How to Build a C10 Drag TruckLast Updated August 8, 2023 | Alison Smith
As one of the more widely available classic trucks, C10s are a good choice if you’re looking to build a drag pickup. C10s are the best drag truck out of the C/K series as they’re the lightest. A regular cab, short bed model will weigh less than a crew cab, long bed C10. Short beds can be a bit harder to find though if you’re looking to buy a used C10.
Whether you’ve got a C10 already or are looking to buy, there are a few mods you can do to make it more capable at the drag strip. Before you start the build process, it’s a good idea to create a budget. You can always start small and invest more later. Be realistic about your goals for your C10 drag truck. If you still need to drive the truck on the street, then you’ll need to compromise between performance and drivability.
If you're already a fan of drag racing, there's a good chance series like NMRA got you into the motorsport. But, if you’ve never been to the drag strip before, be sure to check out a race or two to get a better idea of what drag racing is like.
C10 Drag Wheels & Tires
If your C10 runs solidly, drag wheels and tires may be all you need to get started.
C10 Drag Wheels
It’s common to run wider tires in the rear for drag racing. Bigger tires may not fit the stock wheels, so you might have to get new rims. Drag wheels are made to be lighter than your stock wheels. They reduce your vehicle’s unsprung weight for faster times down the track.
Depending on the tire size, you may need some suspension mods to prevent any rubbing or clearance issues. Be sure to check the proper wheel fitment for your model.
C10 Drag Slicks
A sticky set of drag slicks or radials are a must-have for extra traction on the track. Drag slicks are bias-ply tires, which are lighter than radials. They’re constructed with soft sidewalls that wrinkle to absorb some of the impact during launch. This helps prevent damage to the rear axle from the quick shift of power to the rear wheels.
Slicks have no tread but provide superior traction when dry. Once they get wet, you’ll lose any and all traction. That’s why they aren’t typically street legal.
C10 Drag Radials
Radials still have little tread pattern but are made with sturdier sidewalls. They’re going to weigh more than drag slicks and offer better stability. Some radials are even street legal. DOT-approved drag radials have grooves to provide better traction on the street. You still won’t want to get them wet, though. Many street-legal drag radials should only be used on dry pavement.
C10 Drag Engine Bay Mods
Drag racing is all about being the fastest down the track. Adding power under the hood can help you shave precious seconds off your time.
You’re going to need a reliable engine for drag racing. If the engine in your C10 won’t cut it, you may need to swap it out. LS swaps are popular choices for the C10, but throwing in a big block engine can give you even more power.
An upgraded camshaft can increase the timing of the valve openings and the length during the engine strokes. Camshaft timing affects the throttle response and the amount of low-end torque produced. This can increase acceleration and horsepower for better launches down the strip.
You can drag race with either an automatic or a manual transmission. Automatics are easier to shift, but manuals give you more control. If you have a manual, there’s always the option to convert to an automatic.
Automatic transmissions use torque converters to transfer power from the engine. Upgrading the torque converter can improve speed and acceleration. The stall speed of a torque converter depends on the load. More power means a higher stall. To get the best performance, the torque converter stall speed should be near the peak engine torque.
Superchargers & Turbochargers
What’s the best way to get boost? Forced induction. Superchargers or turbos can be costly, but they’ll add a significant amount of power. Where superchargers have a more constant boost, turbos have to spool up. Turbos are good for giving you more power within a narrow RPM range. For a boost across wider RPM bands, go with a supercharger.
Cold Air Intakes
A cold air intake is an easy and affordable way to help your engine breathe better. They can free up some added horsepower by improving engine efficiency. They’ll bring more cool air into the engine for a small power boost. Cold air intakes won’t add as much power as a forced induction system or a new engine. However, the added efficiency will improve your engine’s overall performance.
C10 Drag Suspension
Luckily, there are some suspension upgrades that can stiffen your C10's suspension and turn it into a drag truck.
Front Suspension Upgrades
In drag racing, you want to try and get as much weight as possible to the rear tires. Springs that are light and long will lift the front easier, which helps transfer the weight to the rear tires during launch.
Rear Suspension Upgrades
C10s have a good base when it comes to the rear suspension, but there are a few things you can do to make it drag-ready. If you’re still rocking leaf springs, you can upgrade the traction bar to lower the center of gravity. This will keep your rear axle aligned and improve handling. You can also upgrade from leaf springs to coilovers or air ride suspension.
C10 Drag Brakes
Upgrading your brakes is important, especially if you have the factory drum brakes. A disc brake conversion will give you more stopping power and reduce heat buildup. Drum brakes aren’t as good at dissipating heat and experience brake fade. Disc brakes are going to expel heat much better and can withstand frequent acceleration and deceleration.
C10 Drag Interior
Even though the underhood mods may seem most important, there are some interior upgrades that make your C10 drag truck safer and more comfortable.
Bench seats look great in a classic C10, but they won’t do much to keep you firmly in place. Racing seats will keep you safe and snug since they conform to your body and eliminate shifting. They’re also compatible with safety harnesses, which you may need depending on your track’s requirements.
You don’t necessarily need to update your gauges to take your truck to the drag strip. But switching from analog gauges to digital can make them easier to read at a glance. You also want to ensure you’re getting accurate readings, especially for your fuel and oil pressure and water temp.
One of the most crucial aspects of drag racing is safety. The safety regulations will vary from track-to-track. But the last thing you want to do is build a C10 drag truck and not be able to race because you don’t have the right safety gear. Most events will require safety harnesses, helmets, battery hold downs, and more. Always be sure to check out the rulebook for your raceway.
Finding the Best C10 Drag Parts
Swap meets and junkyards can be a good place to find second-hand parts to save cash. You might also get lucky on sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace. When it comes to engine mods, those are usually best bought new. You can also sign up for our newsletter to get updates and deals on C10 drag parts.