The Squarebody Trio: These Knockouts Pack Modern Power And Tons Of Style

12/21/2022

The Squarebody Trio: These Knockouts Pack Modern Power And Tons Of Style

12/21/2022

Pro touring means different things to different people. For some it’s just another phrase for restomodding. For others it conjures up mental images of widebody C2 Corvettes battling it out with modern Porsche 911s for road course supremacy. But for Pro Touring Texas, it’s simply about making classic machinery more usable.


Formally established in 2012, the Fort Worth, Texas-based outfit is the brainchild of Eric Pierce, a lifelong hot-rodder who became fascinated with the LS platform early on and eventually decided to make his wrenching side hustle the main focus. “Eventually I ended up with too many people’s cars in front of the house,” he says with a laugh. “I had a corporate job at the time, and I knew that I needed to choose which way I wanted to go.” In 2015 Pierce decided to quit his day job and go all-in. “That’s when we moved the operation into a barn at my grandfather’s place – somewhere I could keep a few cars and work on them.”


Squarebody Trio ProTouringTexas Logo


These days the shop operates in a 5000 square-foot facility thanks in part to a build philosophy that puts as much emphasis on functionality as it does on style. “We want create cars that look cool but can also be driven across the country,” Pierce says. It’s an approach extends to the aesthetics as well.


“Ideally, we want to take a shell that’s in good condition, whether that’s good paint or a nice patina, and modernize it. That could be a new chassis, upgraded suspension, wiring, air conditioning, an LS or LT swap, or anything in between. I think there’s this misconception that a pro touring build has to be racy. To me it’s about building a classic car with modern amenities that you can use on a daily basis. And, of course, it can have track capability if that’s what you want from it.”

This trio of Squarebody-era GM trucks that we spotted at LS Fest Texas earlier this year epitomize the Pro Touring Texas approach. Dubbed "Sorority Girl" (C10 short bed), "Sorority Sister" (GMC Jimmy) and "Thotsdale" (C10 crew cab), the trucks and their matching aesthetic hold a personal significance for Pierce. “I grew up riding in a blue ’78 Chevy longbed with a white top. It was the first vehicle that my dad had ever purchased new, and he bought it before I was born. When I came of age, I drove it around in high school.” The truck eventually met its unfortunate demise at the hands of his brother, and that sent Pierce on a long-term hunt for truck that would serve as a suitable replacement.


“I managed to find this one locally, and I knew right away that this was going to be the build that I was going to keep around,” he says. “Something that represents the perfect build for me.” Pierce didn’t have a name in mind for the truck, but he says that he learned of its extensive ownership history after he started bringing it out to car shows and a number of past owners recognized it. “I was talking to my wife about it and she was like, ‘That truck is your sorority girl – she has gotten around!’ So that’s how the name came about.”

The GMC Jimmy that would become Sorority Sister was later found in Tennessee. “The original intent wasn’t to find a matching pair, but that did add to the appeal,” he admits. “When we bought it, we weren’t really planning on doing anything to it, but then the air conditioning went out during a quarantine cruise and things snowballed from there. Instead of just replacing the AC compressor, we ended up doing an LS swap and putting in a modern transmission, coil-over suspension, bigger brakes, custom interior – all of it. At that point we knew it was going to be a truly matching pair with the short bed, so we named it the Sorority Sister.” The “Thotsdale” crew cab would join the stable further down the road.


While all three trucks feature modern GM powertrain swaps and ride on coil-overs, Pierce says that each has its own unique take on the formula. Under the hood of the short bed is a 6.2-liter LT1 V8 with ported heads, a Texas Speed cam, and a pair of Ultimate Headers, a combination that sends just over 600 horsepower to the wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. A Ridetech coil-over setup gives the truck its low stance while triangulated control arms are on board to provide additional clearance for wider wheels and tires. “The truck was bagged when I got it, so we were working with what was already there to a degree,” he points out. “It’s a triangulated four-link, and we took out the bag mounts to put in the coil-over system.”


And as you’d expect, the Jimmy scored similar modernization improvements. Motivation comes by way of a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 with a camshaft from Texas Speed and a pair of headers from Ultimate Headers, which sends the power to the pavement through a six-speed automatic transmission and the factory 12-bolt rear end. The suspension largely follows the configuration that Pro Touring Texas established with the short bed, but the GMC did score a few unique tweaks.

“It’s a coil-over conversion like Sorority Girl, and the lower arms have been modified and triangulated to create that additional room we needed for the wider wheels,” he says. “But since it was our second time around, it gave us a chance to a few things differently, so it’s also got a fabricated splined sway bar up front.” Unlike the short bed, the Jimmy was still riding on its factory rear suspension when it arrived in the Pro Touring Texas shop, so the team also fabricated the mounting brackets and other necessary odds and ends to get the rear coilovers to work with the factory chassis.


Last but certainly not least is the Thotsdale, which boasts a supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V8 with ported heads, a Brian Tooley Racing cam, and few other go-fast goodies that elevate the grunt to nearly 900 horsepower. Like the Jimmy, it’s backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission, and its Ridetech coil-over setup mimic’s the Jimmy's setup as well. All three trucks get their stopping power from Baer Brakes.


All three trucks also feature Dakota Digital gauges inside, along with upgraded factory seats that incorporate side bolstering to keep occupants in place when the going gets fast. The trio is equipped with Holley front accessory drives, too. “The Holley accessory drives are simple, compact, and available, so that was an easy choice for us,” Pierce says.

The Sorority Girl project was completed at the beginning of 2020, and the shop put the finishing touches on the Sorority Sister project at the end of 2021. The Thotsdale project was the last of the set to get back in action, an effort that saw Pro Touring Texas burning the midnight oil in the lead-up to LS Fest Texas this past May.


“The crew cab project got pushed forward when Holley announced the event,” Pierce recalls. “At that point it still had the old 5.3-liter LS swap in it; I was basically just using it as a normal daily driver. But I’m an engine guy: When I found out that the event was going to be just a few miles away from our shop, I knew we had to get everything done under hood in time for it. There’s five of us on the team, and we put over 400 man-hours into that truck to get that conversion done in time for LS Fest. It was well worth the effort – we had a great time there, and we look forward to do it again. I think we’re going to try to get out to all of the LS Fests next year.”


In the months since, Pro Touring Texas has brought the trucks out to the C10 Nationals and the Lone Star Throwdown, along with a Goodguys event and some local shows, but Pierce notes that other projects are keeping the shop especially busy these days. “We’ve got a ’72 Suburban that’s getting a Roadster Shop chassis and a supercharged LS. It’s a fully custom truck – there’s not a piece on it that hasn’t been touched. The customer walked in and said ‘I want a Suburban that will beat a Corvette. I said, ‘Say no more.’”


Squarebody Trio group shot


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