The Ultimate K10 rebirth looked straightforward on paper: Replace drivetrain parts that were lifted for other projects, replace the body panels with affordable repro parts, squirt on some paint, add a seat and some armor, and hit the trail. The two biggest barriers to success were taken for granted: fuel and fire. Because we wanted to get the previous gas tank out of the bed, we knew that the fuel system would need attention. But getting power to the fuel pump became an electrical rat’s nest that GM Truck Center decided was easier to fix by completely rewiring the truck rather than trying to troubleshoot all of the rodent-gnawed and “midnight auto supply” snipped wires.
New Wires, Still No Fire
We were running out of things to re-place, and the truck still wouldn’t fire. The culprit was a bad distributor module. Loose hold-down bolts were a tip-off, and lifting the cap revealed a corroded mess. It looked like someone took the distributor to a beach party and lost it there for a few months. GMTC replaced the entire shaft/module assembly with a new Delco unit and GM Performance Parts plug wires.
So now we had juice to the fuel pump and spark in the cylinders—but no fuel to explode. Fuel injectors don’t like to hibernate. GMTC recommended sending them to the local injector defunker; we checked the Holley website out of curiosity. The good-guy/wholesale quote on injector cleaning was $20 each. Remanufactured OE replacement injectors (PN 17124248) with warranties list for around $45 each on the Internet, and new replacements are $100-plus.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that Holley had new, higher-flow injectors for less than $40 each. So instead of giving the gummed-up OE ones a bath, we opted for a $300 set of flow-matched Holley injectors (PN 522-248) that squirt a little more than stock: 24 lb/hr instead of the stock Ram Jet 350’s 22. (This is still within the PCM’s acceptable range.) Fuel and fire finally fixed.
Some of the factory gauges also dis-appeared while the truck was stored. We debated doing a custom dash panel, but that would drag out this series even longer. Our just-get-it-done (as affordably as possible) approach led us to Classic Dash, which makes OE-replacement gauge panels in factory-style molded ABS (our choice) as well as in more modern materials. The panels come bare or assembled with popular Auto Meter gauges, plug-and-play wiring pigtails included for short-sweep dials. Because we had a new Painless harness and liked Auto Meter Ultra-Lite II’s white-faced gauges for a legible, resto-mod look (everyone’s already familiar with the old faithful black Sport-Comp line), we went à la carte on the Classic Dash six-gauge panel.
Auto Meter offers an extensive selection of gauges styles, from antique/classic up to LED rave party. We initially envisioned mechanical gauges in the OE sizes/functions: 5-inch speedo and tach and 25⁄8-inch water temp, oil pressure, fuel level, and voltmeter. For the smaller gauges, our aging eyes prefer short-sweep 90-degree dials, which Auto Meter primarily offers in electric styles.
Auto Meter’s gauge kits include sending units and necessary parts for three-wire hookups. (Speedo senders are ordered separately.) The electric speedo is also programmable. Driving for two miles with it in calibration mode automatically sets speed and distance. The process can be repeated if tire size and/or gears are changed down the road.
We also added Auto Meter’s optional LED dimmer. This allows the Auto Meter gauges’ full-dial LEDs to be dimmed separately from the rest of the dash.
Odds & Ends
The Ram Jet 350 engine was a main motivator for doing this project, as it was a low-mileage mill and it runs great on and off the road. But it had slight valve cover oil seepage, likely from sitting. We saw this as an opportunity to advance our antibling agenda and swapped out the dirty OE chromed valve covers for some stealthier Proform Black Crinkle ones.
We also reclaimed the bed. It formerly had the temporary gas tank and trick recessed rear winch. The winch was long gone, so we cut out its mounts in preparation for a piece of plate, which Alternative Metal Supply is cutting to spec at press time.
The previous ididit steering column was also long gone, replaced by a barely working bad-bearings stocker that was swapped in to load the Stepside on the tow truck to get it to the shop. GMTC rebuilt a factory column to NOS standards to replace the POS unit. The shop found a clean OE steering wheel, which may or may not get a necker’s knob to augment the (spoiler alert!) bench seat.
GMTC also custom-mounted Daystar Stinger bumpstops. These are designed as a cost-effective alternative to air bumps, using replaceable foam inserts to cushion the impact and tune the firmness. The Stinger’s shafts are adjustable for setting the ideal contact points. Basically, the OE bumps tend to crush or crumble when called upon, and the Stingers will save the springs if the axles ever see maximum uptravel.
At this point the Stepside is ready for some cab rehab and a fresh coat of yellow paint. We’ll cover that next time, as we finally wind down the Ultimate K10 project.