Project Cheap 10: How To Build A Gear Jamming, Budget Minded, Classic C10 In A Month With Our Pals At American Powertrain

Project Cheap 10: How To Build A Gear Jamming, Budget Minded, Classic C10 In A Month With Our Pals At American Powertrain

(Words and photos by American Powertrain/Matt Graves) – Let me start off by saying all this is Greg “Snaps” Schneider’s fault. Greg works for Ridetech as owner Bret Voelkel’s special projects guy. It’s his job to keep the fleet of Ridetech project cars in fighting trim. I met Greg during the 48 Hour Camaro build back a few years ago at Ridetech HQ. He didn’t really know what to think of me then and probably still doesn’t but we hit it off and now I consider him a good friend. Greg has one of the sweetest Chevy C10 trucks on the planet. I fell in love

with his truck the minute I sat down in it. Every detail of the truck was perfect. The paint, the stance, perfect wheels. I never considered myself a truck guy but this truck brought back fond memories of driving around my grandfather’s truck before I was even old enough to get a permit. Something about the shear simplicity of these classic trucks just makes me feel all warm inside.

Most of us probably have a truck story from when we were kid about either our dad’s or grandpa’s hauler. Let’s face it, trucks are America. They are made in America and they helped make America great. No other country in the world (except Texas) has a love affair with trucks like we do. They are the number one selling vehicle here in ‘Merica. After seeing Greg’s truck and the potential a C10 has, I had to have one. I spent many a night searching for a decent 67-72 C10 but I soon realized a “decent” short bed C10 was not a cheap truck to find or to start a build. I finally gave up looking until earlier this year. American Powertrain we had just come out with the parts to put a 5-speed or 6-speed into a C10. I got to talking to Gray Fredrick, one of the owners of the company, and found out he shared my desire to build one of these trucks. So we decided to go in together and buy one. BUT we were both working on a typically wife limited budget.

Could we build a cheap C10 and make it Power Tour worthy on a budget? What parts are out there that we could use that wouldn’t blow our bank account out and get us divorced? The truck had to be cheap, dirt cheap, so we could throw more money at parts. Paint and body work had to be out of the equation because we all know that will always kill your budget. After more searching we found a few low buck trucks nearby. So we grabbed a trailer and found our 1969 “Cheap”-10 for a measly $2900. We soon found out we may have paid too much. As you know, you get excited about buying something and sometimes you sorta’ overlook important things like, say, the bed floor being completely rusted out and the motor having a dead cylinder. Greg will probably lose his lunch when he sees this truck.

Oh, did I mention we picked this truck up less than a month before Power Tour? Yep, with one month to make her start, stop and cruise over 2,000 miles, here are the upgrades we decided to do:

Oh, did I mention we picked this truck up less than a month before Power Tour? Yep, with one monthto make her start, stop and cruise over 2,000 miles, here are the upgrades we decided to do:
5.3L engine
Holley carb and intake
Holley LS accessory drive
Hooker headers and motor mounts
American Powertrain basic 5-speed kit
Ridetech Coolride Air Ride kit
Classic Parts of America disc brake conversion
Some sort of stereo
Conspicuously absent from the list:
No paint or body
No carpet
No extra outlay of cash
First we needed an engine. So we chose the fastest cheapest choice? The 5.3L LR3 engine out of a late model Chevy Silverado. I know, I know you are tired of LS swaps. But let’s face it, if you do the math you can’t beat the unmatched dollar for dollar power and reliability of this little beast. Chevy built millions of these 5.3 truck engines and you can pick one up from most junk yards for $400-$600. And with the right mounts, you can literally throw one of these in a C10 from across the room. For your $4-600.00
you get 6-bolt mains, high flow factory heads, tons of parts interchangeability from other LS engines and a whole long list of features Chevy guys paid huge money for back in the day. You can spend hours reading about how to do the swap; it’s been documented to death, making it easy to climb over hurdles with a quick web search. We dropped one in using a good old Holley carb and all their LS engine swap parts and some basic parts store stuff. No EFI for this truck. Although Holley makes a great and easy to install EFI kit we wanted to stay below budget.
So we gave a quick a call to Holley and we were off. Check out the pics and the captions for the install of all the Holley goods:
A 68 I mean 69, no wait a 71???? C10. The front end is a hodgepodge of various parts making it a little difficult at first to identify its true year. But it’s a 1969….I think. Well that’s what the title says…
After getting the truck home we soon found out the price we paid for a “running” C10 was a little high. Number 8 cylinder in the tired small block was toast. (Cue sad trombone from the Price is Right – ed.)
Our new motor is a bone stock 5.3L LS engine from a 2005 Silverado . A quick coat of “LSX” orange makes you feel like something major is going into the truck. Before you ask, I made those metal legs to hold the motor up off the ground… (It is on the engine crane to prevent it from shuffling away after laying eyes on the truck! – ed.)
To start this off we wanted to keep it simple. We got a 650 cfm Holley carb and one of their LS carb conversion intakes. Super easy and fast to install. We liked the old school dichromate finish on the carb too. Comes with the o-ring gaskets and bolts.
Bolting in an LS motor into a C10 is a snap. Especially with the Hooker LS motor mount adapters. We used the stock location version. We even re-used the C10 rubber mounts off the old motor. Fell right in. Stock 5.3L oil pan fits the C10. Although if you are going to lower the truck a lot. You may want to get the Holley LS high clearance oil pan. It will give you a ton more room.
Stock rubber C10 mounts because we are cheap and it worked.
We needed an accessory drive solution. Once again we turned to Holley because they make it easy. One part number will get you all you need. We ordered part number 20-123 LS Swap Accessory drive kit. They have multiple versions. We got ours with just the alternator and power steering set-up. You can add A/C to this kit as well. It even comes with a 130amp alternator and a Corvette power steering pump! One box and you are done. The only pain is adapting the C10 stock power steering line to the Corvette metric style pump. Earls Plumbing makes a metric to –AN fitting that makes it work. You just have to take your stock line to a hose shop and have them make you a –AN hose end.
To make things easy we bolted on a set of Hooker Ceramic coated shorty street rod headers. They fit the C10 perfectly. What is that on the back end of the engine? A TKO 5-speed…you will have to wait to the next segment to read about that…
Here is the motor in the truck. Like I said it was very easy to install. We can even use the stock radiator. The 2005 Silverado upper radiator hose fits like it was made for this swap. The lower hose was just a piece we found lying around the shop. A simple 90 degree hose will work. Up next, the 5-speed install…

