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Old 01-28-2017, 11:32 PM   #1
HunterRotten
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The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

Around the time I was graduating in 2015 I was looking for a project vehicle so that I could learn the general basics of vehicle maintenance and have a car to play with and repair that was simple. I decided that a volkswagen beetle was my best route and I searched for a pre-1966 VW beetle.

That didn't work out too well and a few days after looking at two beetles about two hours away.. I found an ad for this blue truck for $3,500. Here is the only picture that was in the ad.


A day or so later we (my Dad and I) met the guy selling it down in Berea, KY and bought the truck a few days later. It was originally a base model 1978 GMC with the inline 6 and 3 on the tree. The only real options on the spid was the paint which was Hawaiian Blue(I've discovered it's also called Medium Blue but my SPID says Hawaiian), and then a 3.42 rear end.

Lot's of home remedies and repairs, some were questionable. New gas tank, sending unit and a 660 street avenger carb. Here's some of the few photos I took that day.


Gas was still expensive!











Yes that is the missing lug nut on the 3 spd.

$3,000 later it was mine!

Before the sale we had him swap grilles with his same model year Chevy as it had a GMC grille in it. After looking at prices of the grilles and the condition of my GMC grille.. it was a good thing my dad said something.

My dad and I are waaaaaaaaaaaay deep in this project now. I have a lot of catching up to do on this thread. I will do it one step at a time and try to give good quality posts.. there's about a year and a half of progression to catch up on.


Here he (Blue) is, home and in my possession. I was really excited! My sister came over to visit my dad and I (my mom was away and hadn't seen it yet.. uh-oh.) and questioned about the ugly truck at the bottom of the driveway and then proceeded to say the hood scoop had to go.

Annnd thus begun the first order of business.. but first I had to polish out the chalky paint. While it wasn't a mirror finish it did look 110% improved.

It was just a fiberglass scoop riveted onto a primed metal hood. (Hood was not original.. we suspect my "original" hood was deemed too nice for my truck, same for the seat.)


I wish I had took pictures of the whole process but essentially.. I broke a couple of bits and fought the scoop for a few hours. I had never really used a drill before but it came off eventually. I discovered then discovered that the scoop was in place to hide his (the trucks) broken nose!

I learned how to use bondo and used a stupid amount to fix the peak, and quite well I might add as this dent was massive. I guess whatever green truck this hood came off of it had unlatched and smacked itself in the face.

So I went from lame hood scoop to crooked nose and flat black tiger stripes. I like the black.

Last edited by HunterRotten; 01-28-2017 at 11:51 PM. Reason: added content 2017-01-28
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:01 AM   #2
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

I will tune in to this build. You have a nice one to start with. Good job on the hood it looks way better. I am working on the same truck in Baby blue.
Is it a short or long bed and what else do you have plan for it?
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:08 AM   #3
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3drburb View Post
I will tune in to this build. You have a nice one to start with. Good job on the hood it looks way better. I am working on the same truck in Baby blue.
Is it a short or long bed and what else do you have plan for it?
It is a shortbed. A lot of progress has been since I bought the truck. I finally got around to making a build thread and have to round up all my photos in one place and I'll slowly be updating until I'm caught up.

Tomorrow morning I will scavenge up more photos and have up some progress up until Spring 2016 I hope.

Last edited by HunterRotten; 01-29-2017 at 12:32 AM.
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Old 01-29-2017, 11:48 AM   #4
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

I was not aware of the 30 minute editing limit.. so I wasted two top posts on blank reserved posts.

Many people are a fan of the three speed on the steering column. I thought it was awesome, I had never really seen anything like it before in my life.. but after doing some light driving in the truck, I decided it had to go. It was not doing my otherwise stock 350 with sludge oil any faster.

I guess most people at this point would want to do a turbo 350 or something but I wanted a 5 speed swap. Couple of days searching craigslist, I found a white 1990 Chevy W/T with a $400 5 speed and a $800 468(?) Big block Chevy.

