Greetings from the PNW ( or Pacific North Wet- intentional misspelling). How did a central valley, sun loving California kid end up in this North American rain forest oh, right, the wife loves the rain. Does make it hard to work on much outside. You sound like a go getter. Welcome to the party.
Finally getting around to posting some pictures. First batch are as the truck was received back in Jan '22. Notice the faux roll bar. It wasn't even real tubing, just sections. Not bad overall from 30-40ft away. Yes, it would start and drive, but the cab would rock on the rotten body mounts. That was a clear sign of what would be ahead.
OK, these pics are after I removed a lot of the visual ugly. This helped with the morale and my eagerness to start the project.
Restoration tip #1: Morale is key to staying on a project. Do the little things that keep you excited about the project, even if it seems out of order or "wasteful". Wasteful is letting a project sit 10 years.
OK. Now we're waste deep in. Front end was all removed, interior was stripped, and everything underneath was removed. While I contemplated cleaning it myself, I quickly realized that was never going to happen. So, I prepared to take it to a blaster. While the best way is to remove the cab, I left it on the chassis. They were able to blast underneath just fine. They removed the bed, blasted underneath, and then put it back on.
Back from the blaster. It turned out great. a few more holes on the firewall than I'd like, but the rockers were in excellent condition. Only a slight amount of corrosion on the cab corners to repair. Passenger side floor board needs some work, too. Overall, a good foundation.
The only downside to the sand blasting (frame) and dustless blasting (sheetmetal), is the amount of sand to remove. My "volunteer" labor must have vacuumed up 10 gallons of sand out of the nooks and crannies.
Here is one of the many fun discoveries I found. As many know, our trucks become Frankensteins over the years as parts are swapped out between trucks. I found out that the rearend was out of a C30 (shown on jack stands). Most looked OK, but the rear leaf springs didn't sit right. They were bound up and twisting the rear shackles. I learned that a C30 has a 2" narrower distance between the spring pads than a K20. So, once again I searched for a good rear end. Found one from a '76 C20 (shown on trailer). I took the front axle and "new" rear axle to the local shop for bearings, seals, and a general inspection. It was good because they found the front splines on outer axles were damaged. Replaced those and installed new locking hubs (yes, I now have the conversion in the NP203 for part time 4WD).
Restoration Tip #2: I'm now a big believer in getting the frame sandblasted and body media blasted. Even though the clean up is a lot of work, the result is much better than scrapping alone. Also, it's not that expensive. For $1K, I got the whole think done, along with about 20 other misc parts (trans mount, rad support, exhaust manifolds, air cleaner, etc....). Overall, it saved me a ton of time and effort and the result is much better.
Restoration Tip #3: I'm doing most of the work by myself (and with my 10yr old "volunteer"). You may wonder how I was able to remove the transmission/t-case, front axle, and rear axles by myself. The trick my friends is the wonderful transmission jack. I bought one recently from harbor freight and it has been invaluable. Removing the transmission/t-case together was a breeze. I just slid the jack under the trans mount, unbolted it, and lowered it down. The transmission and t-case are nearly balanced about the mount. It was also very helpful in man-handling the axles around. Much better than with a regular jack. Of course, the cherry picker is a must have, too.
After we completely cleaned the truck from sandblasting, I used Eastwood Rust Encapsulant on the frame and sheetmetal (underneath) (3 coats). I used their epoxy primer on the firewall to prevent rusting while I wait to get the rust holes repaired. I then used Eastwoods Chassis Black on the frame (3 coats) and textured Rust Encapsulant on the sheetmetal. I'll probably add some Raptor coating to some areas underneath. All turned out really nice. Not a spec of grease or grim remains on the truck.
The truck is now starting to go back together. Here are some pictures of the axles going back in along with a new 2" lift Tuff Country suspension. It all went together pretty easily.
Ok, so I already mentioned I found an original 400. Since I'm in California, I need to build it and meet the heavy duty emissions requirements. So, I need to keep the smog pump, air tubes, and PCV valve. No cats and no EGR were on the heavy duty emissions for 1976 K20.
* CARB compliant Edelbrock 1400 (600CFM) carburetor
* AFR 195 street heads (I splurged. These look like jewelry). I hated to paint them, but I'm going for an OE look.
* Edelbrock performer manifold (CARB compliant)
* Mellings roller cam/lifters (with specs similar to CARB compliant cam)
* Eagle rotating assembly (crank, 5.7 rods, hypereutectic pistons, etc..)
* Hedman CARB compliant headers with air tubes.
* While the truck had A/C, it was in terrible shape. Rather than try to piece that back together, I went with Vintage Air, so I mounted the compressor in the stock location.
All done and ready to go. On the engine stand waiting to be installed.
Of course, the original set up was the TH350 with the NP203. I'm looking to make this a good driver and don't plan to tow anything heavy or any heavy off-roading, so I really wanted to get the RPMs down on the freeway. I choose to go with a TH700-R4 transmission from Gearstar. I went with their Level 3, just to make it as stout as practical. To make life a bit easier, I sent them the t-case and had them rebuild it while they were building the transmission. They mated the two back together and shipped them as a unit on a crate, ready to install. I do need to work through the mounting of the 4WD gear selector, since it is moved back 2". I need to create some spacers to put it back in the original location. Not a big deal, just a little fab work. Note, I'm very impressed with their work. It took them forever to complete it, but not a big deal in my case and they had good reasons (we were in a pandemic after all).
Next steps (roughly):
1 - Rust repair: Before I assemble much more on the chassis, I want to get the rust repair work done on the cab and have the firewall painted. I'm hoping to have the truck picked up within the next month to get that done.
2 - Drivetrain install: Once it comes back, I'll be able to drop the engine in, install the trans/t-case, install the gas tanks, and get it running. I'll then put the whole front end back together, less the outer fenders. The inside of the outer fenders need to be painted off the truck.
3 - Body and Paint: Then it will be off to the paint shop to get the original 1976 Medium Green and White paint job.
4 - Final assembly: Outside trim, grill, mirrors, lights go on and the entire interior go in. Note, the entire interior was ordered from USA1. Ordered EVERYTHING back in Sept. Will likely take ~6 months before I get it all due to supply chain issues.
I'm hoping to have it done by end of summer or fall, 2023. We'll see. It's taken 11 months to get to this point. Most of it has been to level out cash flow. I've purchased just about everything needed. The remaining big cost is body/paint, (which is the biggest chunk).