CHEVY New life to an old square body farm truck

ck80

Royal Smart Person
Feb 18, 2014
1,713
113
I figured with the amount of time - past, current, and planned/future this truck has been slated for, it maybe deserved it's own thread of sorts. Give me a place to better document it's progress (such as it is) anyways.

I've always had one or more square bodies around. Just so happens I'd sold my 76 rcsb because I realized long-term there was very little about the truck I wanted to keep long term - it was a decent driver, but, making a list of "wants" and comparing it to what I had... well, I'd be keeping the frame and nothing else. So off it went, and, then I just kept poking around and around to see what was out there.

So, 4th of July weekend I found an ad on Craigslist for what looked to be an amazing survivor of a truck at a ridiculous price. After calling and speaking to the owners, turns out they only had old pictures, and the first thing I was told was that the truck no longer looked like what was in the ad. Well, ok, it wasn't far so I made the trip anyways.

History of the truck was it was bought to new to use on and around a farm. It was a 1977 Bonanza trim package, basically a short lived dealer option package group that bundled certain popular optioms together in one of several assortments at a reduced cost. Eventually it was no longer needed for the farm, and, the wife of the guy I bought it from just happened to work at a bank with the original owner's wife. After a decade plus of use (and abuse) the guy I bought it from couldn't drive any longer due to health issues and it got parked, in a field, behind a mobile home and just left untouched for about 4 years. Health declined further, both for owner and truck, and that brought me to a 4th of July weekend visit to look at an old truck.

The miles were original at around 79k. It was solid where it counted - the welded on panels - but everything else was rough. It had a nice hood, cab, passenger bedside and front grille. It also had an inline 6 engine which I've always had a weakness for. Other than that.... well, dry rotted tires, dead battery, and pretty beat up bolt on panels. Passenger door not only had a dent, but one completely broken hinge with the other bent to where if you open the door it dropped over 10 inches towards the ground for starters.

However, I did get him all the way down to $500, probably an overpay, but, it had the bones for what I WOULD enjoy building.

So, had it loaded up on a flatbed, and followed it home.

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Once it arrived, it needed SERIOUS cleaning.

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Not sure if I have any pictures of how the interior showed up... but picture old, dirty, old, cracked... with lots of trash. For some reason (not related to water leaks) the driver side carpet was ripped away and removed from the truck. What's left of the passenger side had small ant nests under it. Oddly enough, except for a big chunk being missing it was still bright blue and unstained. Oh well.

A quick going through showed most things rubber were pretty rotted. With a fresh battery and gas the engine ran... even if it didn't idle well at a stop without the Sammy Hagar trick (one foot on the break, one foot on the gas....) the bigger problem was the rubber fuel hose between the hard line and fuel pump had a pinhole leak squirting fuel onto the side of the block. It also wouldn't hold coolant or pressure properly because a rubber block off cap on the radiator rotted off.

So, basically at that point there was minor stabilization efforts - bandaid things just good enough to get yard work and home depot runs going, and start collecting parts. Replace just the leaking hoses. Replace just the rotted caps.

The only two permanent fixes were putting in the biggest fitting duracell battery I could buy. Who needs 1000 cranking amps? This guy. Also bought Michelin LTX M/S 2 tires to put on a set of factory rally rims.

And that was the start.
 

ck80

Royal Smart Person
Thread starter
Feb 18, 2014
1,713
113
Now remember what I said about the engine not running well at a stop and wanting to stall at lights? Well, it also had gotten fed ethanol gasoline, the original air cleaner and vacuum lines were long gone, and had a cheap 4" chrome mini air filter (very very dirty and clogged as well) sitting there which couldn't have been helping things. The oil fill cap was loose, the original pcv grommet was missing, and another cheap crappy breather was cut up with a razor and stuffed into the hole in the valve cover. The gas tank had a leak from above, both when filling and driving, and if you walked near the truck you smelled raw gasoline. No matter how low miles, just a couple short years of ethanol gas by the previous owner killed everything rubber so take notice:

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So, parts collection began. I found a NOS carb on ebay - or so I thought. The parts number was correct for a 77 monojet, electric choke, all the rest. Bought it, got it here and... NOPE. What arrived was a not air choke, not electric, and my intake wasn't provisioned for the coil mounting even if I did track down the rest of the parts to make it work.

Couple months, and couple hundred dollars more later, and I located and bought another one, this time the correct part DID show up. Also located a correct new gas tank, sending unit, and bought a while bunch of new rubber parts - fuel line from the parts store, reproduction rubber parts of the filler neck/vapor return and the gasket for the metal neck to bedside from LMC truck.

Nobody local carried a pcv grommet, BUT, after searching the dusty corners of the stockroom of the local parts store with the car guy/asst mgr we found an old stock AMC valve cover/pcv grommet that fit both the factory valve cover and the rockauto closeut pcv that I'd gotten.

The hardest piece to find eventually came, once again, from ebay - a NOS air cleaner for a truck 250 with monojet that came out of Las Vegas and had been sitting around previously from a GM motorcoach builder in the upper midwest.

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That was enough to strip out the entire fuel AND a good chunk of the ignition systems except for the rust-free original metal lines and go to work on it. Ignition coil, everything above the shaft/base of the distributor (rotor, module, cap, etc), and the plugs/wires all got swapped out. At the same time, I (somehow?????) convinced the better half to turn what wrenches I couldn't due to injuries... of there wasnt a picture i wouldnt believe it either.

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In the process of removing the razor-hacked breather a chunk of rubber broke off and fell inside. $5 felpro gasket somehow in-stock at orielly's gave an excuse to pull the valve cover and see just how clean things were inside (excluding the oil itself of course) with no sludge, buildup, etc anywhere to be found.