I REALLY WISH I BOUGHT THE ENGINE NOW. I WANT A BIG BLOCK.


Here it is! It is a something(HM290, maybe??) I don't remember but it is the grandfather to the NV3500 transmission which has a lot more information than HM290.




Oh yeah, and while I was collecting parts for the swap my dad and I broke down on the way home from the partstore.. with our labrador. It was about 90+ degrees that day with humidity well above 90%.

So while my dad was off having an adventure with an old man in an early 2000's Subaru to find me parts, I was left with my dog in the boiling heat.

PS, if you're ever stranded you should find a dog. Nobody will offer you a water unless you have a dog. Even then the only water you're offered is specifically for the dog.


If you have ever dealt with such a transmission swap, you'd know that a hydraulic clutch is necessary in order for it to work. And if you've ever done it in a squarebody you would know the easiest bolt-in set up is OE from the late 80's. Finding a truck in the 80's with a clutch is not easy and these pedal assemblies go on ebay for prices that will rob you blind.

I again went with craigslist and found a truck part out, while we were at it we bought the brake booster as a core and upgraded to stock vacuum boosted brakes. These pedals were pretty bad but I cleaned them up nicely.




So after a few weeks of collecting everything we thought was necessary (didn't have everything necessary) We got the truck up on stands and took the hood off in the garage and started the swap. These photos make it look easy but this really was a long process and the truck was leaking gas out of a dry rotted filler hose.

Oh and my dads truck got kicked outside. This is a common occurrence with Blue, and I am thankful for it as working outside in the heat/cold really sucks.







And the next thing you know it's mounted up to the 350. This progress was made pretty (compared to recent work on the truck) quick, the hard part was the hydraulic clutch situation and finding time to figure it out.




Oh, and the new transmission was so fat the pipes had to go. They were really odd shaped to work around the 3 speed shifting arms.. and someone actually took a bite out of the frame so that these pipes would go around the shift linkages. But we will get around to that bite sometime later. It was repaired but much much later and I haven't found nearly half of my photos yet.

So, in order to get around the new transmission I bought I set of headers from Summit (mistake, you'll see why later.) and my dad pieced back a very hacked leaky exhaust setup.




ORIGINAL SHOCKS ^^^^^^^^^^



So at this point it is about the beginning of August 2015 and so far my Dad and I have replaced the distributor with a HEI Streetfire from MSD (Part #MSD-8362 from Summit), transmission swap w hydraulic clutch + pedals, power brakes, exhaust hack, headers and probably some other stuff too. It's hard for me to remember so long ago.

Last edited by HunterRotten; 01-29-2017 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:36 PM   #5
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

nice. I like it.
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:36 PM   #6
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 BUILD THREAD

Quote:
Originally Posted by dec010974 View Post
nice. I like it.
Thanks!

So, what's next? We lowered it.. after buying long tube headers. Long story short the new headers ended up the attic after two weekends spent lowering my truck.

This is what turned this truck from a casual project to a wallet munching monster.

First I started collecting parts such as Belltech front and rear sway bars, CPP tubular control arms, all new moog steering parts, Mcgaughy's 2" lowering springs and 2.5" drop spindles, all new polyurethane body mounts, belltech nitro drop shocks and a few other things I can't recall off the top of my head.

Here are some part numbers and links of everything I could locate via order history. Some things were ordered from amazon or other sites so I can't provide them all.Moog steering components were bought from Summit as well but not as a kit and there's too much to post about that. Mcaughy's kit was bought from a vendor website. Since I was lowering my truck I also had to buy a bracket that moved the sway bar up so it wouldn't hit on any curbs. It was from CPP.


The stockpiling of parts which crowded the garage for a few weeks prior to jumping in head first into the suspension work.


