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Discussion Starter #1
Yes you read right. For those on either side of the fence that may consider this as sacrilege, well, you know where the door is at. There is a whole lotta internet out there, go crazy. :wavey:

Here's the story behind all of this. After exiting the USMC in 1993, I really wanted to get my hands on a tri-five Chevy truck to play with. I had always loved that body style of the 55-57 vintage, but in high school, I was wise enough to realize I would most likely destroy it. That would be bad.

In 1995 or so, I found a good, relatively rust free body at a salvage yard in Phoenix. No motor or transmission, but the frame was straight and un-cut and the body was complete with the long bed, minus the tailgate. I ponied up $1500 and towed it home, title and all.

Over the years I played around with it running a 350 Chevy I built along with a junkyard TH200-4R. The tranny bit the dust and I swapped in a TH-350. Later I decided I wanted better brakes and steering so I did a disc brake conversion on the solid front axle and added PS. The brakes were great, but I ened up with some ugly bump steer.

To kill the bump steer issue and improve handling, I cut the frame and welded in a Camaro front sub-frame I had rebuilt. Handling was improved, but now the nose was in the weeds. I am not a low rider guy and this look never appealed to me, so to the back burner things went. About the same time a was playing around with EFI, first a Cross-Fire Injection unit from a 1983 Z-28, later standard TBI from a 91 Chevy 1/2 ton.



The front suspension really bothered me. This is a pickup truck, it should look like one. I got to thinking about the old NAPCO 4WD conversions of the '50s and how they looked, all business.



These things were WORK trucks, leaf springs at all four corners, manual everything, no comforts, but tough as hell. I liked the look, but again, the ride is crap. I had a 1978 W200 Power Wagon for five years, three of which while stationed at MCAS El Toro. The 91 Freeway could scramble your brain with all the bouncing in that truck.

The W200 was my first truck and my first Dodge. Since then I have lost count of the Dodge products I have owned. It occurred to me though, I could use a chassis from a 1994-2001 Ram 1500 4WD as the basis for my NAPCO looking build. The coil sprung front end is a good design, one I am all too familiar with, as I am a Jeep guy too. The frame width between the 1957 chassis and the Ram is only 1" different and easily managable. The only real big issue is the wheel base. The long bed 3100 has a wheelbase of 121 1/2" as I recall. The Ram long bed single cab is about 11" longer, the short bed is about 8" shorter. It is easier to shorten a frame then lengthen one, so...

I set about to watching CL for a donor Ram 1500, either long bed or club cab short bed, 4WD. I preferred the Magnum 5.9, but either V8 would work. I figured it would be easier to keep the Dodge running gear as a whole than having to match up Chevy powertrain to Chrysler axles. One less problem. At first when I started this, I considered using a Jeep 4.0L engine, AW-4 automatic and NP231J that I had sitting around, all compatable with the Dodge left side drop to the front axle, but 1957 sheet metal is thick (read "heavy"). The 5.9 would be better.

Timing is everything, and last fall I found a 1994 Ram 1500 4WD about 2 hours away. 5.9 V8 (bad), but good automatic and transfer case, straight rust free frame and ok body, not that I needed the sheet metal. $400 brought it home and I had the full wire harness et. al to use for my build.



The prospect of a "blown motor" didn't bother me. I've built all manner of engines over the years, so when the PO of the Dodge told me he had overheated the engine and possibly blown the head gasket, I was hopeful, but not overly so. Worst case, the engine is toast and I get another. at $400 for the whole truck, it was nealy impossible to come out behind.

Since the engine was an unknown, presumed bad, and the cab needed to come off the frame anyway, I took to removing all the sheet metal first so I could have everything clear when I removed the engine from the frame.



The PO had already started to tear in to the engine at some point, but stopped at the throttle body, exhaust and valve covers. It seems friends who had been storing the truck for him on the farm began helping themselves to parts as well, so there was an assortment of missing knick-knacks to be dealt with, somewhere down the road. Still, $400.



More to follow...

-Joe
 

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That's quite the beast of a truck, and story, Joe. Looking forward to following this build.

Semper Fi, Marine!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Roger and Semper Fi!

So far I have the frame cut down to the right wheel base and I am getting ready to make my cab mounts. Details are soon to follow.