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50 thoughts on “Project Cheap 10: How To Build A Gear Jamming, Budget Minded, Classic C10 In A Month With Our Pals At American Powertrain

    1. Mad Matt

      Uh Cheap 10? Hello?…. no we simply ran out of time so we just used what we had. They will get upgraded shortly

      1. Threedoor

        Better do the upgrade quick. I like to swap in 73 and up brackets and clamshells drill two holes in the crossmember and space the frame 1/2 in and no further carnage from tearing out the ds mount. Too many cut ps lines made me do this on my 71

  1. crazy

    cheap my @__… I’ve seen what this companies transmission packages cost.. for 67-72 c-10’s

  2. Tom Slater

    Is a carb + intake convincingly cheaper than chopping down a factory harness & adding a Walbro to the stock fuel plumbing? EFI > Carb, but I haven’t run the numbers. My truck definitely kept the EFI on it. Far as I can tell that’s a big part of the reason to go LS vs SBC.

    1. Tom Slater

      OH. Right. Sponsor news. They more or less decided to put Holley parts on it vs reusing factory EFI stuff. Nevermind.

      1. tigeraid

        Yup. Don’t get me wrong, the Holley stuff is really nice and I’m sure the swap is seamless, but good god have you looked at the prices? You’re well into the thousands and thousands to convert to carb with the ignition stuff, as well as that front accessory setup.

          1. tigeraid

            Speaking in Canuck money, up around $1500. And that’s still a ton more than “free,” by keeping the factory EFI and a $200 fuel pump.

  3. tigeraid

    I have been looking for a solution to fitting an older 4 or 5 speed manual to an LSx for a long time. The Car Craft article makes it out like a complicated conversion kit, and you end up spending $1000+, which is basically the difference in cost for a T-56!

    I really hope you guys have found an affordable solution. I await Part 2.

  4. Nytro

    Having been on both ends of the financial spectrum, I think we all know the term “budget” is relative, and even though I’m on the good side of the spectrum now, I gotta think that this “budget build” isn’t quite that when it comes to most real world car guys. I’d like to see the dollars spent on this project since budget is a word emphasized several times. The trans swap isn’t cheap, nor is air ride. That doesn’t touch anything else.

  5. jerry z

    I like this trucks myself, been looking for over a year.

    What you are laying out there for parts is not cheap. Yes you are limited on time but the budget isn’t. It should be called Project Quick 10, not Cheap 10.

      1. claymore

        So you don’t live in AMERICA. Is there some REASON you want to show disrespect?

        1. Tom Slater

          I *do* live in America and I can think of plenty of reasons to feel disrespect. Showing it, though, is rarely productive.

  6. S. Rose

    I’m just wondering, is that the only alternator bracket available? To me it looks a little crazy hanging way off to the side like that

  7. Scott Liggett

    I guess my idea of cheap is not the same as these guys. Their $500 junkyard engine with rattle can spray bomb, including oil filter has $6000 of shiny new parts before it’s even in the truck. Why bother with the junkyard engine? Spend another $6000 on a new crate LS for it too.

