Award Winning 1976 GMC Sierra Grande
HISTORY. In the 15-year span that GM produced the square body pickup, many trim levels, options, special packages and graphics kits were launched. One of the rarest however, is the 1975 red, white and blue strobe pattern. Why is it so rare? Because only three were ever made.
When Joe Yezzi of Squarebody Syndicate got his hands on the last survivor of the 1975 Indy Haulers, he quickly saw something special. Initial plans were to turn the 1975 GMC long bed into a modern-day hotrod; however, modifying such an important piece of square body and Indy 500 history didn’t feel right. So instead, Joe and the team began to document the truck and its features to create a truly one-of-a-kind tribute truck.
A few different concepts floated around the shop, but a call from Phil Gerber of The Roadster Shop wanting to team up with SBS to launch a Syndicate Series Spec Chassis finally confirmed Joe’s vision for the final design of SS02. Since GMC had planned to produce 500 replicas for 1976 but never did, Joe would build his own version of a tribute “super truck” with the help of the some of the highest quality products in the industry, with functionality first, reliability second and aesthetics third as the main goals.
He quickly located and purchased a 1976 GMC Sierra Grande 15. Immediately Joe, Rob Yezzi and Joey Carberry, began the tear-down process to see what could be used, what should be scrapped and what needed to be modified. Joe quickly created a wish list of the best parts and accessories needed to complete the super truck; meanwhile, Rob got started with the many hours of painstakingly tedious fitment of everything from internally run wires and airlines, to one-off brake and clutch lines due to the inner firewall location of the Wilwood assemblies.
Next, Joe set his attention on the 2017 GM LS3 crate engine. This inspiration came from a Keith Black small block that graced the cover of a magazine in 1979 that always stuck in his mind. The process began with Joe rounding out all the sharp edges and points of the block. Then he headed out into the Phoenix heat of 120 degrees, in a full head mask, to media blast the entire engine three times to create the perfect, subtle, mechanical finish that looked more like something from a 70s Indy car than what we are used to seeing in high-end truck builds. Some people might think going that extreme on an engine block is crazy, and they’d be right, but it’s that extreme detail and patience that set Squarebody Syndicate Series trucks apart from the rest.
Charles Hendrickson, at Pro Dyno in Chandler, Arizona, took care of all the internals including a custom camshaft. To match the finish of the engine, a one-off set of Drive Junky accessory pulleys were media blasted, then blasted again, and again, with different grits until they finally had the exact look needed to dress the front of the engine. Up top, the LS was dressed with blue and red anodized hose fittings coming in and out of the Holley fuel system, a raw Magnuson Supercharger sixth generation TVS2300 and a set of gold anodized Syndicate Series billet valve covers from G.S.I. to finish it off. Rob began tucking away the Painless Performance wire harness underneath the Jet-Hot white coated Hooker Headers while the engine sat cradled in its final home with plenty of room thanks to the Holley oil pan. And lastly, a Frostbite Radiator, cooling fans, topped off with Prestone anti-freeze, keep everything cool. To handle the power, Joe turned to American Powertrain to send out a 2018 Tremec Magnum 6-speed manual transmission with a White Lightning shifter, Hydramax hydraulic clutch kit and PST 3.5 inch driveshaft. Rob and Dave Melian installed a Hays Dragon Claw clutch and Quick Time bell housing to finish off the raw, finished transmission easily capable of taking the abuse Joe intends to inflict. A custom built MagnaFlow 3-inch stainless steel exhaust fabricated by Hubcaps Hotrod and Custom, follows along the driveshaft to the Narrowed Currie Enterprises 9-inch rear end and aluminum 3rd member. Syndicate Series by Baer Brakes Pro + 14-inch rotors and calipers were utilized to stop the one-off set of Syndicate Series turbine style wheels commissioned to Curtis Speed. Joe decided on 20x9s in the front and 20x11s in the rear to allow room to “bring back the bulge” in tires he had envisioned since the beginning of the build. The front 12-inch wide Michelin Pilot Sport tires with 2-inch sidewalls and rear 14-inch tires, with 3-inch sidewalls, did just the trick to mimic that 70’s fat tire look we all remember. The wheels where also powder coated to a crinkle finish by Kevin at Pacific Powder Coating. An E-Stopp electronic parking brake system was also installed.
For the perfect stance, Joe looked only to Accuair Suspension and their new Endo CVT air management system to handle the task of getting SS02 on the ground, while delivering on the track with zero compromise. The Syndicate Series Spec Chassis from The Roadster Shop, fitted with a parallel 4-link, upper and lower control arms, one-off watts link paired with firestone air bags, Ridetech HQ adjustable shocks and R-Joints, completed the rest of the work to make sure the body meets the ground.
