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Old 08-12-2017, 12:01 PM   #1
61Chevy454
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Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Hey guys, here's the good news...I'm almost into a job that will have me making $50,000 a year for the first 2 years, and $70,000 a year after that.

The bad news? My truck gets 9.92 MPG at its best and god knows how bad at it's worst, and the job is 70+ miles each way.

What I was thinking of doing was buying a rebuilt small block 350, throwing a Holley/MSD/FastEFI/Edelbrock EFI system on it. That plus my 700R4 Should net me reasonable MPG PLUS increase the value of my truck PLUS be more reliable because of the rebuilt transmission and rebuilt crate motor, and it's A LOT cheaper than my other option which is buying a new car.

What are your opinions? What kind of motor should I go with? Any good companies that don't charge an arm and a leg?

Thanks,

Ben

P.S Anyone have any ideas for best way to install seatbelts in the 61 model year trucks?
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Old 08-12-2017, 12:40 PM   #2
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Save money, buy a $2000 VW TDI or Pontiac Vibe/Matrix. The TDI with a manual trans will return 45mpg, with an auto it will be 35-40. I sold my 2000 TDI Jetta and picked up a 2004 Vibe, and it gets a consistent 34mpg. I will say that the Vibe (Toyota) is much more reliable and easy to work on than the VW.

Drive something cheap and efficient everyday, and enjoy your toy(s) after work and on the weekend. Works for me! I do take a toy to work every now and then, but I'm really glad to not have to daily one of them.
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Old 08-12-2017, 12:42 PM   #3
61Chevy454
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Quote:
Originally Posted by jayoldschool View Post
Save money, buy a $2000 VW TDI or Pontiac Vibe/Matrix. The TDI with a manual trans will return 45mpg, with an auto it will be 35-40. I sold my 2000 TDI Jetta and picked up a 2004 Vibe, and it gets a consistent 34mpg. I will say that the Vibe (Toyota) is much more reliable and easy to work on than the VW.

Drive something cheap and efficient everyday, and enjoy your toy(s) after work and on the weekend. Works for me! I do take a toy to work every now and then, but I'm really glad to not have to daily one of them.
The sad part is that I really enjoy dailying them! Plus, once I put a motor in it, I know it's reliable and that I won't have to worry about it.

After driving her 1400 miles over 3 days, I'm pretty darn used to her kinks, haha.

PLUS, the unions here don't like foreign cars much...

Last edited by 61Chevy454; 08-12-2017 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 08-12-2017, 01:39 PM   #4
padresag
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Quote:
Originally Posted by 61Chevy454 View Post
Hey guys, here's the good news...I'm almost into a job that will have me making $50,000 a year for the first 2 years, and $70,000 a year after that.

The bad news? My truck gets 9.92 MPG at its best and god knows how bad at it's worst, and the job is 70+ miles each way.

What I was thinking of doing was buying a rebuilt small block 350, throwing a Holley/MSD/FastEFI/Edelbrock EFI system on it. That plus my 700R4 Should net me reasonable MPG PLUS increase the value of my truck PLUS be more reliable because of the rebuilt transmission and rebuilt crate motor, and it's A LOT cheaper than my other option which is buying a new car.

What are your opinions? What kind of motor should I go with? Any good companies that don't charge an arm and a leg?

Thanks,

Ben

P.S Anyone have any ideas for best way to install seatbelts in the 61 model year trucks?
that sounds like back and forth to st louis
ron
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Old 08-12-2017, 01:40 PM   #5
61Chevy454
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

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that sounds like back and forth to st louis
ron
And it's 100% scary that you knew that.
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Old 08-12-2017, 01:48 PM   #6
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

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And it's 100% scary that you knew that.
why scary. it was simple. if one has ever been to wellsville you know that that it is a little over 70 mi from St. Louis. I flew into St.Louis a few years back and drove out there to pick up a pup
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Old 08-12-2017, 01:49 PM   #7
61Chevy454
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

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why scary. it was simple. if one has ever been to wellsville you know that that it is a little over 70 mi from St. Louis. I flew into St.Louis a few years back and drove out there to pick up a pup
ron
That explains it! Your profile said you're from BC, so I figured you would never have heard of Wellsville, considering I never heard of Wellsville until I moved here. :P
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Old 08-12-2017, 02:42 PM   #8
padresag
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

went there to pick up this guy as a pup. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

ron
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Old 08-12-2017, 05:37 PM   #9
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Ok, buy domestic. Get the latest/cheapest Buick/Impala V6 FWD sedan you can find. You'll be comfy, your coworkers will be happy, and you'll get 30mpg everyday while having something to easy to work on (and parts are dirt cheap)
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Old 08-12-2017, 06:07 PM   #10
Clyde65
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

A big block, 4x4 and a 3/4 ton and you want what kind of mileage from it?

