Roadkill Revives the Chevy C10 Muscle Truck!

Food is magic. Wait, what? Wasn’t this article supposed to be about a Chevy C10? Bear with us. Food is magic because a skilled chef can take simple ingredients and—with the right application of heat and force—turn them into something entirely different, somehow greater than the basic sum of all those ingredients. Roadkill’s David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan are highly skilled automotive chefs and one of their greatest recipes—the original Muscle Truck, Freiburger’s 1974 Chevy C10—is pure magic. But, this wouldn’t be Roadkill if the fleet were in pristine running condition all the time, and the Muscle Truck has lost some of that special flavor.

Related: The 1974 Chevy C10 Muscle Truck was the first pickup truck in the Roadkill fleet, but the stable is full of classic pickup trucks now! There’s only one place to follow along the saga of the Muscle Truck and watch it go head to head with all the other Roadkill Universe hot rod pickups—the MotorTrend App. Subscribe today!

The C10 Muscle Truck did not fare well on its return journey from the 2019 Global Auto Salon in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The foam in the fuel cell has completely disintegrated and clogged the whole system all the way to the injectors. The salty air on the voyage across the Atlantic has the brakes frozen solid. Of course, sitting for over a year after the return trip from the Middle East didn’t help matters. Good news is a complete fuel system replacement and braking system overhaul are done on nearly every episode of Roadkill, so it’s business as usual!

Freiburger Got it Wrong, Roadkill Got it Right

David Freiburger first picked up the 1974 Chevy C10 in 2007, during his Car Junkie TV days. The stepside single-cab short bed pickup was Freiburger’s first ever LS swap, and one of the first LS swaps into a short bed C10 of note. Trend setting much? The all-aluminum LS6 came from a Corvette and Freiburger backed it up by a DYNAMIC Turbo 400, a Gear Vendors Overdrive, and a Ford 9-inch out of a junkyard ’78 F-100 that he stuffed with 5.13 gears and a spool. Since building the C10, David has admitted that he got some of the details wrong. Namely, the bad c-notch job that is totally useless because the truck isn’t low enough to need it, and the airbags in front. Hey, it was 2007 and Freiburger’s first LS swap, he got excited.

But even carbureted, with short gearing in the permanently-locked rear end, and riding on bags; the Muscle Truck has always been pure magic. Everyone agrees, the C10 Muscle truck is the best vehicle in the Roadkill fleet. Mike Finnegan is quoted as saying the exhaust note is the music of his people. Don’t let the primered front half and mismatched rear fenders fool you, the body on this ’74 C10 is solid and the chassis was freshly restored and powder coated before Freiburger got his hands on it. The LS6 has never let the team down, even when they pulled it out of the Muscle Truck to put in Mike Finnegan’s cousin’s old jet boat (deja vu?), then put it back in the Muscle Truck to haul everything from Lake Elsinore back to the MotorTrend headquarters in El Segundo, California. Stupendous trailer burnouts ensued.

Over the years, the Muscle Truck has also made appearances on HOT ROD Garage and Roadkill Garage where it was always incrementally improved. Well, not in episode 28 of Roadkill, Muscle Truck vs. Baja Bug. FInnegan’s famous hack job of the front fenders will forever live in infamy. But, those were aftermarket repop specials, not unobtanium stock sheet metal, and without the clearance, Finnegan and Freiburger wouldn’t have been able to prove the Muscle Truck can really do anything. Only on Roadkill could a ’74 C10 on drop spindles and airbags make a fantastic dune-blasting off-roader.

Evolution of the Muscle Truck, A Roadkill Masterpiece

The Muscle Truck made its Roadkill debut in episode 18, where the guys tried to get kicked off an eighth-mile drag strip by running too fast without a roll bar. The goal was 7.50-7.35, but the best they could do (even on nitrous) was a 7.60. The Muscle Truck might not have performed on the strip as well as the guys wanted, but Freiburger’s mini-bike crash makes the episode worth watching. After it’s stint as an off-roader, the Muscle Truck made its debut on HOT ROD Garage for episode 5—before Tony Angelo and Lucky Costa joined the family—where the damage inflicted out in Glamis was rectified. New reproduction fenders went on with a new bed kit and plate to cover the notch in the frame. Before then, the Chevy C10’s bed had a couple pieces of plywood just lying there with a nice big gap over the c-notch that everyone’s stuff liked to fall through.

Next time we see improvements on the Muscle Truck is Roadkill Garage episode 6, where Steve Dulcich helped Freiburger get the Muscle Truck ready for HOT ROD Power Tour 2016. The rear brakes never really worked and the spooled 5.13s weren’t the most liveable on the highway and especially not in turns—although they made for some of the most epic burnouts a Roadkill project vehicle is capable of. In went an entirely-new braking system, including a new vacuum booster, master cylinder, and line lock. The epic burnout status had to be maintained, after all, even though the new 3.50 gears with limited-slip should have upped the burnouts-for-distance quotient considerably with all the new-found wheel speed. There’s no way anyone would ever consider changing the shrieking exhaust note the Muscle Truck is famous for; but some carpet, insulation, and a new Pioneer stereo went into the cab to make the 1,400-something miles a little more pleasant.

