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Mac Daddy

11 April 2023

Todd Collins set out to build a slick C10; little did he imagine he’d create the Mac Daddy of them all

Words: NZV8 Photos: Aaron Mai

It’s amazing, given the variety of cars on our roads, that no one here in New Zealand has ever really nailed the build of a second-gen, square-body C10. Sure, in factory form, they look like, and drive like, a farm truck, but with how the modified car scene has gone pickup crazy over the past decade, there’s now no shortage of inspiration, nor parts available off the shelf, to build one right. 

Todd Collins saw that opportunity, and ran with it, pumping out what has to be the finest C10 of any generation in the land. He didn’t do it alone, though — in fact far from it. Both he and his wife Tash — who was equally involved in the build — knew they needed the right people on board to turn the vision into reality. Even more importantly, that team needed to come to the party with their own ideas to help evolve the build beyond what anyone could have imagined individually.

Having previously worked with Kruzin Kustoms to build Tash’s ’55 Chev Nomad, which graced the cover of NZV8 issue 165, and loving the process, the couple always knew the Kruzin Kustoms team would be instrumental in the build. In fact, their involvement goes back even further than 2019, when the build began. 

Tash mentions, “Todd and I have had the fortune to be a part of the Kruzin Kustoms team on a previous project and enjoyed working with them so much it was an easy choice to go back to them with this project.” 

Todd expands on that. “The pickup was a dream of ours even before we built the Nomad, so when the time was right Kendal and Dylan didn’t disappoint in finding the right vehicle to start this project.”

The ’71 was found at the Pomona swap meet on one of Kruzin’s regular trips abroad. It was being sold by a guy who had owned it for the previous 23 years. It was a long bed, step side, but the year was right, as was the condition — perfect to start building into a Southern Cali-style square body. That meant big wheels and a chassis that hit the deck. While those two components stayed true from the outset, many other things changed. 

Todd tells us, “Heidts and Ridetech came on board with the build, and parts were ordered … but, after realising the 24s weren’t going to fit under the fenders, the bed was converted and shortened, too.” 

Obviously, with names like Heidts and Ridetech agreeing to help out, the plan from the outset was to go big. Part of that desire stemmed from Tash’s Nomad making the top five at Repco Beach Hop 2019 and Todd being keen to try for one better. One of the good things about Kruzin Kustoms being the largest custom shop in the land — or certainly one of the largest — apart from the skills the shop has on offer, is the competitive nature of the guys who work there. Each build team is keen to outdo the others, and that only results in a better end product for the owner. In this case, such was the amount of work that Matt, Bert, Dylan, Cory, Andrew, and Shelby all played their part — not to mention Justin and John, who took care of the panel and paint. 

Starting with the stock long bed C10 chassis rails, the chassis was cut almost in half to allow for a Porterbuilt rear clip to be added. A Heidts Superide classic truck IFS was grafted in up front, and the small amount of OE chassis rail between was boxed for both strength and looks in equal measure

The original plan was to paint the chassis red and cover it in a pearl white body, but Tash, aka the colour master, wasn’t having a bar of it. There were plenty of raised eyebrows and there was no shortage of heated debate about the custom green that was chosen, but the colour works perfectly. Interestingly, a second shade of green was chosen for various other undercarriage items, such as the custom nine-inch diff. 

Filled with a Bous Performance 3.25:1 ratio, 31-spline head, and Bous Performance 31-spline axles, the rear end is as strong as it is good-looking. Holding it in place is the Porterbuilt rear clip — the first of its type seen on New Zealand roads — consisting of a parallel four-bar set-up with Panhard bar. The front of the four-bars is mounted to a very intricate custom cross member set-up complete with laser-cut Kruzin Kustoms logos — just in case anyone should forget who is responsible for the exquisite craftsmanship. 

While Ridetech Shockwaves were installed up front, on the rear is a more traditional combination of Firestone airbags paired with KYB shocks. 

The Heidts front clip, of which — no surprise — Kruzin Kustoms is supplier, came with the best of everything available. That includes six-piston Wilwood brake callipers, 13-inch Wilwood rotors, and, of course, a rack and pinion steering set-up. The braking system on the rear is much the same, just with slightly smaller four-piston callipers and 12.19-inch rotors along with an internal drum handbrake system. 

