Brad Swaney, 22, built this 1971 Chevy C-10 over the past eight years. Now, he’s a finalist for the top builder for SEMA Battle of the Builders competition at the 2019 SEMA Show. Awesome. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

LAS VEGAS, NV — As first-time trips to the SEMA Show go, Brad Swaney is having a good one.

Nearly 300 vehicles entered the 2019 SEMA Battle of the Builders competition, and after SEMA judges whittled the field down to the final 12 on Wednesday, the 22-year-old Swaney’s build—a gorgeous 1971 Chevrolet C-10 pickup—is one of the three finalists in the Young Guns category, and one of 12 finalists to be crowned Ultimate Builder of the 2019 SEMA Show.

“This is the first I’ve been to SEMA, even as a spectator,” the humble and reserved Swaney said in an interview at Summit Racing’s outdoor SEMA display where his truck is being featured. “This is pretty cool. I didn’t know I’d make it that far. I didn’t know if I’d make it to the final 12 or not.”

But he did know he had built something pretty special to others even if he’s too polite to brag about it. The truck won the award for Best Truck overall at the 2018 World of Wheels car show in Pittsburgh, PA near his hometown.

Since that show, Swaney has added tubular arms and coil-overs and narrowed the truck’s front track width, he said.

The Uniontown, PA native was gifted a beat-up 1971 Chevrolet C-10 pickup when he was 14. Something he could wrench on and turn into a daily driver by the time he earned his driver’s license.

“It was rough. When we tore it down, it was supposed to be a daily driver. But after I painted the frame, I knew the truck would be too nice for that,” Swaney told Summit Racing’s James Millar for a feature story in the Summit Racing catalog.

Starting with the rad orange hue, Swaney took a diecast Willys model sporting that color to the paint store to have it photographed and color-matched, then he and his father painted it over two days, though he laughs about needing an additional three weeks to buff it out.

The truck features a 4.5-inch drop up front, and a 7-inch drop in the back courtesy of a Classic Performance suspension.

Under the hood is a stunning engine bay featuring a Chevy 454 big block bored .030-inch with a customized Cadillac air cleaner on top which feeds a 650 cfm Holley Street Avenger carburetor. A set of Hedman ceramic-coated headers scavenge the exhaust gasses.

Little touches, like Swaney’s custom hand-bent and polished air-conditioning lines highlight the young builder’s attention to detail. The Eddie Motorsports billet aluminum hood hinges are a nice touch, too.


Countless SEMA attendees flocked to the Summit Racing display this week to check out the gorgeous C-10 and try to make sense of the fact that it was built by someone who only recently could buy alcohol legally.

There are undoubtedly a ton of vehicles worthy of the top prize at the 2019 SEMA Show, but Swaney is super-easy to root for, and you can bet that we at OnAllCylinders, along with many of our friends at Summit Racing, will be rooting for him to take home the top prize.

No matter what, we can’t wait to see what this young craftsman does next.

Good luck, Brad!

Brad Swaney talks to SEMA attendees about his C-10 build at the Summit Racing SEMA display. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
Our friends at Hedman Hedders stopped by to interview Swaney because he used a set of Hedman ceramic-coated headers on the build. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.