Right before the meet up with Fred Williams from Dirt Every Day for the Baja Bug/Chevy C10 shootout, the Muscle Truck received a huge induction change—MSD Atomic EFI. This self-learning system (which does not exist anymore)—with the Crane Cams camshaft (Freiburger can’t remember the specs) and rocker arms and BBK SSI cast aluminum intake manifold—is good for nearly 600 rear-wheel, naturally-aspirated horsepower. Rest assured, new nitrous solenoids and a plate went in with the MSD EFI. Freiburger finally got tired of everyone else who drives the Muscle Truck not knowing how to use the air suspension system and had Dulcich pull the bags and replace them with a set of CPP tubular lower control arms and Mcgaughys coilover shocks right before the Roadkill Zip-Tie Drags 2017.

Roadkill Muscle Truck Exhaust Setup

The only thing that hasn’t changed on the Muscle Truck over the years is the exhaust system. People ask David Freiburger all the time, “What is the setup that yields such an amazing exhaust note?” Here it is, in writing for everyone to see and now copy: Mid-length headers with a 2.5-inch ball-connector stepped up to three-inch tube going to four-inch DynoMax Race Series Bullet mufflers that are only about a foot long ending in three-inch tube that dumps just ahead of the rear axle with no cross-over pipe in sight. If the Muscle Truck didn’t have that raucous growl, tire melting capability and status of most reliable Roadkill project vehicle ever, it wouldn’t be the magical beast of a truck we all love.

The Muscle Truck isn’t even all one 1974 Chevy C10. That rear axle is not a GM product, remember. The driver’s side door is from a ’78 or ’79, the sheet metal and glass are noticeably thinner. The front fenders are repops, the whole bed assembly is from another truck entirely. That 454 grille? Total lie, Freiburger just happened to have it lying around from an old gardener’s truck he bought for the 454 big-block and the Muscle Truck had a tube grille he didn’t like. Fun fact, Roadkill director Dustin Gould is responsible for the metallic orange rear fender. There was a thought to paint the whole truck green at one time (look at the inside of the tailgate). The bench seat inside is another junkyard special that Freiburger pulled out by himself, in the rain. The Muscle Truck is a hodgepodge of mismatched old and new parts, but the sum of all those parts is something more than just any old survivor-style restomod C10. It’s magic.

And you can see the magic of the original Roadkill Muscle Truck in this week’s episode where the guys tried to relive their Boatkill dreams from episode 36. But sequels always have to be bigger, and Renegade (that same old jet boat) already has a 525 hp LS3, so naturally Mike Finnegan wants to bolt a couple of turbos to it and take Freiburger drag boat racing. What could go wrong? Spoiler alert, the Muscle Truck was perfect, as always.

Roadkill Muscle Truck Complete Build Sheet

  • Vehicle: 1974 Chevrolet C10 stepside short bed
  • Engine: Corvette LS6, all stock except Crane Cams camshaft and rocker arms
  • Transmission: DYNAMIC Turbo 400, full manual valve body with 4,000 rpm stall torque converter, Gear Vendors Under/Overdrive, and Hurst Quarter Stick shifter
  • Rear Axle: Ford 9-inch from a 1978 Ford F-100, 3.50 gears and limited-slip differential
  • Induction: MSD Atomic EFI, BBK SSI intake manifold, nitrous plate and solenoids equipped but no bottle currently
  • Front Suspension: RideTech StrongArms tubular upper control arms, CPP tubular lower control arms, Mcgaughys coilover shocks, 2-inch drop spindles
  • Rear Suspension: Leaf springs with CALTRACS bars
  • Fueling: Aeromotive fuel pumps with aluminum fuel cell
  • Wheels and Tires: Cragar Soft 8 17×8-inch wheels; 225/55-17 front tire, 285/60-17 rear tire; 15×8-inch Wheel Vintiques steel wheels with 30×12.50-15 Mickey Thompson E/T Street tires for the drag strip
  • Locking plier window cranks
  • Roadkill magic

Every Muscle Truck Episode on the MotorTrend App

  • Roadkill Episode 18 – Muscle Truck and Mini Bikes
  • Roadkill Episode 28 – Muscle Truck vs. Baja Bug
  • Roadkill Episode 36 – Boatkill! The Muscle Truck-to-Boat Extreme LS Engine Swap!
  • Roadkill Episode 50 – Roadkill 50th Episode Special! 10-Car Showdown
  • Roadkill Episode 80 – Bonus Roadkill Episode! Muscle Truck Showdown
  • Roadkill Episode 121 – Muscle Truck Returns: Boatkill 2!
  • HOT ROD Garage Episode 5 – Muscle Truck Revamp on a 1974 Chevrolet C10!
  • Roadkill Garage Episode 6 – The Roadkill Muscle Truck!
  • Roadkill Garage Episode 15 – Roadkill Muscle Truck vs. Mopar Muscle Truck

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