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1978 Chevy K10 Pickup - Capable Classic Camper

Posted in Features on December 8, 2014
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What do you do if you crave getting in the backcountry where you can access remote camping locations and those perfect fishing spots, but you also want the luxury of a well-equipped camper? If you’re Larry and Amanda Wittman, you build your own big-block four-wheel drive truck with a capable drivetrain, then top it with a custom popup camper to get you where you want to go and keep you in comfort when you get there.

Larry purchased this ’78 K10 truck in 1996, and getting it to the final version you see today has been a labor of love. There were some drivetrain part swaps early on, but now a fuel-injected 8.1L GM V-8 sits under the Pontiac Quasar Blue painted hood. The motor was backed with an NV4500 manual transmission and an NP205 transfer case. Dana 60 front and Corporate 14-bolt axles provide plenty of strength for the torquey motor turning 35-inch Dunlop Fierce Attitude radials.

Probably the most unique feature of the truck is the custom-made popup camper, built by Phoenix Pop Up Campers. A custom rear bumper hides a Smittybilt XRC10 winch. The bumper also supports water and spare fuel containers, and a spare tire, both on swing-out hinges.

The truck got a custom built popup camper in 2011 to provide the living quarters needs for off-road camping trips. It is complete with a small kitchen, sleeping areas, and onboard heat and shower amenities. The added popup above allows for full standing room inside and comfortable interior space for sleeping and shelter out of the weather.

We intercepted Larry at the Overland Expo south of Flagstaff, Arizona, in the middle of a trip. He was doing some wheeling, camped a couple of nights at the expo, and was then headed north to the Canyonlands in Utah. Hence, the healthy coat of dust on his Chevy.

Under the hood breathes a GM Powertrain L18 Vortec 8.1L V-8. The 496ci motor is sequentially fuel injected using a Howell harness and custom tuned ECM. Larry Wittman found an NOS NV4500 from a factory overstock dealer, and mated the drivetrain pieces using an Advance Adapters kit with bellhousing and adapters to mate it with an NP205 transfer case. The NV4500 was also treated to a hydraulic clutch conversion with a Centerforce Dual Friction clutch. We could appreciate the attention to detail paid to all the plumbing and wiring under the hood.

The truck wasn’t built for hardcore wheeling but rather to provide a great way to traverse backcountry trails for exploring. The Wittmans have traveled all over Colorado and neighboring states in this K10. The rig runs two sets of tires, depending on conditions. In the Colorado mountains it is treaded with Q78 Super Swampers for snow, and for most everything else it rides on Dunlop Fierce Attitudes.

The final product was a long time coming, and Larry admits it might have been easier to have started with a K30 version truck, but there’s no denying the end result is a fine piece of off-road hardware. Keep a look out and you just might see this classic Chevy truck out wheeling on a trail, or simply parked next to a favorite fishing hole with a comfortable camp set up in the boonies.

When it’s time to pitch camp, the top of the camper is unlatched and quickly grows a few feet to provide a full topside sleeping area.

Tech Specs
1978 Chevrolet K10 Pickup
Engine: ’02 GM Powertrain L18 Vortec 8.1L V-8
Transmission: New Venture 4500
Transfer case: NP205
Front Axle: Dana 60 with 4.56 gears and open differential
Rear Axle: Corporate 14-bolt full-floater with 4.56 gears and Detroit Locker

Springs & Such: Superlift 6-inch Softride front springs, custom 56-inch rear springs, Superlift shocks
Tires & Wheels: LT315/75R16 Dunlop Fierce Attitude tires mounted on 16x8.5 Desert Rat Moab STR wheels
Steering: Stock Saginaw box with knuckle correction block
Other Stuff: Custom popup camper, front Hickey Sidewinder winch, custom rear bumper with Smittybilt XRC10 winch, Suburban bucket seats, rooftop solar panel

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