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1965 GMC Custom Truck: Packed With a 600+ Horsepower Blown LS1

© Tim Bernsau   001-1965-GMC-TRUCK-CONNERLEY

By Tim Bernsau, HOT ROD


A One-Family Custom Pickup Combines Muscle and Looks

We were surprised when we first saw this chocolate brown 1965 GMC pickup on display in the front lobby of the Sacramento Autorama a couple years ago. Sacramento, California, has always had a reputation as a hot spot for great customs, and the Autorama is the place to see the best of them. GMC pickups, however, aren't really famous as the raw material for custom show trucks. Chevy trucks are more likely to end up in show business while GMCs are more typically cut out for a life of labor and then retirement.


One-Family Ride

© Tim Bernsau

In the case of this blown LS1-powered GMC Fenderside, its destiny as a prize-winning work of art could not have been predicted when James Connerley's father bought it new 55 years ago. Connerley describes his father as a somebody who stuck to the basics and might not have shared his son's vision for the truck. "He used to say that the more things you do to it, the more things there are that can break down," he told us. Connerley, who bought the GMC from his mother in 1983, has been involved in hot rodding his whole life and obviously has a different point of view.

© Tim Bernsau

When Connerley was ready to transform his GMC from a tired stocker into the award-winning custom you see here, he contacted Jeff Norene at Lee's Vintage Car Shop in West Sacramento. It was a reunion for Connerley and the elite-level builder. A few years earlier, Norene and the crew at Lee's Vintage Car Shop built Connerley's 1948 Chevy Sedan Delivery, which earned a couple big awards at the 2008 Sacramento Autorama.


Extraordinary Exterior

© Tim Bernsau

Underneath the custom paint, the 1965 GMC sheetmetal remains almost completely stock. Classic trucks enthusiasts know that GMCs and their Chevrolet brothers are outwardly almost identical twins, with the exception of the GMC's grille section and quad headlights. Exterior custom details on Connerley's Fenderside include the 1937 Ford taillights, tinted glass, and a custom rear pan behind the stock bumper. The factory bed has been modified with custom latches to replace the original chains. The bed floor was built from mirror-finish stainless strips and oak boards with four coats of clear. Hours of blocking and sanding went into perfecting the sheetmetal before Lee's Vintage shot the custom mix PPG Envirobase metallic brown paint. Dillon Proctor added the elaborate pinstriping and gold leaf to the hood, tailgate, glovebox, custom battery box, and coil covers.

© Tim Bernsau


Thoroughly Modern Chassis

That beautiful body and bed ride on a complete custom chassis from Scott's Hotrods 'N Customs in Oxnard, California (now in Knoxville). The 2x4-inch tube chassis is reinforced with a custom X-member. Independent front suspension parts include custom A-arms and spindles. A power steering rack provides effortless turning. A Scott's four-bar kit locates the Ford 9-inch rearend with 3.70:1 gears and a Posi differential. Aldan coilover shocks replace the factory leaf springs to smooth out the ride, and 14-inch Wilwood disc brakes with 6-piston calipers in front and 4-piston calipers in back stop the truck in short order. The 18x8-inch American Racing Rodder 10-spoke wheels were painted to match the body and wrapped in 235-series Ironman iMove Gen2 tires.


630-hp Blown LS1 Engine

© Tim Bernsau

Rex Hutchison Racing Engines in Sacramento built the 2009 Chevy LS1 engine for the GMC. A Vortech V-2 SC1 supercharger tops the engine, drawing air from a K&N air cleaner and feeding an Edelbrock intake manifold. Hedman Hedders and 3-inch exhaust pipes carry out the exhaust. Connerley sent us the results of the dyno testing done by Rex Hutchison, which showed a peak horsepower number of 632.9 hp at 5,900 rpm. A 4L80E transmission assembled by Anthony Watson backs up the engine.


Interior Design

The original GMC seats were replaced with a bench from a 2005 Chevy pickup. Jack's Upholstery in Woodland, California, covered the seats with butterscotch vinyl upholstery, contrasted by dark brown carpet on the floor. Classic Instruments provided the gauges, and a Pioneer Double-DIN receiver fills the center of the dash. The screen is also wired to the backup camera. Vintage Air A/C vents are mounted in the lower dash. The Lecarra Mark-10 steering wheel and Ididit column are painted to match the body.

© Tim Bernsau

Judges at the Sacramento Autorama selected Connerley's 1965 GMC Fenderside for two awards: 1st Place in the Full Pickup category and Outstanding Truck. Street Rodder magazine chose the pickup as a Top 100 winner and later in the year voted it a runner-up for 2008 Street Rod of the Year. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the initial purchase made by Connerley's father half a century ago. So would the senior Connerley approve of the vision for the truck now that it's a prize-winning custom? His son said, "Going off of his theory about 'more things that can break down,' he would probably say, 'What did you do to my truck?!' In a way, he would have been right, because it's no longer a truck—it's a work of art!"

See more at: HOT ROD

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Home Magazine: 1965 GMC Custom Truck: Packed With a 600+ Horsepower Blown LS1
1965 GMC Custom Truck: Packed With a 600+ Horsepower Blown LS1
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