K5 Camper. My offroad home away from home.

zoomad75

Observer
The truck is back at the exhaust guy getting the pipe off of the passenger side manifold re-routed for more front driveshaft clearance. But instead of trailering it over I drove it with Larry coming along in the Waggy to bring me back. It was a good 30-minute run to get over there and got to stretch it's legs at highway speeds, in traffic and blast down an on-ramp. Holy cow is it fun to drive again. The 8.1 is just as happy lugging it in 4th or 5th as it is dropping the hammer to get up to speed quickly. I was laughing like a 12 year old every time I got after it. Whoever said there is no replacement for displacement was right on target.

Once it's done at the exhaust guy, it's going to be back at my place for the final assembly of the interior and electrical systems that got removed during the swap.
 

PlethoraOfGuns

Adventurer
What an undertaking! The top is cool, fits the truck well. Most people would throw it away. Happy to see you giving it new life! Amazing engine work! So glad you put a real trans in it. I put NV4500's in everything I own when I get the chance. Keep up the good work!
 

ITTOG

Well-known member
Awesome build. I used to do engine swaps all the time so it was fun reading about the progress and seeing the pic's.
 

zoomad75

Observer
What an undertaking! The top is cool, fits the truck well. Most people would throw it away. Happy to see you giving it new life! Amazing engine work! So glad you put a real trans in it. I put NV4500's in everything I own when I get the chance. Keep up the good work!
Thanks. I had looked for 3 years to find the camper. Missed out on a couple by hours or lack of funds. I think it's had more use in the last couple of years than it had in the previous 20 for sure. My buddy Larry deserves all the credit on the swap for sure. He's the pioneer in swapping 8.1's into squarebody trucks. I just had to work my butt off to keep feeding him parts when he needed them. The 4500 was part of the recipe of Larry's. We do a fair share of mountain runs since they are close to us. Having the advantage of a deep low gear for crawling up and down steep grades is paramount. Not to say an auto couldn't as I did fine with the 700r4, but I relied upon the brakes on some steep downhill runs way more than I would normally have liked too. I got lucky and horse traded for this one for a 4L80e I ended up with from another big block I bought prior to the 8.1 came into view. The bonus was finding the date code stamped into it from a rebuilder when it was rebuilt only 2 years ago. It's the smoothest shifting 4500 I've had a chance to use.
Awesome build. I used to do engine swaps all the time so it was fun reading about the progress and seeing the pic's.
Thank you too! This is now the second swap project in this truck with the 5.3 being the first. It was pretty stressful condensing all the work into only a couple of months. As projects go, many things didn't go to plan and required adjustments and finesse to get things to play together. Still, after driving it a couple of times now I'm pretty sure I won't need to swap anything else in. The torque is amazing and not having to hammer on the engine like I did the 5.3 is going to make it more relaxing to drive.
 

zoomad75

Observer
Quick update with the K5 Camper. Been driving it on the weekends since the exhaust guy fixed the clearance issue with the passenger side pipe off the manifold. The interior has been bare bones during this as I had intended fixing a couple of nagging issues before I put all the stuff back in. The floor had a small crack on the floor by the driver seat mount. Our buddy Ian is the resident go-to guy for sheet metal repairs. He made quick work of the small crack and we moved on to retrofitting a much more robust mount for a laptop to manage the navigation and engine monitoring.

The crack.


The laptop mount is a RAM unit and is adjustable in multiple directions as well as hieght. It's a sturdy unit for sure.


With that sorted out I pulled the seats back out and went to town with the insulation. Since I don't have a/c I needed to mitigate the radiant heat from the engine/trans and exhaust. On the desert trips I could feel the heat pouring off this area. This should help with it. It's not the most effective use of the product but it's better than nothing and it fit the budget.


The Rubber floor mat got reinstalled and I started putting the console back in with the base.


The seats went back in with the seat covers run through the washing machine.



I need to put the laptop mount back in, but I need longer bolts to take the rubber floor, jute pad and insulation into account. A couple other small things and the inside is done. More to do under the hood and repairs to the steering and suspension.

The truck is a blast to drive for sure. Not lacking in any way. Well, it was lacking a cupholder until I put the console back in yesterday. I don't have enough hands to drive, shift and hold a cup at the same time. I've been monitoring the engine with the Torque Pro app on my phone and it's all where it needs to be. I didn't expect it to be out of line, but I am a nerd for data.
 

zoomad75

Observer
Today's progress doesn't seem like much but I managed to take all day at it. Got the power for the console reinstalled. I'm running it directly off the battery with a continuous duty solenoid that comes on with switched ignition power. Takes a big load off the stock fuse panel. I've got a 30amp self-resetting circuit breaker on it to protect it. The stereo amp, CB, inverter, 12v and two USB outlets get power from this main circuit feeding a fuse panel inside the console.

I used riv-nuts to attach the solenoid and circuit breaker to the fender. I added a distribution block for the PCM's main battery power so I don't have a ton of terminals on the battery itself. The aux battery solenoid was reinstalled to the fender in the corner while I was at it. I'll need to build a new cable to the aux battery because it's a few inches over from where I had it before.


