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Old 03-04-2018, 12:18 AM   #1
cal30_sniper
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Project Odysseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

At this point, I figured I better start documenting my build, or I'm never going to catch up. I originally didn't plan to be making enough changes to justify a whole build thread, but I can safely say that I'm well into full rebuild range now.

Here's the subject:






It's a 1986 C20 Suburban that I've had since 2012. It's a factory 454 truck, with the HD towing upgrade that included a 14 bolt full floater out back, 13" brakes all the way around, and a few other goodies. I've done a lot to it over the years. I started with some cooling and suspension upgrades to make a reliable long distance towing machine out of it. Then I threw a Richmond no-slip in the rear diff, upgraded to some H2 rims and modern sized 17" all terrains, and did some backcountry driving/camping stuff for a few years. I took it over Tincup pass in the summer of 2012, with my then girlfriend, now wife aboard. To this day she swears we're never doing something like that again, but the truck handled it great. Nobody on the trail, especially the guys in their Polaris ATVs at the top could believe I made it up in a 2 wheel drive. A couple of other long trips later, and some cross-country moves, and around 2013-14 timeframe, I swapped in an NV4500 5-speed, along with a custom VDO gauge panel and some extra gauges to keep an eye on things. Since then, I've been driving the wheels off of it and loving every minute, but the 6 years of living in coastal environments and surviving all the weather from the driveway has taken it's toll, and the old girl was starting to show her age by last summer.

This project is about the most extreme case of snowball that I've ever witnessed. I guess you could say that it started last June. I used the burb to tow my 24' enclosed trailer, race car, and team down to Daytona to run the chumpcar series endurance race there. The truck performed flawlessly, except for the fact that the A/C compressor clutch froze up the day before we left, and I had to ride 12 hours down and 12 hours back with no A/C, in the sweltering southern summer heat. Add to that 6 hours behind the wheel of a race car without any sort of cool suit, and another 8 hours of working the pits, and you could say I had a sticky weekend. It was fun though.



When I got back, I decided that I was going to figure out something with the A/C. I've already been through this A/C system twice, the first time to rebuild it and convert to a serpentine belt setup with a Sanden compressor. After the first compressor went bad, I rebuilt it a second time, thinking it was the junk eBay compressor I'd used. When the second (brand new from Rock Auto) compressor clutch locked up, I decided something might be up with my setup. Being the kind of guy that likes to do things right, I decided to stop experimenting and give the guys at Vintage Air a call. Soon enough, a Gen IV surefit kit was on its way.

Then things started to get out of hand. On one of my late night internet surfing sessions, after I'd already torn fairly heavily into the truck to prep for the A/C swap, I started to rekindle my old dreams of an 8.1L swap. I've wanted to do this for years, ever since I followed Larry's K5 and Polar Bear builds when I still owned my '90 1500 Suburban. I realized that the only thing that had been holding me back was the fact that I'd redone the A/C and accessories already, and didn't want to do them twice. Well, now that I was into it anyways, why not look around some?

A few calls and clicks later, and I had an eBay purchase made for a lower miles 8.1L pullout from a 2004 C5500 Schwann's truck. More on that sub-snowball later...

Once I started pulling the truck apart to fit in the Vintage Air, I found a windshield that was leaking into the floorboard from rust I didn't really know I had. Then I decided to investigate the bubbles in the rear window seals, and found more of the same. Overall, the truck is extremely clean, but the desert has really burned off most of the paint, and the coast has gotten to what's left behind. I figured if I didn't get a handle on it now, I was going to lose the truck to rust in another decade or so. Might as well fix it right, so the teardown continued.

