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ShawneeCreek Reader
3/18/17 3:42 p.m.

In the GRM spirit, let's start a build thread for a vehicle I don't yet own, but have already bought parts for The subject is this 1976 Chevrolet C20 Scottsdale Camper Special and the matching 1976 Sycamore slide-in camper

A little history on these: they have belonged to my grandparents for the past 30 or more years. They used them on vacations around the country with my Mom and aunts when they were kids. Other than the vacations the truck mostly stayed parked in the barn, as this was Grandma's truck. Grandpa had a different series of trucks that he used around the farm. That means that this 41 year old pickup has never seen winter and only has 54,000 miles on it. It hasn't been used much in the past 10-15 years as my grandparents have gotten older. A couple of years ago, as I was finishing the Challenge BMW, I mentioned to my grandparents that I was casually looking for a relatively inexpensive, and likely old, truck to tow the race car around. We were just talking and I didn't think much more of it.

A couple days later they called me up and offered to sell me the truck for a reasonable price (let's call it less than 3x Challenge budget). This included the camper and the pickup cap that they used when the camper wasn't in the truck. You can see the cap leaning against the wall in the picture below.

Naturally, I agreed as this was ultimately the truck I wanted to get. It's been on the farm all the time and always seemed cool to me. It's taken us a couple of years to save up the money for it, but we've finally made it. We're making plans to pick it up later this spring as I can't bear to expose this nearly rust free truck to road salt. More later, but I'll leave you with a picture of the cool, but faded, bicentennial logo on the back of the camper

Until next time, Sean

ShawneeCreek Reader
3/18/17 8:14 p.m.

Alright, done with dinner and grocery shopping. Let's get some details on the truck. I found this options sticker in the glove box

  • The truck is a two tone, Saddle Custom over Grecian​ Bronze. (I would have called it tan over construction barrel orange)
  • 350 V8 with a 4 barrel carb - dual gas tanks to feed that engine
  • Turbo Hydomatic automatic transmission
  • 9.50R16.5LT load range D tires
  • heavy duty power brakes
  • push button AM/FM/CB radio 
  • Scottsdale Equipment
  • Fleetside longbed
  • painted steel rear bumper
  • Soft-ray tinted glass
  • All Weather air conditioning (which needs fixed and converted from R-12 to R-134a refrigerant)
  • bigger alternator
  • extra gauges
  • basic camper spec

This all works together to make it well set up for towing with a few creature comforts. The interior is still in decent shape. Vinyl bench seat, vinyl floor, and the push button on the floor to switch the high beams on and off.

And all of those extra gauges, radio, and A/C.

I don't have much information on the camper other than it is a Sycamore and was made in Goshen, Indiana. It sleeps three, has a wet shower/bathroom combination, gas stove, gas refrigerator, gas heater, sink, and dinette. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the interior at the moment. The planned uses for this truck:

  1. Do truck things like carrying lumber and towing the racecar
  2. Use the camper in various state and national parks
  3. Go to local classic car shows In order to do that I'm trying to stick to the adage of make it safe, then reliable, then cool.

First up, replace the tires that have aged out. Unfortunately, even though my grandpa replaced the stock steel wheels with aftermarket alloys, the wheels are still an outdated 16.5" diameter. The only tire option for those is the Firestone Transforce. While that is a good tire, I really wanted to get away from the outdated rim diameter and open up my tire options. I found these 17" wheels off of a 2010 Chevy 2500. And I picked up some 245/70R17 load range E Discoverer A/T3 tires from work. The appropriate conversion lugnuts have been ordered from eBay to allow me to use the center caps. 

ShawneeCreek Reader
3/18/17 8:26 p.m.

Now I'm trying to figure out what I want to replace before driving the truck the 4 hours home from my grandparents. Right now my list is

  • coolant
  • radiator hoses
  • engine oil and filter
  • wheels and tires

I've got some other ideas, but I'm not sure if I should just leave well enough alone until I get it home to my garage:

  • flush brake fluid (I might have rusty bleeder valves, and I don't have a positive history with drum brakes)
  • transmission fluid (and filter, if it has one) change
  • change differential gear oil
  • clean and/or rebuild carburator (never dealt with them before, and the truck does start and run now)

Opinions? Is there something I'm missing?

Until next time,


Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
3/18/17 8:33 p.m.

Nice find!

I think the fluids are a good idea, but I'd leave the carb alone unless it exhibits problems. As long as the truck has been started a few times each year, it should be ok.

John Welsh
John Welsh MegaDork
3/18/17 8:48 p.m.

Super awesome and I think the new wheels will look great.

conesare2seconds HalfDork
3/18/17 9:12 p.m.

Great get. Treat each other well.

jfryjfry Reader
3/19/17 1:49 a.m.

If you're not pressed for time, the rear diff and tranny fluid change shouldn't take that long.
Probably not necessary but not demanding tasks.

