Mercedes Benz Supercharged V8 powered 69 Chevrolet C20

Owners: Nico Craill
Builders Name: Willem Rabie

Nico Craill always wanted an old pickup, he actually kept one of his toys from his childhood as inspiration hoping that one day it would lead to him fulfilling his dream of building a C20. He gave the build to his brother-in-law Willem Rabie who tackled the project in his garage.

Willem says “I have always been a car lover and before this build I rebuilt a Citi Golf and installed 2 VR6 turbo engines. The car was featured in Speed and Sound Magazine”. Due to this it was clear that he was fully qualified to take on this build.

They found the 1969 Chevy C20 on Marketplace. It was in Pretoria and was still in very good condition with very little rust. Nico found a picture on the internet of what he wanted. Everything was to remain old school but with new technology and no Chevy engine. The engine had to be very special and also had to be the only one like it in South Africa.

The body was in such good condition that it did not need any sandblasting. The passenger door was badly bent. There was some rust on the rocker panels and Willem had to build a new floor for the bed.

To prep the car for paint, it went to Oom Pierre. Oom Pierre used paint stripper to take the body back to steel. He really put a lot of effort into each panel. Willem brought these to him individually, Oom Pierre then painted them and Willem then continue with the assembly back in his garage. When it came to choosing a colour they Nico and Willem opted for 2k Red that was not metallic. Willem explained that it took two weeks to the perfect the colour. Nico wants to use the bakkie on a daily basis and does not want to have to worry about any scratches that the bakkie pick up along the way being difficult to fix.  

As for the motor, Willem and Nico opted for something totally different. The motor came out of a 2006 Mercedes Benz E55 AMG. A Blue Arc engine management system was bought as it was able to control the drive by wire on the intake and the electronic bypass valve on the supercharger. This acts like another throttle body which needed to be gradually opened and closed according to the throttle pedal inside the vehicle.

This software was specifically written for this application by Chris De Weerdt and his team.

He went through to a lot of trouble to make sure that his management system can cope fully running the AMG engine.  The system provides semi-sequential firing on the 8 injectors and also features auto turning. This is when it adjusts the fuel according to the O2 sensor in the exhaust. There was a lot of phone support provided by Chris which allowed Willem to install the entire system by himself.

The bakkie came with a TH350 gearbox. This was strengthened to handle the new power with a Dana transfer case behind it. The exhaust is 63mm mild steel with the original AMG headers and two big silencers included.

The chassis and suspension are stock. The only modification being on the front where Willem had to make room for the E55 alternator and aircon pump which are situated at the bottom of the engine. There is also a removable tow hitch behind the rear numberplate. Willem kep the leaf spring setup however, it was replaced with new parts which were madde by Van Zyl’s Springs who are based in Pretoria. The original diffs were rebuilt for the front and rear.

The brakes did get an upgrade with Willem opting for Toyota Prado 4 pot calipers in the front with the master cylinder from taken from a Ford F100. All the parts were sourced from Toyota and Colt Spares who are also in Pretoria.

Willem explained “I wanted the same look as in 1969 but with new technology and therefore the radio looks old but has Bluetooth. We also opted for a Rockford Fosgate sound system behind the seats and in the doors as well as putting in an aircon unit. The original interior was recovered in black leather with red stitching”.

There is also a camera to help when reversing the vehicle and this is situated in the rearview mirror. Two lockable steel containers were built into the bed of the truck – one houses a twin battery system and the other a big Engel fridge/freezer – both of which are accessible through zips in the Tonneau cover. The gauges are from Marshall and are the correct size to fit the original cluster. The sweeping LED backlight was also imported.

Willem and Nico opted for Fuel 18 inch rims that were imported and then chromed by Centurion Coating Graphics. They can proudly say that they are the only set like this in SA. For rubber they went for 305 Goodridge tyres size 305/65R18.

Nico also imported other parts like front and rear bumpers, the taillights, door handles, mirrors, weather strips and side sill steps. Most of the other parts were purchased on Ebay and through Jegs. The total rebuild of this bakkie took almost 2 years.

Anybody you would like to thank?
Willem Rabie would like to thank Scherene Jordaan, his girlfriend, who has the patience of a Saint.
He would also like to thank Chris from Blue Arc Engine management, Oom Pierre for the bodywork, Forgotton Oldies and Coating Graphics.