Part 4: Paint, cage, and all the trimmings.
The plan was to build a truck capable of driving anywhere in the country, to wheel the hardest trails we could find, and make it durable enough to blast back to L.A. to put it all in a magazine. For the last three years we've achieved that goal by starting with a brand-new Ultimate Adventure truck that could have driven across the country and back without any problem. Then we modified the heck out of them so that they could wheel with the best of 'em. Rather than try to outdo last year's incredible Tacoma, we wanted to see if we could build a worn-out old truck to do it all, just with less of the sticker shock.
We know we met at least the first half of our goal. The truck drove/ wheeled/drove 4,000 miles in 10 days. Our Ultimate K10 carried two guys with a week's supply of clothes, camping gear, and camera bags everywhere we went. We slept in it, ate in it - heck Editor Rick Pw even hung his hammock from it when we camped out for four days! And other than a transmission that had to get swapped out 'cause it never had Reverse, a rear locker that stopped locking, and some serious rock rash, it barely gave us any trouble.
Now, whether you consider it budget-built is really up to your wallet. Sure, your 4x4 might be able to take on all the trails we did without any problem. But could you drive it over 4,000 miles in the middle of the sweltering summer? Truth be told, of all the rigs that went on Ultimate Adventure this year, only two of them were never on a trailer: Tim Hardy's Ironman Samurai and our Ultimate K10. And sometimes the toughest part of the Ultimate Adventure is the ride home! So read through the captions and go back over the last three issues to judge for yourself how well we did. We tried to pinch every penny we could, but in the end we had to balance out our squeaky wallets with parts and pieces that would ensure our success. We think most of you would probably have done the same.
To guarantee that we wouldn't have any problems with the 30-year-old braking and steering systems on our K10, we decided to replace everything. Trust us, this is money well spent on a vehicle that will not only wheel, but drive down the highway at 75 mph next to some of you. We had GM Truck Center rebuild a two-wheel-drive GM truck steering box (for crossover steering) and then sent it off to West Texas Off-Road to have it drilled and tapped to control a 1 3/4-inch Red Neck hydraulic ram (Stage II kit). The box came back to us and was bolted into the K10 with a Borgeson Universal steering shaft that uses two precision U-joints (instead of rubber) to eliminate any slop in the steering.
In order to make room for our Sam's Offroad 1410 front driveshaft that would now be on the driver side of the K10 we needed to come up with a new shifter linkage. Stealing an idea from the street-rod world, we called up ididit and ordered its cable shift conversion kit for GM steering columns. Basically this kit lets you keep the stock column shifter in the cab, but does away with the problematic bell crank and rod shift linkage that GM used on these trucks. It takes some metalworking to install, but once in place it gives you smooth shifting no matter how twisted the body and frame get.
When dealing with a 30-year-old truck, you spend a lot of your budget dealing with parts that deteriorate from age. Case in point: Our body mounts were wasted and needed to be completely replaced. The upside to working with a truck like our K10 is that these parts are readily available from the aftermarket, and after one call to Daystar we had a new body mount kit on its way to GM Truck Center. Depending on how rusty your truck is, you may want to drill four 1/8-inch holes in the floor of the truck to spray the bolts with WD-40 or JB 80 before you make an upgrade like this.
With phase one of our buildup complete, we hauled the K10 up to Santa Rosa, California, to have Fabworx build us a four-point rollcage. We stripped everything out of the truck except the steering column and the back window to make things easier. There's not a lot of room in a regular-cab pickup for a full cage, so Fabworx's Bryan McCully and Forrest Moore began by bending up and fitting the 1 3/4-inch, 0.120-inch-wall DOM main hoop as tight to the back of the cab as possible. We wanted the cage welded right to the floor, so McCully and Moore cut out steel plates that will act as footings everywhere the cage attaches to the body. This structure will spread the loads out over a large area of the floor should the truck ever roll over.