Truck Norris 1967 Chevy C10 Finally Reaches Daily Driver Status

Truck Norris 1967 Chevy C10 Finally Reaches Daily Driver Status

11/23/2021

It’s been a long time coming, but our 1967 Chevy C10 project vehicle is back on the road after a two-year hiatus. What started as a simple suspension change took more time than we anticipated, and that’s something nearly anyone reading this can understand. Along the way, we encountered many more obstacles, such as broken valve springs, supply chain delays, sunken carburetor floats, and wanton engine destruction. Let’s try to summarize the last couple years in the life of Project Truck Norris.

Out with the Old

While we call it a simple suspension change, this was still major surgery to the truck. Total Cost Involved provided the components for our coilover conversion, and as such, the entire front suspension, including the engine crossmember, went away. The same was true for the rear suspension, with the stock trailing arms and Panhard bar arrangement replaced with tubular trailing arms, a torque arm, and new full-width Panhard bar. Coilovers replaced the stock coil springs and shocks at all four corners, and the steering gearbox was replaced with a new rack and pinion unit.

The easiest way to accomplish the work was to remove most of the truck’s body, starting with the front clip, plus the engine and transmission. Likewise, the bed was removed for easier access to the rear suspension components.

In a moment of inspiration, I used a block and tackle to lift the bed from the body. It would dangle from my ceiling like the Sword of Damocles for almost two years.

TCI Suspension Install

TCI’s coilover conversion eliminates all of the C10’s stock suspension components and replaces them with tubular A-arms, trailing arms, and torque arm. Follow the links for detailed articles on the installation of both the front and rear suspension.

It is a lot of work to do the conversion, but it’s not a difficult job. Be sure you have a good drill and sharp drill bits, because there are a lot of rivets that need to be removed. Other tools you’ll need are an air hammer with a punch and chisel, a set of transfer punches to mark holes to drill, and sockets and wrenches large enough for some of the rear suspension fasteners.

I sent the engine to a machine shop to be freshened up, which seemed prudent after discovering a broken valve spring when we took the valve covers off. There was also some excessive carbon build-up on the pistons, so a good cleaning, honing, and new rings and valve guides were in order.

Unfortunately, I sent the engine out right at the beginning of all the parts shortages we are currently experiencing. With many of the parts we needed on backorder, we decided to put a small block back between the frame rails of our C10 for the time being.

Small Block, Round 1

The engine I had ready to go was a BluePrint Engines 350 that I had previously used for a dyno test. I put a Holley single plane intake on it because that’s what we had, topped it with Holley’s Brawler 650 cfm carburetor, and dropped it on the motor mounts.

For an accessory drive, I eschewed the typical V-belt arrangement for Concept One’s serpentine belt system for small block Chevys. The headers are a pair of Flowtech long tubes for ’67 – ’72 C10s. Lucky Costa and I had to smash them a bit at the collectors to get them to fit closer to the floor, but that was only because the new ride height is so low. For a stock or moderately lowered truck, they would fit perfectly.

I also needed to install a shorter steering column so we could connect to the steering rack in one straight shot. The stock column was about 33 inches long, so I got a new, 30-inch column from CPP. Being three inches shorter made the angle to the steering rack less severe, falling within the realm of movement of Borgeson’s DD universal steering joints.

I used Earl’s power steering hose to make the necessary connections between the pump reservoir and steering rack. Earl’s also got the nod when plumbing the front brakes. The routing of the stock steel lines obviously didn’t match the shape of TCI’s engine crossmember, so I used Earl’s easy-to-bend copper nickel tubing to plumb the front brakes. We re-used the stock steel lines to the rear brakes.

It was very satisfying to see Truck Norris back on the ground with its front sheetmetal and bed back on. It was shocking to see how low the ride height was, and I mean that in a good way. We had to fix a couple broken and damaged wiring connections, but soon, the lights, horn, and wipers were all working properly.