Hadn't got to drive the truck much with the new transmission, here's one of the only photos I have of it leaving the driveway with the new transmission and the power brakes. The brakes stopped really good, almost too good. The transmission? It liked to scream and the clutch slipped terribly. It also dripped like a puppy and sometimes the clutch pedal went out entirely.







Here you can see where I had some oil/transmission leaking problems.

My dad ground off the bump stops while I was using a wire brush on the rear axle and paint prepping.

I thought it turned out really good!

And then like magic we had primed and painted the frame (At night) and it turned out ok. No where near as good as the pedals and the axle. My dad convinced me I could leave it alone as nobody was going to be able to crawl under there and criticize my rattle can abilities.


I was pretty excited at this point, but it did look pretty stupid as the front was at stock height.



Everything in the rear was pretty straight forward and easy and we did it in a weekend. I think the most challenging part was the rear sway bar which is really massive but we got it on there eventually. Brake lines were coated in a silver paint and so where the leaf spring packs. While we were at it we replaced the vent hose that was dry rotted with one from LMC.

I think this is enough content for this post, sorry to leave you all hanging but the next post I will share photos of the front suspension and Blue eating the jack when it was all said and done. I'll get around to it tonight or tomorrow.

Thanks for taking the time to read!
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:44 PM   #7
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

Congrats on the truck and wanting to learn the hobby/skills. Lucky to have a dad that's into it (snap some photos of him and you and him working on it -- even if you don't post em). This time and any reminders you have of it will be like gold later. Lookin forward to the updates.
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:58 PM   #8
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

Nice work, I'd like to get an early square as a beater.

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Old 01-29-2017, 01:20 PM   #9
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

Apparently I don't know how to post links so I fixed my parts list here.
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Old 01-29-2017, 03:39 PM   #10
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

My truck had 3ott when i got it. i had to have the previous owner driver me around in it on the test drive...i tried..but i kept grinding gears and stalling it out. I got the hand of it shortly after buying it, but the ratios in that axle were awful for driving around in the city.
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Old 01-29-2017, 08:03 PM   #11
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

Good job!
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Old 01-30-2017, 12:38 AM   #12
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

Cool thread keep us updated.
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Old 01-30-2017, 08:02 PM   #13
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

After we cleaned up the rear end and got the flip kit and all the new suspension stuff installed we were ready to turn the truck around and get started on the front end.

We actually knocked it out so fast I forgot to take too many photos.. here is what we had started with.




Pretty straight forward, I'm sure a lot of guys on here have seen something similar and probably even worse. Parts started flying off pretty quickly and I kept drooling over the shiny new stuff. Being able to toss away the old stuff is something I wish I could do more often as I have had my fair share of sanding, cleaning, degreasing, priming, and painting.






The old stuff came off surprisingly easy. My dad has always said that this truck is surprisingly "rust free" (not sure if he's been proved wrong yet or not..) and a lot of the bolts come off like they were tightened yesterday.

The shiny stuff went on pretty quick and I was really excited. We quickly got the new tubular control arms, springs, spindles, and everything else bolted up to the truck. The steering took a bit longer than anticipated but we got it done with some wall-eyed alignment.







Once it was all on there and I tightened up the wheels, I had the honors of lowering the truck down for the first time. As I said previously I don't have much of a history with cars (I was 18) let alone any tools. I gave the jack too much movement and Blue dropped down and ate the jack.

My dad and I were pretty surprised at how low it actually was. I was super excited but just amazed at how different it looked. I later decided this was too low due to the angle on the control arms but WOW! It looked stupid and I was proud!






...Was proud, that feeling didn't last too long. Remember those long tube headers? On the first test drive they were on the ground.. like, really on the ground.



Essentially bottomed out on the headers and spun the tires on the driveway.. and on the way back onto the driveway we bottomed out the new control arms. Have to do the "Honda Crawl" over any bumps.

Apart from that, open headers were awesome! I had never driven anything with no exhaust, let alone a small block Chevy.



