[Not mine. This one was from the Lambrecht Auction.]
I always wanted a truck like this. I think a lot of “car guys” idealize these trucks. Near as I could tell, the only option on this truck was the “Gauge Package (without tachometer)”. Manual steering, manual brakes, 250c.i. straight six, three-on-the-tree. If a truck like this doesn’t make a man out of you, nothing will.
Some of the memory is a bit fuzzy on this one; the year was 1989, or maybe 1990. It was the first time in my life that I had enough disposable cash to buy a “fun car”. I’d always idealized this sort of stripper truck, so $650 cash in hand, I bought one. To say it was in rough shape would have been an understatement, but it went, steered, and stopped, so I figured I could take care of everything else myself.
The test drive was quite literally the first time I’d ever operated a column shifter. It was fun, what can I say? Who doesn’t like a brand-new automotive experience?
I was actually able to drive it “right out of the box”, so I did. I drove it around for a couple months. Sadly, the column shifter was shot, and it would bind and jam. Rather than fix it right, I cut a hole in the floor and installed a $20 floor shifter kit. I never did get the reverse lights working right, and I missed the three-on-the-tree, but at least it shifted a lot easier.
One day, I took it to work on the highway. After a bit, somebody started jackhammering on something under the hood. I dumped the clutch and coasted to the side of the road. Popping the hood, the problem became quite obvious. One of the rod caps decided to quit the circus and exit through the side of the block, leaving a fist-sized hole. So much for the “bulletproof” Straight-Six Chevy!
Well I dragged it home, and thought about what to do with it. I was living in a mother-in-law apartment out in the sticks at that time, and my landlord had a circa 1970 C-10 rotting out back. It had a small-block engine of indeterminate origin; he seemed to recall it was a 307. He told me that if I could get that engine to run, I could have the whole truck for free, as long as I got rid of the remains.
Well, I’d never even pulled an engine before, much less swapped an 8 for a 6, but I figured I really had nothing to lose but my time, so I dove right in. First I got that derelict small-block running, which took not much more than some fresh gas, some carb tinkering, and a points and timing adjustment. So far, so good!
Well, anyhow, by combining bits and pieces of both sets of motor and transmission mounts, I was able to set that small-block in to just the spot the factory intended it to be. It was actually easier than I expected, by far! The only real bear was the clutch linkage, but with enough hardware-store bits and pieces, I got everything to work. I was fairly proud of myself for the whole deal.
Well, life happened, and I wound up needing to move on in a bit of a hurry. I only had the wherewithal to take one vehicle with me and it had to be my daily driver. I handed the title and the keys to my landlord, and walked away. Regardless, it was a fun truck and a fabulous learning opportunity.
My first truck was a 1969 with that 307. Suffice to say I do not consider it one of Chevrolet’s stellar efforts. Sucked gas like a 454 but never once quit on me.
The size of the engine in those didn’t matter much when fuel economy was the issue. You were pushing 2 tons of .6 Cd steel thru the air thru an automatic and a 3.50 or higher rear end. A 350 got 12, a 307 got 13, a 250 got 14. A 454 probably would get 11.
18mpg (US) last week-end on a highway trip at 60mph, and on good gas. She has the standard 3:73 rear end, so anything over 65mph and she is working a bit too hard. The trick to avoiding the binding of the three speed column is to wind a tensioner around the two shift forks, such as a coiled spring (on mine), or even a bunch of thick elastics like the old man’s ’69 panel van, and that tightens the mechanism up enough that it doesn’t bind.
Interior (seat re-done)
The cast iron wonder…
My 70 C10 307 stick with 3.73 would average around 12 MPG empty, around town or on the hwy going 65 MPH. I once drove for a tank holding it at 55 MPH on a long mostly flat run and got 17 MPG.
Friend had a ’73 C20 with 454 automatic and even on the freeway MPG was single always digits. His truck had dual tanks and really needed them!
Towing a 29ft 5th wheel trailer along with a motorcycle and heavy tools in the truck bed in the 70 C10 from So Cal to Washington State was about 7 MPG. Could have used an extra tank on that trip, only had the 18 gallon behind seat tank. Every hundred miles had to stop for gas.
