the "wilson" project
1972 GMC K20
I have finally purchased my dream truck! I found this truck on my way home from a doctors appointment one day sitting on the side of the road, covered in debris. I knocked on the door of the house it was parked outside of, made a deal with the owner and took it home. The lady i purchased it from said it was her late husbands truck and he had owned it since the mid 70's as he was the second owner. Unfortunately he passed away a couple of years ago due to cancer and she could no longer keep the truck. So I promised to give it the love it deserves.
My plans for this truck are fairly simple. I love the way it looks and prefer the vintage styling, so as far as appearance is concerned it might get some body work and a repaint, but most likely in factory colour combinations. I will install a GM 6.0 LS power plant and matching 4l80E transmission and adapt the current NP205 Transfer Case. Keeping in mind that I want to use this truck as a daily driver when I feel like it and take it out camping, reliability is key. The modern fuel injection and power, reliability and easy access to parts is the reason i have decided to go with this power plant. I plan to upgrade the suspension system and steering as well. Longer leaf springs, and possibly custom made leaf springs will be on the list depending on overall cost. Crossover Steering is a must as well as a tighter ratio steering box.
Once the build is more or less completed, i plan to run an 8' Pop Top Camper on it so we can do some Overlanding and occasionally tow our Jeep down to Moab and or Rubicon for some wheeling trips. I'm super stoked for the build, can't wait to get started! Keep in mind, this will be a fairly budget build, I will spend the money where I feel it is necessary but this will be a modest build. I do not have sponsors, nor any help financially so this will take some time as I save up the money to get'er done. Really hoping to have it out on the trails next Summer/Fall!
Hope you enjoy the build process!
Love at first sight
Really can't beat that old car smell
Tucked away in his new home
The look I get when I have a great idea!
Alright, so today my wife and I loaded up with some tools, picked up a U-Haul Trailer and headed west to pick up the new drivetrain for Wilson. It was a bit of a pain in the ass due to the fact we live in a townhouse because our ridiculously expensive real estate market here in Vancouver, BC. So needless to say, my neighbors think I'm ridiculous for putting this amount of effort into a "Old Truck" haha. They clearly don't understand! Anyways, the motor is decent, came out of a 2005 Sierra 2500HD with 262,000kms on the clock. I was really hoping for something with less mileage, but the deal was right at $1600 for the entire drivetrain so we made it happen. The motor is a little crusty on the outside, but ran good and drove good as I was able to drive it around the guys farm before making the deal.
Had to stop at a buddy's house quick to pull the transmission off from the motor so I would be able to pick it up with the cherry picker (that i also had to pick up on the way home). Some good laughs and a few bolts later we had the transmission removed and we carried on back home. Realistically considering my OCD I will probably tear the motor down and have it sent to the machine shop and checked for wear, cracks etc.. Once all is good, I'm thinking I will install new crank bearings, cam bearings and piston rings. I feel this will give me some piece of mind in the long run. In time I will tell once i rip it apart. Hoping to find some shop space locally that I can rent, would make the process a lot simpler.
LQ4 / 4l80E / NP261
REMOVING TRANSMISSION FROM MOTOR
WHAT I THOUGHT WAS A GREAT IDEA, NOW LOOKS LIKE A LOT OF WORK!
I couldn't stand the fact that my "new" motor was covered is crusties and as dirty as.... nevermind. I decided to tear it down and clean up what I could down to removing the heads as I wanted to see what the combustion chambers looked like. One thing led to another and the motor has been torn down to the bare block. I disassembled the cylinder heads and sent them out for Vapor Blasting, I just got them back a couple of days ago and they turned out fantastic! I'm just waiting for my Beehive Springs and then I will lap the valves and reassemble them. The motor will be going out next week to the machine shop, hopefully I will be able to get away with honing the cylinders, lifter bores and a good crank polish. Then she will get fresh bearings all around, rings and I haven't decided on the pistons yet as the teflon skirts have some good wear on them.
So while I was waiting for the motor, I started removing the current motor out of the truck, removed the entire front clip and got er pulled waiting for its new home in someone elses project. I actually have made a deal with a local transmission shop, they are going to build my 4L80E with a "Monster Transmission" Rebuild kit and some updated components such as a Billet Torque Converter, Billet Planetaries, a shift kit and a few other goodies. In return I am trading them the motor that I pulled out of Wilson! Sounded like a good deal to me, so I went for it. Wasn't really planning on building the transmission, but now that Im into it, why not?! As far as the NP205 Transfer Case goes I will just rebuild that myself as I have ordered a rebuild kit from our local driveline shop for a couple hundred bucks.
As far as suspension is concerned I have decided to go with the DIY4X B52 Front Spring Conversion. Lengthening the front springs from 44" to 52" will greatly improve my ride quality and suspension travel. This will be paired with a custom set of springs from Off Road Design and complimented with some Fox 2.0 Reservoir Shocks, the reservoir shocks are not really required however I've always wanted a set on something, so why not! I have also spoken to our local steering shop "Steering Solutions" up here in Langley, BC about a new steering box. He is going to build me a box with a 3 and 3/8 turn lock to lock box as opposed to the original 4 1/4 turns as well as adjust the valving to provide a more modern feel. I may also have him port it for hydro assist if i ever decide to go that route in the future. This will work nicely with the ORD Crossover Steering Setup.
I just placed an order for the Pacific Fab LS Crossmember as I believe it to be the strongest on the market. I will also be running the polyurethane engine mounts.
After removing the cylinder heads and checking the bearings on the main journals I decided to take the motor down to the bare block.
If you've never heard of vapour blasting, this is truly a phenomenal way to clean non ferrous metal surfaces. Take a look at the inside of this valve chamber for reference. Don't forget this motor has 260,000km's on it!
