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Rumble Bumble Big-Block

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 2001
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Contributors: John CappaWendy Frazier
Photographers: John Cappa
p63825 large+1985 Chevrolet+Front Passenger Side
p63838 large+1985 Chevrolet+Rear Driver Side
p63840 large+1985 Chevrolet+Rear Traction Bars
p63841 large+1985 Chevrolet+Rear Differential
p63842 large+1985 Chevrolet+Bed Tire
p63843 large+1985 Chevrolet+Interior Gear Select
p63844 large+1985 Chevrolet+Engine

We have heard that there are only a few occasions to prove yourself a man. Boxer Muhammad Ali took every opportunity to do just that. Ali’s famous quote, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” has become the concept behind Nate Sponsler’s big-block Chevy. The definition of a champ begins like this: 38-inch TSL Super Swampers, 7 inches of lift, and a Chevy 454 V-8. Nate, of Parrysville, Ohio, and his ’85 Chevy truck certainly fall into this boxing ring of power. His truck’s muscle comes from a 454 V-8 big-block Chevy engine. The off-roadability is governed by a Dana 60 front axle with 4.56 gears and a Lock-Right locker, a GM 14-bolt 10½-inch full floating rear axle with 4.56 gears and a Detroit locker, a Trail Master 4-inch suspension lift plus a Summit 3-inch body lift, and 38-inch TSL Super Swampers.

The truck’s most unique features include a custom-built front bumper and brushguard that foots a Warn XD 9000i winch, a custom spare tire carrier, and heaps of vehicle recovery equipment like a Hi-Lift jack, numerous shackles, snatch blocks, and extra cable. The Chevy’s rumbling engine would be comforting to somebody who might be in trouble on the trail.

On the inside of the boxing ring, Nate controls steering with a Grant wheel. And rather than the roar of a Sunday crowd, his sounds are provided by Clarion. Whether it’s the interior, exterior, or under the hood of his truck that he is working on, Nate has come to expect a high degree of integrity. On the subject of giving advice to others who are thinking of building a similar truck, he writes in capital letters, “HAVE PATIENCE and take your time.” After putting the truck back together, Nate and his wife Angela say that the easiest part of the buildup is just plain enjoying the ’85 Chevy big-block. The good fight always seems most satisfying in the rearview mirror.

Hood-popping performance parts include: Chevy high-performance rectangular port heads with 2.19-1.88 valves, a Comp Cams High Energy cam, valve springs, and lifters, a Weiand intake, an Edelbrock carburetor, and Dynomax Jet Hot–coated headers.

If you sneak a peek under the chassis, you notice the extra crossmembers, braces, and rear ladder bars built to stabilize and mobilize. An Off-Road Design shackle flip is used in conjunction with stock 56-inch rear springs. Under those shock boots are dual Rancho RS 5000s. Distinctly, a GM 14-bolt 10½-inch full-floating rear axle with 4.56 gears and Detroit locker dominates the rear.

The rumbling big-block harnesses a NP205 transfer case with a twin stick shifter Nate built himself.

A Herculiner bedliner protects the bed from unwarranted scrapes and scratches, or perhaps even a blackeye or two. The toolbox houses essentials like tools, a Hi-Lift jack, extra shackles, and an extra winch cable.

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