The great thing about the stripper version of these trucks and the roomy engine compartment makes for a easy to work on machine. Mine only had gauge package, heavy duty rear coil springs, and custom trim and interior options.
When I sold it the truck had about 160k miles on it, the 307 was original but had timing chain replaced and valve job with hardened seats at about 100k miles. Had 3 burnt exhaust vales and seats due to running unleaded fuel. Never had to pull the engine out.
In any pre ’70 full size truck the gas mileage is the pits. I swapped a 383\auto in place of a 318\4spd in my ’67 Dodge and actually got better mileage. It was only 1 or 2 mpg but hey every little bit helps with big cabover camper and 18′ boat behind.
Shade tree mechanical success is sweet! I bought a non-running Mazda B 2300 (Ford Ranger 2.3 with the wrong badges). With some Youtubes and forum chatter I had it going again within a weekend. It just feels great to accomplish something like this.
Evan, Hats off to you sir.
Swapping a small block into a straight six truck with what sounds like little help, minimal tools and parts, and no prior experience, is a major accomplishment.
Too bad you had to leave it. But it seems the real value of that effort remains with you to this day, and justifiably so.
Love that vintage Chevy and would love to have one now. I learned standard shift in a C20 with a 350 and a three on the tree. It was fun to drive that thing. Like them with the vertical front marker lights and round headlights.
Great job! One thing Chevy’s are good for is learning your wrenching skills; rarely does good engineering and simplicity meet like they do in a pre-72 Chev. We wont talk about build quality….
Ah yes, the inexpensive floor shifter. A friend of mine put one of those into his ’60 Chevy convertible (with the 348 no less) to replace the sloppy column linkage. This was circa 1970 so the entire package was well used. He managed to drive the car without incident for a couple of months, and then one summer’s day we took it on a road trip to Kentucky Lake, about two hours away. We had no problem on the way down but getting ready to come home Louis made a 1-2 shift and the entire linkage came apart. After a couple of hours of “shade tree engineering” we were able to cobble enough of the linkage back together to at least have second and third gears. Fortunately the 348 had plenty o’ torque so second gear starts were not an issue. The next morning the old column linkage was reinstalled.
Great story .
I had one of these too , a 1976 GMC 2500 with 292 i6 and Muncie SM420 floor shift trranny .
A real beast , great truck but too long for me .
I finally found a picture of my ’76 GMC long bed .
Drove a 64 Dodge shortbed stepside as a DD for a while. One day a cotter pin let go and part of the column shift fell into the steering column and locked it up. It was on a slow dirt road and I got it stopped. Lifted it back in place and shoved a bent nail in there. Next stop was the local tractor place for a cotter pin assortment.
Haven’t done a swap, hats off to you for succeeding on the first try.
For a while in the 70s we got Chevy utes again they were expensive for the times 30k from memory, I dont recall a six cylinder being an option or tree shift being in any I saw, they probably existed but were a long way price wise from what I was buying and driving, Good swap over having both vehicles there should have been all the factory parts to make it happen.
I had a 1971 C10 similarly equipped. The 250ci six did not die, but was under powered for the mountains. I left the column shift linkage there, but it needed constant attention.
A buddy put a “rebuilt” junkyard engine in his ’64 C20 and I bought his 283 core. He had already had the heads done, but the problem was a burnt piston. I completely went through the 283, adding a high lift “RV” cam, but leaving everything else stock. In the garage, a chain hoist made easy work of the swap. Since the V-8 lacked exhaust manifolds, I installed headers and a homemade straight back exhaust with big Cadillac mufflers for quiet. Even the clutch linkage hooked right up. Both engine blocks had a threaded hole for it.
With 3.73 gears, it still was comfortable only up to about 70, but got there a lot quicker AND gas mileage improved quite a bit, from about 13 for the tired six to 17 (both highway) with the V-8. How? I guess I just hit an optimum setup with the stock 2bbl Rochester, aftermarket cam and free flow exhaust.