I think I've hit rock bottom on the mudslide/snowball now. This morning I won a government auction on a 92k mile '86 K30 3+3. Since my Suburban is already blown into a million pieces for all the swappery and paint, and it was in desperate need of a front end rebuild, I figured why waste the money doing two wheel drive stuff when I've really always wanted a 4x4 anyways. I really have to put the brakes on the project now, or it'll never get back together again, but here's what's currently in the works:

1. Vintage Air Gen IV Surefit with rear-A/C delete
2. Vortec 8100 swap, ported heads and intake, cam, headers, and some other goodies
3. K20 Suburban frame swap
4. Dana 60/1-ton 14 bolt/1-ton brakes/NP205 swap from the K30 (along with a 4WD NV4500)
5. Repaint inside and out (inside is already done)
6. Full sound deadening and modern audio setup (most of this is also done with some previous projects)

The motor and wiring harness are already done. I'm in the process of bodywork now on the firewall, roof, and doorjambs. When the K30 gets home, I'll start gutting it for the good stuff and get ready to flip it to someone else to enjoy. Over the next few posts, I'll try and catch up to where I'm at so I can start making regular updates. Stay tuned!
__________________
86 Chevrolet K20/30 Suburban - 8.1/NV4500/NP205/Dana 60/14 bolt FF, build in progress
73 Formula - 400/Doug Nash 4+1, resto on hold
86 Chevrolet K30 3+3 - 350/TH400/NP241, Air Force/Forest Service Rescue Truck, for sale
01 Ram 2500 - 5.9L Magnum, daily driver
91 BMW 325i - Chumpcar series racecar

Last edited by cal30_sniper; 03-04-2018 at 01:56 AM.
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Old 08-02-2018, 03:28 PM   #2
cal30_sniper
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Re: Project Odysseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

I'm just about ready to swap the C to a K in my signature line. Hopefully the C20 frame will come out this weekend, and the K20 frame will be ready to go in after painting and adding some of the exhaust brackets and driveshaft carrier bearing mount crossmember from the C20 frame. I'll add some pictures when I get my phone photos transferred over to the computer, but I'm up to date with the following hurdles in the project:

-Welded ORD steering box reinforcement plate to the K20 frame, notched and boxed k-member to clear the 8.1L oil pan (and carry the extra weight of the engine), and reinforced the rear shock mount locations. Then I stripped the entire frame to bare metal, and gave it three coats of SPI black epoxy primer. It went back together with all new TBI fuel lines and new brake lines front to rear. I still have to run the wiring for the taillights and fuel pump. While it was apart, the frame got all new black phosphate grade 8 bolts from McMaster-Carr in the factory diameter and lengths. I added bolts to the engine crossmember, as well as replacing all the rivets I had to cut with 7/16" flanged Grade 8 bolts. Hopefully it will be solid enough to survive the extra weight of the new components bolted to it.

-Repaired both rusted areas in the lower windshield corners, stripped the entire firewall, trans tunnel, window channel, and forward portion of the roof, and painted with two coats of SPI white epoxy, two coats of SPI white epoxy mixed 50/50 with ceramic microspheres and sprayed with an undercoating gun (for heat insulation), and two coats of PPG single stage in the original tan color on top. I did the ceramic insulation to the firewall and trans tunnel to try and cut down on the excessive cabin footwell heat while towing long distances. I also brush painted inside the cowl, up to the windshield seam, and down into the vent channels on the side of the cab with copious coats of Rustoleum desert tan paint (near perfect match for the factory color).

-Pulled the Dana 60 front axle, round pattern NP205, 1-ton springs, and JB8 front and rear brakes from the K30 3+3. All will be getting cleaned, painted, and installed once the frame is in.

-The NP205 is currently disassembled on the workbench. It's already cleaned and painted. The output housing is with ORD for the VSS sensor modification. Once it gets back, the case will get a reseal job with a 32 spline short input shaft and ORD twinstick shifter conversion.

Once the frame is underneath, I'll get the 1-ton springs and axles put in. After the NP205 is back together, my workbench will get taken over by the NV4500 for a mainshaft swap to convert it to 4x4. The NP205 should be a direct bolt on after that. I'll drop the engine and trans in together, and then wrestle in the NP205. I'm hoping that my headers clear the front spring shackles. I already know the exhaust is going to require modification to get around the transfer case on the passenger side, but I'd prefer not to get new headers.

