Sunday, June 23, 2024


“I’ve been into American cars from a young age,” says John Dente. And he’s owned a bunch too – from a ’66 Corvette roadster to a few ’57 Chevys plus a show-spec, big block red ’64 SS Impala. He’s even had a handful Aussie cars popped into the mix. Yet none have the presence of his largest ride to date – this 1965 Chev C10 Panel Truck.

The ‘60s Chev panel body style is a rarity in Australia with only a handful scattered across our wide, brown land. This makes for a noticeable cruiser, while the sheer size of the back envelope helps with sensibilities also. 

“We were looking for a shop truck to pick up parts with and to take things like chairs and tables to events, but we didn’t want just a generic HiAce van,” John explains. “We wanted something to promote the business and to also be an eye-catcher. Then this came up for sale in 2018.”

Bought sight unseen, John expected a driver but instead received a project requiring a fair whack of elbow grease.

“There’s no way you could drive it the way it was; it was in pretty ordinary condition and needed a lot of love! The engine was tired, the guards had rusted on the insides and the timber floor was rotted in places.”

So, with that new found information came a change of tack for the Panel project.

“We had planned to do a soft resto, but after seeing what was needed, we took the entire car apart. The new plan was to build something driveable, comfortable and not over the top,” John explains.

John’s team at Dream Work’s Garage promptly got cracking on refurbing the Chevy. Though like we often see with projects, each area that was freshened up highlighted the surrounding expanses as subpar. 

“We bought new guards, but then both the chrome and front grille didn’t look good enough. So, we went out and bought even more new parts!” John laughs.

Responsible for most of the build was head mechanic, Frank Bria who tackled the engine, machining, wiring and fab work, while also triaging everything else that the truck required.

Up front, Frank bolted together a tough 383ci Chev to motivate the heavy Chevy. It’s a four-bolt mains block packed with Scat crank and rods, SRP pistons and a hydraulic roller cam. On top are alloy heads, a Weiand Team G intake and a Brawler 750DP carby. Trusty MSD ignition creates the spark while a lengthy 2½in stainless exhaust exits the spent gases. 

Behind the small-block sits a trusty TH350 trans with a 3000 stall. And while the 12-bolt has been maintained at the rear, it’s now packed with livelier 4.11s and an LSD. 

Staying on the underside, Frank’s added Airide suspension; coupled with shocks and sway bars to suit. The decision to add ‘bags was a fairly easy one for John and Frank.

“We chose them for the stance,” John says. “If the usual shocks and springs were used to get it that low, we wouldn’t be able to go over speed bumps. And a car this big looks great lowered. Frank did a great job on the bags; he also added limiters for rego – it’s all street legal.”

Finishing off underneath is power steer, and disc brake front with drum rears. Tucked up underneath the guards are size-appropriate 18 x 7.5 Steelies capped with baby Moons and shod in 225/60/18 Roadshine tyres.

With the driveline sorted, attention turned to the finishing hues. As a tie-in with the Dream Works Garage black and white logo, House of Kolor satin black coats the mammoth body. Next, local signwriter Raymond P. Moondog whipped out his one-shot and striping brush to emblazon said logo on each flank.

Overall, it’s a fairly understated exterior, but thoroughly made up for inside, thanks to a vibrant visual feast with a heavy dose of audio in the mix.

Claude Carafano fashioned the leather trim in-house. It’s a fairly luxurious setting thanks to a thorough filling of Dynamat that’s finished off with aftermarket heating and air conditioning. Adding bling to the fusion is a left-hook, column-shift Ididit column topped by a CON2R two-tone twin-spoke wheel, and centred above is a custom billet dash facia housing a raft of vintage-styled Dolphin gauges. 

Back in the gigantic rear cabin, Frank has gone to town adding a Pioneer 7” fold out Multi-Media player, an 12V 811cm LED HD TV/DVD, eight 6×9” tri-axial speakers, a pair of x 4” Axis speakers up front and a Pioneer 400W amp. Plus, there’s the ability to run a 90L fridge, thanks to triple batteries stored in a hidden secret compartment behind the front seat. A final touch are ghost lights under each front door which shine the Dream Works logo on the ground below. 

All in all, the Chevy has become an offering that John enjoys sharing with the automotive community.

“We go to a lot of Coffee and Chrome events as well as car shows, and have found that there’s not much atmosphere. So now we go along and bring the music,” John says. “Plus, the Chevy showcases what we can do as a business.”

In 2019 Frank and Claude cruised the Panel to the Chevy Nationals in Renmark for its debut voyage. There the C10 was well received and has since taken home accolades from various shows including Best Commercial Vehicle, Show Favourite, Top Voted Overall, and Best Old School.

And that list will no doubt grow as John and Frank continue to get out and about in the ’65 as much as possible, enjoying the Adelaide car scene from the comfort of their heavy Chevy.

It's only fair to share…