Boyd’s Automotive Illustrator Produces a Masterpiece of His Own


Picture of Matt Emery

Matt Emery

Photography by Pete Yerkovich


Obviously, Todd Emmons is a talented guy. After all, as an automotive illustrator he makes his living transforming Boyd Coddington’s ideas into two-dimensional splendor, and when he wears his graphic artist hat, he designs the ads and catalogs for Coddington’s operation as well. 

So it should come as no surprise that Emmons would display a definite flair when it came to building a ride of his own. The only surprise is that he decided to channel that talent into building a pickup truck. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. As truck enthusiasts, we love the idea that high-end talents are turning their eyes toward pickups. In the case of Emmons, his muse is this outstanding ’74 Chevy C10. 

Emmons described the truck as “a good Arizona truck with a bad paint job” when he began the build. He was driving the truck and began slowly with the job. He did the engine and transmission and then worked on the suspension. Emmons had done a little work on the interior before he decided to completely remove it and take the truck apart to transform it into the beautiful ride seen here. The truck was originally sent to another shop to be painted, but then the owner of that shop closed it down. Emmons was distraught, to say the least, but  the manager, Mike DeFrates, said not to worry; he would finish up the truck at his new place.

When the truck was delivered to the newly opened Michael’s Autocraft in Tempe, Arizona, the body was pulled off. When the frame was stripped of all the components, it was sandblasted and given a nice black powdercoating. 

With the powdercoating finished, the suspension was installed. To get the Chevy way down in the weeds, a set of Belltech 3-inch drop spindles was mated to a set of Belltech 2-inch drop springs. With those pieces on, the pair also equipped the Chevy with a Belltech antisway bar. A pair of Belltech nitro shocks finished the job. With the power that Emmons had in mind for the truck, good brakes were essential, so a call went out to Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation (SSBC). An SSBC Force 10 system with four-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors was installed. 

The rearend was not to be an afterthought. Emmons filled the 12-bolt housing with an Eaton posi unit and 3.73-ratio gears from US Gear, and he topped it off with a TA Performance Products aluminum differential cover. A pair of Cal-Track bars joins with the stock springs, although a Belltech antisway bar and nitro shocks were added to give the rearend the same smooth handling characteristics of the front. A set of SSBC Force 10 brakes (four-piston calipers with 11-inch rotors) was also installed. 

As Emmons does work for Boyd Coddington, it was only natural for the Chevy to roll on a set of Coddington’s wheels. And the 22-inch F-09s in the rear and 20s up front add a killer look to the low-slung Chevy. The wheels were equipped with 35-series Nitto tires (model NT555), which add not only great looks but also great handling. 

Handling was a concern for Emmons. He wanted the truck to carve, and it certainly does that, but he also wanted it to go fast. He had pulled the stock 350 out of it when he began the job, and in its place went a heavily breathed-on Chevy 454. Being in Phoenix, Emmons just had to go across town to Beck Racing Engines (BRE), where building fast engines is a daily operation. 

The crank is the stock GM model, but a set of BRE hardened connecting rods has been capped off with Keith Black pistons. Onto these big-time slugs went a set of Childs & Albert duramoly rings, which ensures that no blowby happens.     

Getting the fuel into the cylinders is a three-prong affair. The process begins with a huge Barry Grant 750cfm Demon carburetor dumping the high test into an Edelbrock Air Gap intake manifold, which then enters the GM heads. To get the valves to open at just the right time and for the right amount, a Crane Cams hydraulic camshaft was chosen. To get the right amount of clean air into the engine, a Boyd’s air cleaner housing has been equipped with a K&N air filter. Other trick engine pieces include a Zoops big-block outboard pulley and bracket system, as well as a pair of Zoops ball-milled valve covers. 

Providing the spark is a race-tested MSD billet distributor and 6AL box that connects to the plugs with MSD 8.5mm lead wires. Getting out the spent fuel is the province of a set of Hooker Super Comp headers. The guys at Mighty Muffler in Phoenix were given the task of connecting them to a pair of Flowmaster mufflers, and then on to the outside world.   

Even the most powerful engine is nothing without a transmission capable of handling that power. That is why Emmons had Tony’s Racing Transmissions of Phoenix build a Turbo 400 equal to the job. Along with many internal modifications, the crew at Tony’s also used a TCI 2,500-rpm stall converter and a B&M cooler for the job. 

When Emmons pulled the Chevy out of the now-closed body shop and sent it to DeFrates at his new place, he decided that what the Chevy needed was a couple of body modifications. DeFrates set to work. Because this was an Arizona truck, rust was not too much of a problem, but he had his hands full straightening the panels. While there, he installed a few pieces and removed a few others. Those that he removed were the door handles, the stake pockets, the driprails and the seam that runs around the top, and all of the parking lights. He also squared off the bed header panel top. Things he added were a Hagan fuel door and a very cool Goodmark Industries cowl-induction hood. Onto the bed went a GemTop GT Classic tonneau cover. 

When the bodywork was done, DeFrates loaded up his Binks with eye-popping House of Kolor Ultra Orange Pearl and let it fly. The result is a Chevy that truly stands out and draws attention,

especially when it is hit by the bright Arizona sun. Being a graphic artist, Emmons designed the stripe that runs along the side of the Chevy, and then he gave the drawing to Brand Graphics in Phoenix, which manufactured the black accent stripes. The resulting look is one that cleanly breaks up the truck.  

When the time came to put the truck back together, Emmons installed a new T-Rex billet grille and a set of Zoops headlights. Though it is a shame to hide it beneath the GemTop tonneau, the Bruce Horkey’s Wood & Parts show deck—which Emmons stained ebony and then installed himself—really shines in its own right. Emmons says that the wood is a real hit with most showgoers, and he is happy to raise the cover and show it to them. 

Speaking of putting the truck back together, Emmons used a complete Totally Stainless bolt kit. Emmons says that the kit made the job easy, and the new bolts really set off the killer paint job. 

Keeping with the dark accent theme, the Rod Doors seats have been covered in black ultra leather and orange/black houndstooth insets. Because Emmons worked closely with the guys at Rod Doors when designing the door panels, they went so far as to name them after him. This means that the panels in the truck are now known as “Emmons,” and you can have a pair for your truck if you are so inclined. A Boyd Coddington steering wheel and a B&M MegaShifter allow Emmons to retain control of the truck, while the Stewart Warner Maximum Performance Series gauges allow him to keep an eye on the engine. Even though Emmons has never wired a vehicle, he says that the Painless wiring system was a breeze to install, even with the addition of the Hot Rod Air Elite Series air conditioning system and the Electric-Life power windows. Wiring the Custom Autosound USA-6 stereo system was just as easy, but the benefits of the AM/FM/CD system would far outweigh any difficulties anyway. 

This build took Emmons almost six years, and he is quick to say that he had a lot of help. He credits Mike DeFrates with being there the whole way, and says that without his help the project would still be ongoing. Emmons also thanks his wife, Linda, Boyd Coddington and the entire Coddington family and crew, as well as all of the companies that sponsored him during the construction of this Chevy. 


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