Flashy ads, catchy gimmicks, and all manner of marketing mumbo jumbo may work in other industries, but in the suspension game, performance is priority. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t sell. And, how do you make it work? You test it—rigorously and repeatedly.
Garrett Harmola, of Aldan American, did just that by entering his garage-built ’71 C10 Cheyenne Super into the 2017 Classic Industries Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge presented by Falken Tires. Built by him and his brother Spencer, the truck is a fresh build and a future testbed for Aldan’s new suspension products.
“We’ve been on and off with the build for a year and a half,” said Harmola. “The Muscle Car Challenge was our maiden voyage and we really had only taken [the truck] around the block before then.” A helluva—and true hot rodder-esque—way to break in a fresh build. And, while a few teething problems hampered their event performance, the outcome was a budget-built truck that danced around a racetrack and slalom like no ’70’s GM truck engineer could have ever have imagined.
“We did the whole event with no clutch,” said Harmola. “We lost a slave cylinder and it bled fluid onto the clutch, soaking it. It was so hot that day we thought it’d have to dry out!” he laughed. Despite the soggy friction disc, the team persevered. “The suspension worked great, the engine ran great, and all and all it was a great day.”
The Budget Recipe
By far, the C10 was the most grassroots entry in the competition—which we love. Even more admirable than that, the Harmola brothers built it themselves in Spencer’s personal garage. “It’s a real garage build that we plan to use to test parts and go to shows in,” said Harmola.
With a donor engine and transmission out of a late-model F-body, affordable suspension, and some clever home fab’, the truck was truly a blue-collar crusader.
Harmola first crossed paths with the Cheyenne Super while scouring eBay one night. “The body needed some work, but everything was there and it was a real Cheyenne Super pickup,” said Harmola. “We were outbid on the truck, but the buyer flaked. We contacted the seller in Northern California and picked the truck up for a screaming deal of less than $5,000.”
“The engine and transmission are an LS1 and T-56 sourced from a 1997 and 2002 Camaro,” said Harmola; and even they have a story to tell. “The rebuilt engine had only 40 miles on it, and the donor Camaro was totaled in a high-speed chase,” he said. The Camaro owner, now headed to jail—due to the recent bout of reckless driving—was ready to part ways with the engine and the Harmolas ended up getting another smokin’ deal on a freshly-built LS1 with 10:1-compression Wiseco forged pistons.
Other than basic bolt-on parts, such as a mild Edelbrock cam, headers, and a throttle body, the drivetrain is stock. This is the same sort of scrounger’s song and dance being performed by gearheads across the country.
Under the skin, the truck is a far cry from the workhorse suspension it rolled off the assembly line with. Up front is a bolt-in Scott’s Hot Rods independent front suspension that uses upper and lower tubular control arms and replaces the antiquated steering box with a modern rack-and-pinion setup. Two-inch drop spindles lower the truck’s center of gravity while Wilwood calipers on 14-inch rotors provide the necessary stopping power. Keeping the Falken rubber planted to the pavement are a pair of Aldan American Striker series double-adjustable coilovers.
Beneath the bed is a trailing arm setup from Performance Online and a bit of custom fabrication courtesy of Spencer Harmola. He fab’d up mounts for Aldan Regulator series coilovers and also C-notched the frame to allow the truck to sit lower to the pavement. “Mounting the shocks outside the frame gives us a little more travel and better traction,” said Harmola. “We had our friends at Cortez Tire in Los Angeles send us a mock wheel and tire based on the specs we were looking to run for our rear tires and wheels. This allowed us to get the spacing and clearances right before we welded up everything.”
Once all the suspension bits were finish-welded in place, a friend who specializes in off-road racing stepped in to assemble the 12-bolt differential, freshening it up and adding 4.11 gears for a bit more green-light punch and a matching set of Wilwood disc brakes for the red-light equivalent. The last step was adding a set of Intro wheels measuring 18x10 front and 18x12 rear.
While the C10 was set to debut at SEMA 2016, an unexpected layover in paint purgatory held that process up. Perfection takes patience, and the Harmolas were rewarded with a pristine truck, coated in Porsche Modegrau gray. “The color looks desert tan, green drab, and grey depending on the lighting,” said Harmola. “For a purpose-built track truck and daily driver, the paintjob is perfect.” The Muscle Car Challenge became the truck’s first on-screen performance, but that was shortly followed up by an official debut at SEMA 2017 in Las Vegas.
As a testbed for new Aldan American suspension pieces, the truck will never really be done. But, according to Harmola, the next few upgrades will consist of a new McLeod clutch setup and some new EFI widgets from FiTech to further modernize the pickup. In true Project X fashion it’ll continue on, ever-changing and always getting faster.
|What Makes It Handle|
|Type: LS1, 0.020-inch overbore|
|Components: Wiseco forged pistons, larger throttle body, and an Edelbrock camshaft|
|Power (at the crank, est.): 425 hp, 400 lb-ft|
|Transmission: TREMEC T-56 six-speed|
|Clutch: Stock GM|
|Rearend: Stock 12-bolt with 4.11 gears|
|Chassis: Stock with modified rear C-notch|
|Front Suspension: Scott’s Hot Rods bolt-in IFS|
|Spindles: Scott’s Hot Rods 2-inch drop|
|Shocks: Aldan American Striker double-adjustable|
|Sway Bar: Scott’s Hot Rods|
|Brakes: Wilwood calipers and 14-inch rotors|
|Rear Suspension: Performance Online Extreme Trailing Arms|
|Shocks: Aldan American Regulator Series single-adjustable coilovers|
|Brakes: Wilwood four-piston calipers and Wilwood rotors|
|Wheels and Tires:|
|Wheels: Intro Custom Wheels 18x10 front, 18x12 rear|
|Tires: Falken Azenis RT615K 275/35ZR18 front, 315/30ZR18 rear|
|Cost of Chassis/Suspension: Front: $6,495 (including larger Wilwood brakes and upgraded Aldan shocks) Rear: $600 for POL trailing arms and around $2,000 for shocks, brakes, and miscellaneous chassis parts.|
|Total Without Driver: 3,502|
|LF: 972 RF: 886 LR: 865 RR: 779|
|F: 53.1% R: 46.9%|
|How’d It Stack Up?|
|Slalom Average Speed 420-ft||100-Yard Dash||Road Course Lap Time|
|1971 Aldan American C10 Cheyenne Super||44.2 mph||5.77 seconds||01:35.9|
|2017 Camaro SS||46.6 mph||5.41 seconds||01:22.2|
|Despite having to fight through a failing clutch and some vapor lock issues—courtesy of the scorching Southern California summer—the C10 managed a valiant 5.77-second 100-yard dash, only three tenths behind the brand-new Camaro SS—an impressive feat. In the slalom, the big Chevy shrugged off its weight, dancing to a middle-of-the-pack score. On the road course, however, there was no masking the shifting situation, which cost the team significant time. Overall, considering this was the truck’s maiden track outing it did well and was significantly faster than a factory C10 truck.|
Photos Robert McGaffin and Super Chevy Staff