1971 GMC C25 Pickup - Project Po Boy Prerunner: Part 1.5
Installing PRP Suspension Seats for Safety and Comfort
It’s been quite a long time since you last saw the Po Boy Prerunner grace the pages of what was formerly Off-Road magazine (now Dirt Sports + Off-Road). Yeah, we know, we aren’t exactly going to win any awards for our swift build progress. The fact of the matter is that we were originally going to build it cheap and sell it off before our lack of common sense had any time to kick in and burn a hole in our wallet, but that all fell apart when we fell in love with the sleek body lines of this ’71 GMC C25 pickup.
It really was our honest attempt at building a low-buck prerunner to beat the snot out of in the dirt, but as with most projects, it sat on the back burner as we addressed driveability issues (like losing the brakes on the way to work) and other minor maintenance concerns. Since we have more projects than we know what to do with, the old primer-gray truck sat in languish for more time then we wanted.
While our truck had the right looks on the exterior, it was completely terrible inside. We can’t exactly prove it but we’re pretty sure the truck was once engulfed in flames, because the factory bench seat and ocean liner-sized steering wheel were charred to a crisp and featured more cracks than the old dry rotted tires the truck came with. Since this truck was going to be built to go fast on a budget, safety took priority but comfort was still a huge part of our vision.
We decided that the factory bench seat was just too far gone to justify keeping so it was only natural to swap in a pair of suspension seats. A huge problem with trucks of this vintage is interior room, or the lack there of. With space being at a premium, we called up PRP Seats in Temecula, California, and ordered up a set of their Daily Driver High Back suspension seats to give the Po Boy Prerunner some much needed comfort as well as safety while hitting the whoops in the dirt. As a side benefit, these seats keep our bottom end happy while giving our old beater truck killer good looks inside.
Installing a set of suspension seats might seem like an easy thing to accomplish but to really do it right, you should mount them to a solid platform like a cab cage with dedicated mounts for safety harnesses. Since we’re really only proficient at welding of the JB epoxy variety, we hauled our Po Boy Prerunner project over to SMP Fabworks in Sun Valley, California, to start bending and burning some tube to give our GMC clean and methodical 1.75-inch interior rollcage.
For those of you who have never heard of the Po Boy Prerunner, this is what we started off with. A clean slate ¾-ton longbed truck with a healthy small-block 350ci Chevy V-8 backed by a solid TH350 three-speed automatic. This truck also featured a full float Dana 60 rear with large heavy-duty 8-lug disc brakes up front and cheap and effective drums out back, which meant that we had a solid foundation on which to build our future low buck prerunner project.
Fast-forward almost two years and our Po Boy Prerunner truck looks completely different, but wheeling around on flimsy and torn-up bench seat as well as a crumbling steering wheel wasn’t exactly safe. Did we mention that the seatbelts were also missing?
Since the cab of our ’71 GMC C25 is not as roomy as one would think, we decided that we needed a set of comfortable suspension seats that were easy to get in and out of while still offering plenty of support to improve our driving experience both on and off-road. We decided on a set of PRP Daily Driver suspension seats that we custom ordered 2 inches wider and taller overall for added comfort or as we like to call them, big-boy friendly. The lower sides on this seat allows for easier entry and exit into lifted vehicles while still providing great hip and shoulder containment. The taller backrest and bent headrest fits perfectly inside standard cab pickups like our ’71 GMC C25.
The PRP Daily Driver suspension seats feature military para-cord to help absorb the shock of off-road driving keeping you comfortable even when prerunning for hours on end.
As we mentioned previously, the Po Boy Prerunner lacked seatbelts and since we were already adding a cage and suspension seats, it was only natural for us to order up a set of Crow Enterprises five-point safety harnesses with a sewn-in shoulder belt padding.