I say if you get 10 now, you should be ecstatic!
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Old 08-12-2017, 07:33 PM   #11
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Manual trans with overdrive. The MY6 4spd OD has .72:1 OD.
A 5-speed would get you there too.
If it's got the original diffs in it, there's not much you can do for the rear, but the front is a Dana 44, and any gear ratio you could want is available. Swap the rear axle for something that has a decent selection of gears available, and you can then swap 3.42, 3.30 or something like that into it.
If you want to swap to a small block, you'd make the truck lighter, and a 290hp crate engine is a real good, affordable way to go.
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Old 08-12-2017, 11:02 PM   #12
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Maybe you need this: www.LSx4u.com
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Old 08-13-2017, 12:04 AM   #13
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

By the time you buy a rebuilt small block and add the EFI and everything else needed you are looking at $3000+. And you likely won't gain that much mpg's to justify that investment. For the same money I would either go with a LS engine or spend some time and money getting the most out of your 454.

Before you do too much to your 454 you will want to check and see the real condition of it. You will want to do a compression and a leakdown test. To get more out of your 454 you will want to look at a good ignition and optimize the timing. Also optimize the fuel delivery. If you are running 35" tires or larger, those will contribute to poor mpg's.
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Old 08-13-2017, 01:06 AM   #14
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Like jayoldschool stated,
I would get an econo box and drive it saving your truck for occasional nice day driving when you get the need or urge. Here's why I say this. 140 miles a day round trip, 5 days a week, 52 weeks in a year - that's 36,400 miles a year.

I faced the same dilemma as you 15 years ago. I bought a new econo box with a stick shift to satisfy my manual transmission fix. I only drive 60 miles round trip daily. My econo box now has over 286,000 miles on it. I've been lucky enough to avoid accidents because of antilock brakes due to stupid drivers - read oh - here's some standing water lets panic and slam on the brakes while going down the freeway in the pouring rain. I ate a chain binder that fell off a semi trailer, got rear ended by some gal, I don't know how many hunks of semi tire tread got flung up at me over the years. I think the roof of my econo box is the only part of the car that isn't dented, scraped or banged up. My windshield is so badly pitted from blowing sand it's glaring at night with oncoming lights.

Other things to think about - at 286,000 miles my econo box, the front seats are thrashed, I've replaced 2 cooling fans, 2 radiators, rear lower control bushings, power steering pressure switch, all of which are available within that same day or two. Do you really want to treat your 61 like that? I know I sure didn't want to treat my 64 C-10 like that. Oh, as a plus, since my econo box is 99% freeway driving and I don't use the clutch to upshift & NEVER downshift to slow down I still have the original clutch, pressure plate & throwout bearing in the car. When I get the need to drive my 64 I can hop in it and take it to work if I want but that's very rare. It mostly comes out on nice weekends. I don't want my truck to get trashed by road debris & stupid drivers. I drive the 99 here in Communist California which is rated the absolute worst freeway in the US for accidents & deaths.

Don't get me wrong I DO use my truck.
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Old 08-13-2017, 01:40 AM   #15
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

I drive the '63 in to work every other Friday or if it's storming pretty good here (which isn't often). My commute is only 25 min door to door so not too taxing on the truck.

I agree with a few here. I picked up a '94 Civic hatchback (we call it "the Hooptie" in my family) for 600.00 Guy said it had a bad head gasket. Turned out to be a bad coil. 50.00 and now I'm getting 30 mpg. It just turned 270k on the original engine and trans. I replaced all the suspension bushings, timing belt, CVDs and the carpet (spilled crab boil water on it - don't ever do that). Its still pretty straight, insurance and registration are cheap and its almost as reliable as the truck .

