What Could Have been

A Yenko-Inspired Chevy C10

Richard Truesdell - January 10, 2013 10:00 AM


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Over the course of little more than a decade,Yenko Chevrolet in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and its founder, Donald Yenko, established a legacy withinthe Chevrolet performance community that existsto this very day.

Starting in 1957, when Don set up a performance shop within his family’s Chevrolet dealership, Yenko Chevrolet became a destination for performance Chevy enthusiasts, just like Mopar fans flocked to Grand-Spaulding Dodge in Chicago, or as Blue Oval aficionados visited Bob Tasca Ford. These dealerships were the epicenter for performance at a time when the muscle car ruled and defined an era.

In the ’60s and into the early ’70s, manufacturers and dealers didn’t give much thought to high performance trucks, especially traditional pickups. The personal-use pickup started to come of age as the Big Three offered big blocks in their light-duty, half-ton pickups. They were typically low-stress, high-torque motors more suitable for towing a racecar-laden trailer to the track, rather than seeing how fast said truck could cover 1,320 feet.

Had Don Yenko survived – he died in an airplane crash outside of Charleston, West Virginia, in March, 1987 – he probably would be smiling after seeing how Stainless Steel Brake Corporation’s (SSBC) Michael Jonas came up with his Yenko-inspired 1970 Chevy C10 pickup.

Over the years, Jonas has owned many Bowties, including 40 Corvettes. In a past life, the vehicle served as a landscaper’s truck in California. It rolled from the factory as a wood-bed half-ton. It was the staple of the American working man, a simple, rugged truck designed to do yeoman’s work, no matter the task asked of it.

From those humble beginnings, it became a show truck, designed to promote the products offered by SSBC. “The front brakes are the SSBC Tri-power kits for early GM trucks,” said Jonas. “SEMA awarded SSBC a GM Design Award for the Tri-power design back in 2003 and it’s been a very popular product ever since. In the rear, we used an SSBC kit designed for GM 10- and 12-bolt truck rear axles. It works great on applications like this where we installed 20-inch rear wheels as the rotor measures 14 inches. The set-up in the rear allows for an internal parking brake inside the rear caliper using the stock parking brake cable.”

While showcasing the truck’s stopping power, it’s what’s under the hood that speaks volumes. Motivation comes from a bored and stroked version of the legendary Chevy small block, displacing 383 cubic inches and 475 horsepower that came courtesy of GM Performance Parts. Sitting atop the engine is a Holley/Barry Grant Six Shooter carb system. To handle the available 475 horsepower, Jonas upgraded the transmission with a 4L60E-based unit from Bowler.

The exterior was a collaboration of sorts. Jonas had some of his own ideas for the truck’s overall look. To turn dreams into reality, he turned to the crew at Aero Collision in Lancaster, New York. “I was open to what direction to take,” said Jonas. “There was a 1970 Yenko Nova in the shop and we started throwing ideas around and started with the installation of what I believe to be the better looking front treatment from the 1967 model. Around back, we substituted the clear lenses from the Blazer, so it’s subtle things that might initially be overlooked that make the truck special.”

While it was undergoing its restoration, the truck went from a long-bed to a short-bed configuration. The Auto Collision team moved the fuel tank, freeing up some interior space. “We modernized the wiring in the interest of safety,” said Jonas. “We took the best elements, things like the taillights I mentioned earlier, from the truck’s six-year production run off to incorporate into this truck.

Getting the color became a process. “Believe it or not, it started with a silver paint that Sherwin Williams supplied us for the frame,” said Jonas. “The way it worked out is that we primed the body with the same silver, then applied a bright white with pearl added. After the exterior paint was applied, the silver was applied through a razor-cut stencil for all the accents then the clearcoat was applied. The result is really striking.”

The overall look of the truck goes beyond the understated exterior modifications. Contributing to the appearance is a lowered suspension from Hotchkis and the 18-inch six-spoke Centerline wheels shod with Goodyear Eagle GSA, 225x18 up front, 295x20 in the rear. The selection of the 225x18 inch set up front allowed lock-to-lock turning with no fender scrub.

For the interior, Jonas turned to his wife Sandra, who is an interior designer. She selected the buff-colored trim, which contrasts perfectly with the body-colored metal surfaces. “Originally I wanted two-tone trim for the interior,” said Jonas. “My wife, showing me the color palette she had laid out, made the case for the monochromatic look as far as the soft surfaces were concerned.” Other upgrades to the interior include the deluxe dashboard from Classic Industries, a Vintage Air HVAC system, and an audio upgrade from Custom Autosound that included kick panel-mounted speakers.

If he wasn’t so busy building COPO Camaros and SCCA-winning Corvairs, might have Don Yenko turned his talents to the truck market? It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that, if he did, the results might mimic what Michael Jonas accomplished more than 30 years later.

This truck, originally built in 2003 by SSBC and Aero Collision in Lancaster, New York, could have just as easily rolled out of the service bay at Yenko Chevrolet in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1970. That’s something to think about.