Silver Rollin’ Rebel: 1981 Chevrolet C10 Choo Choo Custom

Though normally I despise short-bed pickup trucks (unless it’s a step-side bed), I am a huge fan of square-body GM pickup trucks, especially unrestored ones. When my dad was a young adult he owned a blue 1973 GMC half-ton Fleetside with a 350 4-bolt main small block, and he said that it was plenty fast. What makes this particular square-body intriguing is that it was customized by Choo Choo customs back in 1981, though its paint scheme and interior screams 1970s. Find it here on Hemmings in Marietta, Georgia, with an asking price of $9,900.

Based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Choo Choo Customs (now owned by Honest Charley, which is owned by Coker Tire) customized full-size GM pickup trucks,  SUVs (Suburbans, Blazers, Jimmys, etc.) and El Caminos from the late 1970s up to the late 1990s. Typically their modifications consisted of custom paint, front and roof spoilers, metal running boards, and a customized interior. This particular truck features silver paint with custom gray graphics outlined in red pinstripes, as well as “Rolling Rebel” graphics towards the end of the truck’s bed on each side. Originally bought new from Summerville, Georgia, the truck has been a one-owner vehicle since its purchase in 1981. The body and paint appear to be in excellent shape, with no rust or blemishes to the body and the paint. I would lower the back end of the truck a little bit (don’t slam it and mount oversized steel wheels) and source a set of BF Goodrich Radial T/As for an era-correct look.

The seller makes no mention of what engine is in the truck, but since the truck is a short-bed, I’m guessing its a 305 SBC V8. With a four-barrel carburetor, the 305 was rated at 150 horsepower and 240lb-ft of torque, so needless to say there’s room for improvement. The engine, much like the rest of the truck, appears to be original, judging by some of the paint missing on its valve covers. You could build up the 305  V8 with a few modifications, but I would source a 350 four-bolt main small block from a 1970s GM truck, RV or van and build it up. My guess is the transmission is a TH-350, so I would source a 1987-up 700R4 automatic, which features overdrive and can be built up for durability.

I have always dug velour interiors (our family’s 1978 Dodge Tradesman 200 conversion van features blue velour front seats), and I definitely dig the red velour captain-style chairs that this truck has. The aftermarket Grant wheel isn’t ideal, so I would source a more era-correct three-spoke steering wheel like this one. I would also try and source a new driver’s-side floor mat, as it appears to be faded. Overall, however, the interior, much like the rest of the truck, presents very well. With a few upgrades mechanically, such as a set of dual exhaust and either a build-up of the current engine or an engine swap, and a few visual upgrades (new steering wheel, new floor mat, new tires, lowering of the rear of the truck), this could easily be a head-turner at the local cruise night or driving down the road. Express what you would do with this truck, readers!

Fast Finds


  1. Steve

    I had a few “squares” over the years. 76 Custom Deluxe LWB, red/ orange with a swapped in LS5 out of a 71 Monte Carlo, 82 LWB Custom Deluxe, bought it with a worn out 305 and swapped in a built up 350, 84 GMC SWB fleet Sierra with a 6 cyl auto. I had looked at it on a used car lot, but passed due to 6 cyl and price asked ($3k). A few weeks later, I saw it in the back of the lot with a crunched in front clip. I picked it up for less than half the original price. I fixed the sheet metal, upgrading to 86 trim and planned to swap in the 350 out of the 82, put the 6 in the 82 and sell it but rolled it on a gravel road before I had a chance to do much other work to it.

    Do the fender emblems read “Custom Deluxe”? If so that is interesting, as typically a Custom Deluxe was offered with a larger single headlight on each side. The truck looks like a Silverado, judging by the dual headlights and trimmed out interior.

    BTW, the SWB trucks could be ordered with a 350 or 350 engine in 1981.

  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    I’m guessing it’s got a 305/TH350 with lock-up torque converter. The first lock-up converters came out in ’80 and they gave a fair bit of trouble, such as not disengaging at a stop light. Those first ones were best fixed by unplugging the wire to the lock-up and operating it as a normal TH 350. While I’m on the transmission subject, an interesting tidbit of information: the TH 350 is NOT really a true Turbo-Hydramatic. It was built in the GM Corporation Chassis plant along with its Corporation axles and components. The other Turbo-Hydramatic transmissions, like the TH 200, 400, and the 700R4 were true Turbo-Hydramatics. Since it was a GM product anyways, it just inherited the TH moniker, kind of like the Crescent Wrench…

    • Neal

      Please tell me more about the crescent wrench.

    • bob

      geomechs , I get your crescent wrench reference…….sort of like the “starter bendix”

  3. Myron

    I have an 86 crew cab dually that is a Coo Coo Custom truck myself and my last square body was a 79 GMC Jimmy. I had to sell the Jimmy many years ago but the dually, dubbed “The Beast,” will not be sold unless I die!

  4. Howard A Member

    You ” normally despise short bed pickups”. What’s to despise? Seems kind of harsh for a nice truck missing a few feet of box, is all. Never got into these, mostly Ford’s, but these were every bit as good, except for the terrible rusting. We didn’t get a lot of these “special” ( appearing) pickups in the midwest. Maybe in California, but trucks to us were just pickups, you never thought twice of dumping a load of broken concrete in one, not meander up and down the PCH ( not that there’s anything wrong with that) When we were done with them, there was nothing left,,, except for the motor for that Nova project that needed a small block,,,again.

  5. M1008

    Just do a tune up, and drive it. That would be my new daily.
    Just remember, check those brake lines BEFORE the first panic
    stop. Nothing rides like a half ton Chevy truck, and those
    cushy seats will only be more comfortable than the old bench was.

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