I've got my eye on this old work truck this guy is selling. It appears
to have been a work truck and it has two hitch balls for some reason.
The paint looks bad, but I can't see any major rust or damage on it
beyond a really scratched up bed.
I've not driven it or looked under the hood yet.
It's a v8 with a 350.
I'm not a mechanic, but Iv'e been wanting to have one of these around
as a project truck.
What should I look out for?
What's the very worst that could be wrong with the truck if it
appears to drive well ?
How can I tell if it needs an engine rebuild or a new transmission?
What about issues elswhere in in the powertrain?
I know it's gonna be a pain in the balls, but I plan to take my time
I hope you are that lucky. These trucks tend to rust badly if they're
exposed to the elements or things like road salt. I've seen one gone so bad
that the bed sides were held together with come alongs. Still ran and drove
You may want to request a copy of the LMC Truck catalog. All kinds of cool
stuff in there. Don't know how good it is, but I do know they've been around
a while. So it must not be too bad. Chuck's Chevy Truck pages are also worth
Lots of good information there. Lots of stories too.
You certainly should before you buy it (unless the owner practically wants
to give it away and you know that you could recover the outlay by selling
parts to other truck owners or the whole thing for scrap (please don't!)).
Pretty common setup. 350 V8s are good, in fact the whole powertrain really
isn't bad at all. Sometimes the automatic transmissions need some help to
stay running, such as an external cooler.
Rust, worn out parts, signs of shoddy repair, rust, excessive smoke, hard
starting, signs that it was "run hard and put away wet" like the owner
didn't care for it, rust, funny noises that sound bad, lights and indicators
that don't work, transmission problems, any severe wavering or wandering on
the road, leaky lines, and did I mention rust?
Does the truck have the right parts in it? Has someone replaced major
components with ones from newer vehicles? It's not always a bad thing if
this is done properly and happens to be well documented. However, you can
have a lot of "fun" if something was changed to a part from a newer vehicle
but you can't figure out all the changes that were made to accommodate the
Check the fluids. How do they look? Any of them smell burnt or appear to be
the wrong color?
You're going to find things wrong, even if the truck was expertly cared for.
Stuff breaks, and ~25 years of going down the road will wear things out.
Optional equipment may break (air conditioners are common failures if your
truck has one) and people don't bother fixing it so many years later.
If you find things that are seriously wrong, ask yourself if you want to
deal with them. If you find that the truck just seems like a mess of
problems, never hesitate to walk away and find another. There is always
For the most part, rust. (notice a theme here? :-) )
How well does it run and drive?
Does the engine start easily, not smoke a lot, seem to have plenty of power
and not make any funny clunking, tapping, pounding or knocking noises?
Problems here can be as simple as a tune up or as severe as needing to
rebuild or install a new/rebuilt engine. How does the oil look? Did the
owner keep maintenance records?
How about the transmission? If it's a manual, does the clutch work properly?
Can you shift into all gear ranges and get the expected result (no jumping
out of gear or chattering, or excessive noise)? On an automatic, do all the
gears work, does it go into gear fairly decisively? (Watch for slam
shifting. That's a bad sign.) Does it struggle to get into a particular gear
or drop out of a gear when it shouldn't?
They're pretty solid. U-joints can need to be done, but you can do that in
your driveway if you must. Differentials usually don't have a lot of
problems unless they've been abused, but the seals can leak.
One thing to know--you're going to spend more money on it than you expected.
Somehow, someway, this is almost always the case. Little things ("nickel and
dime") go wrong, bigger things may take more than one try to get right if
you're new to doing them.
Get some good quality tools. The factory service manual is not a bad idea.
(Don't bother with Haynes and Chilton's, unfortunately.) Have a place where
you can work on the truck and nobody is going to bother you, or make you
move it when it's all taken apart. It will take time to do it. How much of a
pain it is depends on several things, one of which is how prepared you are
to do this and how far you want to take it. (Do you really want to make the
truck showroom perfect, or would just "nice" be OK?)
How much of the work can you do yourself, and how much will need to go
elsewhere? Most mechanical work is something you can do. Repairing body
panels and doing paint work may be things best hired out.
Always keep safety in mind when you work. Get help moving heavy parts. Have
a phone handy at all times in case something goes wrong. Please don't be
stupid--and if you're not sure, then get help. Use safety glasses. Have
And most of all--good luck. Please do keep the group posted on your project
if you decide to do it.
Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.