Episode 38

October 15th, 2009

Fabrication is the cornerstone of the custom truck world. “Fabricate This” brings the minds of fabricators onto the pages of your favorite magazine. Read along and try to keep up. We are looking for fabricators from various shops to answer your tough customizing questions. Some of these fabricators are well known for their work over the years, while others may be from new shops that have yet to crash the scene. We encourage all fabricators to submit answers, but we have limited space, time, and resources to fit every submission. Our goal is to publish as many pertinent questions and answers as possible. If you have a question that you are interested in having answered, send it in and we will do our best to have it answered. The staff at StreetTrucks, Bob Grant and Cary Iaccino will do the best we can to police the answers for accuracy. Keep in mind that many fabricators disagree on what is the correct way to perform certain customizations. Therefore, “Fabricate This” is not responsible for the information given, or how it is implemented. And just because you see a shop or a fabricator in this column, do not overestimate their abilities. They may be perfectly able to render a truck useless with a few porous welds. Good luck, see you next month.


Dash Don’ts
I have a 1990 Chevy full-size truck and I was wondering if a 2000 Chevy dash would fit or come close to bolting up to my dash! I have mine completely stripped out and thought that the newer dash would look awesome!
Thanks for any feedback!
Tucson, Arizona

Unfortunately, you will not find anything that is the same between those two trucks.  You will have to custom- install everything.  There will be quite a bit of fabrication required to make it work.  If you start with a firewall from the 2000 Chevy, it will help quite a bit in tying everything together.  These are some of the trouble areas for this conversion:

1. Steering column mismatch and misalignment
2. Under-dash brake linkage function
3. Air conditioning and heater core location in relation to lines to engine compartment
4. Fuse panel location and a bunch of wiring snags that we wouldn’t wish upon anybody
5. Incompatible gauges and related wiring.  This may take an engineering degree to get it to work properly.
If you manage to figure it all out, you would probably be the first.  A much easier install would be a ’95-98 dash.  These installs have a bunch of technically difficult problems to work out as well but nowhere near the issues involved in the ’99 and up style dash. Another option would be to hand-fabricate a dash from scratch, which, in our humble opinion, is still a whole lot easier. Dashes swapped in from classic cars and trucks are becoming pretty popular, too. Just take some measurements and hit some old wrecking yards. There’re plenty in Arizona. Any of the above options will save you a giant headache in comparison to the Silverado dash, but if you do decide to prove us wrong and go for it, take lots of pictures so we can see them online someday once you are finished.

‘Bagged Ice
Is it ever too cold for bags? I just moved to the Texas panhandle and the temperature is much colder than I or my truck is used to. It stays between 13-27 degrees some mornings. Is there anything I need for a cold weather setup on my ’03 F-150; I’d like to make it a daily dragger, but how? Is antifreeze an option? How about nitrogen?
Thanks in advance,
D. Corbin
Canyon, TX

I think we have had a similar question before.  Someone actually answered the question for us.  Pouring a little bit of alcohol into the air tanks will usually do the trick.  Big truck drivers have used various methods to free up their air brakes in extremely cold weather and denatured alcohol seems to be a widely agreed upon cure.  We don’t know what temperatures this will work in or how much to add to your air system.  Probably not too much, figure less than a cup or so.  Give it a shot, see how it works, and let us know.

The Blown Ranger
First off, I love reading all of the questions you guys answer each month. I would ideally like to put a blown 520 cubic inch Ford engine into a 2WD ’98 Ranger. My question is whether or not this is even possible to do while still sitting on either 19s or 20s and bags? If it is possible, what problems am I going to run into and what can I do to solve them before hand?
A college student
Beaverton, Oregon

Mr. Student,
We like to believe anything is possible, even for guys with weird names like yours.  But we live in a world of physical realities and limitations. The first issue you will have to address is that of motor fitment. A big-block in a mini-truck is definitely going to be some work. It’s usually difficult to fit a small-block in these types of trucks, so be prepared for some serious fabrication.  If you get through the fitment of the motor, and you are ready for more, then tackle the suspension and wheels. You should be able to run large wheels with the motor but an issue will be tires. Super low profile tires (40 Series or below) will not enjoy the weight of a big-block sitting on them. You could always go with an all-aluminum big-block, but if you have that kind of money, just drop the truck off at a shop (IF Custom comes to mind). The airbags in the front of the truck will likely be small bags that will have more trouble lifting the larger motor.  Do what you can with researching this project before you jump into it. Start taking measurements like the total width of the motor in relation to the frame rails, or the total height of the engine (from air cleaner to oil pan) vs. the height of the hood from the ground on a Ranger that has been bagged on 20s.  If you get through the basics and are still on board you still may want to talk to a local shop and see if there are any obvious issues they notice before proceeding.

Preaching to the Converted
I have a question about performing a front-end conversion on a 1998 Chevy S-10. I’m trying to put a Trailblazer front end onto it and add Colorado taillights. What parts do I need and what do I need to cut? This is my first build-up and I want it to be amazing before I head down to Showfest ’06 this year. Thanks a lot, and keep up with the kick-ass magazine.

This is a very challenging conversion, even for fabricators with a lot of experience. Front-end swaps on almost any vehicle require a ton of work and planning.  Except for the Cadillac-on-Chevy swaps that are very common, there aren’t too many custom front-end swaps rolling around. Considering this is your first build-up, we recommend you enlist some help.  Here’s a short list of all the things you must take into account when swapping front ends from dissimilar vehicles:
1. Vehicle width. Check to see how wide the fenders are and the hood as well. You may need to section the front end to fit the vehicle.
2. Bodylines. The bodylines on an S10 will be quite different from the Trailblazer bodylines. How and where you will modify these can make or break the look.
3. Core support modifications. You need to use the core support off the Trailblazer to mount the lights, the grille and front fascia. But the stock S10 core support holds the radiator and air conditioning components. Most of the time, a combination of both is the answer, even though it is difficult to do.
4. Bumper mounting. This is usually the easiest part of the swap.  Modifying the frame horns will usually suffice to graft the new bumper on.
5. Wheel well openings. Depending how far back you graft the front fenders on, you may end up with Trailblazer wheel openings up front.  If this is the case, you will need to modify the rear wheel openings to match the front, or vice versa.
6. Obviously this list is a bit simplified. The front end will be the difficult part. The rear Colorado taillights should be the simple part of the project. Shave out the stock lights, then carefully take measurements and your placement should allow you to get a custom look that seems factory built.

We do not wish to discourage you from taking on this conversion; we just want to make you aware of all of the details that you need to consider. If you attempt this type of modification and complete it successfully, you will have a one of a kind vehicle.

Once again show season is upon us. We hope that all of you have had the opportunity to complete all the changes to your rides that you wanted to make before summer. Many people plan their vehicle construction around the show season and we are no different. We look forward to seeing all the new vehicles at various events this year, and only regret that we cannot attend all of them. 2006 should bring out a bunch of high quality, radical trucks. If you see something new, and want to know what it is or how it was done, please let us know. If we can help you out, the answers will be here.

Thanks for reading, see you next month.

If you would like to contribute to the “Fabricate This” tech question and answer column, we have made it as easy as possible for you. Unless you live detached from society, you can e-mail, snail mail or electronically post your questions. Visit our posting page on the IF Custom Web site. Simply go to www.ifcustom.com, click the link at the bottom of the page, then follow the instructions and post your question. Or send your question to:

Fabricate This
12423 Gladstone Ave. #27
Sylmar, CA 91342


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.