Building a reputation

River City Rods puts the final touches on their blockbuster build, dubbed “El Chapo,” in advance of the 2018 SEMA Show.
DAVENPORT, IOWA: Not many builders have the guts or the gumption to blaze new trails in advance of a high- profile stage like the 2018 SEMA Show, but that’s exactly what Craig Piggott of River City Rods & Fabrication has done with his landmark GTB100 build, dubbed “El Chapo” (English translation: “Shorty”).

The show’s high visibility, and the innovative tactics Piggott and company have embraced to complete the build, mean the stakes for the truck’s unveiling in Las Vegas, and entry in to the coveted Battle of the Builders competition, couldn’t be higher.

For the follow-up to the Davenport, Iowa shop’s 1968 C30 camper project, which took last year’s SEMA Show by storm, Piggott and the River City team wanted to challenge themselves, rather than rest on their reputation.

“We are very excited to see what the crew at River City Rods has done with such a unique body style and short time frame,” said Phil Gerber of The Roadster Shop. “We have done a lot of one-off chassis for over the years…but a GTB100 Ford was definitely a first.”

Speaking of firsts, Piggott and team had never pulled off a Coyote swap on a truck frame before working on “El Chapo.” Accomplishing the swap meant the team was in for a great deal of research, development, experimentation and custom work, from engineering alternators and power steering pumps, down to moving the oil pan and the coolant fan. The retro-style of the swapped Coyote engine looks like something out a different era, and the team built a custom valve cover for it to complete the retro feel.

Just about every last detail of “El Chapo” has been custom-designed, fabricated and built to stun, right down to the grille, which started off as a 1,000-pound piece of billet aluminum that was shaved down to just 73 pounds and required more than 300 hours of design and cutting time.

And now, seven months after commencing work on the project, and with just a week to go before SEMA, the team has put the finishing touches on the interior—a lounge-inspired concept bathed in red—buttoned up wiring and finished paintwork (also custom).

“The exterior color is a Porsche factory color,” said Piggott. “The metallic base of Porsche’s factory Graphite Blue has been removed, making it darker and subtler. Working with PPG to get the right paint color down was a blessing. They were incredibly helpful and great to partner with.”

With “El Chapo,” the team proudly represents the project’s cadre of manufacturer

sponsors, which includes: Energy Suspension, PPG, ididit, Odyssey Battery, Performance Business Media, Painless Performance Products, Holley, Magnaflow, Wilwood, Thermo-Tec, Currie Enterprises, Precision Weatherstripping, Kicker, Falken Tires, Jalopy Hat Company, Aeromotive, Ridetech, 3M, White Diamond Detail Products, Coverking, Dakota Digital, Roadster ShopBillet Specialties, GC Cooling, Carbuffnetwork.com, Hurst Performance, AutoKraft, C&R Racing, and Switch Suspension.

“El Chapo’s” unveiling is set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, in the Energy Suspension Booth #23267 in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center during SEMA 2018.

About River City Rods and Fabrication

River City Rods and Fabrication was founded in April 2017. The Davenport, Iowa, custom shop specializes in building unique vehicles that create interest while keeping costs low for customers.