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1974 Chevy C20: Why Buy a New Truck When You Can Build Something Better?

Posted in Features on December 13, 2018
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When we asked Blake van Brouwer what his motivation was for building this latest project, he simply replied, “Have you seen how much new trucks cost?!” Blake isn’t the kind of guy who calls someone to fix things when they break. He is a jack of all trades, and a master of quite a few of them. You don’t really have a choice when you work on a 32,000-acre ranch in the middle of nowhere. So when it came time for a new truck, Blake built his own from parts around the Big Canyon Ranch.

He started by looking for a 2WD long-bed crew-cab truck. The rationale was that a 2WD would not only be less expensive to purchase but also in better condition than most 4WD square-bodies. He found this creampuff in Reno, painted the top third of the truck, buffed the rest of the paint, and completed the entire build in just 73 days.

Blake wanted the truck to be period correct, and did an excellent job with all of the badging and even running Toyo M-55 tires that look like they are from the 1980s and don’t have all of the sidewall tread that is so common today. The skinny tires were mounted on factory steel wheels refinished by Marq Powdercoating and topped with factory hubcaps. Details like these aren’t particularly cheap—well, until you start comparing them to the price of a new truck!

Power comes from a 1993 12-valve Cummins 6BT with BD Diesel governor springs and fuel pin that allow for an increased powerband, which makes the truck much more drivable. The diesel is mated to a 2WD Chevy NV4500 with a 6:34:1 First gear ratio and a divorced Dodge NP205 that fits the era of this two-tone truck.
The interior is largely as it was when Blake van Brouwer purchased it. With the exception of some wear on the front bench seat, it looks like new. Did you know that Chevy offered different tranny tunnels over the years to accommodate different transmissions? This is a later, taller tunnel to fit the NV4500, yet it still works with a standard carpet kit.
The transfer case is a divorce-mounted NP205 that hangs down like an old Highboy. It uses drivelines that Blake built with 1350 yokes from Driveline Service in Reno. He also built the exhaust from 3-inch stainless steel (no muffler required).
The front axle is a kingpin Dana 60 that came out of a K30 hay truck on the ranch. It was rebuilt with new bearings and seals along with 4.10 gears. Steering uses the original 2WD box with a 2 1/2-inch drop pitman arm and a WFO Concepts steering arm.
Blake built his own spring hangers and used a hybrid leaf spring pack consisting of K30 and Super Duty leaves. Rancho 5000 shocks might not be the fanciest but they are tough to be beat for the price and work great on this solid-axle, leaf-sprung truck.
The original 14-bolt rear axle was retained with its 4.10 gears and G80 Gov-Lok. It is suspended by the original Camper Special springs, with Rancho RS5000 shocks and even the factory Camper Special sway bar. Blake built his own shackle flip out back to match the ride height of the front springs.
All of the original badging was on the truck when Blake purchased it. These details are often overlooked on rockcrawlers, but they really make the difference between a project that stands out and one that just blends in with every other vehicle.
This Cummins badge came off of a 1970s dump truck. It perfectly fits the era of this two-tone square-body though. Cummins has been making railroad and industrial engines since 1919, nearly a century ago.
This truck was designated as a Camper Special, which came with a host of upgrades not found on normal 3/4-ton trucks. These included thicker frames and the struts you see here, which are designed to stabilize the bed over rough terrain. Amazingly, after over 30 years they are still in excellent shape.

Tech Specs

1974 Chevy C20 Camper Special
Engine: 12-valve Cummins 6BT
Transmission: NV4500 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Divorced NP205
Front Axle: Dana 60 with 4.10 gears
Rear Axle: Corporate 14-bolt with 4.10 gears and G80 Gov-Lok
Springs & Such: Hybrid leaf springs and Rancho RS5000 shocks (front); factory leaf springs with shackle flip and RS5000 shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 285/75R16 Toyo M-55 on factory 16x6 steel wheels
Steering: WFO Concepts crossover steering, factory steering box, 2 1/2-inch drop pitman arm
Lighting: Factory
Other Stuff: Stainless 3-inch exhaust, dual 20-gallon fuel tanks, Lokar shifter boots, BD Diesel fuel pin and governor springs

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