Story by: Evan “Evo” Yates
Photography by: Andrew Link
Almost four years ago, Mike Atkinson and his wife, Elyse, were attending a car show in Perry, Georgia, and noticed a 1984 Chevy C10 for sale. As they walked around the show, they couldn’t escape the truck’s presence; it seemed to summon the couple.
“[The truck] kept calling our name,” explains Mike. “My wife ended up saying that if I didn’t buy it, she would. So I negotiated a price with the owner and we drove it home that day.” Once back at the crib, Mike eventually had a local builder in Macon customize the truck, but it fell far short of Mike’s expectations. “I had a friend of mine doing the work on it, and he wasn’t doing it right,” says Mike. “He would have it for three months, and when I’d come to check on it, nothing he said he did was actually done.” Ironically, this same friend ultimately introduced Mike to Sandman of Sandman Designs in Nashville, Tennessee, via Instagram. “I didn’t even have an Instagram at the time,” explains Mike. “He showed me some of Sandman’s page, and I was impressed.” Shortly after, Mike had his Donk on a trailer headed to Nashville for a complete overhaul. In the meantime, he was still getting the runaround on his C10 build from his “friend,” so he delivered the C10 up to Sandman too.
“He wanted me to remove every single thing the other shops did and start over,” explains John “Sandman” Derakhshan. “It had a 30-inch TV in the dash, 22-inch monitors in the doors—it was garbage, and I ripped it all out.” Once the deconstruction phase was complete, Sandman had a workable canvas to apply his skills upon. Sandman explains that Mike had previously been led astray in his automotive path. “He didn’t know what level he could be on with the money he was spending,” says Sandman. “And I wanted to show him how nice his vehicles really could be.” The truck’s theme was fairly simple: a grown man–style, hot-rod truck squatted on some big rims with massive power under the hood. Little did they know, this recipe would ultimately yield a ride never before seen on this level.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the black beauty is its interior, which Mike explains was very important to get right. “I like the old-school body but with a modern-style interior,” he says. He chose to incorporate a few newer amenities from current Chevys, such as fifth-generation Camaro seats (minus the headrests) and a modified Tahoe console. Sticking with his modern mantra, Mike opted to go with a fuel-injected motor for justifiable reasons. “I’ve had carbureted cars before, and I don’t like that you get all dressed up to go to the club and get out smelling like a gas can,” says Mike. “I want to get out smellin’ clean, so fuel-injected was the way to go.”
As the truck sits complete, Mike is fairly modest about its position in the game, hardly acknowledging that it may in fact be a game changer ultimately influencing others to build their trucks like it. “I like the truck a lot, but the Donk is my heart,” proclaims Mike. “I think I may give it to my wife—after I give her a little lesson on how to drive it.”
Spec the Technique
Performance: 540 big block engine by Extreme Racing Engines of Macon, GA; Dart Machinery engine blocks; Brodix heads; World Products Merlin intake manifold; FAST XFI 2.0 EFI system; March Performance Ultra Drive serpentine kit; Hooker Headers; Hydratech hydroboost brake boost; Griffin radiator; PERMA-COOL electric fans; RPM Transmissions Level 5 4L80e conversion; TCI transmission control unit; 3500 stall torque converter; custom driveshaft; Ford 9-inch with 35 spline axles; Yukon Dura Grip, 4.11 ratio center section; Wilwood brakes; Calvert Racing suspension; Viking Performance shocks; custom lowering kit; dual battery system relocated in rear; Aeromotive 10AN feed, 8AN return; modified sump system; MSD Digital 6A ignition control
Exterior: Complete 1990 Chevrolet Suburban chrome front-end swap; Quad HID kits; custom marker lights; custom grille emblem; relocated front and rear bumper mounts; one-piece side glass; shaved mirrors and locks; LINE-X bedliner; tubbed to accommodate wheels
Interior: Red with black stitching and black with red stitching by Mark at Stephens Brothers; custom dash, door panels; motorized GMC Denali console; Dakota Digital gauges; custom control panel to control windows, locks and radio motorization; 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS seats; suede headliner; Sandman Designs dashboard plaques and door sills; shaved interior door handles with custom releases; LED controls for all functions; custom billet and stainless grilles throughout; custom two-tone chrome-plated Billet Specialties steering wheel
ICE: Alpine INE-Z928HD audio/video/navigation system with custom sequential actuator setup; two Rockford Fosgate 1,500-watt amplifiers, capacitor, four 12-inch Punch P3 subwoofers, two 6.5-inch component speaker sets
Wheels/Tires: Amani Forged Imperio wheels, 28×9-inch front, 30×11-inch rear; Diablo tires, 275/25/28 front, 315/20/30 rear
Shout-outs: Kevin and Cameron from 777 Kustomz for body work and paint; Joe from Superior Polishing for chrome and polishing; James Terry from Mr. Speed Powder Coatings for all powder coating; Mark Stephens from Stephens Brothers for upholstery; Troy Miller, Eric Hitt, Justin Kelly, Dvace Mendoza and Brian Hayes for all the help