Years ago, I acquired a white 1977 C20 from my brother, who used it to haul his 1970 SS Camaro to Norwalk Raceway Park. He had to get rid of the truck, because he had to sell his Camaro, as his soon to be ex-wife had threatened to torch the car. Anyhow, We thought it had been a construction truck, and had a fully galvanized box, no rust at all, a 350 4bbl, and the trans had a creeper gear, 2nd,3rd and 4th. We called it The Whitemare. What a beast. Last I heard It was working as a yard buggy in a junkyard.It may have had a PTO on it also, does that sound possible?
A PTO attachment on an old 3/4-ton or higher truck doesn’t sound outside the realm of possibility. 2008+ Super Dutys actually have provision for one straight from the factory–just plug and play right out the back of the transmission.
I had a 1976 C20 Cheyenne that I bought from my boss. When he first offered it to me I said no thanks. Everyday he would come to my cubicle and make a sales pitch. The price was $600 and he would finance the deal. My boss was the original owner and he had ordered it from the factory. It had a 350/350 combo, 4 bbl carb, bucket seats with a console, full carpeting , sliding rear window, and a Leer camper top. My boss had moved from Illinois to Houston and had brought the truck with him. That explained all the rust. The truck served me well for a few years and didn’t give me any troubles. That was my first pick up truck and all the time I had it I lusted for Rocky’s truck in the Rockford Files.
I think a lot of “car guys” idealize these trucks
Indeed. I never considered myself a truck guy, at least not in the current 4×4 lifted brodozer quad cab “tuff” looking trucks “truck guys” aspire to. But I always thought the single cab no frills 2WD pickups of yore were appealing to my “car guy” senses, and because of their long lifes(both in model year and durability), they’re legitimate alternatives to many 2 door classic cars I’ve been priced out of(I’m not taking out a $30k
+ loan on a car without a warranty!). And in Chevy’s case in particular they just looked damn good, this generation and nose is actually my favorite of the C10s
I’ve done four engine swaps to date (five if you count re-engining a riding lawn mower after the B&S threw a rod).
The first involved swapping a fairly freshly-rebuilt (and sleeved) engine out of my Dad’s ’72 Vega Kammback (which had been in an accident and was laid up) and swapping into my ’71 Vega Notchback. I had to take my oil-burner and install it in Dad’s car, too – he would later rebuild and sleeve it when he finished the body repairs.
The second swap was to replace the sleeved engine in my Vega with a Buick 3.8l out of a junkyard car. Also replaced the 4-speed Saginaw with a THM350.
The third was replacing the dead 2.3l in my Uncle’s former Pinto wagon. I bought it from him cheap, dropped in a junkyard replacement engine and then gave the car to my youngest brother, who pretty well trashed the car within a year (he was in a pretty rough place personally at the time).
The final was replacing the OHC6 in the ’66 Tempest four-door I also got from my Uncle (a pattern seems to be emerging here). The six had toasted its top-end, so I rebuilt the SBC 350 that originally had been intended for my Vega and dropped it into the Tempest (replacing the 2-sp auto with a THM350).
I had the engines in and out of my ’71 VW bus and ’64 Beetle numerous times, but I don’t count those as engine “swaps.”
The hardest one was probably the SBC in the Tempest, as it was a challenge finding the right engine mounts and an appropriate radiator.
Cool truck–very reminiscent of one that belonged to the father of one of the guys in my Boy Scout troop. Late 70’s C10, burnt orange in color, white painted bumpers and wheels with dog dish caps. White bed cap to keep our gear out of the rain (he was the designated gear and pack hauler for camping trips). Pretty basic other than that, a Spartan but reliable machine.
Sounds like the swap went well also. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do–while slightly unoriginal, it would make a ton of sense to put a 350 into my Malibu rather than restoring the OE 267, especially since it would bolt right in–but it seems quite daunting to undertake without having someone who “knows the ropes” to guide you! Good job on getting yours done flying solo.
My 1990 Chevy 1500 “Goldie” is awaiting an engine swap. The 4.3 is tired and burns way too much oil. I have kicked around the idea of an aluminum-headed 454 / 502 with Edelbrock or Accel multiport injection 🙂 .