At a Project Crossroads... Unsure of Direction

ExpoMike

Well-known member
Hi all, so I have been slowly working on my M1010 project (aka Desert Turtle, see my link in sig) and am at a project crossroads. I have already purchased most of big (read expensive) parts for the internal camper build and am getting ready to start with the roof raise so we can stand up inside. Part of my original plan has been to build out the camper, take care of the needed maintenance of the truck and add some comfort to the cab for traveling. This would including things like A/C, radio, sound deadening and carpet. Already swapped in better seats. Since I am not a huge fan of the original 6.2L diesel, my plan has been to eventually do an engine swap to a 7.4L BBC engine. My goal was to get the box completed and do a few shakedown trips and get things sorted out. Then 6-12 months later do the engine swap.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans... Last year I went through the cooling system and took care of the leaking/plugged radiator by having it re-cored. Runs nice and cool and all seemed to be well. I haven't driven it much (maybe a couple hundred miles since) but notice it seems like it is losing coolant as I have been having to top off the overflow tank. There are zero leaks and I have fears it is what is a common issue with the earlier 6.2L diesels. They are known to blow the head gasket back on the #8 cylinder and/or cracking the heads. Actually the crack head problem is almost likely a guarantee of this vintage but you don't know until you take them off and get them checked. Based on reading decades of reports from people, it is very likely and is the likely cause of coolant loss. I am not really at that point of tearing an engine apart or doing an engine swap (though I actually have the engine) as those are both big projects in themselves.

Now my dilemma. I have toyed with the idea of swapping the box onto a newer platform, which solves a lot of things all at once (better creature comforts, better drivetrain, not dealing with 35 year old parts and issues, etc.). The downside is the cost, to make this jump, as the newer truck is a huge cost but a huge savings in time and work. There is the cost and effort to get the box transferred over but my mind feels that is an easier task than all the work I need to do on the current rig (which will include redoing all the brakes including the hard/soft lines, reseal the transfer case, engine swap and everything related to changing from diesel to gas, full interior comfort items, paint, etc.). Once the box swap is done, I can continue the build out of it and once ready, could hit the road.

Really having a hard time deciding which direction to go. Pros and cons to both scenarios. I did do a mock up last year of what the box could look like on a different platform, to get an idea.

Rig as it currently is
0831190915_HDR.jpg

Mock up on a later model Chevy truck
3500-m1010.jpg
 

john61ct

Adventurer
I would just do the minimum on the current truck to safely get out there and enjoy the hell out of USING it ASAP AMAP

even if you end up driving it into the ground.

It might surprise you though.

Meantime save up for the next truck - my trick is set aside $1 per mile driven, minimum $500 a month, into a sacred untouchable vehicle account.

Also keep an eye out for that crazy bargain on a young low miles specimen, you never know.

But most importantly, gain IRL sleeping time off grid, you may find you actually want something completely different

in which case think of the 100s of hours 10000's of $$$s you'll be saving yourself.

Not to mention this first-draft unit might just sell as is at some point for a lot to a rose-tinted wannabee hipster, funding a lot of the next one
 

ExpoMike

Well-known member
@john61ct My wife and I do very remote travels in the southwest deserts and most of the time solo vehicle. I need to be as 100% reliable as possible. Where we go, no tow truck it going to come save us. With this coolant issue, I have zero faith with this engine. This is our third rig over the last 15 years and have done thousands of miles of travel. Reason I am building this is because of the things we liked and disliked of our previous rigs.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
Alrightythen, this being the Prime Directive

> get out there and enjoy the hell out of USING it ASAP AMAP

the path seems clear to do what it takes.

Personally, means buying one all ready to go, or at least 85+%

engine swap fuggedaboudit.
 

ITTOG

Well-known member
@john61ct My wife and I do very remote travels in the southwest deserts and most of the time solo vehicle. I need to be as 100% reliable as possible. Where we go, no tow truck it going to come save us. With this coolant issue, I have zero faith with this engine. This is our third rig over the last 15 years and have done thousands of miles of travel. Reason I am building this is because of the things we liked and disliked of our previous rigs.
I think you just confirmed your own question. I also feel this is the smartest move. Yes it is expensive but getting stuck where no one may come quickly to help you is not an acceptable risk in my mind when the wife is with you. If it was just me, no big deal and take the risk.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
Mike, you know how many hours I've got into building my rig. My dollars-saved tally is very high, but the days-of-fun tally is never high enough. If I had it to do again, I'd spend more money to get my rig into a useable state faster.