While we didn’t really gain too much room inside the cab of our GMC by ditching the factory behind the seat fuel tank in favor of a bed-mounted 32-gallon fuel cell that we purchased used in the classifieds, we did get rid of what everyone else calls the ticking time bomb if we were to ever wad up the truck in the dirt. We can now use this space to carry tools and spare parts, or quite possibly a cheapo subwoofer to blast our favorite desert tunes.
Steven Parks of SMP Fabworks builds some high-quality trucks at his shop in Sun Valley, California, so we knew we were in good hands when we handed him the Po Boy Prerunner and gave him free rein on what the design should look like. Since we don’t have dreams of ever racing this truck, we decided that a 1.75-inch .120-inch wall mild-steel rollcage was good enough to save our skin in the event that we run out of talent and wad-up our truck. We specifically chose to go with mild-steel tubing over DOM simply to keep with our original budget prerunner theme and since we’re not going to fly through the dirt at race speeds in this thing, mild steel is plenty strong for us.
The foundation for our rollcage is tied into the frame at four points and is fully welded. You’ll notice that the ’cage also tucks up nicely above the lower lip of the rocker, which we really dig since it will keep us from hanging the truck up on the trail. It also serves as a good place to add rocker guards should we ever decide to make this project a prerunner of the four-wheel-drive variety.
SMP Fabworks is no stranger to building race trucks so it didn’t surprise us to see our rollcage go through the floor via a fully welded 2-inch steel tube sleeve that keeps the cab firmly planted without any annoying sheetmetal rattles thanks to the fully welded sleeve. As an added benefit, no exhaust fumes will ever creep into the cab from the rollcage mounts.
Here you can see how SMP Fabworks tucked up the rollcage as close as possible to the roof of the cab. If we ever decided to run the truck with helmets, it’s nice to know we’ll have plenty of clearance for them without having to add a Gurney Bubble.
A huge pet peeve of ours is parking brakes that smack rollcages and in this case, SMP Fabworks made sure it wasn’t an issue. The ’cage was dropped very close to the edge of the dash and the kick panel, which gives us plenty of room for easy access in and out of our truck.
As we mentioned earlier, the factory steering wheel was pretty well charred up most likely from a previous truck fire. Since we like the classic good looks of Grant steering wheels, we stopped by our local auto parts store and picked up a Grant Performance GT 633 13-inch steering wheel, which features a combination of diamond vinyl and smooth vinyl grips for overall comfort as well as a positive grip for those hard charging moments. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, a great steering wheel can significantly improve the driving experience since it is the first interface with the driver. You’ll notice that we also sprung for the billet adapter and we can honestly tell you that it’s well worth the coin. Nobody wants to look at a flimsy piece of rubber that quite honestly looks like a giant shock boot so we highly recommend stepping up to the billet aluminum adapter.
While this truck is called the Po Boy Prerunner, we wanted at least a little bit of luxury in our low-buck prerunner. We decided to try out the air conditioning duct insulation available at most home improvement centers and while we were at it, we decided we wanted to toss in a new carpet. While the insulation has actually worked pretty well so far at keeping excess heat and road noise out, we would recommend using a dedicated automotive insulation mat or spray-in liner. Our carpet was not very expensive to purchase but it also doesn’t look as good as the rest of the truck. We think we’re going to bite the bullet and take our Po Boy Prerunner to someone who’s more qualified at upholstery than us.
The goal of our Po Boy Prerunner was to clean up our interior while adding safety and comfort with our PRP Daily Driver suspension seats and Crow five-point harnesses. We knew we wanted a fixed seat since there is nothing more annoying and dangerous than wheeling in a truck with flimsy seat frames. Luckily, SMP Fabworks was able to make the Po Boy Prerunner big-boy friendly while still accommodating smaller drivers. We like to think of this truck as a fun beater that anyone can drive, and now most people can drive it while sitting in lavish comfort.
Even our small 5-foot 3-inch, 129-pound codriver can strap-in behind the wheel of the Po Boy Prerunner and make some dust without much issue.