-Joe
 

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Heck of a project :)
i will have to watch your build

I had a similar project once
1956 Chevy 1/2 ton longbed 3200 series, small window
bought all stock, 6 cylinder, 3 speed manual trans,
first mod was a 327 cu in & a Ford 3.30 rear end, bucket seats out of a Buick,
next i had it front clipped with a 1972 Chevelle & a frame mounted master cylinder & booster, had to cut the inner fenders down a bit to fit the shock towers, upper A frame & coil springs
second mod was a cammed 350 cu in, several different 3 & 4 speed manual transmissions
next i gave up & installed the 350 automatic tranny

When i sold it, i had started building a replacement frame, basically the same setup as before, only with a Camaro front clip
I sure miss that truck, it was fun!!

I would trade my Harley trike for a 1956 Chevy 3100 series, even if it didn't have an engine, i have a built 327 cu in sitting in my garage right now !!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Heck of a project :)
i will have to watch your build

I had a similar project once
1956 Chevy 1/2 ton longbed 3200 series, small window
bought all stock, 6 cylinder, 3 speed manual trans,
first mod was a 327 cu in & a Ford 3.30 rear end, bucket seats out of a Buick,
next i had it front clipped with a 1972 Chevelle & a frame mounted master cylinder & booster, had to cut the inner fenders down a bit to fit the shock towers, upper A frame & coil springs
second mod was a cammed 350 cu in, several different 3 & 4 speed manual transmissions
next i gave up & installed the 350 automatic tranny

When i sold it, i had started building a replacement frame, basically the same setup as before, only with a Camaro front clip
I sure miss that truck, it was fun!!

I would trade my Harley trike for a 1956 Chevy 3100 series, even if it didn't have an engine, i have a built 327 cu in sitting in my garage right now !!
Ha! I had to do the same thing with my inner fenders GT. I've played with the 350 in this truck a few times, changing the cam to accomdate EFI, etc. When I first started this build, the plan was a big block Chevy. I built one for the wife's pickup truck and I figured a 454 would be a lot of fun. Then gas prices went through the roof, and I decided to go small block instead. In a perfect world, this truck would have a 426 Hemi with a Rat Roaster intake and twin AFBs, just to be different. That is very far removed from my budget though, so I work with what I have. :)

-Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
With the cab removed from the frame and the engine sitting in a rolling chassis it was time to get to work. The first order of business was to remove the 5.9 that came with the truck and see if it was worth trying to salvage or if money would be better spent on another block.

I plucked the engine from the frame and put it on my stand before I started the autopsy. The PO stated the engine overheated and he believed he had blown a head gasket. (The long story was he had hit a cow some time back, which caused the radiator to leak. Rather than replace it, he kept it topped off before driving. One night he didn't top it off...)



I pulled the intake manifold off and began unbolting the heads. As I did so, I spotted a telltale sign of potential problems, the camshaft had grooves worn into the lobes. The cam was a factory hydraulic roller camshaft, which pretty much does not wear, unless there is neglect. I counted at least three heavily worn lobes. The cam was toast. A new cam and lifter set runs into the $500 range. Still, there may be hope.



The left engine bank appeared to be in good shape. The cylinder walls still had factory hone marks in the bores, and there was no ridge at the top of the cylinders. Maybe this isn't going to be too bad..perhaps a cracked head.

The right hand head came off and the blown gasket was easy to spot. It had burned through at the top of the first cylinder and the intake manifold, leaking coolant into thelifter valley. The problem was far worse though. The first cylinder on the right bank had sat with water in the bore for a long, long time, and was still full. The cylinder wall had actually started to scale with rust. At this point, the block was done unless I wanted to sleeve the cylinder. The machine shop tab would be more than a running engine, so I scrapped the motor. Good runners are on CL all day long starting at $400.



With the frame empty, it was easy to get a good look at what I was working with. The beauty of this whole deal is the stock Chevy frame is basically two straight, flat lengths of channel iron with crossmembers every so often. All I need to do is shorten the Dodge frame to the right wheel base, fabricate some cab and body mounts and level it all to the bed, since the frame under the Dodge bed it the highest point on the Dodge frame. It sounds pretty simple, and in reality it is, but there is going to be some creative engineering from time to time.

The really cool thing about the Dodge frame that I was not immediately aware of is there is the main frame and a sub-frame in the factory design. The sub-frame is riveted in place and makes up the rear of the truck, behind the cab and under the bed. If I had to guess, I would say it is done to accomodate different cab/bed configurations without having to have multiple frames on hand. The front half of the frame is either a 2wd or 4wd. The subframe is then riveted in place for a quad-cab short bed, a quad cab long bed, a regular cab short or long bed, as needed. I had planned to mark and saw the frame, section it, weld it and then box plate it for strength, behind the cab. Now things became much easier.



