s Performance Engines, Sammy Maloof of Maloof Racing, Victor “JB” Munoz, Brittany Torres, his ///RA family, Mike Cotton, Juan and Maria Trevino, Erik Harbour, Jason Mulligan, Mike “NY” Murray, Pat Jobin and Alfonso Hernandez. St
1965 Chevrolet C-10 long-bed
Shop: Team C Performance Center, Larry’s Performance and Maloof Racing
1968 327 bored out to 350
Engine Tech engine rebuild kit
Aluminum US radiator
Turbo 350 transmission
B&M transmission rebuild kit
American Shifter shift kit
Mooneyes air cleaners
Mooneyes valve covers
Tuff Stuff alternator, water pump and starter
MSD Ready to Run System: distributor, coil, wires and plugs
Shops: Cerritos College Automotive Collision Repair and Starlite Rod & Kustoms
Full Porterbuilt suspension
Tubular control arms, Dropmember, rear bolt-in notch, tubular trail arms
Air Ride suspension
Energy suspension mounts and bushings
ABS power brakes disc brake conversion
ABS master cylinder
Wheels & Tires
15×7 and 15×8 Wheel Pros American chrome smoothies with Baby Moon cap
215 and 225 Coker wide white walls
Body & Paint
Shops: Cerritos College Automotive Collision Repair
Fabricated inner fender skirts
Raised Bed Wood & Parts pine
Relocated gas tank
Classic Industries OER replacement parts
House of Kolor Bright White with Platinum Pearl and Blue Pearl and Candy Apple Red
Pinstriping by Kustom, Inc.
Shops: Hymie’s Upholstery, Sound Scape
Classic Industries OER bench seat skin red and white
Classic Industries red loop carpet
Pioneer Audio sound system
American Shifter 23-inch shifter
Mooneyes red flake 15-inch steering wheel
Mooneyes barefoot gas pedal