I just got my new Esco Compaq high lift jack in. Coupled with the four 12 ton jackstands and engine hoist that I have, I should be able to get the whole truck 29" up in the air for the frame swap. It should also make the transfer case installation a bit easier having it that far up. That NP205 is quite heavy.
__________________
86 Chevrolet K20/30 Suburban - 8.1/NV4500/NP205/Dana 60/14 bolt FF, build in progress
73 Formula - 400/Doug Nash 4+1, resto on hold
86 Chevrolet K30 3+3 - 350/TH400/NP241, Air Force/Forest Service Rescue Truck, for sale
01 Ram 2500 - 5.9L Magnum, daily driver
91 BMW 325i - Chumpcar series racecar
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Old 08-03-2018, 11:01 AM   #3
4x4chase
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Re: Project Odesseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

Im in for watching. Currently doing a 3+3 resto mod with an 8.1, 4l80 and np205. I like your plan. Someday ill do a sub as well. Just bought a 03 with an 8.1 and towed a couple weekends back. Love the power. Cant wait to get this one running.
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Old 08-03-2018, 10:57 PM   #4
cal30_sniper
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Re: Project Odesseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4x4chase View Post
Im in for watching. Currently doing a 3+3 resto mod with an 8.1, 4l80 and np205. I like your plan. Someday ill do a sub as well. Just bought a 03 with an 8.1 and towed a couple weekends back. Love the power. Cant wait to get this one running.
I will say, if I didn't have so much history with this truck already, and if the body on the 3+3 had been as clean as my Suburban, I probably would have just swapped and built the 3+3 instead. In the end, that, coupled with the fact that the Suburban has a good bit more back seat room and a shorter wheelbase which is generally easier to maneuver on and off road, helped me to decide to go this route. If I ever find a clean crew, I'd certainly consider building it though.

I just finished sorting my photos from the build so far. A little over 1,000 photos from the last year of work. Hopefully that will provide the motivation I need to start this thread rolling.
__________________
86 Chevrolet K20/30 Suburban - 8.1/NV4500/NP205/Dana 60/14 bolt FF, build in progress
73 Formula - 400/Doug Nash 4+1, resto on hold
86 Chevrolet K30 3+3 - 350/TH400/NP241, Air Force/Forest Service Rescue Truck, for sale
01 Ram 2500 - 5.9L Magnum, daily driver
91 BMW 325i - Chumpcar series racecar
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Old 08-03-2018, 11:27 PM   #5
cal30_sniper
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Re: Project Odysseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

POST 1: VINTAGE AIR FIREWALL MODS

I started the swap with disassembly and modification of the firewall to install the Vintage Air Gen IV Surefit kit. Out of the box, it uses a metal plate to cover the holes left by the old A/C suitcase. Unfortunately, the panel didn't cover all of the holes completely, and it was designed to be held in by cheap screw in fasteners.






(notice in particular this hole is about half uncovered)

I wanted something that was going to look a bit cleaner once installed, so I ran down to Ace and bought a handful of 1/4-20 buttonhead bolts and matching nuts. I ran the bolts through the plate and firewall, and then tack welded the nuts to the backside of the firewall so it was permanently threaded. I also used a few of the extra pieces of metal that came out of the holes cut to pass through the new A/C and heater lines, and welded in a few of the unneeded holes, including the one that wasn't fully covered by the plate.

Preparing to tack weld the nuts to the firewall:


View of tack welded nut and filler metal ready to be welded in:


Welded in:


Ground smooth:


Bare firewall after mods:


Brackets sandblasted and unit installed for test fit:


Mock-up of PCM mounting:


With the firewall welding complete, it was time to turn to stripping and painting the interior...
__________________
86 Chevrolet K20/30 Suburban - 8.1/NV4500/NP205/Dana 60/14 bolt FF, build in progress
73 Formula - 400/Doug Nash 4+1, resto on hold
86 Chevrolet K30 3+3 - 350/TH400/NP241, Air Force/Forest Service Rescue Truck, for sale
01 Ram 2500 - 5.9L Magnum, daily driver
91 BMW 325i - Chumpcar series racecar
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Old 08-03-2018, 11:40 PM   #6
cal30_sniper
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Re: Project Odysseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

POST 2: INTERIOR ROOF AND FIREWALL PAINT

I broke the interior paint job into two sections. First, I painted the roof, sides, and firewall area. Once that was done, I painted the floorboards. That way, I wasn't walking on fresh paint while attempting to do second and third coats.