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Gratuitous shot of the redone valve cover assembly awaiting reinstallation:

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ck80

Royal Smart Person
Thread starter
Feb 18, 2014
1,713
113
So, at this point with new rubber on the road, new fuel system from air cleaner/carb on down to the gas cap, with only the tank brackets, metal fill tube, and metal fuel lines being re-used, and an almost entirely new ignition system, the truck more or less just worked for the next year plus of time...

Home depot runs for a few hundred retaining wall blocks, or bed loads of topsoil and mulch, were the light duty work.

The rest of the time it hauled around a couple tons of firewood as I logged damaged pear/peach trees...

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or hauled away junk scrap metal by the ton...

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and sometimes even hauled ridiculous overloads of brush and water/rainbow willows off between sites for burning

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Overall, it kept up the work until I ended up parking it/not really needing to use it after moving down to the coast where it's been fairly un-used until recently. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was just not in the mood to go back to work, but it decided that the cooling system which I hadn't paid much attention to yet didn't want to behave anymore with a water pump seal failure leading to a decent amount of steam from underhood.

On more careful examination, once the plastic shroud was out of the way the radiator itself also showed signs of prior hack job (jb weld) repair.

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So, a closeout old-stock water pump from rockauto joined a thermostat and set of hoses from oriellys, some stainless steel hose clamps from a giant assortment out of harbor freight, and a Made-in-the-USA aluminum radiator from Summit to fix that problem for the next 10 or 20 years.

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In the process I noticed just how BAD the rust around the battery tray had gotten... as in the battery was partially held up in the air by the headlight wiring harness. Note that even where the old tray attached to the fender the fender itself rotted out...

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So, cut a few pallet boards up to jury rig things for now... some wood under the battery, joined with a smaller stick that acts like a clamp on the lower battery case lip and is held down by the factory jack mounting.

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ck80

Royal Smart Person
Thread starter
Feb 18, 2014
1,713
113
If nobody has figured it out yet, I am HUGE victim of project creep. Some things I let slide for a while - like the rusted fender I'll wait for NOS to fix it. The fan shroud I didn't waste too much time cleaning because it needs to come back out - I have a replacement core support and brackets I need to get powdercoated.

But I did pick up an interior for the truck just because it was so clean as a back-up. Long term I want bright factory medium blue and white tutone. But, had a chance at an original survivor green silverado interior and couldnt help myself. If not for this truck long term, then for another.

So I got a new original vinyl and foam skinned over metal dash pad in black, a set of black headliner trim and a good backerboard to recover with green material, and this green setup:

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No replacement for original, aftermarket just doesn't hold up IMO.
 

ck80

Royal Smart Person
Thread starter
Feb 18, 2014
1,713
113
Bringing me more or less to the two current tasks which, admittedly, I've dropped the ball on because of how crazy so many other things have been lately.

I keep not remembering in daylight to look closer at the fast idle solenoid that 69hurstolds was graciously responding to my call for help in figuring out what the correct part number I was in need of to correct a worn out/malfunctioning piece I had here. Which really is too bad because I do need to figure out what I need, but, I can't get more input without giving the necessary details so... that's one thing.

The OTHER issue is dealing with completely worn out brakes that really should've been done when I bought the truck, but, we're already trashed anyways.

So, yes, project creep strikes again. The truck doesn't really have working rear drums - if you are turning around on dirt/gravel the wheels spin a little when you shift into gear. So although there's no fluid leaks, obviously the shoes are shot and other things are going on. I also expect wheel bearings may be bad because for as long as I've had the truck you near a rythmic high pitched squeaking while you drive with the window open. Almost like mattress springs creaking. BUT, a light pressure on the brake pedal makes the noise quiet way way down.

I was reminded of this when I was picking up a $70 cap for the back so I could store spare metal in the bed without I getting rained on just the other day...

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So.... a new set of carbon fiber/ceramic front pads arrived today from Summit along with a set of rear shoe springs/hardware and all new ac delco master cylinder.

I also put together a parts list order for NAPA for their branded rotors, semi-loaded calipers, inner and outer front bearings, front seals, spindle nut kits and dust caps, rear drums, rivited rear shoes, all 3 soft rubber lines, and new vacuum booster.

I figure I won't know just how fubared things are in there until it's apart, but, I have NO reason to believe that anything is newer than when the truck was built in the fall of '76
 

69hurstolds

Comic Book Super Hero
Supporting Member
Jan 2, 2006
4,839
113
If nobody has figured it out yet, I am HUGE victim of project creep. Some things I let slide for a while - like the rusted fender I'll wait for NOS to fix it.
What? You realize the general pricing on NOS truck fenders for 73-80, right? I've heard the aftermarket fenders aren't all that and a bag of chips, but NOS GM fenders are pricey AF.
 
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Reactions: Texas82GP
Oct 14, 2008
6,844
113
Melville,Saskatchewan
Man is that truck beat but not that rusty. Those trucks melted away up here, if NOS fenders are the same material, I would not want them, supposedly recycled metal. The GMC's rusted worse the Chevy's for some reason. I love the straight 6, too bad those are years with the intake part of the head, no 4bbl swap without an older head.
 

TURNA

Rocket Powered Basset Hound
Jul 24, 2009
10,974
113
Socialist NY
Check the rear shock mounts on the frame they like to crack there.

If they are cracked get some big washers and weld them on

Easy fix
 

TURNA

Rocket Powered Basset Hound
Jul 24, 2009
10,974
113
Socialist NY
73-75 were made from Japanese recycled metal
 
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Reactions: Texas82GP
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