The ’84 Chevy square-body masterpiece before your eyes appears like a lightly modified time capsule with a couple zeros on the left side of the odometer. But don’t let its pristine persona fool you. Before its last makeover, this old girl has had more engines and transmissions in its history than a Saturday-night hobby stock. And not because they broke…but because they didn’t. That’s just how Rockfield, Kentucky’s Luke Embry rolls.
Around 20 years ago Luke traded a little “gas saver” car for this truck from a friend who was having trouble keeping it running.
“At the time I was painting cars for a living and decided to fix the truck up and sell it,” Luke reasoned.
After painting it red, lowering it and slapping on some new wheels and tires, Luke decided it was too nice to sell, so he kept it as a toy.
Growing up in the 1980s, Luke had a soft spot for square-body Chevy trucks, and they were dirt cheap at the time. Forever a tinkerer, the ’84 saw at least 10 different Chevy small-blocks and five transmissions between its frame rails.
“I don’t remember any engine failures,” Luke clarities. “I was just trying different things out. Around 2012 I started playing with LS engines.”
The first GM gen-III small block plunked inside the Silverado’s engine bay was a 5.3L backed by a 4L60-E transmission. But soon, Luke wanted more.
“A couple years later I built a nasty-sounding 550-horsepower six-liter bolted to a 4L85-E trans,” he says.
Luke and his daughter took the truck to car shows and entered the truck under her name.
“After a few years and several trophies later, I got tired of the ‘loud exhaust and big cam stuff’ and wanted something closer to stock,” Luke says.
The next step wasn’t necessarily closer to stock, but maybe better than stock.
Luke first considered buying another truck for his new project, but contemporary prices were too high for his taste. Besides, he says, the red truck was due for some work after multiple summer driving tours, local jaunts and just plain enjoying it. He settled on what he wanted: An original color scheme, all factory trim, stock modern drivetrain and near flawless execution, he says. He couldn’t find one, so he decided to build it from the red truck.
“I sold parts off of the red truck as I took it apart to fund the new build,” Luke says.
That left only the bedsides, cab and bare frame. He purchased a pair of original paint doors and doghouse. A new bed floor replaced the dented original. The centerpiece of the build was a low-mile 2017 direct-injected L83 5.3L engine with matching 6L80 transmission. A Hooker Blackheart transmission crossmember, engine mount brackets and Holley mid-mount accessory drive made the Gen-V engine a bolt-in affair, even if tuning it wasn’t. The biggest challenge for Luke was getting the factory PCM and the new torque-based engine management to work in this old truck. Reaching out to those in the late-model direct-injected GM community eventually helped Luke sort it out.
The exhaust is all Hooker with manifolds and a 304 stainless dual exhaust kit. The latter features 2 ½-inch tubing and an X-pipe tucked behind the transmission for maximum ground clearance. Holley’s Sniper EFI retrofit fuel tanks, pumps and Earl’s plumbing keep the direct-injected small block fed. Cooling duties are handled by a Dewitts radiator and dual 12-inch SPAL fans mounted to a radiator shroud Luke fabricated himself.
Luke rebuilt the 12-bolt rearend with Richmond 3.42:1 gears to complement the 6L80 transmission’s 0.67:1 top gear for comfy highway cruising. All the suspension components were upgraded with hardware from Belltech for a fresh, lower stance. The new ride height is 4 inches lower in front and 6 inches lower in back. Rolling stock consists of Budnik Spyder forged wheels measuring 20×10.5 inches out back and 20×8.5 inches in front. Luke chose Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ tires (255/45 and 295/45 front and rear, respectively) because he felt the conservative tread design fit the style of the truck. We agree.
Behind the tasteful wheel and tire combo is a set of huge Master Power Pro Driver Series brakes. The front package consists of 13-inch slotted and drilled front rotors clamped by billet aluminum four-piston calipers. Smaller four-pot rear calipers squeeze 12-inch rear rotors. Luke finished off the brake system with a billet, black anodized Baer master cylinder.
The steering wheel is a point of pride for Luke; not because it’s a custom piece, but rather because it’s a survivor.