  8. Turd Burgler

    I guess I missed the point of this build. Low budget to me and a lot of others is a whole lot less than what you have going into this already. I realize you can buy an ls motor for $500 but it’s the cost of everything else that kills it. Motor mounts that cost fifty bucks or more, headers if you don’t use the stock manifolds, ignition and so much more. I just don’t get where this is low budget in my mind. I like the ls engines but they cost right much in over cost. I can buy a small block running put it in my truck a lot cheaper than I can stick an ls in it. Don’t get me wrong it want make as much power being a stock used motor but it will still work just fine. It’ll do the haul. I wished it wasn’t another ls going into it. Now an L6 would be nice with a five speed…….

    1. Turd Burgler

      I like Ridetech but their cheapest airbag kit is expensive as well. Your still looking at right much just for that. Although the 67-72 trucks make it easier to airbag in the rear though. I think you should have left it stock height at least. You don’t have money to lower it when you aint got the money, unless you want to cut some springs. Lowering springs for this truck is cheap by the way. Thousand plus dollars for the kit or buy lowering springs for cheap? Do the math on that one.

      1. Mad Matt Graves

        Yeah I did the math. I love air bags. Don’t want stock height . So I got least expensive kit they make. We bought a cheap truck. Therefore we could spend more money on parts.

        1. Greenie

          I looked at their least expensive kit as well and still couldn’t afford it. I think most of their price is in the name though. Porterbuilt makes a nice affordable kit as well.

  9. Jimmy

    I feel bad for the dude who owns this truck. He’s getting bashed for a bad title choice. First things first this isn’t a low budget build by any stretch of the mind. Any time a sponsor or everything new is included to the price there’s no way it can be cheap even with a $500 dollar motor. When things are given to you as a means of sponsor it kinda throws the cheap out of the deal. I would like to think Holley, Ridetech and American Powertrain would give me stuff as well. Good luck to builder and good luck to those who like to build something similar. Need a change in the title though.

  10. 3rd Generation

    You could buy a new truck for what you’ll (anyone having to pay after-tax earned money for this stuff) have tied up in this thing. First day on the road, someone T-bones it – insurance will total it and send you a check for $300.

    Bad Investment, NOT cheap and No business deductions.

  11. derbydad276

    I wish someone made the same stuff for us FORD guys I would love to put a dual overhead cam 4.6 in my F100 with a carburetor

  12. Mad Matt Graves

    Wow! Such heated discussion over a project name. My point was the truck we found had to be cheap so we could throw money at some nice parts. No paint no body work. Which I think is most guys problems with a project is paint and body work eats up your budget. Yes EFI is better. I have built several LS engines with EFI for cheap. We just wanted to be simple. And no it’s not thousands of dollars for a carb LS conversion. Depending on where you buy it $300 for carb, $300 for intake $350 for 6LS. So $950. We saved money on a motor rebuild by using a cheap LS. Yes it’s a budget build build but don’t we all have a budget for our projects? We didnt say junkyard build. I’ll change the title to Somewhat limited Budget-10… Does that help? Lol

    1. Jake the snake

      I’m just not sure that the intake and ignition was really only $600 bucks. I can see the carb being and not the intake here, being $300 but otherwise I’m not so sure. I can’t say that I feel that this isn’t close to being a cheap build but sometimes the truth gets stretched a little. Let’s face it we all want to be heroes. I’ll have to look up the prices and piece the top end together to see how much this might cost. It’s interesting to me that this would have been done for $950 but the thing is you forgot the headers, motor mounts and other little tid bits that drove the price up. Sticking with a smallblock could have allowed you to use what you have. I know it’s not an LS but nobody said they cared what the motor was. Hell you could have put an 305 in it and as long as it was reliable nobody would have cared.

  13. Jeff Lee

    Price is a subjective thing, and Matt knows Bangshift is a beer and pizza budget backyard garage crowd. I don’t know why it’s so cool to hate on LS swaps these days too. A $600 junkyard motor that can make 400+ HP without even taking off the valve covers is pretty damn cool. Whatever your budget is, this project seems to be more realistic than most of the builds I see getting press in magazines and elsewhere online. I’ve seen some 6 figure truck builds. I’m willing to bet you could build 3 “Cheap 10’s” for the price of a new Silverado which wouldn’t be nearly as cool.

    1. Greenie

      Mostly because LS’s are really over done here lately. And they are seen as being cheap but depending where you live and what you might get your hands on they aren’t that cheap. I’ve yet to find one for less than a thousand bucks. Sometimes things just get over played. Imagine listening to only the top 40 songs over and over all day every day. They were cool for the first week then they got old. It’s also like diesels they’re getting to be overplayed as well. Sometimes people need a break. Make it simple and fun. We don’t really need another so called budget built truck. There are some trucks on other forums that really do own the budget built title and don’t look like crap cans. Like a lot of things they each have their time. Do I think LS isn’t a good candidate for a swap? No. I just find it hard to believe the hype of it being budget. How much is this truck being built for? Ten grand? Five grand? Understanding budget to me and you are two totally different things and knowing were one stands in the budget realm really helps.

