The classic auto industry is feeling the shakes of two major movements that have been gaining strength over the last decade or so: show trucks and modern engine swaps. This 1968 Chevy pickup is the confluence between the trends, where the owner, Mike Grocott of Kingston, Washington, has swapped an LS engine in his truck, and cleaned it so well, that it’s a trophy contender at any judged event.
The cleanliness of the engine bay is one thing that really caught our attention. This is so clean, it's in a league of its own.
Mike bought this truck back in 2010, out of Casa Grande, Arizona. It wa only a 40-mile drive from where he was living at the time in Glendale. “It was a farm truck, and it was a mess,” he explained. “It had a six-cylinder with a three-speed manual transmission, and the engine blew up when I was trying to drive it home.”
What you see now is the product of a nut-and-bolt rebuild that took Mike two years to complete. On top of the usual rust found in the rockers, floor pans, and cab corners, Mike also had to rebuild the front door posts on both the driver and passenger side of the cab. He also converted it from a stepside to a fleetside bed.
The detail work on this truck is well done, and it's hard to see in the pictures, but it also features tasteful and modest pinstriping work that really compliments the overall look.
A significant amount of work also went into updated the drivetrain. Mike bought a 425-horsepower LS3 engine package directly from GM that came with the wiring harness and a three-year warranty. He has the LS engine mated to a brand new 4L80E automatic transmission, and the front-runner serpentine belt system is all Vintage Air equipment, and as such, incorporates A/C that keeps Mike cool on hot summer days.
It's amazing how well Mike was able to cleanup the engine compartment. Almost all of the wiring is hidden, and both the inner fenders and firewall are as smooth as can be.
The transmission has semi-automatic functionality, and allows you to kick it up or down a gear at the push of a button. Usually this sort of setup makes use of a paddle shifter behind the wheel, but Mike didn’t want that. Instead, he has his up and down shift buttons at his feet for easy access. They are positioned between the brake pedal and the hi-beam/low-beam switch.
The front suspension is a custom-built system that is similar to the Mustang II-style frontend. “I built the front end myself,” Mike explained. “It’s kind of a spin-off of the Mustang II type suspension.” It also has Ridetech air on the front, so the ride is not only smooth, but easily adjustable if Mike were to ever want to raise or lower the front end. He also has a tubular control arm setup in the back.
The bed is made from Oak that's treated with a water-based varnish.
“It drives like a new truck with air conditioning and everything else,” Mike said. “It’s also very reliable.” It’s readily apparent from the first look that Mike knew what he was doing when he built this truck. That’ because this is the third one that he’s built. “I wanted it to look original,” he said, “and after doing three of these, you get a good idea of what you want.”
There are a lot of reasons why we would love to build a truck like this.
The goal was to build a nice, reliable driver that he could take anywhere, but by the time all was aid and done, he’d built it a little too nice. Instead of driving this everyday, he bought a new truck to use as a daily driver and this hauler has remained a show-only kind of truck that is taken out on special occasions.
After all of the mechanical and electrical work was completed, Mike did the paint and bodywork himself. The color is 503 Light Green—the original color for this truck. When Mike got it, it had been rattle can painted black by a previous owner, but when he took the bed off he could see this color on the back of the cab and he really liked it. So that’s what he went back to.
Part of what Mike did so well with this truck was hiding all of the electrical equipment while still allowing easy access for when he needs to work on it.
The interior is just as well dressed as the rest of the truck and features new door panels, gauges, comfortable seats out of a minivan, and a center console with cup holders. The glovebox has also been filled with the electronics that would have otherwise made their way into the engine bay, which, as you can see, is about as clean as you can get.
We love this LS powered pickup and are glad that Mike took the time to talk with us about it during the Hansville Show n’ Shine Car Show. We’ve had a lot of great cars and trucks appear in our Home-Built Heros segment and would love to have more. If you’ve got a cool Chevy that you’d like to share with us, send us an email and tell us a little about it.