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Sometimes to get exactly what you want from a custom truck project, you’ll have to end up doing most of it all over again, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe at times, you were forced to do “this” when you should’ve done “that”, which can happen when doing as many things with your own hands as possible. Not having the proper bankroll oftentimes poses an issue when reaching certain goals, because let’s be real here, if money was no object, we’d all be driving the trucks of our dreams right now, wouldn’t we? There are a lot of variables that would warrant extra steps being taken to push forward from a point once thought of as the finish line, but whatever they may be, you can bet that the final outcome will be worth the sacrifice. 

Mike Johnson of Aguanga, California has spent his fair share with his ’65 Chevy C10, and there was a point when he knew that a motor upgrade was going to be in order. After hearing about and seeing the level of work Fat Fender Garage in Gilbert, Arizona has been known for throughout the years, he figured he’d reach out to see if they’d be interested in the job. Little did Mike know, this would be a major turning point for his truck. Once Jason Noel, president of FFG, began taking a closer look at Mike’s C10, there were a few things the two came to an agreement on. First, aside from the motor swap, a bed restyle, new interior, and possibly new paint were things that would be on the horizon soon. But upon a second look, Jason noticed things that could make this pickup much better in other ways as well. 

Trucks can always sit lower, and larger wheels can still fit underneath them, with the right about of engineering, that is. Luckily, this is the mindset Jason works with on an everyday basis at FFG. Once the ideas started to flow, and there were soon talks about gutting the truck’s existing air ride system and going with a newer Porterbuilt kit instead, it wasn’t too hard to sway Mike in the right direction, especially when he was told there should be enough room to squeeze a set of 22×12 wheels in the rear. Add all this goodness to the already impressive list of pending upgrades, and this truck would for sure reach a level Mike wasn’t so sure it would ever climb to. 

Shortly after Mike and Jason got to know each other better and came to an understanding of what would be lined up for the C10, the FFG crew first got to work tracking down an engine for the much-needed swap. A good 2013 ZL1 donor was hunted down, and just like that, the injection of reliable performance was lined up for installation. With some additions in the way of wiring kits from Modern Vintage and Concept one, along with in-house 3D printed coil pack covers at FFG, Mike’s C10 was finally in motion to morphing into a far superior version of itself. 

To better transform the truck, the suspension system Jason and crew decided to start from scratch by incorporating front and rear Porterbuilt Fab kits to allow the C10 to gain a lower stance in a far better orchestrated fashion. Other top shelf components were also added to the new suspension setup for good measure. Accuair air management was incorporated for ease of adjustability and reliability, and Fox/Ridetech shocks were brought in to keep the ride quality as smooth as can be. This is most definitely the epitome of “leveling up” for any classic truck owner looking to get the low look but with high quality materials, not to mention expert installation by a shop as reputable as FFG. 

A custom green apple shade of paint was concocted especially for the truck to better give it a much more unique appearance. The traditional chrome exterior trim was given painted and powdercoated treatments, which would equate to a more streamlined, minimalist vibe that FFG has become known for over the years. The subtlety of the modifications made to the truck aren’t only contained to the exterior of the Chevy, the amount of pared down, yet highly impressive alterations are everywhere. Trained eyes will notice the cut and tucked bumpers, and the color matched accessories that all tie into the gray finish of the Raceline Classico wheels. There’s a rhyme and reason for everything here. 

Now for the most part, Mike allowed Jason to run with build. Mike liked his simplistic approach to design, and his fearless commitment to ideas and aesthetics that he was 100% sure would work well for the truck. Over the years, Jason has proven himself to be trustworthy with his conceptual ideas, and more importantly his execution. His track record specks for itself, and Mike had no problem giving him the artistic and creative reigns of the truck’s restyling. 

The greatest achievement any builder can hope for when going for an ultra clean look is to make his mark not by going by a strictly “less is more” approach, but a “more but looks like less” end result. This is what Jason and crew are great at doing, and the best evidence of that is what they did with the C10’s engine compartment and bed, which is now Mike’s favorite area of his truck. The factory-style beaded panels that most people are used to seeing when looking at a pickup, is replaced with smooth, elegant lines that have been done to make you question if that’s how it should’ve come from the factory. The raised bed floor is great too—dual Dakota Digital actuators adjust its up and down movement. There is definitely a push to create a high-end softened look to what otherwise would be idealized as crude utilitarian steel given that these old trucks were the pillars of the American working class. 

Within a year’s time, Mike had the truck back in his garage fully renovated and looking as sharp as ever before. There’s been a ton of work invested both physically and mentally, and the quality of craftsmanship shows—whether you notice all the expertly styled tweaks first glance or not. This C10 is absolutely one of those trucks that gets better the longer you look at it and pay close attention to the details in its fabrication. Mike admits that the best thing he did for the truck was to entrust Jason Noel, and the entire Fat Fender Garage team to design the truck of his dreams, then bring that image to life. Things don’t always turn out ideal the first time around, but there’s always an opportunity to push forward to do things the way you’ve always envisioned. 

Truck Specs 

Owner
Mike Johnson
1965 Chevrolet C10
Aguanga, California 

Engine 

  • 2013 Chevrolet 6.2L ZL1
  • LSA from a ZL1 Camaro used for the swap 
  • Wiring harness from Modern Vintage and Concept One front runner kit 
  • Stock LSA manifold headers 
  • Borla stainless steel exhaust 
  • 2013 6L90 transmission 
  • Low profile pan 
  • Derale transmission cooler under bed 

Chassis 

  • Shop: Fat Fender Garage 
  • Custom front and rear Porterbuilt Fab kits 
  • Accuair CTSV system 
  • Fox/RideTech shocks 
  • Boyd Welding aluminum fuel tank 
  • Wilwood 13-inch brake system, master cylinder 

Wheels/Tires 

  • 22-inch Raceline Classico wheels 
  • Pirelli P-Zero tires 

Exterior 

  • Shop: Fat Fender Garage 
  • Custom BASF Green Apple paint color 
  • OEM grille painted 
  • OEM bumpers cut and tucked
  • Inner Fenders by Fat Fender Garage 
  • Custom raised bed floor 

Interior 

  • Fat Fender Garage/Ceballos 
  • Glide Engineering bench seat 
  • Ferrari beige leather upholstery 
  • Dakota Digital HDX instruments 
  • Forever Sharp steering wheel 
  • Pioneer head unit 

 

CAPTIONS: 

Interior: The interior features a Glide Engineering bench seat covered in ultra premium Ferrari beige leather skins. 

 

Interior dash: The Dakota Digital gauges and Forever Sharp steering wheel add subtle class to the view when behind the driver seat. 

 

Engine compartment: All engine bays should hope to be as clean as this one. 

 

Bed photo: The Fat Fender Garage bed has become a thing, and for good reason—it’s the absolute flawless execution. Actuators power the bed floor for ease of maintenance and showing off, which both are huge bonuses. 

 

Wheel photo: The 22×12 Raceline Classico rear wheels were a big selling point for reengineering the entire suspension system.

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