All I needed to do was grind and drill out the rivets, slide the sub-frame out of the main frame, shorten the main frame and reinstall the sub-frame, replacing the rivets with Grade 8 blots and washers. For the most part, this was as easy as it sounds.




-Joe
 

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You're moving right along on this. I kinda feel like I'm reading 4WD Magazine or something along those lines right now with one of their builds. :smileup:
 

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You're moving right along on this. I kinda feel like I'm reading 4WD Magazine or something along those lines right now with one of their builds. :smileup:
Kinda feeling the same way. Great start, Joe!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
You're moving right along on this. I kinda feel like I'm reading 4WD Magazine or something along those lines right now with one of their builds. :smileup:
Lol, this is pretty much from where all this got going last summer. I am playing catch up with the build, but things here are moving along pretty well agin now that the weather has thawed again. There's a whole lot more detail coming, trust me. :smiley_thumbs_up:

-Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The rivets on the Dodge frame are a lot tougher than the 1957 Chevy frame. Back when I swapped the front shock mounts on the stock straight axle, I took an angle grinder to the rivet head and then knocked the rivets out with an air chisel and punch. The Dodge rivets just laughed at the air chisel, even after being soaked in PB Blaster. Once I had a rivet head ground down and could see the outline of the rivet through the frame, I drilled out the center of the rivet, right up to the edge of the frame, and knocked the remainder out with a hammer and punch. Where the main frame and the sub-frame meet, there is also a cross member that supports the rear of the fuel tank. In all, there were eight rivets per side that had to be dealt with in this fashion.







I used C-clamps to ensure everything stayed put until I was ready to move things around. In addition to the frame, sub-frame, cross member union, the front hangers for the rear leaf springs were attached with the same rivets. I jacked up the rear frame and unloaded the leaf springs to take the weight of the axle and springs off the frame. With the shocks unbolted and the brake line disconnected, I rolled the axle and springs out of the way on its tires. Once the axle was clear, I was able to remove the spring hangers from the frame and save them for re-use. I supported the sub-frame with my engine crane, since I had no idea how heavy it was. With all the rivets removed, the axle clear and the weight of the subframe supported by the engine crane, I tapped the subframe a few times with a big hammer and was able to slide it out of the frame.











Before I could really get to the leaf spring hangers, I needed to get the front pedestals for the bed out of my way. At first I cut them flush with the top of the frame, in case I needed them again. Once I realized they would not be reused, I cut the balance from the frame with my sawzall and then ground off the remainder with an angle grinder. These would also be in my way when it came time to shorten the main frame, so there was no better time to get this area cleaned up.





Once I had the sub-frame slid out of the way, I marked my frame for cutting. Normally sectioning a frame is best done with a diagonal or Z cut to spread the load over a wider area when welding back together. Since this modification does not require a cut and weld (the sub-frame slides back in to the main frame and bolts replace rivets), I could make a single vertical cut on the main frame to accomodate the wheel base I need to achieve. I used a framer's square and marked before cutting with the sawzall.





Once both sides were cut to length, I was able to slide the subframe back in to place. The rear spring hangers on the subframe helped to locate the rear axle and keep everything square to the front axle. The holes for the front leaf spring hangers in the subframe helped to locate the mounting holes I now needed to drill in the main frame to remount the hangers and rear axle.









Once everything was lined back up and bolted in for final assembly, red Loctite and an impact wrench were used with Grade 8 bolts, nuts and washers to replace the factory rivets. The frame could be welded at this point as well, however, these bolts are not going to vibrate loose. I will give them several inspections over time to ensure everything stays tight once this truck hits the road. If anything seems like it is loosening up, I can weld the assembly.

-Joe
 

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Well, that was easy! Great job, Joe!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks Roger! It really was a lot easier than I had imagined it would be. Before I pulled the bed off the Dodge, I had it in my mind that I would be working with a Z-cut, weld and box-plate the frame. Once I saw the sub-frame riveted in place, I realized how much easier this was going to be. I am alway a little apprehensive when it comes to cutting a frame. The Dodge design took away all of that anxiety. The most time consuming part of this operation (up to this point) was knocking out the rivets. They take a while to grind flush before drilling.

There is still a lot more that has been done, some of it cut and weld for those who like to see the sparks fly.

-Joe
 

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Man, guys like you simply amaze me with what you can do.
I look at this project and think "No friggin' way!"... I wish I lived next door to ya just so I could watch and learn.
 

