I'm sick of constantly rising gas prices, but I don't want to give up my '72 Chevy Stepside pickup. I spent the last five years restoring and modifying my truck. I replaced the original six-cylinder engine with a 350 crate motor. The engine is pretty basic: an RV cam, 8.5:1 cast pistons, a factory cast-iron intake with a 625-cfm carburetor, and small-diameter exhaust headers. It runs well and gets low- to mid-teens fuel economy. I know that's respectable for an old truck, but I'd like to do better.
My mom drives an '01 Pontiac Grand Prix with the supercharged 3.8L V-6. On long trips, she can get close to 30 mpg. She regularly gets mid-20s mpg, and she could easily spank me in a drag race. That got me to thinking about swapping in a smaller, more efficient engine. How much trouble would it be to install a supercharged (or nonsupercharged) 3.8 V-6 in my truck? I know there's enough room to put any size engine in it. Could I expect to get close to the mileage my mom gets?
I also thought about swapping in one of the GM four-cylinder engines. I remember a friend had a little Pontiac with a four-cylinder engine called the Iron Duke. Would something like that be viable?
I realize I'm stretching a little here, but I have no intention of giving up driving my truck. So, I'm trying to find a way to deal with these crazy gas prices. Would changing to a two-barrel carburetor make much of a difference? I'd appreciate any thoughts you have on my proposals. Thanks.
Every time gas prices spike, so do letters about engine swaps and ways to maximize fuel economy. Unfortunately, there's no easy answer. Older trucks are heavy and boxy-two things that aren't conducive to high fuel-economy numbers. Carbureted engines just don't have the fuel efficiency of modern, computerized fuel-injected engines.
As you mentioned, there's room for just about any engine in your engine compartment, but that doesn't mean hooking up any of the engines you're considering would be easy. We think the complexity and cost of adapting a 3.8L GM V-6 (an excellent engine series) to your '72 could be prohibitive. You'd spend more cash making the swap than you'd save with the few more mpg the engine might give your truck.
What it boils down to is maximizing your present combination and making a few lifestyle changes. Tried-and-true efficiency items include: monitoring tire pressure, keeping tire pressures at the upper end of recommendations, checking alignment, not carrying unnecessary weight, keeping the engine in top tune, and driving smoothly. Lifestyle changes can include: combining errands, shopping online, getting a subscription to Sport Truck so you don't have to drive to the store, carpooling, taking the bus, riding a bike, and taking vacations closer to home.
Swapping your present small-cfm four-barrel carb for a two-barrel probably isn't worth the cost and effort. In a heavy vehicle such as your truck, a four-barrel with relatively small primaries can be as efficient as a two-barrel carb.
In a similar vein, a four-cylinder engine would have to work very hard to keep you moving. Engines are the most fuel-efficient when they operate at low load levels. Therefore a small engine that's constantly downshifting and keeping revs up isn't very economical.
You might consider adding an aftermarket fuel-injection system, but if you do, you should weigh the cost versus how much gas you can buy for that sum. When making such a comparison, remember you're looking at the cost of the gas needed for the fuel economy difference between the two systems. That methodology means that some very worthwhile fuel-saving products actually have a long payback period, although the higher gas prices go, the shorter that time is.
Off and On Fuel Problems
I have an '84 Ford F-150 with the 351-cid V-8. I've been having sporadic fuel-delivery problems. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the fuel pump, but the fact that the problem comes and goes has me puzzled. I'm thinking the fuel pump probably works, so could it be something in between the fuel pump and the engine?
Can you suggest some things to check before I bite the bullet and take the truck to an expensive repair shop? Thanks for your help.
The intermittent nature of your problem leads us to think there may be a poor electrical connection somewhere along the line. If the fuel-pump relay doesn't get uninterrupted power, that can cause the sporadic problem you describe. The relay receives power via a fusible link that's attached to the starter relay. The link and wiring are covered by insulation, so it's possible to have a wire that looks fine but actually has an internal fault. Depending on how the wire moves, it can vary between connected and not connected. Years of use, heat, vibration, battery-acid vapors, and corrosion are things that can deteriorate wiring. Check the condition of the contacts first, and if they're OK try a new link.
