I have an '83 GMC shortbed stepside pickup. It's my daily driver and it's pretty sharp, but no show truck. The truck came from Arizona, so it was a rust-free cherry when I brought it back to Minnesota six years ago. Since then, it's been outside all the time because I don't have a garage. My problem is that the truck leaks water on both sides of the floor. My girlfriend calls my truck the "Leaky Tiki," since I have a Tiki motif on the paint and graphics. I know it's not a heater core problem, since the liquid is clear and I had a new heater core installed six months ago anyway. The truck is air conditioned and I also had that whole system checked and recharged when the heater core was replaced. The wetness appears rain related, but it isn't a situation where the water runs noticeably. The windshield was starting to fog around the edges, so I had it replaced shortly after the heater core work. The glass shop installed all new gaskets and did an excellent job of sealing. They said there wasn't any sign of rust around the windshield opening. That brings me back to my dilemma. Can you suggest some other source of this annoying moisture?
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Your recent repairs have covered many common sources of wet floors. Since your truck has factory air, a probable source of moisture is the area where cowl vents are on non-air-conditioned trucks. This series of Chevy/GM trucks has been known to leak here. All the trucks were produced with provisions for kick panel air vents. Air-conditioned trucks just didn't have things hooked up. There was a quality control problem of inconsistent spot welds and poorly fitted and/or poorly sealed seams. Those flaws can let water in when it rains hard. If you remove the plastic kick panels, we think you'll see evidence of leakage. If there isn't any rust-through, you should be able to reseal the seams. If everything is dry and perfect behind the kick panels (we seriously doubt that), another possible water entrance are bad cowl seams. Check all the seams for signs of missing or dried and cracked seam sealant. You can double-check any suspected problem areas by flooding the bad seam with a garden hose while someone watches for leaks inside the cab.
More Or Less
I have an '04 Dodge Dakota with the 3.7L V-6. I have been unable to find any upgrades for this engine. I like the V-6 but wish for a little more horsepower and torque. I also like the fuel mileage of the V-6. I would like to know if the aftermarket plans on developing any engine mods for the 3.7L, or is it a dud like the 2.8L Chevy was? I am looking for air induction, exhaust, underdrive pulley, and computer program modifications. Any information that you could provide would be helpful. I am in the Army, stationed in Kuwait at this time. I will be home in December and wish to start some upgrades if possible. Thank you in advance for all your help.
If you like the fuel mileage and only want a little more without messing up the stock combo, then put on a small nitrous kit. This will leave the stock combination alone, so it won't alter the driveability in any way, shape, or form. All the other mods you mention will change the characteristics of the airflow, and you may wind up altering your fuel mileage.
Custom Tonneau Cover
I'm building a super-smooth '87 El Camino. So far, I've removed all emblems and unnecessary trim items. I narrowed the bumpers, so they tuck in nice and tight against the body. I want a flush fit (or possibly slightly recessed) hard tonneau cover, but most of the ones I've seen are the raised ones that extend up and over he sides of the bed. I would prefer metal or aluminum to fiberglass because I want a super-smooth finish to match the body paint. Also, I want the gaps between the tonneau and the bed sides to be as tight as absolutely possible. Do you know of a ready-made tonneau that would fit my needs? If not, how much trouble would it be to fabricate a custom tonneau?
We're not aware of any ready-made late-model El Camino covers that would fit your stringent requirements. Whether or not you could build a custom tonneau yourself depends on your fabrication skills and the caliber of tools in your shop. The basic techniques for making a custom tonneau apply to any truck, but the shape of your El Camino presents some added challenges. The biggest problem for a '78-'87 El Camino is the bed's unique shape. As you know, the bed is not a normal rectangle. Not only is the bed very rounded at the back window, it tapers slightly towards the tailgate. El Camino beds are slightly less than 5 feet wide and about 6-1/2 feet long. That means a standard 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of aluminum is too narrow. An oversize sheet of aluminum is considerably more expensive and harder to locate. To get Mercedes-quality gaps, a precise pattern will have to be made. A very good sheetmetal shop should cut the panel. Your other choice is to use two 4-foot-wide panels with a butt weld in the middle. That joint will require more finish bodywork to achieve your seamless look. A frame of 1x1-inch square aluminum tubing needs to be designed and fabricated to support the sheet of aluminum. This framework should be thoroughly cross-braced. The outer aluminum skin is quite heavy. For best results the brace joints should be TIG-welded. A recessed perimeter bracket or ledge is needed to support the tonneau. The location of the perimeter bracket depends on whether you want the tonneau exactly flush or slightly recessed. Aftermarket aluminum scissor hinges like those used on street rod hoods will allow the tonneau to open and close smoothly. These hinges need to be mounted to the framework and then attached to the bed bulkhead. The hinges should be well-braced to evenly distribute load forces. Pressure-adjustable nitrogen-charged struts, like those used on hatchbacks and liftgates, should be mounted approximately above the center of the wheeltubs. Some trial-and-error engineering will be needed to determine the length of the strut and its extended angle (approximately 45 degrees). Super heavy-duty industrial-strength two-part bodyshop epoxy can be used to bond the aluminum sheet to the frame. This operation has very little wiggle room or time to perform the mating, so quick, accurate positioning is imperative. An alternative bonding method is to use aircraft-tapered and recessed rivets. These aircraft supply store rivets require some body filler for a totally flush finish. They can crack the paint when the tonneau flexes, so the epoxy bonding is probably best suited to your needs.