$30k budget (not incl paint) - prefer LS engine

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chevyc1085

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c10
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v8
Hello, I am just starting this project truck (85 c10 long bed) journey and am looking for a little guidance. I apologize if I am all over the place.

My wife and I would like a very reliable truck that could tow a medium size travel trailer (likely less than 6k pounds). After doing a tiny bit of searching, LS engines would be the way to go for reliability. I would also love to have at least 400hp. I want to avoid breaking down on the side of the road as I used to have a beater as my first car... I don't recall that being very fun. The budget is a starting point really. I was going to buy a brand new truck, but I thought this would be more fun. We both have daily drivers, so this would be a weekend warrior.

The truck runs now, but I doubt it would for very long if forced to tow something. What I would love is for it to have a modern engine, new suspension, brakes, and maybe the cleaned up/restored chassis. Essentially, everything that makes the car run and steer to be in very good shape. I like to think I could do a lot of the work myself (have have installed new suspensions and custom lighting on Jeeps) and my brother already agreed to come down and help me install everything (he is a professional mechanic) Is a $30k budget wishful thinking? I see there are new LS engine/tranny combos for ~$20k, is there a reputable place to get gently used engines/drivetrains? Right now I am more focused on reliability/performance and less so on upholstery, paint, cosmetics, etc.
 
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CalSgt

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Engine Size
350
Welcome to GMSB!

I'm about $25K into my build (including paint) and its nearly complete, My original budget was $15-20K but I splurged on modern electronics. I did a Vortec 350 instead an LS which would have possibly added some cost to go with an LS.

The key to staying in budget is being able to do ALL of the work yourself and restoring/re-using every part possible.

One of the reasons LS engines are swapped into everything is they are known to run reliably to 300K miles which makes junkyard pull outs to not typically require rebuilding.

The new GM "E" rod engine packages are 50 state emissions approved for these old trucks, I see you are in California so Smog requirements would be covered that way. Doing an engine swap in CA is a very technical process otherwise and there is a whole set of rules to abide by, I believe you can go online at the CARB or California BAR websites to download the engine swap rules.

There's a lot of people here on GMSB that are far more knowledgeable than I on the LS swaps, hopefully they will chime in but IMHO
If all you are planning is a new $20K motor/trans swap and replacing the wear parts you should be able to get that done for about $30K.

Stuff you'll need:
Aftermarket swap LS motor mounts and possibly transmission mounts
The exhaust will probably need replaced with the new engine
The fuel system will need to be redone to accommodate the fuel injection of the LS
Fuel tanks with baffles from '87 truck
Sending units with fuel return line and electric pump provisions (also from '87)
In tank pumps rated to whatever your LS requires (70 PSI maybe?)
Fuel lines rated for EFI pressures
Fuel return lines
Pollack 6 port tank switch valve (only if dual tank)
Adapters to connect the fuel feed & return lines to the LS's fuel injector rail
If you do a modern transmission with the LS your speedometer will probably need an adaptor or just replaced with modern electronically controlled unit like a Dakota Digital
If switching to a different transmission you will need a new driveshaft (or shorten the existing one)
New or possibly custom hoses for radiator, heater, A/C, power steering Etc.

Some of the E rod packages are drive by wire and come with everything, if cable operated you will need a new custom throttle cable.

Engine air intake filter assembly will probably need to be custom built, for a tow pig you should consider pulling cool air from the front of the core support.

I think I spent about $800-1000 to restore my suspension and brakes (all factory style) including wheel bearings, axle seals, pinion seals, suspension bushings Etc. I re-used all of my old: leaf springs, spindles, and anything that wasn't worn or damaged. That is based on pre inflation price so plan for a little more.

Build thread:
https://www.gmsquarebody.com/threads/80-k-10-squircle-build.34732/
 

chevyc1085

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Joined
Mar 29, 2024
Posts
2
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Location
SoCal/Little Rock
First Name
Crystal
Truck Year
1985
Truck Model
c10
Engine Size
v8
Welcome to GMSB!

I'm about $25K into my build (including paint) and its nearly complete, My original budget was $15-20K but I splurged on modern electronics. I did a Vortec 350 instead an LS which would have possibly added some cost to go with an LS.

The key to staying in budget is being able to do ALL of the work yourself and restoring/re-using every part possible.