As far as MPG for the truck, I think Im around 11 if Im not kicking it too hard. Thats an injected 454, 5 speed OD and 4:10s. I feel fortunate for the 11 mpg but in no way would want to have to fill the 30 gallon tank twice a week.

The Civic has an 8 gallon tank that lasts a little over 1-1/2 weeks. Sometimes I forget to put gas in it but have never run out. Seems it may go another 50 miles once its on fumes lol. Best part is that the Civic is like a go cart to drive especially after driving the truck.
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Old 08-13-2017, 10:32 AM   #16
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

I second, third and fourth the commuter option!!

My 65 is in the shop right now but when it isn't there, I drive my Hyundai and enjoy 35mpg and drive my truck on Fridays just to stretch his legs and I also take a different route through more side streets more than highway.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!!
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Old 08-13-2017, 01:28 PM   #17
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

My point of reference is daily-driving the Suburban in my avatar for 10 years, 100,000 miles and through 20 states.

Yes, things wear out... so it gets repaired or re-restored.
Yes, gas mileage sucks. When gas was $4+ a gallon, I still drove it daily. I just stopped running to the store for a single can of spray paint or a gallon of milk.

But every minute behind the wheel of that truck, with no radio, no AC, no heat for a couple years, no weather stripping, no carpet or sound deadener, and one memorable trip to Nashville in the rain with no floor on the passenger side... was enjoyable every time.

No matter what kind of mood I was in, honking down the interstate in the left lane at 80mph in Atlanta while passing commuter econoboxes in the right lanes, made all right with the world, at least for the time I was behind that thin steering wheel on an unrestored worn out seat.

Sometimes, optimizing impractical is a lot better than just going practical.

-Brad
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Old 08-13-2017, 02:18 PM   #18
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

10mpg in a big block K20 is pretty good mileage. My 66 original K10 with a 283 didn't get that. You can sink a ton of money in it, but it will never get great gas mileage. Weight and aerodynamics are against it.
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Old 08-13-2017, 02:55 PM   #19
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

Piece of cake, throw a 100mpg carburetor on it.
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Old 08-13-2017, 04:03 PM   #20
Brad54
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

I worked in car magazines as a tech editor for 20 years... I've never been able to find the math that makes EFI a good investment in terms of fuel economy over selecting the correctly sized carburetor and tuning it.
$1,500-$3,000 (or more) for a kit, plus tuning equipment, installing EGR, etc etc, and then break down the cost of getting a couple more miles per gallon.
Say you got 3mpg more (which is doubtful versus a properly tuned carburetor)
How many tanks of gas is that going to save you over the course of a year.
Not as many as you think, once you start doing the math.
Not on our cinder-block shaped vehicles.
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Old 08-13-2017, 04:10 PM   #21
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

I worked in car magazines as a tech editor for 20 years... I've never been able to find the math that makes EFI a good investment in terms of fuel economy over selecting the correctly sized carburetor and tuning it.
$1,500-$3,000 (or more) for a kit, plus tuning equipment, installing EGR, etc etc, and then break down the cost of getting a couple more miles per gallon.
Say you got 3mpg more (which is doubtful versus a properly tuned carburetor)
How many tanks of gas is that going to save you over the course of a year.
Not as many as you think, once you start doing the math.
Not on our cinder-block shaped vehicles.
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'61 Suburban daily driver: off the road due to 180-pound 8-pt buck!
'62 K-10 long-step project
Nostalgia Altered drag car with 2x4 FE Ford.
'57 Chevy 2dr 150 wagon gasser
'76 Power Wagon daily driver
'56 Chevy 2dr basket case
'54 Buick Special
'73 Duster on a rotisserie

Hi, my name is Brad, and I have a problem!
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Old 08-14-2017, 07:51 AM   #22
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Re: Best way to get better gas mileage out of my 454 1961 K20

I am with Brad on this- add up the cost of any of your options and do the math with the cost of gas and the difference in fuel mileage. I bet you will drive that 454 for a couple of years before you will even break even.

That said, if you want to make a change, look at the plug n play EFI. You can get an FITech for around $1K. It will help fuel mileage a little- maybe 1-2 MPG depending on how your current carb is tuned. It will also make part throttle response a lot better. OR if you are currently running a rear gear that is 3.73 or lower, look into changing to a higher gear ratio. That will cut RPM's and save gas. A taller rear tire will also do some good.
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