Not all of us know the luxury of having a dedicated trail vehicle--instead, many have one rig for everything. Pete Christensen of Valencia, California, falls into this group of all-purpose 4x4 users. His vehicle of choice to handle everything from the daily commute to weekend 'wheeling is a '76 Chevy K20 pickup. Pete's cousin bought the truck when it was 2 years old and sold it to Pete 13 years later. Once the truck was in his possession, Pete decided it was time for a complete frame-off restoration and some modifications.
The K20 originally came equipped with a 350 V-8, which was ditched in favor of a 396 big-block bored to a 408. Pete wanted plenty of horsepower and torque, but also needed the engine to be reliable, so he kept it as close to stock as possible. Even with mostly stock components, the engine produces 345 hp at 4,200 rpm and 425 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm. Most importantly, it passes California's stringent emissions inspection without a problem.
Once the engine was running healthy, it was time to go through the rest of the driveline. The stock TH350 was replaced with a TH400 automatic transmission equipped with a B&M shift-improvement kit and a GM heavy-duty torque converter. An NP205, originally out of a four-speed truck, was then adapted to fit the TH400, replacing the stock 203. Power is transferred to a Dana 44 frontend and a 14-bolt rearend, both equipped with 4.11 gears.
Suspension was the next item to be rebuilt. The stock springs were junked, and Rancho springs providing 6 inches of lift were put into place in the front and rear. Rancho RS 9000 shocks were used to help smooth out the ride. With the new suspension in place, plenty of room was available to run 35x12.50-16.5 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains on 16.5x8 wheels.
Pete then focused his attention on the interior, which had seen its share of use and abuse. He spends plenty of time inside the truck, so the goal was to make things comfortable and improve the appearance of the interior at the same time. Seats were reupholstered, the dash was reskinned, and everything else was made new again. Frank Gonzales in Parkway GMC's parts department was a real aid in tracking down as many NOS parts as possible. To make Pete's commute go a little quicker, a Sony CD changer and head unit were installed along with a bass tube. With all the work that had to be done, Pete took about 18 months to finish his truck. So far, he has put around 12,000 miles on the Chevy without any problems. Pete can now relax and enjoy his truck, which is well-suited to its dual role as daily driver and weekend warrior.