The team at Hubcaps Hotrod and Custom handled all the sheet metal work, as well as fit and finish with custom work to the firewall, core support, trans tunnel and raised bed floor with hidden trunk compartment, battery tray, fender wells, gas filler and a full roll cage inside the cab.
After all the bodywork was done HH&C did the black basecoat with white single stage BASF RM paint.
To keep a traditional feel, Joe decided to use vinyl graphics for the iconic red and blue strobe pattern. If you happened to stop by the shop at any time during the two weeks that Joe was deciding exactly what shade of blue and red to use, you may have left with blurry vision after sifting through the stacks of color swatches laying across the shop at any given time. In the end, it’s that dedication some may call obsessive that paid off as the depth and warmth of the colors chosen help highlight the rich white body of the future super truck. To help accentuate the graphics, Rob and Joe installed the very first set of laser straight Mar-K trim on the body and installed the brand new, crystal clear glass with rubber seals from Precision. N.O.S. parts were used throughout the build when at all possible, including all light covers and front trim. However, when a N.O.S. GMC grille could not be found, Joe knew he could turn to the team at G.S.I. to make a full billet grill to mimic the factory look, but even better. What was delivered in return was better than expected and really helped tie in the front end of the truck with the rest of the build. Below the grill, a chrome LMC bumper paired nicely with the chromed Billet Badges on the fender.
Out back under the electronic self-raising bed floor, Joe once again went against the grain and brought the fuel tank to the front of the bed above the frame rails and across the whole width of the truck to give himself 28 gallons of fuel storage thanks to David over at Boyde Welding. Behind the giant tank sits the Accuair CVT system for easy access and finally a weatherproofed two-level suede lined trunk. This design was very important to Joe after driving SS01 on long distance trips where storage space was limited. Now, there is plenty of room for a couple bags, as well as cleaning supplies under the false floor.
Inside the cab it is easy to miss the many details at first glance. The exposed, removable transmission tunnel sits firmly between the rawhide-wrapped leather seats by Empire Custom Upholstery, which are comfortably positioned inside the chromed roll cage. Two separate USB ports are poking out from the floor behind the seats to keep phones charged during long trips, while the seats themselves have pockets inside to keep the phones safe during highspeed turns. The USA-1 industries dash pad is perfectly fit around the front of the roll cage that leads up to a vintage Wink rally 5 panel rear view mirror. Behind the anodized black billet steering wheel by GSI with leather inserts, sits a set of Syndicate Series Dakota Digital Gauges. Empire also took care of the rawhide door panels and hook-and-loop carpet. Comfort at the wheel is a must, and thanks to the shortened IdidIt steering column, it’s as cozy as can be. Additionally, Joe insisted on a sweet audio system with SS02. A complete Kicker Audio setup was used with front and rear component speakers at the corners, and an enclosed powered 10-inch subwoofer under the passenger seat with a Kicker Iq500.4 amp under the driver’s seat. All sound deadening was provided by Vibro Solution. Climate control is handled by Old Air Products complete square body Hurricane Series system. Finally, all fluids used were provided by Royal Purple.
Joe Yezzi with the help of Rob “C10 Doctor” Yezzi, Joey “Broey” Carberry, Dave “The Professor” Melian and all of the dedicated sponsors and talented craftsman that put their hands on every surface of this truck, has created a truly jaw dropping square body. The functionality, reliability and style all come together to create one incredible custom truck, with a heck of a great story backing it up.
Bobby Unser and Robby Unser signing SS02
An Ad ran by GM announcing the giveaway of the truck.
Another ad, Showing one of the three known trucks in white with the red, white and blue strobe graphics. Of the 3 known trucks built for Indy in this color option, the Squarebody Syndicate owned truck is the only known survivor.
In 1975, the GM Saginaw Steering Gear Division gave a promo truck to the winning team crew chief of the Indianapolis 500. Al Rosen, a promotor and fan of Indy was able to strike a deal with this winner and soon after took the truck home. In 1979 when Al passed, Terry Ion, a close friend of the family purchased the truck from Al’s estate and drove it daily for about 10 years before parking it in a field due to fuel issues. The truck sat in the black berry bushes for close to three decades before Mark Dickhaut, Al’s grandson, pulled the truck from its grave to save it from heading to the crusher for scraps. Mark’s son, David, took possession of the truck with plans to fully restore but with other more pressing things going on the truck continued to sit and await it’s fate. Finally in June of this year, Squarebody Syndicate acquired the truck and with our new partnership with Roadster shop we decided to bring this rare Indy promo truck back to life with a tribute truck.
Here is how the truck looked after Mark pulled it from the black berries. He was able to drive it home just by filling the tires and replacing the gas tank.
The truck was used to hold Purdue Universities famous “Big Bass Drum” during the parade lap of the 59th Indy 500.