Letting go just isn’t in the cards for some cats. This “never say die” attitude is what makes American gearhead culture so resilient, especially when home-built creativity is applied to the equation. It was this same resilient approach that allowed a man by the name of Robert Crowley to acquire the 1967 Chevy C10 pickup you see here, and then slowly build it in his garage over the course of the next 19 years.
Photos by: Stephen Stephans Photography
Skip back two decades to the year 1999, and Robert’s prized pickup was little more than a rusted-out, straight-six, three-on-the-tree, hulking heap of a step-side. The truck was owned by an older in-law, who had initially bought it as a project for an offspring — a lad who showed little interest in the rusted relic. Being that Robert had repeatedly voiced his interest in reviving the vehicle, the in-law eventually agreed to gift the truck to the young Mr. Crowley under one condition: in order to receive the C10 free of charge, Robert had to fix it up, and then drive it regularly once complete.
Like many of us, Robert had been raised on street racing and muscle car vibes, so he was quick to promise his undying devotion to the old ’67 C10. Hot rods, Super Bees, Cudas, SS Impalas, Chevelles, and even a legit Yenko ’69 Camaro had all been cars that Robert had ridden around in as a child. So when it came time for him to have his ride, vehicles like a ’78 Monte Carlo, a ’79 Malibu, an ’82 Camaro, a ’77 Trans Am, and even a ’79 Fox Body Mustang all made their way into Robert’s possession. Hell, there was also a ’70 C10 long bed in there somewhere, another daily driver that the young Mr. Crowley did not keep for very long due to “questionable street driving practices.”
Thinking back, Robert surmises that it was these testosterone-empowered romps around the rural roads of Missouri in his blue 1970 Chevy C10 long-bed pickup that made him want this ’67 C10 so badly. While the days of rocking white spoke wheels with 33 x 12.5-inch mudders out back and 10-inch street tires in the front were well behind him at that point, you can see why Robert is the sort of guy who always has something unique in his garage.
Raised in a poor environment, Robert learned at a young age that if he truly wanted something, he was going to have to work hard for it. Fortunately, he was not only blessed with an insatiable appetite for American muscle and a diehard attitude, but the unique ability to see something and then build it from scratch.
Robert Crowley isn’t just some tinkerer with shop time, but a devout researcher, as well — the sort of guy who spends endless hours looking at other people’s builds and techniques in order to further his own. May it be welding and fabrication, or wiring and suspension, the man is a master of automotive absorption and reproduction, and his prized Chevy pickup exemplifies this fact.
At this point, it’s worth noting that when his long-bed high school years were complete, dreams of turning a short bed C10 into the bonafide SS edition that Chevy should have made began to take root inside Robert’s head. So upon receiving the truck, Robert quickly swapped the bed, body-dropped the entire chassis, slapped a static kit on it, and called it a day. But after pulling the engine in order to provide funds for new parts, the truck was set aside, where it sat inoperable until 2013. During this time, Robert admits that everyone (including his wife) thought his pickup was little more than a pile of poo that would never run again, especially during those early years, when parenthood completely sidelined the build.
It was not until 2007 that Robert began working on his beloved C10 once again, a change of pace that was surely appreciated. For the past few years, all the man had done was go to work, burp babies, and buy sheet metal and engine components. It was not until the purchase of a new house, and the addition of a 24 x 24-foot garage that year, that work on the C10 began in earnest once again. Oh, and the truck now had a name: “The Ghost.”
First up was the chore of turning all of the bare sheet metal that had been amassing in the garage into custom works of art, followed by the sale of a 496 cubic-inch motor, as well as several extensive rounds of suspension modifications. A few of these mods included a traditional body drop with a “Z” at the core support, along with the floor being raised 2-inches over the frame. Being that Robert’s pickup already packed a wooden bed, he tells us he merely needed to flip the runners toward the top of the flange in order to achieve the 3-inch drop. However, Robert admits that a full re-design of the front cab supports and the lowering of all of the cab brackets on the frame were also required in order to make everything fit flush.
From there, it was on to drawing-out blueprints for the truck’s one-off tilt hood latches and then cutting them to spec on a water-jet. Robert then welded and powder-coated everything by hand prior to the installation, a daunting task that turned out spectacular, causing the C10 community to insist upon the marketing and sale of said hood latch kit. While making custom LED lights for people in the C10 community had helped fund the majority of The Ghost’s build up until that point, Robert refused to be distracted. He was too busy powdercoating things like door guts, vent window frames, suspension parts, and Hades knows what other custom components to be distracted from the task at hand.