First, everything was thoroughly cleaned with Klean-strip and brillo pads to remove the remains of jute padding and all the sticky nasty stuff stuck to the floors. Then I washed it out several times with dawn dish soap and hot water. The next step was a full sanding with an 80 grit dual action rotary sander, followed by cleaning and degreasing prior to paint. I then masked everything with a mixture of plastic sheet, paper, and masking tape.





Because I was spraying inside the vehicle with an HVLP gun (and using hardener), I set up one of my shop fans for ventilation, and suited up with a full tyvek suit, gloves, and fresh air breathing hood:




For paint, I used quart-sized cans of Rustoleum Desert Sand colored paint, thinned 50% with Xylene, with the recommended amount of Valspar Tractor and Implement Paint Enamel Hardener. I sprayed it out of my Devilbiss HVLP gun with a 1.5 tip. Everything got three coats:



__________________
86 Chevrolet K20/30 Suburban - 8.1/NV4500/NP205/Dana 60/14 bolt FF, build in progress
73 Formula - 400/Doug Nash 4+1, resto on hold
86 Chevrolet K30 3+3 - 350/TH400/NP241, Air Force/Forest Service Rescue Truck, for sale
01 Ram 2500 - 5.9L Magnum, daily driver
91 BMW 325i - Chumpcar series racecar
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Old 08-03-2018, 11:55 PM   #7
cal30_sniper
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Re: Project Odysseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

POST 3: INTERIOR PAINT FLOORBOARDS

Before I could paint the floorboards, I had to fix a few rust spots that had formed in the door seal area of the door jambs. To do this, I cut out the cancerous areas, formed new metal from 16 gauge sheet, and mig welded the new pieces in, followed by grinding everything smooth:







I then took the time to give the floorboards the same cleaning, sanding, degreasing treatment as the rest of the interior. I also took the extra step of chiseling/scraping/wire brushing all the old sealant out of the gutters at the bottom of the door jambs. Like many other times in the project, I found electric drill chucked wire brushes I bought off of Amazon to work great for cleaning up the residue in these hard to reach places.




The floorboards then got three coats of the same mixture of Rustoleum paint as the rest of the interior:




I don't think that I got any photos of it, but I also used two full tubes each of 3M Self-leveling and Controlled Flow seam sealer to redo the seam sealing that I scraped out of the door jamb channel area. I had great success with these products on my Firebird, and had no question about re-using them for the Suburban.

And, that's the last of the small simple updates. Next up is the engine cleanup, paint, head porting, and other modifications. It'll be a longer post, probably broken into several sections, but I don't have time to do it tonight. Got to get to bed so I can get up and beat the heat tomorrow morning.
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86 Chevrolet K20/30 Suburban - 8.1/NV4500/NP205/Dana 60/14 bolt FF, build in progress
73 Formula - 400/Doug Nash 4+1, resto on hold
86 Chevrolet K30 3+3 - 350/TH400/NP241, Air Force/Forest Service Rescue Truck, for sale
01 Ram 2500 - 5.9L Magnum, daily driver
91 BMW 325i - Chumpcar series racecar
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Old 08-04-2018, 03:14 PM   #8
LT7A
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Re: Project Odesseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

Going heavy duty man. Looks good!
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Old 08-05-2018, 07:23 AM   #9
cal30_sniper
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Re: Project Odesseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

Thanks! It's been a learning experience for sure. I've never even owned a 4WD, so this is a big leap for me.

POST 4: ENGINE ARRIVAL AND INSPECTION

After deciding I wanted to go with an 8.1, I started the prowl for an engine. I found a good deal on a low miles '09 Propane motor on eBay, and after talking to the seller and watching a video of it run, purchased it. Imagine my surprise when he called me back the next day to tell me the motor was unavailable, as it had already sold and hadn't been updated in their inventory. I really should have adjusted fire after that incident, but I gave the seller a chance to make it right and he located another 8.1L out of an '04 C5500 with low miles. It was another propane motor, out of a Schwan's truck conversion.

