Tom Tait is the original owner of the '74 4x4 3/4-ton Chevy Crew Cab shown on these pages. When Tony special-ordered his truck in 1973, he wanted a standard cab - and that's what he got. The truck never lived a pampered life as Tom and wife Barbara regularly journeyed from their Camarillo, California, home to the nearby deserts and other off-road meccas in the West. The Bow Tie has broken a few times and has been towed home at least twice; not bad for 28 years of hard running. Ultimately, Tony felt that his truck needed either a restoration or a replacement.
Replacement would have been easy because Tom is a Cadillac dealer, but he wasn't ready to make an Escalade the replacement for his K-Series, so restoration it was - but not just any restoration would do. Tom had grown weary of seeing so many Ford Super Dutys and so few Chevy Crew Cabs on the roads and trails around SoCal, so he decided to build his own Crew Cab. Tom also decided to equip his truck with single rear wheels to make it unusual. Searching around for a Crew Cab body to replace the standard cab was just the beginning. The standard cab frame was too short, so Crew Cab rails were located. Tom and his friend Gino Tidoni then went to work hanging all the old suspension parts onto the longer frame. While doing that, it seemed natural to upgrade the entire suspension with Rancho components, such as six RSX shocks in front, four in the rear, a hydraulic steering-assist arm, rear track-bar limiting straps, custom-made bumpstops, and Velvet Ride rear shackles; total lift is 6 inches.
502 crate motors weren't available for '74 models, but they are now! Tait grabbed a TPI Ramjet 502/502 from GM Performance Parts, added a K&N Filter, chromed engine accessories, braided stainless hoses for all hydraulic and fuel lines, and an Earl's polished aluminum coolant reservoir and washer tank. The exhaust uses Hooker 1-3/4-inch primary tube headers, 3-inch polished stainless-steel exhaust pipes, and dual Magnaflow mufflers. Everything is bolted to a 4L80 transmission equipped with a TCI Saturday Night Special 2,500-rpm stall-speed converter, which spins a 14-bolt GM rear axle and Dana 60 front, both turning a 4.10 gear ratio.
The wheels are Weld Racing Typhoons wrapped with Dick Cepek Kevlar F-C tires. On the body, a Trenz billet grille sits in front of a Hickey fiberglass low-profile hood. Xenon fender flares, a Smittybilt light bar and bedrails, and Manik 3-inch custom nerf bars are also part of the body additions. In the bed sits a custom spare-tire carrier, a Hi-lift jack mount, and custom-made stainless-steel strips. The paint is Dupont 2000 GM Indigo Blue with bright-blue metallic.
Tom drives this truck all across the Southwest, so why shouldn't it be comfortable? The front buckets are Cadillac Escalade and are six-way power adjustable with built-in heaters and lumbar support. The rear bench seat is from a Dodge Durango, and it's covered with two-tone light-gray and pacific-blue leather. The door panels are upgraded with billet accessories, and the consoles overhead and on the floor are from an '00 GM truck. Billet trim was added to the factory gauges and shifter, and it's accented by a MOMO steering wheel. The stereo is from a Firebird with an AM/FM/CD and equalizer, and the amplifier is an Alpine MRV, which powers the Alpine front and rear speakers.
We know it's not easy to build a Crew Cab at the factory, but putting a four-door together nearly 30 years after a truck rolls off the assembly line is not our idea of a walk-in-the-park, either. Much help came from Martin Automotive Group in Los Angeles. With all the detailed work that went into this truck, it's no wonder that numerous show judges have given Tom's 4x4 numerous Best 4X4 and Best Truck awards, along with many other honors for paint and graphics. While those show awards are great, our favorite part about this story is that the truck is driven to every show it's entered in. We have seen it on the highway to Tucson and Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Seattle. We've also witnessed the amount of cleaning and prep that goes into getting Tom's truck ready for the show after those long drives, but Tom wants nothing to do with trailers. After all, since the K rides good, has gobs of power, and is fun to drive, why pull it on a trailer? Our feelings exactly.
|Owner/hometown ||: ||Tom Tait/Camarillo, California |
|Year/make/model ||: ||'73 Chevrolet K-10 Crew Cab |
|Suspension ||: ||Rancho 6-inch lift with three Rancho RSX |
dampers per wheel (front); Rancho add-a-
leafs with lift blocks (6-inch lift), 2 Rancho
RSX dampers per wheel (rear)
|Engine/transmission ||: ||GM Performance Parts 502 big-block |
Ramjet/4L80 transmission with TCI internals
and torque converter
|Wheels/tires ||: ||Weld Typhoon (16.5x12-inch)/ Dick Cepek |
Kevlar Fun Country (36x16.50R16.5)
|Other accessories ||: ||Hickey fiberglass hood, Smittybilt light bar, |
Trenz billet grille, Firestone Velvet Ride rear
|Paint ||: ||Dupont '00 GM Indigo Blue with bright-blue |