After the cylinder heads were removed, I disassembled them fully for inspection and to be sent out for vapour blasting. It's extremely important to stay diligent with organizing your parts as you remove them. You want to make sure you inspect everything thoroughly.
Goodbye my old friend
Here is the motor I have pulled from the truck, ready to be transplanted into its new home.
My goal for this truck is still to have something that's oldschool in design but with some more modern upgrades that we have all grown to love. Ultimately I want the truck to ride better, handle better, more horsepower and torque for towing and smiles, better stopping, more comfortable interior and longer range. I think I am still fairly on point with this build and my vision. While I have straggled away a little bit thinking about turbos and superchargers and 40's I have ultimately come back to my reality, that money needs to be saved for a Four Wheel Camper!
So suspension wise I am running a 52" Front spring conversion from the folks at Diy4x. This stuff is very good quality, 1/4" think steel mounting brackets ad shackles. You can tell its engineered to take a beating. My intention is not to beat on the truck, however its good to know that the parts I'm using will stand up to a zombie apocalypse. With those spring hangers I had Off Road Design build me a set of custom front leaf springs with 4" of lift, I must say I have never had the opportunity to order custom springs that are spec'd for my application and taking into consideration how i will be using the truck, the weight of the motor any accessories etc.. Truly a custom setup that should work very well for what I'm after. Did I mention I ordered these springs with kevlar bushings? I'm curious how these bushings will hold up over time up here in Canada. I assume they will be great! I'm running Bilstein 5165 Reservoir Shocks in the factory mounting locations to avoid having to cut into my stock wheel liners. However the original hardware was only 3/8", I bumped up the hardware to 7/16" for some added beef. I knew I wanted to run a pyramid style poly bumpstop, but I did not like how they sat on the original bumpstop mounting pad on the frame, so I designed my own bracket for them and had them cut and welded by a local fabrication shop and powder coated black. Not that I like to toot my own horn, but I think they turned out spectacular! "toot toot".
Steering was up next.. keeping in mind i wanted something to drive tighter, modern and responsive I opted to go with a custom box from my local steering shop. It's a 2WD 73-87 box so I can utilize crossover steering, it has a tighter ratio worm gear which eliminates an entire turn lock to lock and the valving has been upgraded for a firmer feel so you don't get that ridiculously light power steering feel from the 70s. I'm running a crossover high steer system from NWF that included high steer knuckles and 4 bolt raised billet steering arms. The tie rods are all 1-Ton and the actual tie rod and drag link are 1.25" DOM. Its a substantial upgrade to say the least. To add to the rigidity of the steering system I added an ORD Steering Box Brace, this will help with any deflection of the frame or twisting of the box with the large tires. I'm running a Bilstein 5100 steering stabilizer that I mounted to a PSC tube clamp on the tie rod, and I again couldn't find anything I liked to mount the stabilizer on the axle end so I designed my own bracket and had it CNC'd and powder coated. This should be a great combo for steering and handling, its simple, proven and lateral which should provide lots of positive steering input and decrease any negative feedback.
Brakes were next on the list, again I realized that single piston calipers are not the best to be stopping a 37" tall tire. I found a good deal on a set of Wilwood Calipers and pads on Amazon surprisingly. They mounted directly to the factory caliper mounts and utilize stock style rotors. I replaced the rotors with a good quality replacement from my local parts supplier and that's that. I will be running stainless braided hoses as well once I get to that point. I also realized that I wasn't a fan of the vaccum brake system on this application and I wanted something with higher pressure and more consistent volume so I opted for a hydro boost system that I pulled out of a wrecked 2012 GMC Ambulance. I got the booster, master and lines for free! It sure is nice to get something for free once in awhile! I will update the braking system more once I get the system installed.
Oh right, I almost forgot about the motor! lol. So i originally had a Gen3 6.0 LS from a 2005 GMC 2500 farm truck and it turns out that motor was a bit of a crud master. It was going to cost me way more than my budget would allow to rebuild it so I made the decision to search for another motor, hopefully cleaner and in better condition. I managed to part out the old motor and make my money back, turns out there's nobody selling used parts for these things up here so they went pretty fast. I stumbled across a 2012 GMC Ambulance that was in fantastic condition, was recently taken out of commission as the transmission failed and the truck was old enough that the city went ahead and replaced the unit with a brand new one as opposed to repairing the transmission. Lucky for me, this van was in literal mint condition otherwise. I was absolutely stunned by how clean it and maintained it was. I made a deal with the owner and a few days later we pulled the cab and I took the motor, trans and hydro boost system home. Its a 6.0 L96 which is a Gen4 engine with Variable Valve Timing. It definitely didn't take me long to start tearing into it and cleaning it up. Needless to say I'm a little OCD and I have a problem looking past things that I know should be repaired, cleaned or upgraded. So after a couple hours tinkering i had the cylinder heads off the engine and disassembled. basically right down to the short block. Everything looks great, so I'm just going to give it a good clean, delete the VVT with a new camshaft and off we go. I currently have these parts on order, I will update with more information once those come in!
Anyways I hope you guys don't fall asleep with all that babbling, off to the pictures! Did i mention I can't wait to have this thing on the road?!! You are all keeping my motivation at peak performance and wallet at an all time low I love watching your build threads and adventures, especially during these crazy times were having.
Hopefully you all enjoy the update and stay safe out there!
Brand new custom springs courtesy of Alcan Spring and Off Road Designs.
Setting up front axle placement, making sure there will be enough room for tire clearance and proper shackle angles.
Setting up the front springs and measuring for axle center
Just a regular power steering box... Just kidding! This is a custom steering box manufactured and designed just for this application. Tighter valving and quick ratio steering!