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lookin good! Im currently in the process of a '52 3100 swap onto a 97 dakota chassis 5.2 nv3500 5 speed. Finished all cab rot repair, cab gets undercoated this weekend and final mounted to the chassis! I named her Chevota.. Subscribed to see your progress!
 

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Man, guys like you simply amaze me with what you can do.
I look at this project and think "No friggin' way!"... I wish I lived next door to ya just so I could watch and learn.
Shadow it's not that bad. I just was never told I couldn't do it. : ) I guess I am a little gifted when it comes to this part of the project. I can weld and I can visualize how it needs to come apart and be put back together. I have read a crap load of car and truck magazines over the years, some of which covered frame mods. I have had no formal schooling in mechanics, welding, etc. It is all self taught over the years. I guess I could have gone the easy route and just laid some square tube on top of a 4wd frame and called it good, (a AMC Pacer on top of a Jeep comes to mind), but I want this thing to look like a factory build.

The point is, this really is something you can do if you set your mind to it and take your time. Like I said in the beginning, I have been playing with this truck for nearly 20 years now.

lookin good! Im currently in the process of a '52 3100 swap onto a 97 dakota chassis 5.2 nv3500 5 speed. Finished all cab rot repair, cab gets undercoated this weekend and final mounted to the chassis! I named her Chevota.. Subscribed to see your progress!
Thanks Gusman! The Dakota chassis is a good swap. I almost went to a Dakota front end under the '57, but I found a Camaro subframe that I could afford instead. Yours should be a nice ride when done. I still have some patch panels to do on the '57, cab corners, and a small piece of floor pan. I have been putting those off since I am a bit timid when it comes to welding on the sheet metal. I made one patch on the driver's side floor myself years ago. Once I have the frame ready, I will do the cab.

When the metal work on the cab is done, I am going to bedliner the underside for sound proofing. I got that tip from a local shop that specializes in customs, mostly Corvettes. They have been doing that on all of their builds. It's pretty nice when a 1964 Stingray sounds as quiet inside as a 2014 Vette.

-Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Now that I have the wheelbase shortend for a proper fit to match the body, I started looking for a few other items, like a gas tank that would fit. The 1957 Chevy had an in-cab gas tank from the factory, which was standard practice with US auto makers up in to the mid-1970's, (as I recall, Ford was the last maker to remove the tank from the cab in 1975 or 1976). No matter how well everything is sealed up, there is always the smell of gasoline to some extent in the cab, and the constant sloshing while driving. It also kills any storage space behind the seat of the single cab trucks.

When I first started driving my Chevy, I had the in-cab tank, which was fine for the carburated engine, though I knew at some point, I would mount the tank externally. When I started playing with EFI, I did not want pressurized fuel returning to the cab, so I found an aluminum marine (boat) tank that I mounted in the bed. Since I have a long bed, the size of the tank (about 35 gallons) wasn't an issue, but this was not a permanent answer and looked tacky at best. I wanted to mount one under the bed, more than 20 gallons useable, and affordable. My budget doesn't let me play with $200-300 for fuel storage.

When it came to using the Dodge chassis and drivetrain, the simple answer was to use the stock fuel system as well, including the tank. The 1994 CL Ram came with a 35 gallon tank mounted inside the left frame rail, an option over the 26 gallon tank used on the single cab short beds. When I shortend the frame, the 35 gallon tank would no longer fit, as it pretty much fills the space between the back of the transfer case and the rear axle, plus it is notched to fit around the crossmember I just moved, so the location is pretty specific without much more modification.

Craigslist to the rescue again! I found a 26 gallon tank in Tulsa for $50. I had already looked up the dimensions of the tank on-line and was reasonably certain it was a good fit. Tulsa is about 2 hours away, but I travel up that way from time to time, so I worked a deal with the seller and included the purchase in my next trip.



Believe it or not, this is the "short tank". I forget with the actual dimensions are, but the "long tank" is a lot longer, at least 18" as I recall. I need to take a side by side pic one of these days.

The other issue was the motor. Like I said, I bought the truck for $400 knowing full well that the engine had been overheated to the point of failure and that parts had been removed. If the motor was serviceable, great, if not, no real loss. The heavily rusted cylinder wall and grooved camshaft made the conclusion for me. Scrap the motor. Yet another CL find, a sub-100k mile running 5.9 in Tulsa for $300! I made more than that parting out the body off the Dodge and scrapping what did not sell.