The finishing work that has been done on the chassis, suspension, and braking system is nothing short of show quality, so much so that it’s almost a shame most of it is covered with a body. The team did, however, work out a way to show it off — by having a rear tray floor that opens up to expose the magic sitting beneath. There’s a small surprise when that lid opens, too. As the custom fuel cell is tucked against the back of the cab, a large space needed to be filled at the back. The spot was perfect for a chilly bin. However, rather than installing an old plastic box, the team went above and beyond, creating something far more intricate, should Todd and passengers get thirsty — once the keys have been hung up for the day, of course. 

When the build started, GM had just launched the LSA crate motors, which offer 430kW complete with factory drivability and reliability. The option to install one was really a no-brainer. Just because the motor came in a big box didn’t mean there still wasn’t plenty of mechanical work required, though. Take a look at the three-inch stainless exhaust, for example. Kruzin’s Matt Keeys — the owner of a previous NZV8 feature car — spent countless hours getting it just right, complete with custom AdrenalinR mufflers. 

The cooling system was just as time consuming, given it runs not just a custom radiator up front but also a custom intercooler using a PWR core along with a custom trans cooler. Each of the three coolers has its own fan system and custom shroud to ensure there’s no chance of it ever overheating. 

Anything that wasn’t polished was painted one of the shades of green before being installed for the final time, and that was the way the rolling chassis was displayed at the annual Kruzin Kustoms Open Day earlier this year. 

What no one saw at the time was what colour the body would be, and we don’t think anyone expected it to be the Porsche Chalk Grey finish in which it has more recently been unveiled. There’s a whole lot of custom work hidden underneath that paint — such as the cab floor having been raised to allow the engine and driveline to sit at the right height. 

Rather than the team going wild with unnecessary cosmetic body mods just for the sake of it, each of the mods was well considered and designed to improve on the original looks without any loss of the truck’s character. Take the bumpers, for example. Sure, they tuck in far closer to the body than when the truck rolled off the production line but look more closely and you’ll notice the rear has been modified to fit a full-size Kiwi number plate. 

With Todd preferring the look of a 1969 front end, a ’69 grille shell was installed, meaning the original indicators were no longer required. Rather than fill in the holes, it was decided to add brake ducts — likely a good move given how full faced the wheels are. 

While working on the front end, the team at Kruzin surprised Todd and Tash by laser cutting a custom grille mesh, crowning the car ‘Mac Daddy’ in the process. While the tailgate may appear custom, it’s actually just clever use of colour, which accentuates the black door handles, tail light surrounds, and bumper finish. 

On the other hand, the wheels are very much custom items, being made specifically to the required dimensions and offsets by US Mags in America. Those dimensions come in at a massive 24 x 14 inches on the rear and a slightly more sensible 20 x 8 inches on the front. Read those dimensions again: 24 inches in diameter. Todd clearly wasn’t lying about going big. The wheels did create somewhat of a challenge, as you can’t exactly pop down to the local tyre store to buy a new pair of 405/25R24 Pirellis. Even if you could, you’d most likely need to be on friendly terms with the bank manager to pay for them. 

Tash’s controversial but successful views on colours are carried on into the interior, where you’ll now find a highly modified stock seat, amongst other items coated in deep green. Elite Motor Trimmers in Hamilton were given the honour of performing the trim, and the work has lived up to all expectations. The custom seat and custom smoothed and curved dash pad are obviously key components of the interior, while smaller aspects such as the JVC speakers go almost unnoticed. A Dakota Digital RTX gauge system adds a modern touch, as does the JVC head unit / movie screen and plethora of billet accessories. The mix of leather and carpet wear patches on the floor pay homage to the truck’s workhorse roots, while at the same time being more akin to something you’d see at a high-end international show. 

The finished engine bay also features plenty of elite show-car touches, with just the right amount of custom panelling to hide the bits you don’t want to see and accentuate those you do. The wiring was taken care of by Autokraft Electrical and Diesel. While we’d say you can see the team has done a great job — in fact, you can’t see anything at all, as it’s been so well hidden.

After three years in the build, the finishing touch was getting the big tick of approval from LVV certifier Andy Smith. That milestone moment took place just weeks before Repco Beach Hop 22, where the car was seen in the flesh for the first time outside the workshop. By the time you’re reading this, all going to plan, the truck will be carrying a trophy that showcases its success. Even if that doesn’t happen, we are sure there are many trophies ahead for this one-of-a-kind, Mac Daddy C10!

This article originally appeared in NZV8 issue 213