The Mechanical Rebuild of a 1953 GMC Panel Truck

In this process, we took the chassis from a 1988 Chevy S and the engine from a 1993 Chevrolet Caprise, restored them and combined them. Follow along to see the process.

1953 GMC Chassis (1). The Mechanical Rebuilding of a 1953 GMC Panel Truck (2). S-10 Body mounts are removed to prepare the chassis for new body mounts, manufactured by AD-Engineering (3). With the body mounts installed on the S-10 chassis and the engine in its approximate position, we lowered the 1953 half-ton Chevrolet display cab onto the front body mounts so that we could adjust the engine location. We wanted at least a full inch of clearance between the firewall and rear of the engine heads and distributor for maximum air flow and heat dissipation (4).

The AD-Engineering conversion kit includes laser- manufactured body mounts that fit exactly on the S-10 chassis. The kit comes with completely illustrated instructions to locate the new body mounts, and all of the hardware needed to do the installation. It took about three hours to lay out the brackets, drill holes and bolt them into position. After we were sure of the body mount alignment, we zip welded the new body mounts into position (5). The Caprice Engine was then lifted into place in the S-10 chassis (6). Below, you can see the Caprice engine in place, ready for the next step (7). The folks at AD-Engineering in Sonora, CA came to our shop to oversee the conversion process. This was the first panel truck conversion kit and he wanted to verify body mount alignments. In this photo you can see the running board mounting brackets in place (8).

The AD-Engineering conversion kit comes with pre-fabricated engine mounting plates that will accomodate a variety of engine choices including the original six-banger. After we were sure of the engine mount alignment, we welded the plates and stands into positon (9). A close up view of a body mount bracket in place. The bracket in the foreground holds the running board framing in position. There are three brackets for each side holding the running board support structure in the proper location (10).

The Big Move--Out with the old and in with the new.

The stage is set for the transition. The body is lifted off the old 1953 chassis onto the new 1988 Chevy S-10 Chassis in 10 minutes. The new S-10 chassis sits waiting for the Panel Truck body to be moved over. In this series of photos you can see the process of lifing the panel truck body from its original 1953 chassis to the new Chevy S-10 chassis.

1993 Caprice 5.7L and 4L60E Transmission

The engine is a stock 1993 Chevrolet 5.7/350 with electronic throttle-body fuel injection. It came as the central componet of the police package offered by Chevrolet in the early 1990’s. We decided at the onset of this project to keep the engine stock--right down to the emissions pump and the catalytic converter. We wanted this truck to be as environmentally clean as possible. The transmission is a MXO 4L60 (4-speed) automatic with over-drive, and the combination produces 205 HP at 4400 rpm. The gear ratio on the S-10 is XXXXXX. Our goal was to build a vehicle that would provide dependable service and be easy to maintain.

1993 Caprice Exhaust System

We Wanted a Quiet Riding Truck. The exhaust system of any vehicle is either a major source of pride or soon, a major point of irritation. The deep throated sound of muscle power is an American tradition--on the show field. Getting to and from the show can become a less than pleasant journey. Performance mufflers transmit sound (vibration) and heat two ways: 1. Horrizontally, out the tail pipe and 2. vertically, into the floor of the vehicle In addition to mechanical and road noise, it does not take long for the harmonic drone of a set of mufflers to become a source of irritation to the occupants of the vehicle--the stereo is turned up to drown out the noise, and conversations turn into shouting matches. If the muffler is positioned high in the chassis--next to the steel floor pan--heat rises--and the air condition is adjusted to put out more cold air. You get the picture--mechanical and road noise, muffler drown, human voices, loud music, and air rushing out of the A/C vents--driver and passenger fatigue are just moments away.

For our S-10 chassis conversion, we chose to install the complete Caprice exhaust system--from the header pipe to the tail pipe, including the catalytic converter, muffler and resonator--having driven these cars when they were new, we knew that General Motors had engineered the exhaust system so that sound would not become an threat to passenger comfort. Space within the confinds of the chassis was also a consideration--we did not want mufflers hanging below the frame rails. If we really want to hear that deep throated sound of muscle power--we can install an exhaust cut-out valve.

Cats Have a Hot Tin Roof
Catalytic Converters are notorously hot and radiate heat into any body panel in close proximity--most cats come with a heat shield built into the top cover. We wanted to maintain the original 1953 battery box location under the passenger floor, but that would put the cat very close to the battery. We created an additional aluminum heat baffle to shield the cat-generated heat from the battery case as well as the passenger floor. Our shield has a one-inch air gap that is tall in the front to catch cool air and tapered at the rear to force the hot air down and away from the vehicle.

Cragar Class Wheels Street Pro 390

Pirelli SRT 265X17 Tires

SSBC Big Bit Disc Brake Conversion Kit

These are our “Quickchange” alum calipers. This model is call the “Sport twin” It is a 2 piston alum caliper, with equal stopping power of a c-5 corvette. Cooler operating temperatures ensure maximum friction between pad and rotor for maximum stopping power and durability Improved braking in wet weather driving Quieter operation Limited lifetime warranty

The GM factory brakes on the Chev S-10 were descent for a small truck, but “wanting” for the additional mass of the the Panel Truck body. The front had 10-inch discs and the rear had drums. We turned to Michael Jonas, president of Stainless Steel Brake Company, the leader in the development of disc brake technology. His recommendation was to upgrade the rear to a disc brake system to match the front. We decided on the SSBC Sport-Twin “quick change” aluminum calipers. We also deciced on SSBC’s new cross-drilled and sloted “Big Bite rotors which feature cooler operating temperatures ensuring maximum friction between pad and rotor for maximum stopping power and durability; improved braking in wet weather driving and, quieter operation. The combination of dual-piston calipers and Big Bite rotors gives the AcoustiTRUCK the stopping power of a C-5 Corvette.

While the wheel base of the S-10 chassis is the same as the original 1953 truck, the tire track is about six inches narrower. To bring the wheel stance in line with the body, we swapped out the S-10 truck rear-end for a rear-end out of an four wheel drive S-10 Jimmy, which for whatever logical reason, is four inches wider than the truck. With that done, we simply added a pair of three-inch billet spacers to the front hubs to bring the tire track in line with the rear.

Suspension Rebuild and Other Chassis Modifications

The stock Chevy S-10 chassis suspension was completely rebuilt with Energy Suspension bushings and related parts to bring it up to today’s new car standards.

>>The stock front spindels were replaced with two-inch dropped spindels from Belltech to bring the front center of gravity a little lower.
>>The stock sway bar on the front suspension was replaced with a heavier duty 1-1/8th diameter bar for increased stability.
>>The rear suspension was lowered with three-inch lowering blocks and a rear sway bar was added for greater stability.

We have looked at the possibility of adding a pan hard bar to the rear, but will make that decision after the vehicle has been driven a bit.

In addition to the transmission cooling built into the lower part of the radiator, the Caprice came with a transmission cooler that was hung under the front bumper as part of the Police Package upgrade. The new Griffin Radiator from Old Air Products has a transmission cooler built into the bottom and we added an after market dual flow cooler to the passenger side rail of the chassis. Fluid is plumbed in line so that it flows in a complete circle--from the transmission to the radiator; then out to the auxillary cooler and then back into the transmission.

Ebay and the internet are great sources for inexpensive parts and free information.

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