Every car guy and gal has a vehicle that holds a special place in their heart; it could be the first car you ever owned, or it could be some race car that just captured your imagination. Mickey Tessneer is a chassis builder who has fabricated some of the best-looking Chevy II-era Novas you’ll ever see, but his latest creation, a street/strip/show 1985 C10, is a big departure from the classic muscle cars he’s known for building.
The spark that lit the fire for this project was generated when Tessneer was in high school driving his first C10. That particular truck was rough around the edges because Tessneer was a 16-year-old kid trying to build a hot rod with no funds or real knowledge.
Tessneer eventually sold that truck because he needed something better for work. You can probably guess where the story goes from here…
“I started building my green Nova, and that helped me forget about selling the truck for a while. When we started our family, I decided I didn’t want to travel as much for racing so I got rid of the Nova. I sat around for a year without anything to toy with and that about drove me insane. When I started to build the new shop, that gave me something to do. But I knew after that was done I’d need something to keep me occupied,” Tessneer says.
Tessneer’s shop, Mickey’s Chassis Works, keeps him very busy, so he knew building a race car wasn’t going to be in the cards for his new project. The C10 was the perfect compromise for Tessneer, so he started searching for a suitable truck to use as the project’s foundation.
“I really wanted a virgin truck that nobody destroyed like the young version of me did and that was hard to find. As time passed, prices were skyrocketing in a big way, so I had to hurry up to get what I wanted. I found a truck in Tennessee that I was going to go get when my friend Ron called me to tell me about a truck that was closer. I went to look at it and it was a one-owner C10 that was purchased brand new in 1985. The truck was mint, there wasn’t a scratch or dent to be found anywhere, even in the bed. I don’t know if anything had ever even been in the bed, it was that nice. The guy only wanted $2,500 and I bought it on the spot,” Tessneer explains.
The truck wouldn’t start, so Tessneer had to tow it home. But after some investigation, it was discovered the C10 just needed a new battery. Tessneer drove the truck around in stock form for a few months as he gathered parts and formulated a plan for his build.
“My vision was to build this truck with modern technology but to still look like a 1985 square body. All the factory trim and bumpers are there, it’s just lowered. I wanted something that was more than just a race truck so I could take my two boys out for a cruise. But I still am a racer at heart, so I needed some horsepower. You could jump in this truck drive it 100 miles, put it in a car show, and race it, all in the same day,” Tessneer says.
The LT4 that Tessneer dropped into the engine bay of his C10 is from GM Performance, but it’s far from stock. McKee Auto went to work porting the heads and blower to help the engine breathe better. A boost-friendly camshaft was stuffed inside the engine, plus a larger crank pulley and smaller blower pulley were added to help maximize the LT4’s performance. The GM ECU that controls the LT4 was tuned by AMP performance. All 800 horsepower and 830 lb-ft of torque flows through a stock GM 8L80E eight-speed transmission and Z06 torque converter.
The engine work and tuning were the only things that weren’t done in-house at Mickey’s Chassis Works. Tessneer and his team built a custom Fab-9 rearend for the truck that works with a set of leaf springs, Smith Racecraft traction bars, Strange Engineering double-adjustable shocks, and an anti-roll bar from Enemies Everywhere. In the front of the truck, Tessneer used a set of Western Chassis tubular A-arms, spindles, and two more Strange double-adjustable shocks. A set of Forgeline wheels round out the truck’s stance for cruising, while a set of modified OEM wheels are set up for the track.
“I really wanted to modernize this truck with all the bells and whistles I could use. To make sure it would stay cool on the street when I drove it, I used the biggest Ron Davis Racing Products radiator I could find for the C10. I added a Vintage Air A/C unit, Dakota Digital gauges, a nice stereo, power windows, even a remote start, too. This truck looks old school until you pop the hood and really look at all the details we added,” Tessneer says.
You would think Tessneer’s truck is really more of a car show queen based on its appearance, and you’d be dead wrong. Tessneer will use the truck to transport his two sons to get ice cream, but there’s a set of drag radials in the wings waiting to get bolted on at a moment’s notice. The truck will see some action at the local test and tune nights when Tessneer wants to go fast, it will also make some hits at C10-specific racing events, too.
Mickey Tessneer’s C10 is the truck he wanted when he was younger but didn’t have the skills or funds to create. Tessneer channeled his years of experience building amazing race cars into his truck, and the final product is a C10 that can literally do it all.