Had our neighbor help awkwardly waddle the bed back ontop of the frame and Blue was looking really good. I really liked how it turned out. The truck looked mean and had a great stance.

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Old 02-01-2017, 02:30 PM   #14
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

So, remember the long tube headers? Tossed them in the attic for another project. I ordered a set of hedman headers from Jegs. They're a really beautiful ceramic coated set. To accompany the nice headers I also bought from Borla Pro XS mufflers and a set of high flow catalytic converters from Flowmaster.


My dad and I rented a trailer and loaded up the truck, we left home the next morning at about 6 AM and headed to Danville KY about an hour away for a local muffler shop that had been there for years. It's what our body shop recommended.







All those new parts looked really good on the lift! They had the pipes done in about 2 hours and it was reasonably priced. We could finally hear what Blue had to say for itself with the new true duals.

The verdict? Nothing that sounded good. Lots of tick tick tick ticking. We later found out this was because of the tin inside of the transmission bellhousing. It was designed for a one piece rear main and it was making contact on my block. We trimmed off the excess when we got home and Blue sounded pretty good!
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Old 02-01-2017, 02:34 PM   #15
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.


Last edited by HunterRotten; 02-01-2017 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 02-05-2017, 03:35 PM   #16
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

Not too much happened after the exhaust was fabbed up. I drove the truck around occasionally and enjoyed driving it until it started snowing and the salt hit the road. As seen in previous photos however, the tan seat had to go and it was pretty nasty. A lot of the junkyards around here don't keep old cars and trucks around and if they do they don't have a long life left. We made some phone calls and went up to a yard about 2 hr away for potential seats. They didn't disclose a whole lot on the phone. We got there and the seats were RED! There was a really nice all original brown seat there with no rips but.. it was brown. I also decided I really like dually's but maybe some other day.


I did at least pick these up though. I have mixed feelings about how they turned out as they were pretty beat but these are what are going onto the truck unless I run into a better set.





I know this isn't the original color scheme but I've got a blue truck. I can't have too much red-orange going on, even if it is a GMC. The paint I used is a little bottle of model car paint purchased from hobby lobby. Tangerine I believe, it comes out very close to the original color if you ask me.
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Old 02-05-2017, 03:42 PM   #17
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

I may have lied just a bit on the last post. We did come home with seats that day that were the correct color - just not from the yard we went to visit. We felt pretty bummed that we drove so far to come home with some rough looking cab corner moldings. I did some quick searching and talked my dad into stopping at a parts yard just next to the interstate on ramp. The guy behind the counter had to think for a minute or two but he finally remembered he had exactly what we were looking for. Already pulled and sitting in a dry storage container. Sweet!


We agreed upon somewhere in the ballpark of $75 and took them home. There's a small hole on the passenger side and they had some stains but it was nothing I couldn't handle.


I don't think I'm done with the seats to this day as they've not gone in the truck yet, but they look pretty good. Still a bit of discoloration going on in the second photo but WOW! I think they'll look pretty good!
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Old 02-10-2017, 07:24 PM   #18
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

This next update happened approximately a year ago. I bought a bunch of parts around my 19th birthday. I turned 20 years old yesterday!


I was and am still excited for this transmission. (Spoiler alert, 1 yr later and it's not in yet.. uh-oh)
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Old 02-10-2017, 07:35 PM   #19
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

The last drive I recall taking in my truck was with my labrador, I think she turns about 13 this year. She loves to ride but she's just too hairy to put in the other cars, my truck was the perfect candidate for her to ride!



Pic #2 is a picture I intended to show earlier when installing the NV3500 but forgot to. I thought now was an opportune time.

Blue got parked and hasn't left since. The plan was to pull the engine out, reseal it and get it pretty and drop it back in with the tremec. Simple process. No big deal.

