I would look for a 250 which will get you a leafsprung front end and possible and dana 60 front if you're lucky. Leaf springs are cheaper and easier to lift due to less parts needing added/changed. Other than front suspension and axles the trucks are basically the same. As for years, go with a 76 or newer as 76 was the first year for front disc brakes(you will want these for sure) and the NP205 t-case also came in the ?75-79 trucks as a married unit.
For engines the 390 is used up to 76 and then either the 351 or 400 modified engines were used almost exclusively(a few had 302's). Both of the modified engines are slighlty undesireable due to low power/torque in stock form and there isn't a lot of aftermarket support for them. If you have to pick a mod motor try to find a 400. The best engine to look for would be the 302 SB or the 460 BB. 460's must be swapped in but so many have done this that there are some good deals on trucks that already have the BB in them.
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Last edited by bigblockford79; April 1st, 2009 at 11:37 PM.