The build process of a custom car or truck is more often than not, a series of complex tasks testing patience and determination at each and every obstacle. Each item on the list brings with it, a unique set of challenges as well as offering satisfaction upon completion. However, it’s all the little details in a build that help define the journey as a whole. One small item to be built or addressed can cast a lasting shadow over an entire build. Any of us who have wrestled with a single bolt for more times than we care to count, will attest to this simple truth. The same principle rings true on a larger scale as well. The build means so much more than just the sum of these parts. Finding a suitable platform, casting a vision, finding inspiration, taking a course of action, seeing it through to the end, and enjoying the fruits of your labor are all vastly more meaningful than the simple construction of an automobile. Building better cars means building better relationships, or new ones altogether.
Photos: Melissa Gamez | Words: Michael Phillips & David Apodaca
Owner, enthusiast, and member of the Slam’d family, Lance Nguyen is familiar with all aspects of customs. He has experienced the joyful, though sometimes difficult, process of building a custom alongside friends and family first hand, as well as its ability to further prosper those ties. Over the course of six long years, Lance has worked tirelessly at his project, taking it to the point where he is beyond sure it will have always been his favorite. The object of his great success is this drop dead gorgeous 1959 Chevrolet Apache, aptly nicknamed “Wild Thang.” His truck has not brought him such great joy based on its merit alone, but on the process by which he, his family, and his closest friends came together to see the project through to the end.
The creation began like many do, with the purchase of a clean and sustainable daily driver. Lance enjoyed his retro machine, and used it well for awhile. Eventually however, as it always seems to specifically target unsuspecting daily drivers, the call to customization beckoned Lance forward. He decided to personalize and customize his truck, and build a unique pickup with serious hot rod tendencies. Lance was not a stranger to the process of building custom vehicles. In fact it all began when he was 13 years old, after his brother purchased a civic that they modified together. Now, as a member of the Misfits Inc. crew, Lance has built a number of tuners and trucks, including a ’89 and 94 Civic, along with a laid out ’96 Silverado. In more recent years however, he turned his attention to more vintage customs and hot rods; including a 1946 Ford F1, a Model A Truck, ’37 Chevy Sedan, and finally his crown jewel Apache build featured here.
His truck had already transitioned from simple and clean daily driver, to made-over throwback, but eventually Lance decided to go all out with a proper custom build. He, his father, his brothers Khai and Christian, along with other members of the Misfits crew charted their course and began the truck’s teardown. The main objectives of their mission included airride supporting chassis mods, 4-link rear set up, a shortened rearend, and a proper overdrive transmission. Lance maintains this plan of action was one of his best-ever decisions. Looking at the completed Wild Thang, we would be hard pressed to find reasons for disagreement.
The customization process began with removing the front clip, bed, and truck cab. They then pulled the old transmission and began fabricating supporting mods for an updated gearbox as well as for the new suspension set ups. They fabricated an entirely new transmission crossmember, notched the driveshaft crossmember, and removed the rearend. After the pulling of old parts and preliminary chassis mods were finished, the main body parts were put back in place. The cab, front clip, and bed were all hunkered back down on the frame. It was during this phase that one of the more “exciting” points in the story occurred. Lance and his team had actually dropped the cab from its secure stand during the move. Luckily the panels sustained minimal damage and what in all likeliness seemed catastrophic at the time, turned into one of those laughable moments to look back on with thankfulness and laughter. The overdrive transmission was mated up to the motor and bolted in place. At that point the motley crew began preparations and measurements to cut a home for the c-notches to be welded in the frame. Finally the rear crossmember was welded up and prepped for the new 4-link set up.
In the front of the truck, a G-Body El Camino suspension front clip was adapted, making use of its stock control arms and being cut to fit the airbag cups. A set of 2-inch drop spindles and two more Slam ‘bags were put in place to suspend the front. The airbags at each corner are fed by hard-lines running to dual Viair 480 compressors and a 5-gallon tank, all of which is mounted to the inside of the frame beneath the truck’s cab.