This took a couple of weeks, we got really busy. Not to mention that I got a phonecall and ended up with a puppy, not sure how that happened but he has been an awesome dog!!

We pulled off the shiny parts and my nice hedmans and yanked it out with a rental hoist. We had to take the front bumper off in order for the chain to get anywhere near the engine.. this is what started the monster mess.






YIKES! Look at the clutch disc! Somebody was either rough on the clutch or it's original. The engine is rebuilt so I'm not sure which! It wasn't me!!
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Old 02-10-2017, 07:37 PM   #20
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD


By the way, here's the rotten boy! He's the puppy that sort of just fell into my lap at the time. We got him around the same time Prince died.. so we can date these photos to March 2015.

p.s my mom named him Prince
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Old 02-18-2017, 03:30 PM   #21
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

We pulled the motor out to discover that it had 400 SBC heads and had been rebuilt before. The engine looked pretty good. We resealed it, added a comp cams timing gear set, and I painted it a light blue color from rustoleum that matched the truck pretty close. I pained the aluminum intake black since it didn't clean up well and painted the stock oil pan.


I think it turned out pretty good.

The next thing on my list was to try to figure out a better place to mount the hydraulic clutch reservoir. We bought a brake reservoir kit from wilwood and cut out some scrap carbon fiber material to make up this bracket. I think it looks much better.



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Old 02-18-2017, 03:39 PM   #22
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

Not that this part is all that important, but I'm trying to make sure not a single detail is left out in this thread. When I bought my truck is came with a really small steering wheel that, in my opinion, belonged on a go-kart. My dad and I took a visit up to Grandma's one weekend and I brought home a mid 60's Chevy steering wheel that was a little worse for wear and cracked. It was a seafoam green color. I cleaned it, painted it black, and that is what I have had on my truck.


Can't really beat free, but I was missing the horn button so I went searching on Ebay and found this thing for $20!


I cleaned it up best I could before painting it and putting on a clear coat. Now I just need the wiring for my horn.. It's been snipped.

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Old 03-03-2017, 06:50 PM   #23
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

Been sometime since I added, so here we go.. still lots of catching up to do. This is when the "Might as well's" began. I decided I didn't like whatever the heck was going on with the firewall (undercoat and black paint) and I painted the back half of the frame so it was time to do the front.


My dad wrestled the transmission out of there (literally wrestled) and we started to scrub and scrape.. and scrub again and use some goo gone and some more scraping.. until we got 1/4th of the firewall cleared. Behind all that gunk was some cool chalk marks from factory.

BY THE WAY, I have since discovered attacking the undercoat dry with a gasket scraper to be the most effective. Doing it any other way with chemicals just makes it a sticky mess.


I'm not sure what the 266 means exactly, perhaps truck #266 for the day, week? If anyone knows it would be cool information to have under the belt.
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Old 03-03-2017, 07:00 PM   #24
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

Scraping up against the fenders got pretty old quick so I made the decision and convinced my dad to help me take off the fenders. Things went much quicker without having to climb in and out of the engine bay.




It was the same story for awhile.
Scrape, scrape, scrape.. remove something else we didn't want to remove and then scrape some more.






At this point I rolled the truck partially out into the driveway, spent a LOOOOOOONG time masking things off to the extreme, and then started throwing on some primer and paint on the frame. I think I should buy some stock with rustoleum with the amount of black rattle can paint I've used on this project.



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Old 03-05-2017, 11:03 AM   #25
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Re: The Hawaiian Blue 1978 GMC.

HUNTER'S 1978 GMC C15 SIERRA BUILD THREAD

Next, we decided to fit the transmission and get our holes cut and lined up. Thinking on it now we probably should have done this BEFORE painting the frame as lifting a cast iron block in and out of the truck was not fun. The transmission fit really well with the low hump floor.






Annnd.. oops. My dad took some bad measurements. We had thought the holes would be somewhat similar and would need slotted but we were horribly wrong.

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