One of the reasons LS engines are swapped into everything is they are known to run reliably to 300K miles which makes junkyard pull outs to not typically require rebuilding.

The new GM "E" rod engine packages are 50 state emissions approved for these old trucks, I see you are in California so Smog requirements would be covered that way. Doing an engine swap in CA is a very technical process otherwise and there is a whole set of rules to abide by, I believe you can go online at the CARB or California BAR websites to download the engine swap rules.

There's a lot of people here on GMSB that are far more knowledgeable than I on the LS swaps, hopefully they will chime in but IMHO
If all you are planning is a new $20K motor/trans swap and replacing the wear parts you should be able to get that done for about $30K.

Stuff you'll need:
Aftermarket swap LS motor mounts and possibly transmission mounts
The exhaust will probably need replaced with the new engine
The fuel system will need to be redone to accommodate the fuel injection of the LS
Fuel tanks with baffles from '87 truck
Sending units with fuel return line and electric pump provisions (also from '87)
In tank pumps rated to whatever your LS requires (70 PSI maybe?)
Fuel lines rated for EFI pressures
Fuel return lines
Pollack 6 port tank switch valve (only if dual tank)
Adapters to connect the fuel feed & return lines to the LS's fuel injector rail
If you do a modern transmission with the LS your speedometer will probably need an adaptor or just replaced with modern electronically controlled unit like a Dakota Digital
If switching to a different transmission you will need a new driveshaft (or shorten the existing one)
New or possibly custom hoses for radiator, heater, A/C, power steering Etc.

Some of the E rod packages are drive by wire and come with everything, if cable operated you will need a new custom throttle cable.

Engine air intake filter assembly will probably need to be custom built, for a tow pig you should consider pulling cool air from the front of the core support.

I think I spent about $800-1000 to restore my suspension and brakes (all factory style) including wheel bearings, axle seals, pinion seals, suspension bushings Etc. I re-used all of my old: leaf springs, spindles, and anything that wasn't worn or damaged. That is based on pre inflation price so plan for a little more.

Build thread:
https://www.gmsquarebody.com/threads/80-k-10-squircle-build.34732/
Thank you for the fantastic advice. I should have clarified... I am from California, but have been moving around for work. I don't anticipate ever moving back to CA, and am looking to ship the truck to me in Arkansas.
 

CalSgt

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Engine Size
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Thank you for the fantastic advice. I should have clarified... I am from California, but have been moving around for work. I don't anticipate ever moving back to CA, and am looking to ship the truck to me in Arkansas.

If you don't need to deal with SMOG requirements, find a decent junkyard 6.0 with a 4l80 trans and drop them in there using a Holley Terminator Max PCM and cut your budget by probably $14-15K... Would be simple to drop in a new or remanned crate motor later once all of the bugs are worked out
 

Camar068

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10 yrs Air Force
Regarding LS engines:

I've heard too many horror stories from local shops with rebuilds from Autozone/Oreillys/Advance Auto. Mainly with warranty work. If an internal part fails, the shop has to suck up the labor or charge the customer. Obviously the customer is po'd at that point. That's why they stopped using national parts houses for LS engines.

Do you have a very reputable engine shop in your area that has decent prices? You could have them rebuild you one to your specs.

There are also plenty of company's that do this and will include the transmission, harness, what ever you want....including GM.

Of course the cheaper option is to have a machine shop take care of the block/crank/heads and you assemble (or have them do it with a warranty). This way involves a lot more research, more patience and time. While going this route, quadruple check any info you get from the web to make sure it's right before you do it. Don't trust "one guy" on any "certain" forum about this step/specification. Always...always...always check/verify that info on other websites.

Anyway, I wish my wife looked at things the way your wife does. Enjoy it while you can and don't screw it up lol.

Keep throwing the questions and researching before you pull the trigger.
 

Camar068

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Rust:

Find a local welder that isn't going to charge an arm and a leg. Check Craigslist (yeh I know who goes there anymore) for someone local that sells new body parts. You never know you might get lucky and find one that's within 100 miles to save you shipping on those bedsides, hoods, HIGH priced shipping cost items. I got lucky.

Always compare prices for parts EVERYWHERE online....including the desert. Some places nail you on shipping for a $20 part.

-before I forget, always install a new water pump and new oil pump. For sake of peace of mind, just do it lol.
 
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