Attached to the points of suspension are Lance’s choice of ol’ skool rolling attire, whitewall wrapped Wheel Vintiques chrome reverse steelies, measuring 15×8 inches. Spinning the wheels rather quickly is a potent SBC 350, endowed with a Lunati cam, roller rockers, and valves. Block hugger headers and dual Lake Pipes let everyone know when Wild Thang is rolling through. The power is sent via a 700R4 trans to the narrowed 12-bolt posi with Moser axles and 355 gears.
After the suspension it was time to make some room and the stock truck bed floor was cut out. New rear wheel tubs were welded in place with the raised bed floor and a new custom wood floor was fashioned. The wooden floor allows for under storage and includes an access hatch to the rearend and c-notch section of the frame. After body prep the roof was given the finishing touch that every old-school deserves. A heavily flaked, paneled, and candy coated House of Kolor Brandywine, Oriental Blue, Aztec Gold, and Candy Apple Green color the panels, while SparkleFX Medium Chrome Flakes provide the shimmer. The rest of Wild Thang is painted with Victory Red and topped with a Vintage Clear Coats matte finish.
The mods for the suspension, combined with hot rod powertrain and rollers, and an eccentric lowrider inspired roof, are all perfectly complimented by the finished interior. The inside of the cab is fitted with a mid-row bench seat from an ’80s Suburban. The bench was upholstered in diamond stitched leopard print and shagrug carpet by Lance’s brother Christian. The dash has been shaved and modified to include vents for a Vintage Air system, while the trucks important information is sent via Dakota Digital gauges fitted in the dash. The finishing interior touches come by way of a Lokar shifter and complete audio setup featuring an Alpine headunit, Kicker speakers subs, running through dual Alpine amps.
So much of life is about the journey rather than the destination. Nevertheless, sometimes the journey just isn’t worth it, if you never get to where you intended to go. When a memorable and rich journey leads to a satisfactory end point, both can be enjoyed to their fullest. This is especially true of Wild Thang, and her builders. Lance took his clean driver down the long road to total custom. Along the way his skills and memories increased vastly and he was blessed to to experience them not alone, but with his closest friends and family. The destination is an absolutely beautiful truck, one that revs loud, and tucks hard (two of our favorite things). The journey included its ups and down like all good ones do and afforded the memories of a lifetime to be made amongst family. Huge thanks of Lance and his team for sharing with us the story of Wild Thang and the joy of the journey it took to build her.
Special Thanks from Owner: “I would like to thank my family, Linda, Christian, Dung, and Khai Nguyen, and my car club family Misfits Inc. Austin Texas, along with everyone who supported the build along the way.”
Owner: Lance Nguyen
Vehicle: 1959 Chevorlet Apache
Hometown: Austin, TX
Club: Misfits Inc.
15×8-inch Wheel Vintiques chrome reverse steelies
Front: 205 Coker Whitewall Specials
Rear: 225 BF Goodrich Whitewalls
Triangulated 4-link with Duralast shocks and SS7 ‘bags
G-Body El Camino front clip
2-inch drop spindles and Slam SS7 ‘bags
Dual Viair 480 compressors
5-gallon air tank
Paneled Roof: GlitterFX Medium Chrome Flakes, House of Kolor Brandywine, Oriental Blue, Aztec Gold, Candy Apply Green panels
Body: Victory Red with Vintage Clear Coats matte finish
Misc: Harley Davidson Vintage Amber fog Lights, Vintage Air Raid Siren, pinstripes
1980 Suburban bench, upholstered in Diamond Stitch leopard print and shagrug carpet
Shaved dash, vented for AC/heater addition, pinstriped
Dakota Digital Gauges
Apline Head unit and amps, Kicker speakers and dual Kicker CVRS 10-inch Subs
SBC Chevy 350, Lunati Cam, roller rockers, and 202 valves
Block hugger header with dual Lake Pipes
Narrowed Posi 12 bolt rearend with Detroit locker and 355 gears