“Most of these steering wheels have cracked to pieces by now,” Luke explains.
Peeking behind the steering wheel are a set of Dakota Digital RTX-series gauges. Luke extols the virtues of the gauges for their ease of installation.
“They get all their info from the GM PCM’s OBDII port,” he says. “It couldn’t be easier.”
A Vintage Air HVAC system was installed not only because the hardware tucks behind the dashboard (dramatically cleaning up the engine bay) but also because Luke found the factory under-hood enclosure brittle and broken.
“It’s easier to install a Vintage Air system than struggle with the old stuff,” he says.
Now Luke has ice-cold air blowing from the typically floppy interior air vents.
While Luke found common C10 foibles like the droopy vents endearing, he didn’t’ feel the same about GM’s fussy electric windows. Luke addressed this problem with an old-school solution: crank-up windows. The manual setup offered a side benefit: entertainment for his daughter.
“Her first ride-along was spent cranking the windows up and down,” he says with a laugh. In an age where all windows move with a touch of a button, the vintage mechanism was novel to the newcomer.
It’s clear that Luke doesn’t cut corners, so he chose his materials carefully. All the rubber bits were swapped for Soft Seal replacements to make everything slam like new. Luke drew upon his experience as a former automotive painter and finished the exterior of the Silverado with Tamco Paints—and a lot of elbow grease. Trim Parts was tapped for the exterior brightwork and applied with care by Luke. The underside of the C10 is as immaculate as the top, as Luke went the extra mile in every respect. He even stripped and zinc plated every piece of hardware on the truck.
Luke’s attention to detail put him on the radar screen of Holley Performance Products in nearby Bowling Green, Kentucky. Luke’s day job as a product designer is more than a paycheck. Enthusiasts like Luke working behind the scenes give Holley a product development edge. You’ll find Luke most days designing swap parts to put modern engines in old vehicles—clearly a talent he has mastered.
The C10 build ticked all the right boxes for Luke. It’s quiet, smooth, and drives like—make that: better than—a new truck. He wanted a truck he could take on long trips and passengers would have few things to complain about.
But this Chevy’s mild manners don’t impress every member of the family. His daughter fully appreciates her dad’s latest approach. It used to be loud, red, and rowdy. Now it’s quiet, blue, and boring.
“She’s currently is not happy with me for changing colors of the truck,” Luke says. “She says this is an old man’s truck now and she doesn’t expect to win any more trophies.”
You can bet dad is looking forward to proving his daughter wrong…
Luke Embry, Rockfield, Kentucky
’84 Chevy C10
- 2017 GM L83 V-8
- GM direct injection PCM
- Holley mid-mount accessory drive
- Dual 12-inch SPAL electric fans
- Dewitts aluminum radiator
- Fabricated air intake tube
- Hooker prototype manifolds
- Hooker Blackheart exhaust system
- GM 6L80 transmission
- Holley Sniper EFI fuel tanks and pumps
- Hooker Blackheart engine mount brackets
- Hooker Blackheart transmission crossmember
- Belltech lowering kit (4 inches front, 6 inches rear), shocks, springs, drop spindles and sway bars
- GM 12-bolt rearend with Richmond 3.42:1 gears
- Master power brakes, billet four-piston calipers all around, 13-inch front rotors, and 12-inch rear rotors
- Baer billet master cylinder
- Flaming River steering shaft
WHEELS AND TIRES
- Budnik Spyder forged wheels, 20×8.5-inch front, 20×10.5-inch rear, 5-inch backspace all around
- Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+ tires, 255/45 255/45 front, 295/45 rear
BODY AND PAINT
- Tamco paint in factory-style two-tone
- Trim Parts moldings
- GSI Machine billet badges and door handles
- Dakota Digital RTX-series OBD-II gauges
- Crank window retrofit
- Vintage Air A/C
- Vibro solutions sound deadener
SPECIAL THANKS FROM THE OWNER: Holley Performance and my co-workers that always offer support, Tamco Paint Products, Master Power Brakes, Dewitts Radiators and Belltech Suspension.