I worked the deal same as the gas tank, "if you can sell it before I can get up there, fine. I will call and check to see if you still have it the day before I come up, and then again the day I am there. If you still have it at that time and it is as you say, I will pay your asking price (or whatever we agreed on.)" There is a lot of crap and flakes on Craigslist, but for the most part, I have been lucky. I treat people the way I would want to be treated and it seems to work out.

As far as this motor goes, I will re-ring it, replace the bearings and oil pump, as well as the intake plenum fix, and all should be good with fresh gaskets. It should run as it sits, but I want to be sure that the only reason this motor would need to come back out is if I get another wild hair and decide to replace it with a 4BT Cummins.

-Joe
 

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Have you considered POR-15 on the metal under the cab/ chassis? I just did mine yesterday, waiting for it to dry to apply the POR UnderCoat, which like you said helps with heat and sound deadening. Only problem is the stuff really doesn't come off your skin.. so I look like a dalmatian today..

4bt would be an awesome swap down the road! Very interested in your build
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Have you considered POR-15 on the metal under the cab/ chassis? I just did mine yesterday, waiting for it to dry to apply the POR UnderCoat, which like you said helps with heat and sound deadening. Only problem is the stuff really doesn't come off your skin.. so I look like a dalmatian today..

4bt would be an awesome swap down the road! Very interested in your build
I've got a can of POR-15 for the frame once I am done with the mounts for the body. I really wasn't aware they made a sound deadener coating. I know the stuff is pretty much impossible to remove. I had a few drips on my driveway from when I painter the Camaro front clip after welding it up. That was almost 10 years ago and those drips still look great! : )

If I do a 4BT swap, it will be a long, long way down the road. I was hesitant to go diesel due to the vibrations and all the screws that hold the front end together. I would need stock in Loctite. Still, a 4BT and MPG in the 20s would be nice. I just need to stumble across one at the right price and time.

-Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #20
The engine and fuel tank were pretty much where everything stopped last fall/winter. Now that spring is here, I've gotten back in to the project and am moving along pretty well.

The first big issue to tackle has been locating my cab mounts. With the Ram 1500 frame being stepped like it is, I needed to get a reference to locate my cab mounts, vertically as well as horizontally. To help give a better idea of the vertical location, I jacked the frame and leveled it using cinder blocks and crank style jacks, since I don't have to worry about them bleeding off over a week or two while things get measured and marked.







And yes, for all those safety minded readers in the know, I positioned the cinder blocks incorrectly. This was done to accomodate the bases of the jacks I used, which were centered on the rib of the blocks. The only weight being supported was the chassis, no bodywork, and I was not getting underneath the chassis. The correct way to use the cinder blocks is to set them vertically, as they would be in construction, (or holes facing up and down rather than sideways). They are not designed to support weight on their sides.

Once I raised the frame, I laid two lengths of 2" square tube from the rear of the frame, over the arch at the front axle, and out past the front. When I did this, I found I needed to raise the front about 1" at the arch to be parallel with the frame of the truck, front to back. I then used a level to check front to back and side to side. This way I had a better understanding of how tall I need to make my cab mounts, as the frame drops 7 3/8" in the center, below the mounted height of the bed. The height of the bed can't be lowered on the frame without reworking the rear suspension, as a result, the cab and front clip need to be raised to match.





I picked up some 11ga 1"x2" box tube to add the extra 1" over the front arch as well as mount the core support that locates the front fenders back to the cab. I cut and notched pieces to drop back down to the front of the Dodge frame, ahead of the steering box, as the Chevy frame extends 10" forward of the core support to mount the front bumper.













While in the process of getting the frame leveled, my son-in-law to be pointed out I may need to move the engine forward, as Dodge has their motors up under the firewall of the cab part way. In all the thought I had put in to this point, I overlooked the engine placement. As it turns out, the 5.9 V8 is roughly the same dimensionally as a SBC, 32" from fan to bell housing flange. My core support has the fan 1/2" into the radiator. The engine, transmission and transfer case need to move back a few inches. I will also raise them about an inch, as they sit down pretty low. I started the engine movement by cutting the motor mounts from the frame, only to be rewelded once the final placement is set.









I used my angle grinder to cut the weld on the motor mount at the top of the frame, then cut the bottom gussets with the sawzall. With the right blade, I was able to cut the side weld with my sawzall and pop the motor mount free from the frame. A little cleaning with the grinder is in order to get rid of the old welds on the frame, but now I have my factory mounts free to relocate as needed.

-Joe
 
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