Knowing when to say when is a tough thing to learn, and once learned, exercising it is even tougher. Mark McDonald grew up around old cars and was fascinated by watching his dad, Mark Sr., build street rods his whole life, which ended up rubbing off on the impressionable lad. Well, to the joy of any gearhead dad, albeit a few years later, his son decided it was time to build his own ride, which would include a little help from the old man, of course.
Mark had the hankering to build a classic truck, but done his way, so he wound up buying a one-owner '69 GMC shortbed he found in his local Porterville, California, newspaper. He initially planned on making a daily driver out of it until he could tear it apart for a full-scale rebuild, but his better judgment told him to leave it alone until he was good and ready to tackle such a project.
Four years later, in '98, the GMC's number was up. Mark took the truck to KRZ Kustoms in Fresno, California, so then owner Jeff Zanders could raise up the front crossmember and steering two inches in an effort to put the pickup on the ground without having to perform a body drop. Stock upper and Chisholm lower control arms bolt to the modified crossmember and hold the Early Classic Enterprises dropped five-lug/disc-brake-conversion spindles and corresponding 11-inch brakes. Jeff also cut the frame off behind the cab and built a new back half that would lower the truck and hold the stock 12-bolt in place by means of a custom three-link and airbag setup. The unique system's third link locates off the back of the rearend, runs forward, and splits in a wishbone fashion, then terminates at each framerail, so really it's somewhere between a three- and a four-link, but we'll stick with the previous.
Mark opted to keep the original 350/400 drivetrain, but he had Shelter Machine Works in Fresno give the stock block a .040-inch overbore before Mark Sr. reassembled it. The guys decided on a set of TRW 10:1 pistons for the otherwise stock bottom end, and they capped off the stock heads with Edelbrock's Performer intake and 650-cfm carb that complements the camshaft of the same manufacture. Even the OEM accessory brackets were kept on the small-block, but they were painted in a dull silver that also covers the '50s Cadillac air cleaner, Billet Specialties valve covers, and other miscellaneous engine bits. Mark Sr. rebuilt the stock Turbo 400 trans and stuffed it with the mandatory B&M shift kit.
All the body mods to the truck would be subtle but necessary, according to Mark. Shaving the driprail was one of the most difficult tasks Mark encountered during the build, and one that most people might not even notice until it's pointed out. The same goes for the '98 Chevy truck hood center section spliced into the stock tin by Bob Grant at Grant Kustoms; it's almost shocking how natural the later skin looks on the '69. Mark also shaved every emblem, the gas filler, all the marker lights, the stake pocket holes, and the tailgate handle. The bed floor was raised to accommodate its new lower stance, and the rear wheel houses were widened two inches to make room for the 20-inch Boyd Coddington Smoothie wheels with their centers painted to match the unique GMC grille. Mark meticulously took care of the finish bodywork before having Lee Millinich at Luis Millinich Body Works in Hanford, California, spray the almost electric DuPont Hot Hues Red Hot Meltdown paint. About the only things left to touch the flawless paint are the tasteful beltline and tailgate stainless trim-classy. Mark's brother-in-law Loren Johnson cut and finished the white oak for the bed floor that was left open in the middle to show off the unusual underpinnings.
Inside the '69 is a stock bench seat lowered by sectioning its mounting brackets to suit Mark's comfort. Red leatherette by Big Daddy's in Porterville covers much of the interior, including the seat, headliner, door panels, smoothed and shaved dashboard, and the not-so- ordinary gauge panel. It's actually the glovebox door that was no longer being used-they drilled it out to mount the TPI black-face gauges with chrome trim rings that really stand out against the red leatherette on the panel and the chrome ididit tilt column. Mark bought door handles and window cranks from Billet Specialties along with their steering wheel to round out the Spartan interior.
Mark is glad the truck is on the road and thanks his dad for all his help and wisdom, his wife Michele for her support, his friend Mike Fusco for all his detailing insight, and Stan at Early Classics for more help than one can hope for from any company. Even with the immaculate results Mark got from the Jimmy, he's a perfectionist and has already started building another truck based on all the lessons learned along the way with the '69-guess it's not time to say when yet.
|Facts & Figures|
|Modifications: ||custom rear back half by KRZ Kustoms, Fresno, CA|
|Rearend / Ratio: ||stock 12-bolt / 3.73:1 Posi|
|Rear suspension: ||custom 3-link w/Firestone 'bags|
|Rear brakes: ||stock drum|
|Front suspension: ||crossmembers raised 2", Early Classic Enterprises 2" dropped spindles, Chrisholm Enterprises lower control arms|
|Front brakes: ||Early Classic 5-lug disc conversion||Steering Box: ||stock, raised 2"|
|Front wheels: ||Boyd Coddington Smoothie 20x8 1/2|
|Rear wheels: ||Boyd Coddington Smoothie 20x10|
|Front TIRES: ||BFGoodrich Eagle GTII, 255/35R/20|
|Rear TIRES: ||BFGoodrich Eagle GTII, 275/40R/20|
|Gas Tank: ||Mooneyes|
|Shocks Front / Rear: ||Belltech Nitro Drop/Pro Shock Chrome|
|Engine: ||’69 GMC 350ci V-8 |
|Heads: ||stock |
|Valve covers: ||Billet Specialties |
|Manifold / Induction: ||Edelbrock Performer combo / 650cfm |
|Ignition: ||stock, re-curved |
|Headers: ||stock, coated |
|Exhaust / Mufflers: ||custom 2 1/2” / Flowmaster 40 Series |
|Transmission: ||’69 Turbo 400 |
|Modifications: ||rebuilt, B&M shift kit by Mark McDonald Sr. |
|Shifter ||: ididit |
|Style: ||1/2 -ton |
|Modifications: ||door locks, gas filler, marker lights, stake pockets, tailgate handle, and driprails all shaved and filled by owner |
|Fenders front / rear: ||stock |
|Hood: ||stock w/’98 Chevy center section by Grant Kustoms, Oroville, CA |
|Grille: ||stock, painted |
|Bed: ||stock, raised floor, 2” tubs |
|Bed wood: ||white oak by Loren Johnson |
|Body / paint by: ||owner / Luis Millinich Body Works, Hanford, CA |
|Paint type / Color: ||DuPont / Hot Hues Red Hot Meltdown |
|Headlights / Taillights: ||stock, Early Classic |
|Bumpers: ||stock, Early Classic |
|Dashboard: ||custom, smoothed, upholstered |
|Gauges: ||TPI black face |
|Air conditioning: ||none |
|Stereo: ||none |
|Steering wheel: ||Billet Specialties |
|Steering column: ||ididit chrome tilt |
|Seat: ||stock bench, cut-down brackets |
|Upholstery by: ||Big Daddy’s, Porterville, CA |
|Material / Color: ||leatherette, red |
|Carpet: ||custom, red |