Appearances can be deceptive. And nothing proves it quite so acutely as this 1958 Chevy Apache Stepside. It’s easily one of the coolest things you’ll ever see on the UK streets, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s ‘low and slow’ all the way – nothing could be further from the truth.
What’s extremely clever is how this one looks so hardcore in such an agricultural way. It’s Cabin Fever scary. You just wouldn’t mess with it even though nothing on the outside even hints at what’s under the hood. And believe me there’s plenty there too.
What we have here is a genuine American muscle truck, a hot-rod with 6.3-litres of V8 powerplant and enough Holley and Edelbrock trimmings to lay on a sub six-second 0-60 party piece and wipe the floor with many a modern ‘performance’ motor. To be honest, it’s an absolute monster, not unlike Neil Johnson, the bloke who drives it!
Now, you may think I’m being a little brave with that statement, but trust me, I’m not. Although Neil looks like he could crush your head between thumb and forefinger without batting an eyelid, that’s not his style. I’m not gonna say he’s a big cuddly bear or anything, but you certainly wouldn’t have to worry about bumping into him down a dark alley. He’s a genuinely nice bloke. That and he probably wouldn’t fit down a dark alley in the first place – unless he went in sideways.
And that was the first big consideration when Neil was looking for some old-skool Yank muscle to promote his muscle building business,Genetic Supplements, around various UK fitness expos and strongman competitions. Originally he was after an early 50s C3100 pickup, but, being quite fond of the odd protein shake, one of these would have been more like a metal overcoat than a company workhorse. So eventually he decided on the slightly later, and considerably bigger, ’58 Apache.
Now obviously any 60-odd year-old US truck isn’t all that easy to come by over here, You have to work at it, hard. In fact, even when you do stumble across a half-decent example, you’ll inevitably find a whole load of stuff has to be done to make it work, and even more so if you have the sort of high standards Neil has. Suffice to say there’s plenty of blood, sweat and tears gone into just getting this one road worthy, let alone to the rubber-laying, fire-breathing spec you see before you today.
Originally imported in 2014, the Chevy was basically a half-finished, ‘body-off’ project that needed ripping apart and starting again. It was already sporting a brand new crate motor from Blueprint Engines, which was a huge plus point. Although that did mean it needed a full round of box-section chassis strengthening at Russell Offroad just to withstand the 450 raging horses.
Other recent highlights include an essential upgrade to disc brakes, some proper air-ride wizardry from the guys at RideTech and a stunning set of huge hot-rod wheels that are not only staggered widths but staggered diameters too – God bless America eh?
Along with all the tuning and cooling mods, it’s quite a spec. But what’s important is it’s all been done with the utmost respect to the original truck. It’s all about usable enhancement rather than some sort of full-body transformation.
Ironically, considering what he does for a living, Neil’s whole vision for the styling was to leave the outside with its original patina playing down the insane power that lurks beneath. It works though. To me it’s what makes the whole body building exercise all the more special and so much more menacing than a full resto or immaculate paintjob. It’s practically brand new underneath, but you can still feel the history, after all this ride has earned its finish from years of graft in the hot Texas sun.
There’s no shortcut to this kind of look. It took over six decades to create and it would be something of a crime to change it now. The exterior is truly period, right down to the signwriting which had to be hand-brushed and artificially aged to fit in with the patina. In fact that’s the only bit you could actually call ‘reproduction’ – even the mental Pepsi cooler on the back is an 1950s original.
Genetic Body Shop isn’t quite what you’d imagine either. It’s nothing to do with shooting paint, but rather a popular fitness forum that Neil also runs. An unusual sort of bodyshop to find here in FC admittedly, but that’s probably because we’re all a bit fat and the only gym we’re used to seeing spells it with a J and owns the local chip shop.
Anyway, the respect for originality and standard appearance extends superbly to the interior. But that doesn’t mean it’s not packed out with some seriously trick modern mods. Quite the opposite. Both the quilted seat and custom roof lining by KISH Bespoke Leather
Trimming are simply stunning. We love the emergency protein shakers too and Monti and the boys at Bassmechanix have managed to cram in a whole load of top audio kit from the fittingly all-American Rockford Fosgate.
Now, we know Monti and his crew well. They’re FC regulars that are always working on bonkers builds, usually in off-the-wall stuff like tanks, so for those guys this one is subtle to say the least. The point though is it keeps the nostalgia but adds all the mod cons you want from a motor you have to drive here in the 21st century. Even the headunit is a period-look AM/FM Chevy item, but one that now incorporates Bluetooth streaming and all the latest tech.
I guess it’s true to say that never before has a driver (or the company he’s built), fit the demo car so closely. It’s not about all the obvious muscle connotations either. I could go on making puns about getting out the whey and being pumped-up all day long, but I won’t.
The real lesson here is no matter what the age or the starting point, going that extra mile can make all the difference. This project hasn’t been easy, but the saying ‘you get out what you put in’ really is true.
You may be in a world of pain, and you may have to sweat more than your fair share to make it work, but if you take care of what you’re building and do it right, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.
OWNER: NEIL JOHNSON
TECH SPEC: CHEVY APACHE
Blueprint Engines 383ci (6.3 Litre) ‘stroker’ crate motor; 2.5in straight through stainless pipes with Magnaflow tips; Holley 750cfm Carb/Edelbrock filter; MSD Ignition; TH350 Turbo 3-speed transmission; 17in Kenlowe fan; Pro Alloy Motorsport custom stainless radiator; Mocal 13 row trans oil cooler; custom propshaft.
18 and 20-inch Billet Specialities wheels; RideTech air suspension; Ford Mustang front clip; Chevy Camero 10-bolt diff; disc brake conversion all round; boxed chassis with rear cross bracing and other chassis strengthening mods.
Original patina; hand painted door and roof graphics; original ’50s Progressive Cooler Pepsi cooler box.
Period AM/FM Chevrolet replica headunit with Bluetooth hands-free phone kit; Bassmechanix custom install with 2 Rockford amps; 4x 8in subs and 2 x 5.2in Rockford Punch speakers; Auxiliary rev counter; push button start; new quilted leather bench seat; quilted Genetic Body Shop Skull roof lining.
Genetic Supplements; Genetic Body Shop: Simon Russell of Russell Offroad; Montus Maximus of Bassmechanix; Phil Anderson of Phil Anderson Signs; KISH Bespoke Leather Trimming, Sunderland; Paul of Pure Shine Detailing.
Words Midge Photos Chris Wallbank