The Ultimate K10may be our most popular project truck of all-time (Aug.-Nov. '05, Jan. '06). Built in 2005 for the Ultimate Adventure, the '75 Stepside commanded attention with its bright yellow paint and demanded respect with its 39-inch BFG Krawlers and hardcore off-road capability. Five years after its last public appearance, we still get voluminous emails asking what happened to it.
Following UA 2005, the Ultimate K10 was put away wet after being rode hard. Its tags and insurance expired as the publishing company went through ownership changes and reorganizations. While stored, prime parts were pirated for other projects.
The Stepside eventually overstayed its welcome in storage: The time came to move it or lose it. We decided to revive and reuse it. Rick Péwé signed a waiver and bought the K10 from the company, making what was basically a corporate liability into what we hope will become an inspirational asset.
The Second Coming
For this rebirth, we want to stick to the original approach as much as possible: If it's there and works, keep it. Following a few philosophical conversations, Henrik "El Jeffe" Hairapetian at GM Truck Center agreed to help restore the Stepside to its former glory. GM Truck Center was the truck's original home, and the shop did much of the previous build. In other words, they know this Stepside better than anyone.
As a sign of the times, we'll be budget-conscious but likely get creative in a few areas to present readers with beyond-bolt-on ideas. This time our concept is to create a camping/Jeep-towing rig with decent off-road capability on 37s. (It has "been there, done that" as a 5-plus-trail machine that can get nearly anywhere and back under its own power.)
After taking delivery of the truck in its current state, Hairapetian offered a couple of professional observations for those of you undertaking similar revivals. Since our sheetmetal was largely throw-away and many major parts are being replaced, he suggested ditching the half-ton platform for a stouter K20 frame. This makes sense, but we wanted to stay true to the "if it ain't broke" approach. Besides, desirable custom details here that would be lost in the transition include the Fabworx full interior cage and steel-plated cab-rockers.
We totally agree with Hairapetian's other big-picture suggestion: Go resto-mod. This is where LMC Truck stepped up in a big way. Bodywork labor to straighten the salvageable sheetmetal would cost more than quality replacement panels from LMC. LMC will also serve as the source of the various OE replacement parts for everything from weatherstripping to door panels to a carpet kit. This will help the truck devolve more toward its '70s roots.
Here's an overview of what we have now and what we're thinking about doing in the coming months. Let us know your suggestions by email or by posting on our website at forums.4wheeloffroad.com.
Had: RamJet 350 Crate Engine.
Now: Still there, but missing its electric fuel pump. The Optima batteries and driver-side tray are also gone. Go figure.
Had: TCI Turbo 350.
Now: Since we're in a towing frame of mind this time, we're thinking about transplanting a Turbo 400 with Kilgore 2.75:1 First gear from a previous article (see "Turbo 400s for Towing" in Mar. '09 or at 4wheeloffroad.com).
Had: NP205 with Offroad Design Doubler
Now: The original Doubler has gone to another project, but along with the built TH400 we'll stuff another tried-and-true Offroad Design Doubler, the one currently mated to the TH400.
Had: The front Dynatrac Pro-Rock high-pinion Dana 60 and rear Off Road Unlimited disc-braked 14-bolt-both with 5.13 Motive gears and ARB Air Lockers-made their ways to other projects, as did the Offroad Design crossover steering and PSC steering box.
Now: We're talking to Chris Durham Motorsports about surplus/crate/boneyard 1-ton axles, possibly with 4.56 gears (depending on transmission), a front ARB Air Locker, and a rear Detroit Locker.
Had: Offroad Design crossover linkage and PSC's hydroboost system.
Now: The hydroboost part of the steering is still there. The PSC box and ORD High-Steer worked so well last time that we'd like to use them again.
Had: Tuff Country 4-inch front kit, Daystar dense-foam bumpstops, stock rear '87-'98 springs with ORD shackle reversal. Now: Bumpstops and shocks are gone, but major components (except for front spring bushings) are still there.
Had: Custom shafts with 1410 U-joints from Sam's OffRoad.
Now: We'll send measurements to our local shop, Coast Driveline, once the transmission and transfer case are mounted and we know what we need.
Had: Four-wheel discs.
Now: The existing roller-only rearend is a stock drum-braked 14-bolt. We'll upgrade the rear to something with discs-and try not to have the axles be worth more than the rest of the vehicle in the process.
Had: Straight sheetmetal, Reflexion dual-cowl hood, ORD bumpers, Warn winches.
Now: The pickup box is relatively straight. LMC has affordable OE replacement and repro pieces to revive the rest. GM Truck Center is brainstorming custom bumpers. The front might even get KC Daylighters with smiley-face covers in tribute to the truck's '70s heritage. A front Warn winch is a given.
Had: MasterCraft seats mounted to Fabworx internal cage, Ididit column, rubber mats.
Now: Ididit column was replaced with a barely mounted stock one, seats are gone, floor insulation and mats are rotted, dash and IP are tired. LMC is the source for replacement parts, and we're thinking about swapping in a bench seat.