      1. Greenie

        Magazines will show this truck before they will the one that is just a plain old smallblock truck that a teenager actually built.

  14. Scott Liggett

    The back lash is against parts companies’ and magazines building cars using 1000’s of dollars in parts that weren’t paid for that we the readers would have to pay for. If he didn’t want the back lash, maybe they should of used a bit of ingenuity instead of contacts and the promise of free advertising in exchange of fancy parts many of the readers can’t afford. It’s a club most of the readers here are not members. We can’t call up performance companies when we build cars and get free engines, transmissions, suspension parts.

    Whether or not the owner of this truck paid for this stuff out of pocket is irrevalent. It is perceived as such.

    1. Dude Cooper

      Hey Scott why don’t get off your ass and do a build if your so smarty pants

  15. Tom Slater

    It’s in “sponsor news”. Should tell us what we need to know right there.
    It’s a badass project truck, no doubt.
    Not in my personal definition of “budget”. Well, I say that, but my wife and I stopped counting around $7500 on the ’57 we’re building. 4.8 / 4L60E / hydroboost brakes covers most of it. Not even close on body work or interior. So, hell, I dunno. Done my best but it’s probably not “budget” either. Would have been smarter, in some ways, to say screw the MPG and cool factor and just go carb’ed SBC

  16. jack.pine

    Dude Cooper hit the nail on the head. Hey, Pro Keyboarders – did you get it done in a month?

    If I had to build a car in less than one month, I doubt I would waste time cobbling up a junkyard harness to see if I could maybe make EFI sort of work. I’d grab an intake, carb, ignition and go off to solve the rest of the build project so I could get on the road.

    If this LS motor came together for the costs that Matt quoted, I doubt many of you could realize a powerful, NOT LEAKING motor with nice idle, etc. in the same timeframe for the same price point without ending up exactly where Matt did. And I will not count the free motor you got from your uncle’s car. We will perform this audit AFTER you have proven your combo on a 1500-mile slog with less than a month prior to sort out the entire vehicle.

    Limping your car on 7 cylinders to your cousin’s birthday party doesn’t count.

    1. Pine

      Sure the price for a running, non leaking motor was nice, but……here’s the thing could he had done it on his own money without sponsor help? And do it in the time frame without a full on shop? I’m sorry to offend but the thing is after awhile all this so called budget build stuff gets really old, espeacially when it starts junkyard and ends up buying everything out of a catalog. Maybe the title of this build should have been different. If you $8 grand sitting around to throw at a car then there’s your budget but be ready for the backlash that will be if you call it low budget. I’ve seen a lot of “low buck” builds that weren’t really that at all. But then again it is all subjective.

  17. Lynn Minthorne

    The average person off the street is not going to get an LS motor for $500

    1. Mad Matt Graves

      Yes you can. Just call Knox Auto Parts in Knoxville, TN. It’s how I got this one….$500. Depending on accessories and mileage that comes on the motor. They range from $500-$700 all day long for 4.8/5.3s

      1. crazy

        well that might be there… but here it’s a lot more.. try 900+ for a dresses 5.3 and harness and ecu/senders…
        here 750 gets you a 5.3 with 60-70k no harness,no ecu, no ps pump,no alt, no starter,no a/c compressor, no sensors or wiring unless the sensor is on the engine..
        want one with it all
        750 engine
        50 ac
        35 ps
        45 alt
        45 starter
        harness no ecu 70
        ecu 75-100 depending

        chuckrans 1250.00
        everete 1000.oo +/-
        feraria’s 1500.00 everything 60k or less
        add 750-1200 if you want one from a vette/fbody/gto/g8

  18. crazy

    this build tho cool, is not any way shape or form cheap.. sorry calling it what it is.. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    now if you took and picked up a ls 6.0 for 600.oo and installed it.. took a 67-72 blazer tank.. and a 2001 burb fuel pump and put it in the blazer tank (tank 129.oo fuel pump 169.oo) and bolted a stick to it. maybe the one bolted to the back of the ls in the first place?? as my pricing a 5 speed for my 71 c-10 was 3000.00 through American powertrain.. not exactly cheap.. and that doesn’t include driveshaft and other parts..

    but you went back to carb for the ungodly cost of just under a grand… well to me 300.oo is less than 1000.oo so keeping the ls efi would’ve been smarter and cheaper..

  19. crazy

    I take it no a/c either as you’d have to notch the engine crossmember when you use the 5.3/4.8 truck dress

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