None of us are getting any younger.
 

zoomad75

Observer
As a squarebody guy, my heart says swap that big block in and fresh up the rest of the drivetrain and brakes and go. I'm making it more simple than it really is, but on the other hand, I get the want/need to get on the trail sooner and be reliable.

Swapping the box is an option for sure, but if you have to raise the roof anyway to stand up in it maybe it's not the camper to use. The other thing is swapping to a later truck like you have in the photoshop example is limited to how the truck you find had been maintained. You might need to rebuild the entire front suspension and beef up the rear to handle the load. Depending on how technical of trail you want to take you may be limited with an IFS truck like that. What it gets down to is the grass may not be greener going to a newer truck. It might require a similar amount of work to prep and get ready to go on top of the box swap.

The devil you do know may be better than the one you don't. An engine swap is a weekend job as the big block bolts right up to the same mounts. The same radiator is used and would bolt right up to the th400. Though you might want to update the converter to one for a gas application as I'm not sure if the diesel spec torque converter will work or if the stall speed ends up being too low for the big block. New fuel tanks are easy to get or swap to a 31 gallon Blazer tank and move it out back to eliminate the dual side-saddle tanks. One major factor that I think is being overlooked is the simplicity of the truck itself. Solid one-ton axles, Detroit locker out back, and a simple driveline that is pretty easy to diagnose and fix in the field. If you aren't familiar and equipped to deal with a modern truck with computer controls on everything you could end up in that same scenario stuck in the boonies where the tow trucks can't get to you due to a failure of a computer-controlled component or the IFS front end coming apart.

I'm just presenting a different perspective. After all, it's your ride to do with what you want.
 

ExpoMike

Well-known member
@zoomad75 that pic was just an idea. Actually I really want a Ram so I get a solid front axle setup. I actually found a truck I really like but it's $25K. 2014 Ram 2500 standard cab, long bed. What I think I just figured out is, the frame widths are so different between older trucks and new one, not sure how easy a box swap would be. SB = 34" width, Ram = 42" width.

You are right about the simplistic nature of the SB trucks. Swapping from diesel to gas is not quite a weekend project. LOL Though the engine itself should be a fairly easy drop in, all the things that bolt to and support the engine is where all the time comes in. Like for like swap would be easy but basically have to redo almost every other system (exhaust, fuel system, accessory drive, wiring, etc.). At the same time, being 35+ years old, anything made of rubber needs to be replaced (spring bushing, door and window seals, etc) so getting thing mechanically up to par, is a huge project in itself.

Definitely finding the older I am getting, the harder things are to get done, especially since I am doing the work by myself. Then the fact I am doing this all in my sloped driveway. That adds its own challenges. Decisions, decisions....

Thanks to those who have replied with thoughts.
 

vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
@john61ct My wife and I do very remote travels in the southwest deserts and most of the time solo vehicle. I need to be as 100% reliable as possible. Where we go, no tow truck it going to come save us. With this coolant issue, I have zero faith with this engine. This is our third rig over the last 15 years and have done thousands of miles of travel. Reason I am building this is because of the things we liked and disliked of our previous rigs.

NOTHING is 100% reliable we all know that.

Since you have ZERO faith in this current vehicle it's time to do something even if it's wrong!

You are/were building this vehicle "Because of the things we liked and disliked in our previous rigs". Your words.

Think long and hard about "What you Like" and pair those likes with your vehicle decision.

If you swap the engine will the "Ole Girl" be everything you want? If so SWAP IT!

Does that newer Dodge hit all the "Likes" better than an engine swapped 30 year old truck. If so buy the Dodge and do the body swap.

Either way ya go it's gonna cost ya some MOHLAAH and your TIME!

With me my TIME is worth more than my MOOHLAH!

I suggest you place a lot more value on your TIME than you may have in the past. Decide which way will git you out exploring with the best combination of your "Likes versus Dislikes" in a vehicle that you have faith in to git you home. Do this with thoughts about which vehicle will do all these thing in the most timely manner for most effective spending of your money and once you have done that DO IT!

That means which ever way you go it's going cost you more MOOHLAH than you want to spend so you can have more time out exploring rather than working on an old truck in a sloped driveway dreaming about exploring!

Catch 22
 
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zoomad75

Observer
@zoomad75 that pic was just an idea. Actually I really want a Ram so I get a solid front axle setup. I actually found a truck I really like but it's $25K. 2014 Ram 2500 standard cab, long bed. What I think I just figured out is, the frame widths are so different between older trucks and new one, not sure how easy a box swap would be. SB = 34" width, Ram = 42" width.

