There's something about a restored older base-model truck that's really neat-neat to look at, that is. When it comes to overall performance and over-the-road practicality, standard-equipped trucks leave a lot to be desired. In fact, even a fully loaded stock Silverado leaves plenty of room for improvement
The '74 Chevy shortbed stepside featured here belongs to CCT's associate publisher John Barkley. Some of our regular readers might recognize it from previous tech articles. For those of you who are new readers, we'll bring you up to speed
In February 2005 John bought his truck from Todd Ryden at MSD Ignition in El Paso, Texas. The purchase price didn't include shipping, and besides, it was a good excuse to get in a road trip. John and his son Greg hopped on a plane to El Paso to drive his plain-Jane Chevy home. When Todd told John the truck was stripped he wasn't kidding-never mind a radio; it didn't even come with a cigarette lighter or a dome light.
The duo had hardly made Interstate 10's onramp leaving El Paso before John was making mental notes on what he would like to improve first. Right from the showroom floor, six-cylinder Chevy pickups weren't what one might define as freeway fliers, and with 30 years on the clock John didn't want to blow this one up. Fearing the little 230-inch motor might throw a rod right through the floor and take his foot with it, John kept the speed right around 60 mph. Even at this low speed, without any real soundproofing to speak of the truck's cab sounded like several cats on a hot tin roof. When John returned to California, he remedied the truck's asthmatic performance by dropping in a 355-inch small-block from Speed-O-Motive with Edelbrock heads and intake. (See the June '04 Super Chevy for more details.) To bring the revs down, John yanked out the three-speed stick tranny and installed a TCI four-speed automatic overdrive 700-R transmission. The powertrain swap helped big-time with power and it brought up the cruising speed, but the '74 was still too noisy. There was just no way to get around it; John's truck needed some serious help on the acoustic side. The first step in doing a first-class soundproofing job is to begin with a top-quality kit. In our Jan. '06 issue, John's base-model '74 got the full Quietride treatment. This was a great start, but in addition to insulation and good acoustics, John wanted to bring his truck's interior trim level up beyond a stock Silverado.