Inside Look: Brandy Morrow Phillips' Corner Carving Chevy C10

Author: Bradley Iger | Photographer: Larry Chen | 09/16/2020 < Back to Motor Life Home

Conventional wisdom tells us that while taking the road less traveled may introduce difficulties which might otherwise be avoided, with enough perseverance, it can yield rewards that are well worth the effort.

It’s a mindset that Brandy Morrow Phillips is keenly familiar with. The Corona, California resident and co-owner of PCH Rods custom shop has made a name for herself in the automotive world by challenging the status quo, a theme that was established early on in her racing career. “When I was 19, I signed up for an all-female autocross school that the SCCA was hosting out here in Orange County, and I started out with a Honda Del Sol that looked faster than it actually was,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve always been into cars because of my dad’s influence, but that was my first real hands-on experience with performance driving in that type of setting.”

After attending a few more SCCA autocross events with her brother and father at the decommissioned Marine Corps airfield in El Toro, California, she decided shift her focus toward road courses. “I did some HPDE programs at California Speedway with NASA, and that’s where I teamed up with Karen Salvaggio for instruction. At that point I wasn’t really working toward wheel-to-wheel disciplines, it was really more about training and practicing, getting faster.”

Don't mistake the spoiler for a tonneau cover ornament, this truck is as capable as it is sinister looking; Brandy clinched the 2016 NMCA Autocross championship as well as finishing runner-up in 2017, and 2018.

By then it was clear that she was ready to graduate from the Honda. “My dad bought a Fox-body Mustang that was prepped for SCCA Camaro Mustang Challenge class racing,” she says. “He kind of got it on a whim – it constantly had overheating issues, and still does to this day! It was one of those things where’d I’d take it out for a couple of laps and then I’d have to bring it back in again. I had a love/hate relationship with that thing.”

After graduating from college in 2006, Phillips was hired by Spectre Performance as part of a program that traveled around the country showcasing the company’s latest hardware. “I was on the road every weekend for eleven months out of the year, working Good Guys events, car shows – you name it,” she recalls. “Then, in 2009, I actually competed at one of the Good Guys national events with one of the cars owned by Spectre’s founder, Amir Rosenbaum. It was a mid-engined 1970 El Camino, and it was kind of a mess. It was still fairly early on in the pro touring scene – a lot of the engineering was still getting figured out, and there just wasn’t a ton of aftermarket support out there for people doing these kinds of builds at the time.”

Regardless, Rosenbaum saw an opportunity. “We noticed that when you have a car out on an autocross and you take it back to the booth afterward, people will follow,” she says. “So he decided that driving was my job from then on.” She rotated between the El Camino, a 1970 Mustang, a 1970 Z28 Camaro, a 2004 GTO and a 2007 Mustang throughout the next four years at any show where competition was part of the event.

Then, in 2010, Spectre Performance decided to build a widebody ’70 Camaro specifically for Phillips. “I was getting more and more competitive, but the cars I was driving were set up for a driver well over six feet tall,” she tells us. “This car was built around what I needed – it fit me, and that’s when we really started to see the competitiveness grow.”

After several seasons campaigning the Camaro, Phillips’ success had garnered her a fair amount of notoriety in performance circles. Unfortunately, it all came to an abrupt end when Spectre Performance was bought out, and the company’s marketing department was axed. “My world was kind of shattered,” she says. “I went from constantly traveling and competing to wondering what I was supposed to do now.”

She decided it was a good time to take a break from track life. “I settled down, got married, and had my first kid,” she says. “But I felt like I was losing my identity, and watching everyone else out there racing was really frustrating. So my husband Rob came up with this idea – we could either have a fancy wedding, or invest all of that money into building another vehicle. So of course I chose the build. And he jokes that it’s the biggest regret of his life – this ’72 C10 has cost him ten-fold what the wedding would have!”

Inside we see the comfortable, yet utilitarian interior design. With two racing buckets, three pedals, and a shifter, function gave way over form.

A racer himself, Rob worked alongside Chip Foose on Discovery Channel’s Overhaulin’ before starting his own shop, and he also competed in a race-prepped C10 whenever time would allow. “He already knew the platform really well, and there wasn’t a single female racing a C10 yet, so I immediately jumped on board with the idea. I wanted to make a name for this project, and I knew Rob could build what we needed in order to do that.”

Starting with a bare shell, the two had a clear vision for the project: It had to be street legal in order to be eligible to compete in Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car series and generally family-friendly, but it also had to be fast. “The aesthetic part of it was easy, but when it came to how we were going to beat everything else out there, it was a lot harder than it might have been with a more commonly-used platform. We worked with Detroit Speed on a lot of it, and initially there were quite a few prototype parts on the truck.”

After the C10R made its official debut at SEMA 2014, the couple wasted little time getting the new build out on track. In the years since it’s been to more than 130 events by Philips’ estimate, who piloted the truck to a championship title in her class in the NMCA’s autocross series back in 2016.

Currently under the hood of the C10R is a 416 cubic-inch LS3 built by ATK Performance Engines. Outfitted with a Manley crank and rods, forged pistons, a custom ground camshaft from Straub Technologies, Trick Flow heads, and Holley HP EFI system, it’s a naturally aspirated combination that’s good for over 600hp at the crank. “We chose that Holley system because it’s really straightforward – it was easy to get it tuned for what we needed,” she points out. “In the past, customers of ours have come in with other systems that have been problematic, and we’ve never had a single issue with this EFI. Our big goal was to be able to tune the truck for both autocross and the big courses, and we knew this system could achieve that balance we were looking for.”

After finishing second in the NMCA series in 2017 and 2018, Philips is once again shifting the focus back to her family. “I actually raced most of 2018 while pregnant,” she explains. “And four weeks after having the baby, I was back out on the track. Now I’m pregnant with my fourth son, who is due in November, so I’m going to take it easy for a bit.”

That doesn’t mean the Philips are done wrenching, though. “We’re actually just putting the finishing touches on something a little different,” she notes.

“With the family growing, we decided to build an overlanding vehicle out of a 1978 Chevrolet K20. Don’t get me wrong – racing has been amazing. Our kids have grown up at race tracks. But we also want to mix it up, show them some of the other cool stuff that’s out there.”

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