The triumph I experienced when we fired the engine and took a few tentative trips around the block were quickly dashed when we destroyed our small block by launching the accelerator pump check valve down the intake manifold while changing the accelerator pump nozzle. My shame was on painful display as we documented that experience here.

Small Block, Round 2

Faced with the decision of rebuilding the damaged small block or replacing it outright, we decided on the latter. BluePrint Engines kindly knocked a couple hundred dollars off the price of a service replacement engine, but this was still a painful hit to the bank account and reinforced the lesson learned from our mistake. Our new engine arrived within three days of placing the order.

After installing the clutch and checking the bellhousing alignment, I put the replacement small block on our Easy Run engine test stand to check for leaks and get the carburetor and timing set before installation.

Then it was just a matter of dropping the new engine onto the mounts and bolting up the American Powertrain T56 Magnum. Everything else carried over—headers, carb, and intake—and once again, Truck Norris was on the road.

Again, we began with tentative trips around the block, before venturing out on longer drives. Each trip revealed small issues that needed to be addressed. I had a slight power steering leak at one of our fittings and a fender bolt fell out and caused an annoying rattle. Otherwise, the engine ran strong, the transmission shifted smoothly, and the ride felt firm but not harsh.

Dialing it in

The front tires were worn enough to need replacement, so we purchased a set of 255/50-R17 Riken Raptor tires from Tire Rack. At 27-inches, they are the same height as the 305/45-17 Mickey Thompson ET Street tires on the rear, and they look better than the 24.5-inch tall 245/45-17 tires that were on the front. I did need to raise the front end ride height by almost half an inch because the tires were rubbing the insides of the fenders over larger bumps.

After driving Truck Norris every day for a couple weeks, I threw caution to the wind and drove it to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show. The 500-mile round trip was the farthest from home I had ventured to that point. Fortunately, the only thing I had to fix on the side of the road was a loose taillight lens.

The day after we returned from Las Vegas, the engine wouldn’t start. I was both mystified by the situation and grateful that, whatever the problem was, it had waited until after I made it home from Las Vegas. It didn’t take too long to see that a bad carburetor float was causing the engine to flood. The float had partially filled with gasoline, keeping the needle off the seat and overfilling the fuel bowl.

I pirated a float from another carburetor and got the situation fixed in short order. Apart from that issue, Truck Norris has had no problems handling daily driver duty. The engine idles with about 13 inches of vacuum, the timing is set at 34 degrees total ignition advance and 14 degrees of initial advance. It runs fine on California’s crappy 91-octane gasoline, with no evidence of detonation and clean spark plugs. The big-block sized radiator keeps the engine cool, and with a 175-degree thermostat installed, if the fans do switch on they only need to run for a few seconds to drop the engine below the 180-degree coolant temperature threshold setting. On the freeway, I’ve calculated a rough estimate of 15 mpg, a number that can likely be improved with a chassis dyno tuning session at Westech Performance.

What’s Next?

One thing I get asked about a lot when I post to my Instagram account (@john.mcgann) is whether a big block will ever go back into the C10. The answer is yes, eventually, whenever that engine is done. For now, I’m in no hurry. I’m really enjoying driving it as is.

What’s in the immediate future for Truck Norris? I’ll be working with AEM Electronics on a sensor package to get their CD7 digital dash working with the carbureted engine. I’ll also be making the interior a little more civilized by adding more insulation and a vinyl mat to the floor, and fixing the misaligned panel gaps, especially around the front clip. I’m also contemplating converting it to a shortbed and possibly even giving Truck Norris a coat of paint! What say you? Is that blasphemous? No matter what the opinion on shortening long bed trucks, at least I’m not putting an electric motor in it, right? Email [email protected] or message me on Instagram to share your thoughts.

More Stories About Truck Norris

  • How to Destroy an Engine with a $6 Part
  • Project Car Update: 1967 C10 Truck Norris Cowl Rust Repair
  • Truck Norris 1967 Chevy C10 Reassembly
  • Truck Norris Starts and Runs!
  • How to Install TCI’s Front Coilover Conversion on 1967-1972 Chevy C10 Pickups

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