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1970 GMC Pickup: Fantastic Flatbed

Posted in Project Vehicles on September 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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The story of how this awesome ’70 GMC truck came to be in its current form begins in 1993 in the town of Lovelock, Nevada, when John Simmons of Winnemucca, Nevada, saw the truck for the first time.

Brown stripped the truck to the bare frame and sent the cab and front sheetmetal to Troy Jackson at Yanks Speed & Shine in Woodland, Washington. Brown says Jackson is a longtime friend and “one of those goofy guys that actually likes paint and bodywork.” Among other things, Jackson repaired some minor rust and modified the front fenders for tire clearance and to blend with the custom front bumper that Brown created. The bodywork was sprayed Sovereign Blue (a factory Kenworth color) that matches the color on Simmons’ fleet of work trucks. Brown painted the frame Hot Rod Black while everything was disassembled. Speaking of the front bumper, it’s made from mostly 1¾-inch-diameter, 0.120-inch-wall material, and it holds the Warn 9.5ti winch and a quartet of 4-inch Hella HID lights. The rig rolls on 40x14.50R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 tires mounted on 17x9.5 Spyderlock wheels.

“I had always loved this body-style truck and wanted to own one of my own badly. But with a new son and my wife’s love for cutting horses it did not seem that I could ever afford to buy one. One evening on a trip home from buying a new horse trailer (you can afford anything if the wife wants it) I spot this truck (for sale) while stopped in Lovelock, Nevada. My wife returns from the gas station bathroom and we drive across the street to have a look. The truck is a ¾-ton, four-wheel drive, long wheelbase, four-speed…exactly what I want, 3,000 bucks. Well, I had just spent $3,000 on a horse trailer so there was no way I was getting the truck. I pouted all the way home to Winnemucca. The next afternoon, while I’m working my second job, my wife shows up with a check and said, ‘Go get your truck.’ She had gone to the bank and gotten a loan for me to buy the truck (maybe she’s not so bad after all). I didn’t waste any time, I was on my way to Lovelock. The guy cried when I left with his truck.”

Simmons drove the truck as it was for the next five years, enjoying every minute of it. However, his job as a field service technician used up the majority of his time, and what time there was (along with money) went into his wife’s dream ’67 Camaro convertible. Along the way, Simmons started his own business. “Now I really have no time,” he remembers. Eventually the GMC ended up in a field, neglected. But here’s where the story takes another twist.

In 2006, Simmons towed Robert Boggio’s exocage-clad Chevy S-10 to Top Truck Challenge in Hollister, California. Boggio is Simmons’ wife’s cousin (see how this all ties together?). Simmons’ work service truck is a great support rig because it’s equipped with tools, welder, and even a crane. Soon, Simmons found himself working on TTC competitor rigs each evening, helping to fix damage from the day’s events. It’s during this time he met 2005 TTC competitor and truck builder Don Brown. The two of them struck a friendship, and an agreement to have Brown bring the GMC back to life at his shop, DK Kustoms, in Camas, Washington. “I told Don that I wanted a rig I could do everything with. I did not want a four-wheeler I had to load on a trailer to go play. I wanted to be able to run down the highway at 75 mph, I wanted to have a 100-gallon fuel capacity to cross the Nevada desert, and I wanted a transfer pump to fuel sleds and dirt bikes. I wanted a utilitarian-type of flatbed with the versatility to adapt a boat rack, sled deck, haul dirt bikes, or anything else I wanted, with storage in every place possible. Don gave me everything I asked for,” Simmons says, “plus, he gave me the bonus feature of cold beverages in the cab.”

The rear suspension also includes a custom cantilever airbag setup for when Simmons needs to haul heavy cargo or tow a heavy trailer with the truck. “Building a rig that is capable off-road and able to carry a load and drive down the highway isn’t that easy. I really did some head scratching trying to figure out how to keep some load capacity and let the suspension flex, so I built the cantilever airbag setup that allows nearly 12 inches of suspension travel to be controlled by one four-inch airbag (per side). I didn’t really want to use a big, expensive, 12-inch airbag in a ‘one-to-one’ configuration to handle the load when need be, Brown says.” The Schrader valves for both airbags are located in the driver-side compartment on the flatbed.

