16-Year-Old Builder Debuting 1976 Chevy C10 at SEMA Show

16-Year-Old Bailey McKeska will debut her 1976 Chevrolet C10 build at the 2023 SEMA Show next month with support from Air Lift.  

Air Lift provided the following featuring detailing McKeska’s journey to the annual automotive aftermarket trade show:

In a small town where the hum of engines harmonizes with daily life, a trailblazing 16-year-old named Bailey McKeska defies stereotypes and proves that girls can build, too. Now, Bailey is ready to debut her 1976 Chevy C10 at the 2023 SEMA Show with the help of Air Lift Performance.

Bailey is the daughter of accomplished fabricator Mike McKeska, and together, this father-daughter duo has meticulously modified Bailey’s first ride. They have been working hard at their family-run salvage yard in Amanda, Ohio, to achieve their vision, which started small but has only grown.

“We just planned to lower the vehicle, but that meant installing air assist, a new front-end suspension, and it just started to snowball,” Bailey said. “We have made many changes from the original concept of the truck.”

16-Year-Old Builder Debuting 1976 Chevy C10 at SEMA Show | THE SHOPThe build now includes new suspension, major bed and cab modifications, new interior, paint, and more. Every journey has challenges, but Bailey admits they have yet to encounter many screw-ups thanks to Mike’s watchful eye. With the original concept of the truck undergoing several changes, Bailey’s flexibility and adaptability shined.

Bailey has been working on her Chevy for the last year and is finally nearing completion. Along with her family, Bailey has a great support network.

“She just took to it early,” Mike said. “Especially the welding.”

One family friend, Trent VanArsdalen, is an acclaimed trimmer from Trent’s Trick Upholstery. VanArsdalen has shown a vehicle at the SEMA Show for 25 years and is now sharing his skills with Bailey.

“What’s special about Bailey is that she is hungry to know about all of it,” VanArsdalen said. “For us older guys, this is what we need to be doing, sharing these skills with the next round of young talent.”

Bailey custom-built the interior seat structure from salvaged materials. Next, they brought Apex Leather on board for the leather and carpet. Bailey has spent time at the sewing machine with VanArsdalen to get the feel of what happens with the interior, from trimming to stitching, to ensure every aspect, seen and unseen, meets the highest standards.

“If I had things to do in the shop, I would do them, and I would always have time to hang out with my friends, but if there was a car show, that’s where I’d be,” said Bailey.

One of the many things that makes SEMA so exceptional is the lasting connections you make.

16-Year-Old Builder Debuting 1976 Chevy C10 at SEMA Show | THE SHOPWhile Bailey and Mike saw an ever-growing snowball, VanArsdalen saw something else and suggested Mike reach out to his friends at Air Lift about showing at the SEMA Show.

“I have been working with the Air Lift guys forever; they run it like a family operation,” VanArsdalen said.

Mike liked the idea and, not one to cut corners sent Air Lift a complete physical rendering of the truck.

“That really made a statement,” said Mike Alexander, Air Lift Performance brand manager. “We just love the story of Bailey and her dad. Many of us (at Air Lift) can relate to it.”

As Bailey revs up the auto industry, her journey will inspire all aspiring young auto enthusiasts who dare to dream beyond the ordinary. SEMA is constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s next, recognizing that the custom automotive world of the future will look different from the past.

Bailey’s first vehicle isn’t just a truck; it symbolizes a remarkable journey, a special father-daughter bond, and the limitless potential of young women in the automotive industry.

“I think the biggest compliment would be showing everyone that I did the work and put the time in,” Bailey said. “For them to be like, ‘Whoa, a girl did that?’”

Come see “Lafonda,” named after a character in Bailey’s favorite movie, “Napoleon Dynamite,” at the Air Lift booth in Central Hall.

Bailey and her dad will be there and are excited to share all the details of this exceptional build.

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