Bonus, I got full tunes back since the amp is powering the 6x9's behind the seats. The little speakers in the dash made it sound like I was listening to an old AM radio.

I needed to get the shifter boots bolted back down too. But before I did that I felt the need to finally fix my massive mistake when I originally installed the rubber floor. I severely misjudged the location of the t-case shifter and ended up with a bigger hole than I needed. I kept the chunk stashed away for when I finally decided to rectify it. Ultimately I'd replace the front section, but the budget ain't going for it and I thought I'd try to fix it. Paracord to the rescue. I took my drill and punched a bunch of holes in both sections. I've never really screwed around with paracord other than what I used on the seat covers last week. So it took a couple of tries to figure out how to stitch it up. I like how it came out and the hole isn't visible anymore. I got longer carriage bolts for the laptop mount and got it bolted down once the patch was done.


Taking little bites every weekend when I can work on it.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
Wow! Please permit a mild what-might-have-been hijack.

In 1977, Beloved Spouse and I were looking to replace our 1972 Blazer. We had owned it for four years in Africa and South America. It it crossed the Sahara, driven down the Andes, and again and again, we had frozen in the cold. We wanted heat and indoor plumbing. We ordered a 4x4 Chevrolet van from Pathfinder, but, upon our return to the US we were told that Chevrolet vans were in such demand as to be unobtainable. No van, no 4x4 conversion. So we started looking at alternatives. Chevrolet had a V-drive "all wheel drive" van, but it had no low range. We found a Blazer Chalet on the lot, but the price was high and it was clear that the factory tires were too small.

Then I saw a Four Wheel Camper and began discussions with Dave Rowe. No, they did not fit a Blazer; pickups only.

We ended up with a lovely 1977 Blazer which we kept for 14 years - but it was to be a long time before we finally got our indoor plumbing. And then it was, ironically, in the form of a Provan Tiger, built just after Dave Rowe sold the company.

Congratulations on your Blazer and may you keep living the dream!

(Pictures of our Blazers and more, here: https://www.pbase.com/diplostrat)
 

zoomad75

Observer
Wow! Please permit a mild what-might-have-been hijack.

In 1977, Beloved Spouse and I were looking to replace our 1972 Blazer. We had owned it for four years in Africa and South America. It it crossed the Sahara, driven down the Andes, and again and again, we had frozen in the cold. We wanted heat and indoor plumbing. We ordered a 4x4 Chevrolet van from Pathfinder, but, upon our return to the US we were told that Chevrolet vans were in such demand as to be unobtainable. No van, no 4x4 conversion. So we started looking at alternatives. Chevrolet had a V-drive "all wheel drive" van, but it had no low range. We found a Blazer Chalet on the lot, but the price was high and it was clear that the factory tires were too small.

Then I saw a Four Wheel Camper and began discussions with Dave Rowe. No, they did not fit a Blazer; pickups only.

We ended up with a lovely 1977 Blazer which we kept for 14 years - but it was to be a long time before we finally got our indoor plumbing. And then it was, ironically, in the form of a Provan Tiger, built just after Dave Rowe sold the company.

Congratulations on your Blazer and may you keep living the dream!

(Pictures of our Blazers and more, here: https://www.pbase.com/diplostrat)
All I can say is WOW! Hijack approved. You've been at this as long as I've been alive! I can only imagine the adventures you've been on. Simply amazing to say you've taken a K5 as far as you have. Very cool.

I've got the heat in the camper but omitted the indoor plumbing. But then again, my little trips don't involve crossing the Sahara or the Andes. I will say this I feel a little guilty sitting in the warmth of my camper in the Rockies when my Jeep buddies are all bundled up sleeping in tents on the ground.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
...I will say this I feel a little guilty sitting in the warmth of my camper in the Rockies when my Jeep buddies are all bundled up sleeping in tents on the ground.
Never! That is the whole art of this thing! And to be fair, most of it was our fault. In both cases had been living for years in the tropics at sea level - only to cross the Sahara in November and zoom up over 10,000 feet without proper coats, sleeping bags, gloves, etc. Trivia, the Tourag say of the Sahara that it is a "cold place where it gets hot in the sun." And they know!

One day we can discuss the joys of a manual transmission, 3.07 gears and 11x15 tires. The floatation was great, but the power curve went out the window. Your engine swaps are drool worthy.

Enjoy your Blazer; we are with you in spirit!
 

zoomad75

Observer
Good progress Rob. Do I understand you correctly, you’ve got two solenoids/isolators...one for the aux battery and another for the console?
Yep. I run two. I've got a lot of electrical going on inside the console and didn't want to burden the factory fuse panel tapping more power from it. Call it the automotive equivalent to Clark Griswold powering his Christmas lights from one outlet in the garage if I pulled from the fuse panel.

The "on" signal for the relay is the ignition on circuit. This way I can't forget something on inside the console and possibly kill the cranking battery leaving things on all night or all week if it's at home.

The only downside I have to this setup is the amp and cb only works with the key on. If I turn the key to accessory it will not turn on. If I want to listen to tunes or the cb I have to keep the key on.

But I've had it had it this way for five years and it's worked flawlessly. Nothing has killed the cranking battery from leaving something on in the console.
 
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