I recently bought a '79 Mustang Pace Car Edition, and now I'd like to find the matching truck. I just started looking so I'm not too sure about the details. I saw one in a brochure, so I know it has the same paint scheme as my Mustang. I'm wondering if you could give me some tips on finding a real Indy pace truck?
Also, did they make Indy pace car versions of any other Fords? I appreciate your help.
The maker of the annual Indy 500 Pace Car often supplies various support vehicles such as pickups, tow trucks, and vans. This is what Ford did in 1979. All of the vehicles were painted the same pewter (silver metallic) color with decal graphics. For the actual race, Ford supplied about 60 support trucks, including F-series trucks, tow trucks, Broncos, Econoline vans, and Econoline Club Wagons. The public was able to buy many of these vehicles after the race, but the odds of finding one almost 30 years later are slim.
We've only seen a few '79 Ford Official Indy 500 trucks, but they are around if you look hard enough. The package was only offered on long-wheelbase F-100 and F-150 Styleside trucks. They have to be the same pewter as your Mustang. Other original features include: 10-hole wheels, low-gloss black bumpers, black grille and headlight bezels, black door panels with silver and red trim, a black headliner, special seat trim (in black, silver, and red), black glovebox appliqu, deleted side moldings (because of the decals), and special commemorative Indy 500 decals. The tailgate should have an orange appliqu with black Ford letters.
A note regarding brochures as reference materials for restorations: These promotional products were usually made well in advance of vehicle production. That means there can be features on the brochure vehicles that didn't make it to production or were changed substantially. Features were also added after the brochures were printed. You should cross-reference features in as many sources as possible.
Mike, I just wanted to let you know that the "On the Floor" column from the April '08 issue had me on the floor laughing as I read about some of your vehicles. I'm stuck here in Iraq dreaming about getting a new truck when I get home, and I haven't laughed like that in a while, mostly because it reminded me of the things I did and regretted like you. I love the Taco' though. I saw it in Mini Truckin' magazine, and it inspired me to do the same to my '96 Ranger when I was just a punk-ass 17-year-old.
I sold my last mini-truck before my first deployment to Afghanistan and now I miss having one. I can't wait to get home and get a new truck like your orange C10. What a sweet ride.
Anyways, thanks for the great rag. I've just recently discovered it and love it, especially the tech articles like "Back to Basics," "Restore That Bucket," and "Links Without Kinks." They are all well-written and easily understandable. Keep up the good work. I'll buy the magazine off the newsstand for now, but when I get home I'm subscribing.
Sgt. Bobby Draughon
HHC 504 PIR TAC
Thanks so much for the e-mail, Bobby. I appreciate any feedback I can get-good or bad-about Sport Truck. We love putting this mag out each month and are glad you're enjoying it. Thanks for everything you and men and women like yourself are doing for our country. I'm hoping the war won't last much longer and that you'll be able to get home soon and start wrenchin' on that next great project. -Mike
I own a '98 S-10 Fleetside regular cab. I have seen a ton of the Trailblazer front-end conversions, and I have to say it's not bad. But I want to go a step further. I know the fullsize-truck crowd has an option to convert to an Escalade front end. What about a Cadillac SRX to an S-10 front-end conversion? Would that front end convert over with minimal cutting and fabbing? Without actually running to a dealer and taking a bunch of measurements and going for the gusto, what do you think about it?
It won't be easy, but it might look really cool. The SRX has a front track width of 61.9 inches compared to the 54.48 track width of your S-10. This measurement tells us that the body of the SRX is much wider than the S-10. So aside from blending the body lines of the two fenders and doors together, you'll still have to section the hood, grille, front bumper, and valance to get the proportions right. And, you'll be building a new front core support to mount everything and also figuring a way to make the windshield cowl of the SRX work. Not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but real custom trucks are never an easy build.
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