The custom flatbed is the Swiss Army Knife of flatbeds and it’s loaded with cool features including gobs of storage. It’s obvious features include the custom spare tire mount, TruckLite LED taillights, and Smittybilt XRC-8 winch (mounted onto a custom receiver cradle). “The build really centered around the flatbed and we both agreed it needed to be functional and make the best use of space. John also wanted the ability to carry lots of fuel for whatever toys he chose to take with him,” Brown says. With that in mind, Brown designed the 60-gallon transfer tank and the 40-gallon main fuel tank and had Jeff at JD Cross Enterprises in Portland, Oregon, fab them up from 1⁄8-inch aluminum plate and pressure test them. The transfer tank was placed in the front of the bed and it rests below the surface so Brown could get the capacity he wanted and to allow easy plumbing to gravity-feed a Fill-Rite 15 gpm electric transfer pump that is hidden in the driver-side bed box with hose and nozzle. The flatbed has five compartments total. There are compartments on each side of the flatbed and they’re accessible from the main side door as well as through the top for convenience. Under a center panel is a compartment that houses a pair of batteries and Viair on-board air system with a 2-gallon tank (plumbed to each side compartment). The cover in the very rear of the flatbed (under the spare tire) allows access to a fuel fill neck, but the tank can also be filled via a neck in the rear bumper of the flatbed should the bed be loaded. There is also a storage compartment in each rear corner of the flatbed. The bed was designed with a rolled tube over the rear tires to retain the classic body lines of the truck and a pair of factory marker lights was frenched in the rear sides of the bed. The entire flatbed was powdercoated by M&M Coatings in Vancouver, Washington, for durability.

The interior of the GMC is a mix of old and new. Brown’s friend Ty Baxter modified the stock instrument cluster to accept Auto Meter Carbon Fiber Ultra-Lite gauges. There wasn’t enough room to mount all the gauges Brown wanted, so Baxter added a switch so the center gauge could display either transmission or engine oil temperature. A custom rollcage made from 1¾-inch-diameter, 0.120-inch-wall DOM tubing helps keep passengers safe and it travels through the floor of the rig and ties into the rock sliders and the truck’s frame. Brown’s good friend Mark Goyer, “another one of those guys that likes paint work,” was small enough to crawl around the cab, cleaning, sanding, masking, priming, and eventually painting the entire cage in a custom-mix gray metallic. Other interior mods include a Grant steering wheel; MasterCraft seats (fastened to mounts that are integral to the rollcage); a custom center console; LMC Truck rubber flooring; a custom switch panel; killer audio system including a Pioneer head unit; and center-mounted Engel 17-quart refrigerator.

The Details
Owner/Hometown: John Simmons/Winnemucca, Nevada
Vehicle/Model: 1970 GMC pickup
Estimated value: $75,000

Type: GM 8.1L V-8
Aspiration: Fuel injection, Airaid intake, Stan’s Tri-Y headers, custom dual exhaust
Output, hp/torque (estimated): N/A

Transmission: 4L80E, manual valve body
Transfer case: NP203/205 ORD Doubler

Front: 54-in leaf springs, Bilstein 5150 14-in-travel shocks, Speedway Engineering sway bar
Rear: 63-in Pro Comp 5.5-in-lift leaf springs, Bilstein 5150 12-in-travel shocks, cantilever airbag system

Front: GM Dana 60, Yukon chromoly axleshafts, LPW Racing Products Ultra diff cover, ORD high-steer, Redneck Ram hydro-assist/ARB Air Locker
Rear: GM 14-bolt, ORD disc brake conversion, LPW Racing Products Ultra diff cover/Detroit Locker
Ring and pinion: Yukon 5.13:1

Wheels: 17x9.5 Spyderlock
Tires: 40x14.50R17 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2

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