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Old 02-28-2013, 11:44 PM   #1
rgunlock
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My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

I've debated whether to do a thread on my build, because its mostly stock and not too exciting compared to many on this forum. Decided to anyway.

I'm not new to working on my cars and trucks, but I am not in the trade (I'm an engineer in the computer industry), and this is my first real build. My kids are now out of college or will be this semester, so I'm starting to have more time if not extra money to do one of these.

I actually started out building a 4wd 1959 chevy swb stepside and made some progress and collected a lot of parts from a few donors, but thats for another thread when I get back on that one. My dad found this 78 GMC and thought it might be a good donor, but I like this body style and owned a couple like it years ago, so decided a straight restoration might be a better first project than the 59 custom project I originally started.

Enough history. This build is a 1978 GMC K15 High Sierra SWB fleetside that is original as far as I can tell. I has a 350, SM465, NP205, 3:07 gears, came with dual saddle tanks and dual exhaust. This may be a good point to claim that "DirtyLarry" made me do it! I love his '78, but not quite ready for the upgrades he's done. Mine's going back together pretty much stock.

First, I really liked this bumper sticker that came on the truck, and plan to keep it and titled the thread for it.
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Old 02-28-2013, 11:49 PM   #2
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Here are some pics of how it looked when I got it. Not too bad, but rust and dents in a lot of spots. At least it was a complete truck which I've discovered is a big benefit to start with, even if you end up replacing a lot of the parts you've got.
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Old 02-28-2013, 11:55 PM   #3
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

And a few shots of the "designer" interior. Note the matching camo floor and sun visors, the fuzzy dash, and last but not least the custom headliner. Think I might stick with this theme --- NOT!
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78 GMC K15 SWB, 350/NV4500/NP205/4.10s Project Thread
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Old 03-01-2013, 12:11 AM   #4
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

My original plan for this was to just get it safe to drive and to pass an inspection. I already had a project after all so just wanted to drive it while working on my '59 project. Started with things like replacing all the bulbs, wipers, wiper/washer motor, and rebuilt brakes front and back. Discs and drums were too far gone to turn. Front hubs cleaned and regreased, with new seals and bearings.
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78 GMC K15 SWB, 350/NV4500/NP205/4.10s Project Thread
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Old 03-01-2013, 12:22 AM   #5
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

I've already spent a little over a year on this project and it's going to take me a while to get this thread up to date. Mostly because I didn't organize my pictures too well. For now, I'll say that I never got the truck inspected. Kept getting in deeper and deeper and going a step further. Over the next few days, I'll get this all posted, but today, I've got the chassis pretty close to done and started on the body. Here's how it looks now. Too much invested now to give up, so this is one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and start a thread.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:08 PM   #6
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Looks like a great start, I'll be watchimg this one!
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:15 PM   #7
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Truck ran, but not very well and it was hard to keep running. Somewhere along there, with inspiration from WhiteElephant's thread, I decided I needed to make the truck somewhat reliable, as well as safe. The truck needed new tires to pass inspection and I wanted a bit of a lift so I could go a little bigger. Long story short, I pulled everything off in front of the cab.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:23 PM   #8
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Found even more rust than I expected in the front sheet metal. Some shots of both fenders, inner fender and core support.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:35 PM   #9
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

I'm not thinking "frame off" at this point, but since I had it stripped down, I at least wire brushed the easy to reach parts of the front frame, cross members, etc. and spray bombed them with Rustoleum Hammered Black. I'd also got a 4" Tuff Country EZ-Ride spring lift and installed the front springs.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:11 PM   #10
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Cleaned up the Dana44 and hit it with hammered black also. Wish I'd read WhiteElephant's thread a little earlier so I would have thought to replace ball joints and oil seals at the diff housing, but I didn't. Once I knew better, I didn't feel like pulling apart the brakes, hubs, etc. I'd already replaced. Hopefully, that won't come back to bite me. Anyway, here is a before and some afters. I did replace the steering arm with the drop arm that came with the Tuff Country kit. Also, new drag link, cross link? tie rods, steering stabalizer, shocks and engine mounts. Steering gear box is cleaned up and painted, but not rebuilt. Far as I know, it doesn't need rebuilt - we'll see. At this point, I'm really starting to realize how much time on this kind of build is spent on just cleaning parts! Not really planning to redo the hard lines for the fuel and brakes, so they are still on the truck at this point.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:17 PM   #11
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Also cleaned up and painted the sway bar and installed with new Prothane bushings.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:21 PM   #12
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Not too crazy about this rake
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:29 PM   #13
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Looking good!
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Old 03-03-2013, 01:50 PM   #14
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Thanks for checking in guys. Clutch hadn't been working right, so I planned to replace it which is one of the reasons I pulled the engine. Turns out, looks like the PO had already replaced the clutch. Went ahead and replaced the clutch disc anyway, along with new clutch fork, boot, ball stud and throwout bearing.
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Old 03-03-2013, 01:58 PM   #15
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

