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River City Rods & Fabrication's GTB100 "El Chapo" build will meet the public for the first time at the SEMA Show

Coyote Swap was a Worthy Risk for Shop Looking to Make a Splash

Not many builders decide to blaze new trails in advance of a high- profile stage like the Oct. 30-Nov. 2 SEMA Show, but that’s exactly what Craig Piggott of River City Rods & Fabrication has done with his landmark GTB100 build, dubbed El Chapo.

The show’s high visibility—and the innovative tactics Piggott and company have embraced to complete the build—raise the stakes for the truck’s unveiling and entry into the Battle of the Builders competition.

The Davenport, Iowa-based shop brought a 1968 C30 camper project to last year’s SEMA Show. Piggott and the River City team wanted to follow that build with something that would challenge them, rather than deciding to rest on their reputation.

“We are very excited to see what the crew at River City Rods has done with such a unique body style and short time frame,” said Phil Gerber of The Roadster Shop. “We have done a lot of one-off chassis for over the years...but a GTB100 Ford was definitely a first.”

Speaking of firsts, Piggott and team had never pulled off a Coyote swap on a truck frame before working on El Chapo. Accomplishing the swap meant the team was in for a great deal of research, development, experimentation and custom work, from engineering alternators and power steering pumps, down to moving the oil pan and the coolant fan. The retro-style of the swapped Coyote engine looks like something out a different era, and the team built a custom valve cover for it to complete the retro feel.

Just about every last detail of El Chapo has been custom-designed, fabricated and built to stun, right down to the grille, which started off as a 1,000-pound piece of billet aluminum that was shaved down to just 73 pounds and required more than 300 hours of design and cutting time.

Now, seven months after commencing work on the project—and with just a week to go before SEMA—the team has put the finishing touches on the interior, including buttoning up the wiring and completing the custom paint job. The lounge-inspired interior is bathed in red.

“The exterior color is a Porsche factory color,” Piggott said. “The metallic base of Porsche’s factory Graphite Blue has been removed, making it darker and subtler. Working with PPG to get the right paint color down was a blessing. They were incredibly helpful and great to partner with.”

The cover will be lifted of El Chapo at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 30 in the Energy Suspension SEMA booth (No. 23267). Sponsors of the build include Energy Suspension, PPG, ididit, Odyssey Battery, Performance Business Media, Painless Performance Products, Holley, MagnaFlow, Wilwood, Thermo-Tec, Currie Enterprises, Precision Weatherstripping, Kicker, Falken Tires, Jalopy Hat Company, Aeromotive, Ridetech, 3M, White Diamond Detail Products, Coverking, Dakota Digital, Roadster Shop, Billet Specialties, GC Cooling, Carbuffnetwork.com, Hurst Performance, AutoKraft, C&R Racing, and Switch Suspension.