Frame and Drive Train Restoration

So I started taking notes and pictures a little late in the process. It didn't occur to me to document this build until it was well underway. In fact, it wasn't until I tore off all of the body that the light-bulb went on above my head. Therefore, the shots that will appear here begin with the body being torn off the frame (in some cases I mean that quite literally).

My friend, always cavalier with his safety equipment, was melting off the carriage bolts for the cab from underneath. Normally I would prefer to do the work myself, but I strongly dislike Dan's torch set. The acetylene bottle has no handles to turn it off and on, and instead, has a vice grip attached to the top of the bottle. Very red-neck indeed. Anyways, he was under the truck blasting away and he blew some hot metal into his eye scratching his cornea. When he came back out I could see a vertical burn on his eyeball. He ended up getting some drops for it from the hospital emergency a while later, but the guy is as tough as a coffin nail. He threw on a face shield and finished cutting off the box, moving cars all out of the way (we have to roll them by hand as they have no power of their own) and then helped me put roll the chassis into the paint booth where the mighty project will commence. I am forever grateful for his help, but wish he would not take risks working on my projects as I feel somehow responsible when he brutalizes himself. With the help of a 350 lbs+ fellow from Newfoundland , we hand-bombed the box and roll bar off the chassis, pumped up the always-flat tires, and rolled it into the booth for the stripping process to commence.

The following pictures show just how complete the chassis still was prior to the restoration process. You can see that the entire suspension, exhaust, steering, and drive train were all in-tact. Also there were what seemed like 200 feet of hydraulic brake-lines as well as a rats nets of fuel lines thanks to the cross-over valve and dual saddle tanks. At this point in the project, and as I am writing this as I go, I would like to take off the tanks and clean them up, seal them, paint them, and all this prior to painting the frame. I am trying to build this truck to last, not just look good; although looking good is the whole point of this project.

Notice in the pictures that there are a pile of things sticking up in the air: Brake lines to the master cylinder that isn't there, brake lines to the proportioning valve, a pile of fuel lines, the transmission, and (inhumanly heavy) transfer-case. Currently the transfer case is a 203, but likely will be upgraded for strength and longevity.

Also on the truck, but soon coming off, are the bumpers (always a bitch of a job due to seized bolts) as well as a hitch assembly that I would like to save.

Another shot from the rear:

In this case the truck has a crack behind the steering box and this will have to be patched for strength as well.

Notice the creases in the front bumper where the jack-ass lunatic who sold the truck to me hit a tree and then pulled on the bloody bumper instead of his tow hooks. Genius. The bumper will have to be replaced. Oh well, I think that design is not too hot anyways. From this picture you can see that the frame is fairly clean. However, the leafs are totally sagged to the point of being totally straight, and every bushing one can imagine is gone. Good times will be had by all, this much is sure.

That nice 3” exhaust will make me the bane of my neighbors. Wait a second, I live beside a police station. That might be poor form. Hopefully they are muscle-car guys.

This shot provides a great look at the top-notch grade of fuel line on this truck. It also provides a bit of an insight into the train-wreck of a week I am going to have. Aside from the usual 30 year old problems, the frame is actually remarkable straight, and has absolutely no creases, rush holes, or other typical problems.

In the pictures above you can see that the only rust on the frame is on the cross-member below where the box goes. Even then, the steel is solid and it is all shale and shake that is visible. A little POR-15 should make this frame look like a million bucks. Hopefully the product stacks up like they say it will.

Well this is how day one ended. The frame was in the booth. The body was off, and I was lost and forlorn as I had no idea where to start. This is the first full frame restoration I have ever done. God help me and my credit card. May the fount of credit never run out…

The second day started off with me pulling off the steering box. In good GM fashion the bolt design was typically offensive and poor with the location of the bolts unaccessible to someone without small hands. Luckily, my hands were laying around for the using because they are rather small.

Once I got the power steering box off I realized I am a jack-off idiot because I did not undo the pitman arm first. F-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c. So I bolt it all back on, then undo the bolt holding the knuckle on. Guess who doesn't own a pickle fork? That would be me. That is a prime thing to buy before doing the suspension tomorrow (god willing). So I smashed away with abandon and finally managed to take it off. I then removed the steering box, for the second time, and all associated lines. This exposed the true magnitude of the crack in the frame. Although no that bad, it is in an awkward spot. It is directly behind where the steering box goes, and if I fabricate a plate, I will have to drill the holes perfectly or the whole project will go to shit. Also, this truck must pass inspection. The guy I bought it off had an inspection claim levied against him because he hacked off the fenders with a sawz-all as “they were rubbing on the tires when I was 4-wheeling.” While I understand the problem, his solution was unnecessarily brutal and as a result I had to buy and entire new front clip.

After that bit of fun I wrestled off the dual, custom 3” exhaust and all associated bracketry. Next to go was a plethora of wires and brake lines that I didn't like and will be replacing. The ass-jockey that owned the truck before me had camper and trailer wires all wound around everything. A patent genius.

Next came the bumpers. Now, for anyone who has ever pulled bumpers, they are always, and I mean always, a pain in the ass. Thirty, or more, years of rust has formed and even using a thirty-inch, 1/2'” breaker bar, it took every once of my strength to crack those damn bolts. However, the night before I had tried and it was simply not possible. I sprayed some Lloyd's “Moovit” penetrating oil on all the bolts I was going to take off, and when I came back in today, off they came. However, I soaked my shirt through with sweat, and even though I frequent the gym, I will be one sore shoot-fighter tomorrow.

The rear hitch was a royal pain in the ass, and my friend was trying to tell me to blast them off with the torch instead of fighting with them. I don't want to mar that frame one bit, so I told him pump-sand, and I fought, bitched, grunted, and yelled until all eight, yes eight, bolts were either snapped clean off (a blessing in this rare circumstance) or off through natural means.

After all this I spent some time just pulling extraneous shit off the frame and getting it down to its component parts. I also built a dessicant air-dryer and got it ready for the painting. It is all coming together. The following three pictures show the results of my second day's work. I should point out that I catalog and label every bolt that comes off the frame as well as strange brackets, emergency brake parts, clips, fittings, and anything else that will make my life easier. As I encountered some wild wiring on the harness for the saddle tank, at least an hour was spent organizing the parts. This is time well spent, because I swear to Christ, one hour spent organizing and cataloging will save me twenty hours of running around trying to find a specific, GM-only, discontinued bracket from wreckers.

From Behind:

Above, notice the lack of a hitch and bumper. This seemingly small accomplishment cost me more sweat than just about any part of this project. However, as you can see, the result is nice: a clean frame.

This is a view from within the front frame-rails. It shows just how clean the frame really is before I even start going crazy with my wire wheel. Tomorrow's project is the gas tanks. This could be a tricky part. Once they are off and ready to be cleaned up, then I want those differentials out of there along with the suspension. From that point out it is not really smooth sailing, but at least it is wire-wheel time…

That was 2 days (18 hours) of stripping that thing down. Click "next" to see how it turns out!

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