Doing a Number on Dad’s Old ’1965 GMC Pickup
Fathers and sons share many types of hobbies, but few can bring them together (or send them into completely opposite directions) like the world of custom cars.
James Connerley’s father was the first owner of this ’65 GMC pickup, and his number one priority was to always keep it well maintained and on the road. While James’ dad didn’t do much in the way of customization throughout the years, the care he gave his truck left it in good enough condition for James to take over where his dad left off almost 20 years after he brought it home.
To get the wheels spinning and put the suspension into motion, James treated the GMC to a 2009 630-hp blown LS1 engine built by Rex Hutchison Racing in Sacramento. Yeah, it was a bit of a splurge, but nothing was too good for dad’s old pickup.
In 1983, James officially bought his dad’s GMC knowing darn well that wouldn’t be leaving it in its factory condition for too much longer.
“My dad and I shared interest in the same truck, but we saw two totally different levels of potential for it,” James says.
You see, James has been into heavily customized vehicles since he was old enough to drive—something that his dad never really took much stock in.
“I can remember my dad always saying that the more things you do to a car means that more things can go wrong with it,” James says.
While the two Connerley men had two distinct visions for the same pickup, the time was finally set to change for the old ’65.
James has built up a solid list of talented contacts throughout his years of customizing, and the first number he dialed was Jeff Norene’s at Lee’s Vintage Car Shop in West Sacramento. Jeff had worked on James’ award-winning ’48 Chevy Sedan Delivery just a few years earlier, and as luck would have it, was more than willing to work his magic on the GMC truck project. The two threw some ideas around, but the ultimate plan of action was to keep the truck looking clean without going overboard on anything—James’ dad would certainly appreciate that sentiment. The ’65’s sheetmetal was still in good usable condition, and aside from some standard massage work, Jeff added a few goodies in the way of ’37 Ford taillights, custom tailgate latches, and a custom oak plank bed floor that was devised for a cool custom yet streamlined appearance.
To seal the deal on the hours that were invested in getting the bodywork and mods just right, Jeff mixed up a custom PPG Envriobase Sunset Bronze color to coat the surface of the GMC. The hue is classy, classic and oftentimes gets mistaken for “root beer,” but whatever you’d like to call it, the paintwork looks downright fabulous. To capitalize on the freshly shot paint, Dillon Proctor was brought in to add a healthy amount of pinstripe work and gold leafing to the hood, tailgate, as well as some spots inside the cab and a few select suspension components. With the truck looking great, James then pushed forward to get it preforming just as well.
Since the truck just celebrated its 56th birthday, James decided to spend some extra money and spring for a complete custom chassis from Scott’s Hotrods while they were still in Oxnard, California. Not wanting to mess with an air suspension system and all the components that go along with that type of setup, James felt compelled to go ahead and run Aldan America coilovers for performance reasons. The coilovers, along with the custom A-arms, spindles and rear 4-link, now allow the GMC to ride more smoothly than ever before while making it more agile and nimble. To bring the truck to a quick halt, upgraded Wildwood rotors and calipers were added to each corner, which just happen to look slick behind the 18-inch 10-spoke American Racing Rodder wheels.
To get the wheels spinning and put the suspension into motion, James treated the GMC to a 2009 630-hp blown LS1 engine built by Rex Hutchison Racing in Sacramento. Yeah, it was a bit of a splurge, but nothing was too good for dad’s old pickup. While in the shop, the LS was topped off with a ton of top-shelf products like a Vortech V-2 SC1 supercharger, K&N intake system, Edelbrock manifold and Hedman headers that blow through to a custom 3-inch exhaust system. All these upgrades and then some were added to the GMC’s ever-growing arsenal list, which dad never would’ve thought to spend money on under the hood. It would’ve all added up to too much, and the truck would’ve been much too fast, but speed and handling are both attributes that James truly loves and appreciates in vehicles.
Moving inside the cab, James was dead set on tossing the original seats and going with a much newer bench seat from an ’06 Chevy truck. To properly handle the reupholstery work, Jack’s Upholstery in Woodland, California, was hired for the job. The later-model bench was soon covered in butterscotch vinyl material, new dark brown carpet was laid down, and a bunch of high-quality accessories were then lined up and installed. Classic Instrument gauges, paint matched Lecarra Mark-10 steering wheel and Ididit column, and Vintage Air A/C vents were all imported into the cab, along with a Pioneer receiver for just the right amount of modern convenience.
Would this be the truck that James’ father would’ve built? Not at all—but the reaction to what has become of his old humble pickup would be so interesting to witness. In all honesty, who wouldn’t be impressed by the outcome of this GMC?
Would this be the truck that James’ father would’ve built? Not at all—but the reaction to what has become of his old humble pickup would be so interesting to witness. In all honesty, who wouldn’t be impressed by the outcome of this GMC? It has become a crowd favorite and a regular trophy-snatcher at every show James takes it to.
“I’m sure I’d hear a, ‘What did you do to my truck?’,” says James about what his dad might say about the ’65’s outcome. “But I do think he’d get a big kick out of it.”
James Connerley and Judi Ferreira
1965 GMC C10
- Shop: Rex Hutchison Racing Engines, Sacramento, CA
- 2009 Chevy LS 6.0L V-8
- Speartech wiring harness, computer, aftermarket LS engine motor mounts
- Procomp connecting rods and crank
- CP-Carrillo pistons
- Comp Cams camshaft
- Edelbrock intake manifold
- Hedman headers
- Custom 3-inch exhaust system with rear cut out in bumper
- Dyno tested at peak power of 632 hp at 5,900 rpm
- 2009 4L80E transmissions w/ custom mounts
- Hughes Performance HD rebuild kit
- TCI Scat #276005 shift kit
- Ididit shifter
- Revmax 600TQ Stage 5 triple disc billet torque converter
- Aftermarket transmission cooler located under cab
- Custom driveshaft built to handle 600 hp
- Ford 9-inch rearend
- 370 Posi differential
- Limited slip
- Complete custom frame from Scott’s Hotrods, Knoxville, TN
- Modified for LS motor/drop out transmission mount
- Aldan American front and rear coilovers and shocks
- AGR steering box
- Custom fuel tank by Scott’s
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
- 18-inch American Racing Rodder 10-spoke wheels
- 235/45/18 and 235/50/18 Ironman iMove Gen2 tires
- Wilwood 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brake kits, master cylinder
- Hydroboost setup
- Shop: Lee’s Vintage Car Shop, West Sacramento, CA
- Modified Sunset Bronze PPG Envirobase paint
- Pinstriping and gold leaf by Dillon Proctor
- Semi stock wheel wells, cut out battery box tray
- 1937 Ford taillights
- Rear bed rails capped, custom hinges for tailgate (no chains), custom pan behind the bumper, holes filled in firewall
- Shop: Jack’s Upholstery, Woodland, CA
- 2005 Chevy pickup seats covered in butterscotch vinyl
- Classic Instruments Nostalgia VT Series gauges
- Lecarra Mark-10 steering wheel and Ididit column painted to match body
- Pioneer head unit wired up to backup camera
- Vintage Air A/C vents mounted in lower dash