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Adrenaline Junkie
1,218 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Before I get going on this story, be aware there will be unneeded, unsolicited and very much unwanted candid detail which normal people will find boring and these same people will get bogged down with the detail. If you fit into this classification, forward to the end for the Cliff's Notes.

I was chatting on the phone with Toolmantim and somehow we got on the subject of vehicles which are "a pain to work on." I immediately think back to this truck...and all the stories that surrounded it. For the record, this truck was only a physical pain to work on, not a mental pain as vehicles could not get much simpler than this beast of my automotive history.

Before you can understand my obsession with this truck (and cars in general) you have to think back to my impressionable childhood years. If you can imagine John Davis saying "MotorWeek, Owings Mills, Maryland 21117", you already know what I mean. My generation was raised watching the best car-focused programming TV had to offer; The Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider and of course, The Fall Guy. Who could argue this time was not the pinnacle of automotive based programming?

Unless you were buried under a rock, most people my age will remember The Fall Guy very well and the opening credits where Colt Seavers jumps his truck over a guard rail. If you were on your Netflix game before the series was pulled off, you may even remember the episode too.

For those still covered with moss:

So now, you know my obsession with this truck. Once Mike C decided to sell it, paying for the truck was only a formality. In my mind, I had actually bought the truck many months before when I had stopped over to Mike's house for a bench racing session.

My first impression when I saw the truck? f I squinted hard enough, the truck was a Chevy clone of The Fall Guy truck, without all the frills. The truck was very large and muscular (can vehicles be muscular?). 1976 was the last year for the 3/4-ton Chevy trucks to use the D44 front, and this one came with Superwinch lockouts. The rear axle was the ever robust, full-float corporate 14-bolt. In between, was a Turbo 350 connected to a cast iron NP203 transfer case, which was fitted with the 2WD low kit. The front fender wells were trimmed to clear the nearly bald 36x14.50-16.5 Ground Hawgs and of course, the rear bed sides were just starting to rust like old Chevy truck do. The truck came a hitch and instantly, I knew this was a versatile, utility truck which could be used as; a daily driver, to pull my Cutlass on a trailer and to play in any random mud, snow or swampy area I could find. Yep, it came with everything...except an engine.

After towing the truck home sans engine, the first obstacle to getting this beast on the road was to get a new engine high enough to set it into the engine compartment. In my old garage, we had an old electric hoist mounted to the large by huge oak floor joists for the second floor. This worked great for slinging engines into cars, but this rolling billboard of compensated manhood was no car. No problem, we raised the electric hoist by remounting it up through a hole in the second floor. An old anti-sway bar ensured we had enough height to clear the front end. Redneck all the way for sure.

Getting the engine details sorted out was no big deal really; I already had a 355 in my Cutlass with a fresh set of double hump heads and Weiand Excelerator single plane intake. With plans to drop a big inch small block into the Cutlass, the 355 was about to give way to a 5.7" rod 406 anyhow. So, I pulled the engine from the Cutlass, put the original heavy weight smog heads and Edelbrock Performer intake back on and dropped it into the truck. I assure you, this simple idea sounds much better on paper than the end product. You see, the car engine, with its longish duration cam, was built for a light, deeply geared car with a loosish converter; not a heavy, poorly geared truck that weighed more than 3 tons. But hey, the engine fit so it was going to work...and if it didn't, I'd live with it.

Once we got the engine up and in, then started the joy of connecting it all up. On a truck this size, you don't just stand next to the truck, unless you have scaffolding. You get the joy sitting in the engine bay and seeing how long you can remain hunched over. Think along the lines of removing a splinter from your toes using a pair of tweezers mounted on your elbow - yeah, that's about right. The following days, you walk half-erect like you are the missing link between man and ape.

Once the engine was in, it became clear how poorly matched the lumpy cam was for the heavy truck. Livable, but barely. The engine was capped with a Carter carb and a too-small 2" dual exhaust. The exhaust sounded, well, not good. Kind of like a vacuum cleaner which had eaten too much Mexican food (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Now for the memorable stories. Remember, this truck was going to be my "daily driver". It performed flawlessly, for a while, and as long as you held on to the steering wheel just right and were able put gas in the tank. Speaking of gas tanks, there were two tanks. But, eventually both had rusted through in the strap areas and were leaking. Budget constraints being what they were at the time, I opted to replace the two unusable tanks with a single, 10 gallon tank (which did not leak) but was equally unsuitable. At about 8-10 miles per gallon, 10 gallons of gas would get you Bon Jovi'd; you know, about "half way there" - "there" being either through a cornfield or to a gas station before you ran out. Fortunately, I could see this repetitive action coming and would keep a full 6 gallon can handy in the bed. Back to that steering wheel; a group of sorority girls had a better chance getting the planchette moving in a straight line on a Ouija board than most people trying to drive this truck in a straight line.

Well, if it wasn't great as a daily driver, it would be great for towing, right? Well, not so much. While the gumbo mudders looked great in proportion to the truck, they added nothing in the stability nor civility departments as you were tooling down road. Only my Jeep, when fitted with the wrong pitman arm, handled worse. Towing with this truck was kind of like connecting a truck with turrets with a trailer with ADD, you get a combination vehicle that goes down the road like a slinky with a broken hip. You knew it was going to zig when you wanted to zag, you just didn't know when or how far. In fairness, the cheap car trailer I bought shared responsibility for this problem.

