There's nothing quite like jumping into the cab of a stock classic truck and driving it to remember why folks like us go to the lengths we do to restore, modify, and maintain them. The theme for this month's editorial came to me as soon I hit the key to start up my bone-stock '68 GMC and then drove it down the street. Leaving the curb, the Jimmy's compound four-speed tranny rumbled and growled as the truck crawled up to 20 mph when I notched the iron-cased gearbox up into Second gear and let the first-year 307ci engine chug up to enough rpm's to push her into Third gear. By the time I hit Fourth gear it was time to climb on the stock, non-assisted four-wheel drum brakes and herd the old girl back down to a complete stop without swerving into oncoming traffic. People in cars really get nervous when they see an old pickup truck coming at them head-on in traffic, but that's another story.
From experience, I've learned that the first thing a guy needs to do if he wants to turn his four-speed compound transmission equipped truck into a hot rod is to ditch the iron-cased beast with extreme wide ratios for something else. In the case of my '66 Chevy C10 shortbed Fleetside with a stock 327, the Tremec TKO 500 from Classic Motorsport Group not only transformed the '66 into a real screamer, the 35 percent overall drop in engine revolutions quieted it down and improved the gas mileage. My '53 Ford F-100 has its original 215-inch OHV inline-six and compound four-speed. The cure I came up with for that truck was to scrap the entire drivetrain, chassis and all, and start over with a V-8 and automatic, and a '56 frame. The guys at Gearstar Performance Transmissions, in Akron, Ohio, are working on a new transmission for that truck as I'm writing this.
The compound four-speed factory equipped truck that I'm really dying to finish up is the '72 Ford F-100 some of CCT's longtime readers will recall as the one I've been building to compete against my friend Grant Peterson over at Classic Trucks in what has turned out to be the world's longest lasting build-off. To those of you unfamiliar with the contest, it's called the Bumpside Build-Off and it's taking longer to draw to a conclusion than most TV series last. The transmission going into the '72 Ford is what I like to think of as the ultimate replacement. It's a Gear Vendors eight-speed that effectively renders the 4.56 gear in my Ford's 9-inch rearend into a 2.47. Needless to say, that one is going to be real interesting when it's done.
The word "done" brings me to an announcement this is the last editorial I will be writing as the editor of Custom Classic Trucks. I have resigned my position but I'm not leaving the magazine entirely. My bosses have agreed to let me stay on as a freelance tech editor and continue to publish technical articles to help you guys tackle some of the upgrades you'd like to do to your trucks. My email address will remain the same: John.Gilbert@sorc.com. Feel free to contact me if you have a technical question or know of an old truck that needs to go to a good home.
In closing I'd like to dedicate this issue to the memory of my dog, Bongo 9/09/99 - 7/12/09, the best truck dog that ever lived. -John Gilbert