Donald Lee Fuselier's vanity plate reads, "WHAT DA," perhaps a typical reaction to his unusual Super Stepside Sport Truck. The kit he developed doesn't replicate a specific existing model like most kits but merges the long-nosed, low-profile Chevy El Camino look with the Chevy stepside truck body style.
"I'm infatuated with stepside trucks," Fuselier said. He started his first Super Stepside in 1999 and finished it three years later. Fuselier has built seven more since and has sold 45 stepside kits since December 2000.
"As the project started, I wanted to keep the kit as simple and economical as possible," Fuselier said. "I wanted to create a kit that most tradesmen could do as a (family) project."
For the original Stepside, Fuselier started with an '83 Chevy Caprice Classic chassis for a donor platform because of its dependability and because one happened to be readily available. Several Pontiac, Buick, and Oldsmobile models from the '80s and early '90s may also be used as donors.
"These donor cars were determined by doing a computer cross-reference at a local salvage yard," Fuselier said. "Using all the original mechanical engineering of the donor makes the project quick and easy. The upgrade options are only limited by one's imagination."
Fuselier changed the basic chassis little and left most components stock. He removed the rear bumper and reinforced it with a 2x2-inch boxed-iron bar that may be purchased from most steel supply companies.
The Caprice's automatic transmission, radiator, ignition and its engine, a 305hp V-8, also remains. Chrome valve covers and air filter cover by Edelbrock give the engine a classy upgraded appearance. Fuselier altered the exhaust system with Hooker brand headers from Holley Performance Products and twin pipes with Flow Master mufflers.
The interior remained the same, which significantly reduced the time and professional contributions toward his project's completion.
The exterior is where the Stepside became really interesting. With a friend's help, Fuselier began cutting off sheetmetal. Then, they shaped the look he wanted with plywood and foam. Following that, he fabricated the fiberglass to the contours he wanted and shipped the vehicle off to J-Bar Enterprises for painting. Customers using the kit have the advantage of detailed directions for each part of the transformation, instead of Fuselier's initial guesswork.
After removing the hood, front bumper, battery (to be remounted elsewhere later), and rear doors, the roof and floor are specially cut to accommodate the new panels' supportive structures. The front doors and pillars that support the rear doors remain. Then, it's a matter of mounting and tweaking the body panels, which should take about 12 hours with the help of an assistant.
A few fiberglass pieces comprise the body: the front clip, rear clip, left and right rocker panels, and the front and rear mounting brackets. Also needed are a few small clamps and other easily obtainable parts. Rerouting wiring, tweaking the lights and license plate holder, and repositioning the battery and gas tank are the last steps. Add a new paint job and your Stepside is ready to roll.
There's something striking about Fuselier's work, so much so that this project/prototype has garnered awards at numerous shows. Among the honors it has won are: 3rd Place Special Interest , Midnight Fantasies, Lake Charles, Louisiana, September 2002; 2nd Place Modified Class, Nopi Nationals, Atlanta, Georgia, September 2001; 1st Place Modified Trucks, Race Rock, Orlando, Florida, November 2000; 2nd Place Modified Trucks, Super Chevy Show, Gainesville, Florida, October 2000; and the Truxpo Award, All Truck Show, Daytona Beach, Florida, September 2000.
An Elco never looked so good, and your old Caprice never dreamed it would live this well.