Steve Ellefson has always worked on his own cars. Throughout his life, he’s had close to 20 vehicles. But even though a Chevrolet Chevelle was his first love (he bought one before he was even old enough to drive), pickup trucks have become a favorite.
Ellefson, co-owner of Rich’s Southside Service in Rochester, Minn., has owned muscle trucks, off-road trucks, racing trucks and standard pickups over the years, and cites their unique look as a reason for the attachment.
“Everybody doesn’t have one,” he says.
In 2005, Ellefson was working on a 1968 pickup when he offered to buy a motor from a friend who had a 1975 Chevy C10 sitting in his garage. The friend agreed, but told Ellefson he had to take the whole truck with him. Nine hundred dollars later, the truck was at Ellefson’s home in Rochester, Minn. He planned to just use the engine from the disassembled and rusted truck, but found himself liking the C10 more and more.
“I ended up really liking the style of it,” he says, “and eventually putting all kinds of money into it and putting the original project I was working on to the side.”
The truck was in rough shape and even Ellefson admitted it would have been wiser to scrap it. He gutted the drivetrain, front end, and interior. Originally, he set a $2,500 limit for himself for putting the truck together and intended only to fix the fenders and the doors, but they were so rusty it would have cost more to fix them than to replace them.
With the budget out the window, he replaced the doors, the fenders and the hood, as well as the floor pans, rocker panels and cab corners. Ellefson also took out the rusted box of the truck and installed a new one, along with a stained wood floor.
Next he switched out the stock suspension and installed a lowering kit, lowering the front six inches and the back five inches. His friend had already rebuilt the engine, a 454ci big block, but Ellefson added a number of dress-up parts, including more valve covers and a bigger intake and carburetor. He also added a TH400 transmission and cowl induction hood scoop to accommodate the high-rise intake and carb spacer.
“I thought it looked better too,” Ellefson says. “It gave it that muscle look.”
Ellefson continued working his way through the truck, adding a new radiator, hoses, spindles, shocks and stock brakes. He also updated the headlights and added a different grill.
Inside, Ellefson added new door panels, carpet and aftermarket gauges, as well as custom flame-embroidered seats that were shipped in from California. The flame theme continues on the paint job, a cherry red with ghost flames sprayed by a friend of Ellefson’s.
After nearly three years, $17,000 and countless evenings and weekends, Ellefson finally finished the truck. Besides the seats and paint job, he had completed all of it at his home. Six years later, he still brings the truck to local car shows with his daughter.
“It’s a really fun truck and it gets a lot of attention wherever it goes,” he says. “I’ll probably hold on to it for as long as I can.”