You are right about the simplistic nature of the SB trucks. Swapping from diesel to gas is not quite a weekend project. LOL Though the engine itself should be a fairly easy drop in, all the things that bolt to and support the engine is where all the time comes in. Like for like swap would be easy but basically have to redo almost every other system (exhaust, fuel system, accessory drive, wiring, etc.). At the same time, being 35+ years old, anything made of rubber needs to be replaced (spring bushing, door and window seals, etc) so getting thing mechanically up to par, is a huge project in itself.

Definitely finding the older I am getting, the harder things are to get done, especially since I am doing the work by myself. Then the fact I am doing this all in my sloped driveway. That adds its own challenges. Decisions, decisions....

Thanks to those who have replied with thoughts.
I totally understand what you are facing. Either way you go is going to take time, effort and money to get done. It comes down to what your ability is and how much you really want to put into it. In my case, I've got a lot of time and money into two complete drivetrain swaps on my truck. In hindsight, I should have waited to go to the 8.1 but I got a lot of time on the road and trail with the 5.3 that was still fun.

I run a service department at a dealership and get to work on the new stuff daily. The features on the new trucks are nice for sure, but with more content, comes complexity and limitations to one's ability to repair themselves without a lot of expensive tools. Dealing with a lot of the problems that have been created over the last 20 years of automotive design with increasing computer controls over even the most basic systems is not what I wanted to deal with when I'm out in the backcountry exploring. Which is the exact reason for my use of a Squarebody K5. With the modern engine, I've got factory reliability and driveability. Everything else is non-computer-controlled basic and fixable pretty quickly. I carry a few key parts that the engine would need in a pinch like a spare fuel pump and have the ability to read codes and diagnose a problem that comes up. Heck, we've even converted the 8.1 that was originally a drive-by-wire electric throttle body to cable/mechanical for reliability sake and ability to fix in the field.

My time away from work where I actually go exploring is highly valuable to me and the last thing I want to do is deal with stuff on my truck breaking down. This is why I'm willing to use a much more simple truck to limit the possibility of failure. I also have put thousands of road miles on mine after the swap to shake out any bugs on the engine before I have gone on any major run.
 

Skinny

Active member
A low mileage LS and matching trans on a stand alone harness with the right tune goes a long way. You will never have an issue finding a starter in the middle of nowhere. Nor do you have all the emissions BS to deal with.

A K30 is a great starting place. You would probably be just fine getting a quality long block and start fresh. I cant justify spending that kind of coin on a 6.2 or 6.5 as they are kind of pigs. But it will be reliable, just slow amd smelly as usual.

I think I advocated that an 8.1 swap is just as expensive as putting a gear vendors overdrive in, plus it comes with an AC compressor, a better overdrive transmission, is 15 years newer, and has like triple the power. No one wants to hear it but chasing old stuff with good money is a waste. I dare my 6.2 to blow up.

Sent from my SM-T380 using Tapatalk
 

zoomad75

Observer
A low mileage LS and matching trans on a stand alone harness with the right tune goes a long way. You will never have an issue finding a starter in the middle of nowhere. Nor do you have all the emissions BS to deal with.

A K30 is a great starting place. You would probably be just fine getting a quality long block and start fresh. I cant justify spending that kind of coin on a 6.2 or 6.5 as they are kind of pigs. But it will be reliable, just slow amd smelly as usual.

I think I advocated that an 8.1 swap is just as expensive as putting a gear vendors overdrive in, plus it comes with an AC compressor, a better overdrive transmission, is 15 years newer, and has like triple the power. No one wants to hear it but chasing old stuff with good money is a waste. I dare my 6.2 to blow up.

Sent from my SM-T380 using Tapatalk
He's already got a 454 laying in wait right now. I agree, dumping money into the 6.2/6.5 diesel platform with all of its known problems is a waste. I know there are fans out there and I am not one of them. Having seen a crank snap in two in my buddy's Suburban a block away from his house under little to no load I would never want to be miles in the backcountry with one.
 

twodollars

Active member
Outside of the coolant consumption issue you need to resolve is the life left in your injection pump. If it has any trouble starting when the engine is hot the pump likely needs a head and rotor assembly. I just went through this on a 6.5, and while I love the engine parts are getting harder to find, and expensive. Cost me well over 1000 for a rebuild.

On the flipside parts to change the head gasket is about 150 bucks, and it's a easy job. If theres no other issues might be the easiest way to a running truck. Check the dampener while your in there and replace if theres any evidence of slippage or debonding of the elastomer. That's what breaks cranks older 6.2s a d 6.5s.
 
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