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James Cookson….. Keeping the Memories Alive

Time to meet James Cookson of Claremore Oklahoma. James tells us that like most guys he got bit by the Hot Rod bug early on in life. His dad was a motor-head and James always loved helping his dad with motor and trans swaps until his dad passed away before he was old enough to drive. This was a devastating blow to James and he pretty much gave up all together on wanting to work on vehicles.

A few years later his mom meet his now step dad who was into bodywork. This piqued James’ interest in the custom car world again. He decided to go to Vo-Tech in his Jr & Sr. year of high school. This gave him the chance to meet a few guys that were into the hot rod and custom car show scene. James got into doing more custom paint work as a hobby so that he could afford to buy better motor parts for his 95 Chevy 1500. Then it turned into needing more than motor parts. Next thing he knew he had a solid roller 383. with a th350 and a fully build GM 10 bolt in his truck. The truck looked the part and ran good but he was wanting more.

One day he was talking to a buddy that had a 95 s10 that was wrecked. James decided that this was the direction that he wanted to go so that started the build. First he stripped it down to the bare frame and narrowed it 4.5″ so he could fit a bigger tire. Next came the notch on the front cross member for oil pan clearance. The truck started to go back together slowly. When he got the cab back on, the boss (AKA his wife) told him that the only way he could build the little truck was if he was planning on putting a roll bar in it. So with the 2 little words “Yes Dear” and a lot of work, the truck got a roll cage. (Smart Man)

Now it was time for the bodywork. With the truck being wrecked it needed a lot of it. It needed a front clip and he didn’t much care for the 95 grille and lights so he went with the 98+ front clip. He decided to go a different route with the hood. It seemed everyone had a cowl hood so he found a ws6 style hood. The cab was the only original part of the truck. It had a few dents and dings that were fixed pretty easily. Finally it was onto the bed. It had way to many dents to be worth fixing so he found a new one for $100. He did however save part of the old bed. He wanted the wheel tubs to look stock but still have enough room to tuck a fat tire. He also wanted to smooth up the out side of it. So he got a weld in roll pan and shaved the gas door. James tells us that none of the body work would have gotten done with out the help of his step dad. He did all of the plastic work and James primed and blocked the whole truck twice to get it ready for the new black paint job. Normally James would spray it himself but it was black and he didn’t have a paint booth so he traded some work out with a buddy that owns a body shop to spray it.

Now that the truck was looking right it was time to do the motor and trans swap from his full size truck to the S10. It took 5 years to get to get it to the point he could drive it. Now it was time to see what the little truck had to offer. Unfortunately a 7000 rpm shift into 2nd gear exposed a weak point in the build. The perch mounts snapped and rolled the rear end. It jacked drive shaft and busted the trans into 3 sections. So it was back to the drawing board he went. He fixed the rear end and got a new drive shaft. He swapped the parts from the broken trans into a new case but it just wasn’t the same. James figured it was time to find someone to build a new TH350 but everyone wanted $600 to $900 for a mild build. Being pretty mechanically inclined, he took on the challenge of building his own trans. It took him a few test runs at it after watching a how to video. But he got it figured out.

One day while talking to a buddy, the subject of doing a LSX swap came up. Who wouldn’t want one of these monsters under the hood. So they shopped around for deals on the best parts and pieces to put together a LSX 408 short block for about $2000. He ran into a little budget problem so he sold his 383 to fund the top end parts. While waiting on heads and cam to come in he and his buddy assembled the short block in his dinning room. James finally got all of the parts put together and installed in truck. After a few heat cycles, it was time to test drive it and oh what a hand full it was. It was track time! No tuning been done to it yet the first pass out the gate was 11.06 @ 116. He tells us it had more to give but he had to get out of it because it was drifting side ways from water coming up out of the track. He called it a good day and went home.

Since then he has decided to go ahead and add more cage and a taller tire. The 4.11s on a mini spool didn’t like 315-60-15 drag radials. The truck only reached a 11.01 @ 124 before it broke an axle. So future plans are to fix the rear end and if work permits it just might get a set of twins late this year.

To James, the truck is a family toy. His wife helps a lot with it. The kids love to ride in it when he gets it out to drive around town.

He says there is no better feeling than strapping his little mans car seat in and cruising around just like he did with his dad.