“Strong Roots” 1978 GMC Built to Honor a Mother and Wife and Raise Cancer Awareness
Over the last few years the team at Finish Line Speed Shop have built several vehicles for Project Giving Back, a program to promote awareness and to support different causes. The crew has built vehicles to assist groups dedicated to assisting disabled veterans and people with ALS, cancer, and Parkinson’s. In fact, they’re working on a ’68 C10 that will debut at the 2022 SEMA show in the Hedman Performance Group booth to promote suicide awareness. It’s all about car guys giving back.
The ’78 GMC that grabbed the attention of our staff in Spokane was built to raise awareness of colon cancer in memory of Julie Nichols. Julie, a loving mother of four, lost her battle to colon cancer at just 43. Several years before her diagnosis, Julie and her husband Alapai had started a clothing and lifestyle company called Strong Roots that was founded on her conviction toward the importance of family and giving back. She felt that giving children roots and wings were the two gifts needed for them to mature and grow.
Strong Roots has continued in her memory and Alapai wanted to build a classic truck in her honor, one that she dreamed of building and cruising around their Hawaii home. This plan lead Alapai to Lyon McClenahan and his team at Finish Line Speed Shop. After a call and finally a face-to-face visit at the shop, a plan was developed to build Julie’s truck as a way to raise awareness of colon cancer through Strong Roots and Project Giving Back. A suitable ’78 GMC was located, and the crew went to work.
To give the GMC a solid foundation, the right stance and improved handling capabilities, a Porterbuilt Level 3 drop member was installed up front along with their rear system. A set of QA1 coil-overs is bolted between the new tubular control arms along with a fast-reacting power rack-and-pinion steering. The rear is based on an upgraded trailing arm system with a Watt’s link, while a quartet of Wilwood six-piston calipers effectively clamp down on a set of oversized rotors. A set of 22×9-inch GTB-X Budnik wheels are wrapped in Toyo tires gripping the pavement.
Power comes via a 5.3L LS assembled by Jasper Engines and topped with FiTech’s sheet metal intake, adorned with custom stripe work, and EFI management system. A set of Hedman valve cover adapters allowed the use of personalized small block valve covers and an Eddie Motorsports serpentine drive keeps the accessories down low. A 4L65E transmission from B&M is tasked with crisp shifts and keeping the engine rpm low while cruising down the highway.
To give the GMC an updated appearance the drip rails were sliced off and all of the gaps were tightened. The bumpers were also sucked in a couple inches while the bed floor was raised and the front fender wells were reworked. Finish Line chose a House of Kolor Pavo Purple with Ice White Pearl to finish the truck in an eye-grabbing hue that Julie would have approved.
The interior was finished in black suede and leather from TMI Products, including a new dash, formed bench seat, and door panels. A Painless wiring harness manages the truck’s voltage needs and a Dakota Digital gauge setup relays the drivetrain data. To keep the heat and noise at bay, the cab was layered in DEI’s Boom Mat while a Vintage Air system provides a comfy climate to enjoy the 1500-watt Kicker audio system.
The Strong Roots GMC debuted at SEMA in 2018 and continues to spread awareness about colon cancer through the support of Project Giving Back and the dedication of Alapai and Lyon. It’s all about the roots and wings of the program. Thank you, Julie.
Photos by Steven Bunker