While the engine was out, it got cleaned up and new gaskets for all the external parts like oil pan and valve covers. I originally painted the block chevy orange, but that just wasn't working for me this time. Went with pewter gray and black accessories. I think I am still going to replace the valve covers with something nicer. Also installed new extended brake hoses up front from Rough Country.
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Old 03-03-2013, 02:04 PM   #16
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

I also did all the typical tune up stuff like new plugs, distributor cap and rotor, thermostat, etc. The truck came with a new starter and I replaced the fuel pump. Freind gave me a rebuilt Quadrajet from a 97 vette when I boogered mine up trying to rebuild it. I later redid the fuel line to eliminate the hose.
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Old 03-03-2013, 02:36 PM   #17
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Next, I decided to attempt to repair the rusted out corner of the core support. I'm a novice welder, and this is my first attempt at thin sheet metal, but it won't show after its back on the truck, so I went for it. The outer part was a piece of cake to get all those bends in using my high-end brake... NOT! The "brake" is shown in the 3rd pic.
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Old 03-03-2013, 02:39 PM   #18
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Didn't turn out too bad. The last pic is getting a little ahead of myself, but I had a hard time finding a good pic of it back on the truck. The lower frame of the radiator had rusted out as well, so I got a new aluminum radiator and hoses.
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Old 03-03-2013, 03:48 PM   #19
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Actually, I did find a couple of pictures from that point in the build. The truck didn't come with a fan shroud, but I had one from a 76 Blazer donor for my other project. Cleaned and painted with paint for plastics. Also, the sheet metal for the core support patches came from the roof of the blazer.

By this time, I'm getting really tired of all the "ugly" on the firewall, but had decided I had to draw a line in front of the firewall or knowing myself, I'd have this truck in a million pieces.
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Old 03-11-2013, 09:45 PM   #20
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Replaced both inner front fenders with repos from LMC. Arrived undamaged, but if anyone knows where to recycle foam peanuts let me know. I have about 30+ cubic feet of them in the boxes the inner fenders shipped in!
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Old 03-11-2013, 09:53 PM   #21
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Then I decided to take on the fenders, starting with the passenger side. I could (and may still) buy some new ones, but I still wanted to work on my sheet metal welding. Here is one of the worst spots on the inside. 3rd pic is upside down, but to bend all the contours I ended up making 7 patch pieces. Came out ok considering it will rarely be seen.
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Old 03-11-2013, 09:55 PM   #22
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Then the outside of the passenger fender. Couple patches there. Nothing exciting, but if anyone can tell me why I keep getting these burnout holes behind my welds, I'd appreciate the advice.
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Old 03-11-2013, 09:56 PM   #23
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

looking good!
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Old 03-12-2013, 11:08 PM   #24
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Nice truck and good work! What sizer tire are you going to run?
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Old 03-13-2013, 12:20 PM   #25
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Re: My 78 K15 High Sierra build - Fish Tremble

Thanks! I'll probably go with a 33" tire (not sure of width yet). I wouldn't mind a 35" and the 4" lift should handle that, but I've got 3.07 gears and hadn't planned to change them now, so not sure I'll be happy with the truck's performance with larger tires. What's on there now are about 30-31". For that matter, I might end up wishing I'd gone with a 2" lift, but we'll see.
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