Monster trucks aren’t a new phenomenon. But monster trucks built to concours standards of fit, finish and an eye toward authenticity are rare in a world of glitzy, overbuilt machines that are all billet-machined swagger with no finesse…fit for a dirty weekend in the desert but an attention-seeking eyesore when parked in front of a house that actually has pavement on the property. Rtech Fabrications is a rare breed among custom truck builders, not just for the way they conceive and execute their projects, but for the very species of truck they build. While Ford, Dodge, Toyota and Land Rover have been well-served by specialty firms that restore and update those marque’s older models, few, if any, have addressed the truck world’s 800-pound gorilla: GM’s iconic workhorses that wear the Chevrolet “bow tie.” Chevy trucks from the 1960s and 1970s were some of the hardest-working blue-collar pickups of the era, and have today become classics in their own right.
Rtech Fabrications specializes in the personal favorites of the company’s owners Randall and Dru-Ann Robertson; trucks built during GM’s “Golden Age” between 1967 and 1972. There’s something about the pressed steel bodies, Tiki-room colors and fabric interiors that express the essence of the era, to which Rtech presents in generous performance upgrades and discreetly integrated cabin amenities like climate control, navigation and entertainment systems.
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Twenty years restoring and working on European marques like Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and BMW equipped Robertson with the chops to do just about anything in the vehicular realm. But when he retired from that business, he found himself pursuing his passion for GM trucks, first building one for himself, then two, then taking commissions from old customers and finally founding Rtech to create what GM had never built before. “I wanted to build something that GM would have done,” says Robertson, talking about recent projects like The Ponderosa and The Duke, trucks that Chevrolet never built at all. Both are what the industry calls “crew cabs”—four-door versions of a two-door pickup truck. And while Ford and Dodge made plenty of crew cabs during the aforementioned decades, GM’s Chevrolet division never made a single one.
The Ponderosa started as a 1966 K30 pickup, and Rtech used original Chevrolet sheet metal to painstakingly graft an extended roof and rear doors to the original cab. The result is a finished truck indistinguishable from a factory-made product. Except, of course, the level of fit and finish is worlds apart from anything that rolled out of a GM assembly plant when The Beatles’ Revolver hit the charts in ’66. Frame, suspension, brakes and rear end are seriously upgraded, and the transplanted Cummins inline-6 diesel engine produces more than 550 turbocharged horses and 1,300 ft lbs of torque, amply put to pavement by dual rear wheels shod with 37-inch Nitto Trail Grappler rubber. At 20-feet long and 8-feet tall, The Ponderosa is not a shrinking violet, but somehow, the period-correct GM503 light green paint and authentic interior make this truck a friendly monster that carries serious, heavy-duty performance credentials.
The Duke began as a 1972 Chevrolet C50 standard cab pickup, similarly, converted into a never-before-seen configuration that Rtech calls the K50 crew cab. Currently equipped with a turbocharged Cummins inline-6 diesel, but Rtech is developing a twin-turbo engine to deliver 1,000 hp and an astonishing 2,300 ft lbs of torque. For tires, 40-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers elevate The Duke’s ride height, while a novel tilt bed raises to reveal custom heating and air conditioning systems. Inside the cab, advanced climate control and infotainment are integrated to be nearly invisible, and with period-correct Highlander plaid fabric upholstery and original-issue ochre paint, The Duke keeps its ‘70s-era cool while being a thoroughly modern ride.
Like the trucks themselves, Robertson is straightforward about his goals. “I build my trucks to win Brothers Truck Show.” With about 700 competitors, Rtech trucks have won for three consecutive years, an unprecedented testament to the quality of his creations. But he also says, “We build trucks to do truck things,” a motto quoted on the company’s website and a philosophy that underscores the serious engineering that goes into every project. Trucks start at about $150,000, with projects like The Ponderosa and The Duke tipping the balance sheet from about $350,000.