Speaking of customization; we have to talk about The Ghost’s nose, which apparently has received more work than the late Michael Jackson. Robert tells us that when it came time to form the face of the perfect SS short-bed, he took the same approach as he did with his one-off hood latches.
This meant designing everything on his own and then carving the rest out of a ’69 Camaro front end. After powder-coating a set of 1946 Mercury truck buckets and bezels, Robert moved the pickup’s headlights upward and inward ¾ of an inch for a more uniformed fit. From there, he added 4-inches of plating to set the grille back, which was done after removing all of the center brackets from the grille. Robert then took two billet grilles and hacked them up to create the setup you see here, complete with 1970 Chevelle emblem and made-from-scratch headlight surrounds. Some other notable body mods include the pickup’s fleetside bed, custom shaved bedside markers, and a 2 ½-inch steel cowl-induction kit.
Internally, The Ghost sports swaths of black vinyl, a custom center console made out of PVC expanded foam board, and one-off door panels and a matching headliner. There’s also a set of Corbeau Baja low-back seats, three-point safety harnesses, a 1961 “double-hump” dash out of a 2-ton truck, carbon fiber wrap, Intellitronix digital gauges, and door handles from Eddie Motorsports.
When it came time to build the truck’s 6.0-liter LS engine, Robert opted for a budget-oriented, headache-free approach before setting it back a full 2 1/2 inches in the engine bay. While much of the mill remains bone stock, upgrades like a Hawks/Comp camshaft, 42-pound fuel injectors from Fuel Injector Connection, and a Racetronix 255l/ph hotwire kit were installed. Helping the LS engine breath are a custom cold air induction kit, as well as Xscream 1 3/4-inch headers with 3-inch collectors, a JEGS 3-inch x-pipe, and Dynomax 3 x 18-inch bullet mufflers. Tuning was tackled by Jesse Bubb of Warsaw, Indiana, who was able to squeeze out 409 rwhp and 401 pound-feet of torque from the V8.
For the transmission, Robert opted for the robust 4L80E, which he outfitted with a Derale fluid cooler and a Freak Show Performance 9.5-inch billet lock-up with nitrous balloon plates. He then attached a Precision Performance Products gate shifter, Quick Performance 35-spline axles, narrowed 9-inch rearend, Motion Industries 4.11 gears, and a Wavetrac limited-slip unit.
Handling is maintained via the use of Porterbuilt tubular control arms, Doetsch nitro front shocks, a Classic Performance Parts crossmember and Panhard bar, Viking double adjustable rear shocks, and Air Lift Performance Dominator 2600 bags, both front, and rear. A Red Head quick-ratio power steering gear keeps things tight lock-to-lock, while Western Chassis 2 1/2-inch drop spindles and a custom bumpsteer kit round-out the ride.
Wheels on The Ghost come in a 17 x 8-inch Billet Specialties Win Lite configuration upfront, with a 17 x 11-inch spec in the rear. While the skinny tires underneath the nose are a 255/45R17 Nitto NT555 compound, the rear’s Toyo Proxes TQ Drag Radial rubber measures a massive 345/40R17. Brakes are a modern OEM affair thanks to GM 11-inch discs all around, whereas compensating for the body drop required the repositioning of the master cylinder toward the driver’s side fender.
Another interesting note is that Robert only had one helper during The Ghost’s entire build process. His daughter Sadie. She is now 14, and was the one who roped-in the glass, assisted as needed on various side projects, and volunteered to be co-pilot when it was time to cruise. She was also the power source for Robert’s bead roller on components like the truck’s underhood panels and wheel tubs. Together, the two hydro-dipped the underhood panels in a vat in their backyard.
Naturally, Robert remains extremely proud that everything — save for paint — was completed in-house with his own two hands, or with the help of his little girl. “I only get to work on it on my days off,” Robert tells us. “So I didn’t get help from friends.”
But, this super-particular C10 build isn’t over yet, as Robert looks toward future mods like a Vintage Air A/C system, and the installation of ride-height sensors for the pickup’s Air Lift kit. And while Robert thoroughly enjoys rolling around town in The Ghost, he feels the truck is most at home on a 1/4-mile straight. “I have dragged it officially… I beat up on almost everything out there,” Robert exclaims. “It has no mercy on 14-inch wide drag radials, even at 40 mph!”
When asked what his favorite parts of his pickup are now that it is nearing completion, Robert tells us that he really likes the front end. He also loves how hard The Ghost launches, and the fact that he built it exactly the way he wanted, by hand, in his garage, with his kid. What began as a rust bucket that no one wanted, has become a great source of pride for a man with a vision and the industrious DIY means to bring a ghost back to life.