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Short & Sweet River City’s blockbuster build, dubbed El “Chapo,” begins to take shape thanks to support from a growing list of premier performance manufacturers

DAVENPORT, IOWA: Work is progressing nicely on River City Rods & Fabrication’s 1976 Ford GTB100 project truck that’s headed to the 2018 SEMA Show. But there’s still a lot to do prior to its planned debut in the Energy Suspension booth at the end of October.

A follow-up to the Davenport, Iowa shop’s blockbuster 1968 C30 camper project that took last year’s SEMA Show by storm, the GTB100 build recently passed two important milestones—completion of its Roadster Shop chassis, and selection of the nickname El Chapo (English translation: Shorty).

With engine, paint and interior work still to be completed, however, shop owner Craig Piggott is beginning to feel the pinch as the calendar flips to August.

“We plan to be going hot and heavy on this thing, especially for the next four weeks or so,” Piggott says. “It’s starting to get tight with time.”

Currently, the crew is continuing fabrication work, even as it prepares to drop the retro-influenced Coyote engine into the turnkey chassis.

“The Roadster Shop had great communication and dedication to the project,” Piggott notes. “They were two weeks ahead of time getting the chassis done, and really took the guesswork out of the installation.”

Any time saved will be appreciated, as the goal is to have all engine and metalwork done by Aug. 15 in order to spray PPG paint of an as-yet undetermined color. The deadline is important, as it’s imperative Auto Kraft Upholstery in Nebraska has the month or so needed to execute the GTB100’s custom red interior.

Meanwhile, Piggott will have a different type of work to focus on—paperwork, that is, as he looks to enter the pickup in this year’s SEMA Battle of the Builders competition.

“I’m waiting for the renderings to come back, so I can get our entry in order,” he says of his first foray into the prestigious contest. “Part of the goal of this build is to build the reputation of our shop.”

The other goal is to professionally represent the project’s cadre of manufacturer sponsors, which includes:

Aftermarket-focused marketing company Performance Business Media partnered with Piggott and River City Rods to foster relationships with top performance manufacturers and secure products and promotion for the GTB100.

“Working with Craig and the River City Rods team has been an exciting project,” PBM Brand Manager Michael Murray said. “As a full-service marketing firm, our focus is not only on advertising and metrics, but relationships and partnerships. By making connections and creating real value for companies to support this blockbuster build through promotion and management, we have been able to ensure “el Chapo” will feature the best aftermarket products from bumper to bumper.”

“Working with PBM has been paramount in getting companies excited to work with us and support the GTB100 project,” Piggott said. “Having veterans of the performance aftermarket industry on your team and actively searching for new ways to partner with manufacturers has made all the difference in making sure this build is our biggest and most impressive yet.”

Representatives at a couple of the sponsoring companies are already confident El Chapo will make a big impression and provide a real return on investment for their support of the build.

“Energy Suspension jumped at the chance to be a part of the River City GTB100 build for SEMA,” Pete Williamsen of Energy Suspension said. “Perhaps the most exciting thing about this build is that it embodies everything that has built Energy Suspension into the company it is today: creating a modern twist on a classic vehicle. With the Roadster Shop using Energy Suspension bushings on all of their chassis builds, and to have to have this chassis under an amazing Brazilian market unicorn like this B100 is just too cool! We can’t wait to see people’s reactions to the final product, and are so pumped about being able to play a part in bringing this remarkable vehicle build.”

Piggott has partnered with PPG Refinish to select the best paint color for the GTB100. The company plans to select the final color with input from fans and followers on social media later this summer.

“PPG Refinish is proud to be a participating sponsor with River City Rod and Customs on their unique Ford GTB100 build,” Duane Dorminey of PPG said. “This partnership will showcase PPG’s industry leading products that help make builds like this possible from bare metal to the surface. We know this project will be a huge hit at SEMA 2018 and I am excited to be a part of this endeavor.”
Come see for yourself at the 2018 SEMA Show. The GTB100’s unveiling is set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, in the Energy Suspension Booth #23267 in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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