Well, it may have been low miles, but I think every single one of them was a New England winter mile. I picked up the motor from FedEx freight stacked on two broken pallets and an old tire, with a giant refrigerator box just dropped on top. When I got the box off, I was less than pleased. Every square inch of this thing was covered in corrosion, the packaging was terrible, and several important branches of the harness had been cut to get it out (most annoyingly, the electronic throttle wires had all been cut for some unknown reason). Despite the sellers assurances, the O2 sensors were gone, as was the TAC module and electronic pedal, and a slew of other accessories. The same corrosion that infested the motor had also locked up the A/C compressor, and the alternator made very audible noises when turned over by hand. Surprisingly, I didn't break off any bolts removing the exhaust and accessories to unload it out of the truck.

As the motor arrived (note the great packing job on the PCM):



Getting it out of the truck (about as high as my cherry picker will go thanks to the egregious amount of broken pallets underneath):


When I finally got everything out of my truck, I had to wheel it into the garage and get it all tucked away, as I was leaving for another month-long trip to Arizona the next week. Since my Poncho 400 was taking up the casters for my Chevy engine stand, I improvised with some 2x4s and a Lowes furniture dolly.


Working in the tight confines of my garage, I managed to pop off a valve cover and finally breathed a sigh of relief. Despite the terrible external condition of the engine, it looked like new inside. Thank you propane!



Speaking of that tight garage, here's my buddy Joe (a Navy flight surgeon), helping me get everything shuffled. I quickly decided this garage arrangement wasn't going to cut it, and the 'bird got rolled up inside my enclosed trailer for some long term storage while the 'burban gets sorted out. Nevermind the 50lb sandbags trying to straighten out GM's 40 year old fiberglass hood mistake:
__________________
86 Chevrolet K20/30 Suburban - 8.1/NV4500/NP205/Dana 60/14 bolt FF, build in progress
73 Formula - 400/Doug Nash 4+1, resto on hold
86 Chevrolet K30 3+3 - 350/TH400/NP241, Air Force/Forest Service Rescue Truck, for sale
01 Ram 2500 - 5.9L Magnum, daily driver
91 BMW 325i - Chumpcar series racecar
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Old 08-05-2018, 07:43 AM   #10
cal30_sniper
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Re: Project Odysseus - K30/C20 Suburban Snowball Project

POST 5: ENGINE CLEANUP AND PAINT

The block and cylinder heads on this engine were a disaster. Copious amounts of rust on every exposed surface, corroded bolt holes, and none of GM's original paint remaining. I guess that's what we have to look forward to with the new leak-free gaskets they're building motors with these days.





I tried a wire brush and scraper at first, but quickly upgraded to an air needle scaler. I had a cheap harbor freight one before that broke after the 3rd use, so I ordered a nice Ingersoll Rand for this project. It worked like a dream. After getting all the scale and rust off, I chased all the threads, and used a die grinder to smooth the sharp edges of the block left after cleaning all the rust off.



After getting the engine mounted on my engine stand, I wheeled it out, sealed up the orifices, and gave it a good cleaning with oven cleaner and scrub brush to remove the air tool oil and residual surface rust from the iron surfaces. For those who haven't tried it, oven cleaner is an amazing degreaser.



Then I masked it off and treated everything to two coats of Bill Hirsch high temp engine primer:



Normally I'm a huge proponent of painting blocks the factory color, but I had a quart of Bill Hirsch Old's Gold left over from a previous project, and decided to save $30 by using up what was left. I thinned it with VM&P Naptha, added enamel hardner, and shot it from my HVLP gun. Way better than before!


__________________
86 Chevrolet K20/30 Suburban - 8.1/NV4500/NP205/Dana 60/14 bolt FF, build in progress
73 Formula - 400/Doug Nash 4+1, resto on hold
86 Chevrolet K30 3+3 - 350/TH400/NP241, Air Force/Forest Service Rescue Truck, for sale
01 Ram 2500 - 5.9L Magnum, daily driver
91 BMW 325i - Chumpcar series racecar
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