I thank God for there were at least a few occasions when I could have died in this truck. (Un)fortunately, none of them involved jumping a guardrail (to catch a bad guy). I'll explain; it would have been awesome to pull off a planned guardrail jump. Unfortunately, my only near guardrail experience involved a large shed, my psychotic trailer and one very icy, long downhill stretch of 127 out of Jackson, MI. Before I get to that debacle, I really need to explain the maiden voyage hauling the race car.

A group of us liked going to the track and thought it would be a great idea to head up to Milan after work on a Friday night. It was myself and Terry in my truck, pulling my Cutlass on the trailer and Scott following behind, with maybe Steve and/or Lamar riding with him. Everything seemed normal, all the way from Wauseon to Toledo. Everything was still normal and tracking straight when we got on 23N to head to Milan. Once we crested the downhill for the Monroe St. exit, something changed; what started as a little trailer wiggle turned into full on tail-wagging-the-dog.

We were two lanes wide, good thing there was no one next to us and luckily no one was brave enough to pass this crazy train. As the whole thing is unraveling, I'm checking my right hand mirror and notice that Terry's posture had changed quite dramatically. In a split second, he went from sitting quite normally to a puddle of a man, melted right down into the seat, feet planted firmly against the floor and knees against the dash. This back and forth roller coaster was really vigorous, similar to taking a really long fishing pole with a heavy sinker on the end and wiggling it back and forth. The car was really secure on the trailer, we can say that without a doubt in our mind. Anyhow, in my opinion, as a driver, you can do many things in that situation: scream, panic, slow down...those aren't my style, I kept a steady and firm pressure on the throttle and the wheel as straight as I could while hoping to make it safely to the uphill after you pass the exit. In my mind, this change in terrain represented safety. We did and pocketed a few memories along the way. It's funny, while I can hardly remember anything from the racetrack, I certainly remember another episode (or two) of the wobbles on the way home.

Fast forward a few months, one winter afternoon as my Dad and nephew Tom P navigated the aforementioned truck and trailer up to Lansing, Michigan to pick up a shed. When I first saw the shed, I thought, "There's no way, it'll never work...What if it does work?" (Smokey and the Bandit reference for those paying attention.) This was one well-built, large, gambrel or "barn style" roof shed and my illustrious trailer wasn't exactly built for hauling overgrown backyard storage devices. After a few hours of jacking and blocking the shed high enough to clear the top of the fenders, I eased the trailer underneath the shed for what could have been all of our last hurrahs. As we lowered the shed down, I swear I heard the trailer groan under the pressure.

By this time it was about 10 PM and in the few hours we worked to load the shed, we were greeted with 4" of fresh snow on the ground and it was still snowing very hard. Like the trip to Milan, everything started out well, this time with Tom riding shotgun. The roads were very icy and the wide tires on the truck didn't have great tread so it was already a "risky" trip. Shortly after the divided four lane on 127 ended, we started down a long, gentle snow covered slope. Let me set the stage; we have icy roads, heavy and blowing snow, a guardrail and steep drop off on the right side along with a large shed tail-grabbing us down the hill (another Smokey and the Bandit reference for those paying attention) when the trailer decides it's time to wiggle-wobble. Let's just say the wiggle wobble feels quite different on ice and looks very different when you are next to a guardrail overlooking certain death.

We went back and forth; left lane, right shoulder, left lane, right shoulder...while I'm trying to hold the wheel steady and give it just enough throttle to maintain some semblance of forward momentum without spinning the rear wheels. Experience had taught me that there was safety in reaching the end of the hill. Similar to Terry, Tom assumed the fetal position which must be a natural fight or flight response. After this back and forth went on for a few seconds (felt much longer than a few seconds) and when the worst was over, Tom straightened back out and asked me, "How did you keep your hands on the wheel, how could you just keep hanging on? I would have just let go and curled up." I told him "I didn't know but the truck wasn't going to drive itself." Anyhow, if I wasn't already saved, I would say a couple of people started believing in Jesus that night.

That wraps up a couple of the crazy towing stories. My brother now owns that trailer and it's surely been the source for a few of his own stories but I'm pretty sure he's tamed that shrew (he removed the front two tires and now it tows like a dream.)

Anyhow, there are so many other stories from owning this truck. I may add more details later when I have time.

Cliff's Notes: Cool truck, even if only in the owner's eyes. Pain in the back to work on because you had to sit in the engine compartment to work on the engine. Many great memories, especially for those involved in one way or another.

Fuck talk, Duck walk!
15,001 Posts
I like the fall guy truck as well.

No chevys, only GMC's for me.

154 Posts
My first "truck" was an '85 Chevy 1/2 ton shortbox 4wd. It had a 4" lift with 35" tires and I learned real quick it was not a tow vehicle. I had a trailer that sounds very similar to yours, you never knew what it was going to do. My first bad towing experience was a 79 Bronco with 44" ground hawgs that we made the mistake of loading on the trailer backwards, holy crap was that ever a bad idea. About 2 miles from where we loaded it was a long downhill run, that is where it all went bad real fast, taking up the whole road and seeing the side of the Bronco in the mirrors had my buddy doing the same thing as your passengers. We did figure out if you don't do a good job of strapping stuff to the trailer they will come partially off when stuff goes bad.
That trailer got a couple of other people before I finally changed the axle placement and took care of other issues.

Little Member
23,794 Posts
I hauled a 3/4 ton 4x4 with a Blazer with the same results. It was a slow move from then on. Friggin' white knuckle ride.

circling the drain
35,864 Posts
My first truck was a 78, second was an 84, I always wanted a k5, still have a very soft spot for that body style. Some day I hope to have another, tastefully restored and ready for some muddin, trail ridin' dune action.
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