I'd really consider brakes and new fluid but that could end up being a bigger job. Having brake problems on the way back could be a bigger one though.

John Welsh
John Welsh MegaDork
3/19/17 11:42 a.m.

Familiar color scheme..
Yours is like a super sized version.

In other thoughts, those look like CB radio antennas on your side mirrors and maybe a head unit radio with integrated CB!
10-4 Good buddy.
1976 would have been near the hight of the CB craze.

The 1975 song turned into a 1978 movie.

Crackers Reader
3/19/17 12:36 p.m.

That's a sweet score! You should see about getting the bicentennial decal reproduced.

I think the 8-lug bolt patterns changed in 2010. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I recall not being able to use 2010+ wheels on my K2500.

ShawneeCreek Reader
3/19/17 1:03 p.m.

In reply to Crackers:

Oh, yes. I'm definitely reproducing or restoring the bicentennial logo. It's too cool to let fade away.

And these wheels are pre-bolt pattern change. I've already confirmed this by test fitting the wheels on the truck. I may need to get some wheel spacers eventually to deal with the modern positive offset, but they will work for the drive home.

And yes, John, the truck has a CB radio. You can see the microphone and cord below the steering wheel in the wide shot of the interior. I'd forgotten about it because I've never seen it used.

Crackers Reader
3/19/17 2:16 p.m.

OK, cool. I know I had bought a set that didn't fit. Fortunately I flipped them and made a little, but not enough for the hassle.

ShawneeCreek Reader
4/21/17 6:57 p.m.

Last weekend we celebrated Easter at my grandparent's house. I took the opportunity to take the wheels down to truck and swap them on. Believe it or not, a set of 31" light truck tires fits in the back of a 2014 Focus hatchback.

We made it down there late Friday, so early Saturday morning I drove down to the barn and got started.

It's in there somewhere...

There it is. Old versus new. The tires are almost the same size (9.50R16.5LT vs LT245/70R17 LRE) it's just the perspective throwing it off.

I found a little rust in the leading edge of the front passenger wheel well. It's right under the battery. I'll have to repair that later.

Getting there. Back wheels next.

Now that's a large brake drum.

Much better. Now the tires are nice and new and I gained a little modern style in the process. After a little cranking the truck started up and we moved it outside to clear a spot to unload the camper in. The camper looks even bigger when you can step back and see it all. You can also see how the bumper has been relocated to the back of the camper.

More later...

mazdeuce UltimaDork
4/21/17 7:06 p.m.

Wait, so you tow from the bumper that's on the camper that's on the truck? That's intriguing....

Count me as another interested reader. I grew up riding around in a 77 plow/farm truck and have always had a soft spot for them.

ShawneeCreek Reader
4/21/17 8:00 p.m.

In reply to mazdeuce: Not quite. The bumper is still attached directly to the truck. I'll go on...

We got the spot cleared out in the barn. Lifted up the camper and pulled the truck forward so that we could move the bumper back to it's normal position. Here's what it looks like with the camper removed:

On top, you've got the collapsible steps for the camper. My dad made that back in the day. He even made the expanded metal step surface from sheet metal. I find that really cool. Once that is removed you can see all of the extra structure and bracing. My grandparents (my Mom's side of the family), who owned the truck, are farmers. Naturally, they designed and built this from scratch. I'm told that my machinist/fire chief Granddad (my Dad's side of the family) also helped.

You are looking at the C-channel that the steps slide in, angle iron cross bracing, 1/4" bar stock, and finally the 2" square tube that remains to slide the bumper forward and back. There was what seemed like an entire hardware store's worth of nuts and bolts in there. I can remember at least 25 off the top of my head. The square tubing is just wider than the leaf springs and is bolted to the truck with two large bolts per side. The other end of the tube is bolted directly to the steel bumper.

As you can imagine, this is more overbuilt than engineered. But, you know what? It works. Every year my grandparents would load up the camper with one daughter in the the cab with them and the other two daughters riding in the camper Then they'd hook up the motorboat with it's V8 I/O engine on its dual axle trailer and drive the whole thing down through the hills of Kentucky to Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee. Keep in mind, this was also before many of the interstates were made in the area and certainly before many of the rural highways were widened, flattened, and straightened. I couldn't imagine doing that today. And here is how it looks with the bumper back in its normal place.

And to complete the vintage, 70's look we put on the cap. 

84FSP Dork
4/21/17 8:18 p.m.

It's pretty disco fantastic! Should be a great beast after you get rid of issues that come from sitting a while.

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett UltimaDork
4/21/17 8:41 p.m.

I <3 this truck!

Woody MegaDork
4/21/17 9:02 p.m.

That truck is a thing of beauty.

ssswitch Dork
4/21/17 9:30 p.m.

That's awesome. I love this truck.

How much does the go-go-gadget tow bumper and camper take out of your towing capacity? I'm guessing if it still pulled a dual-axle trailer it should still be sufficient, but people can put up with a surprising amount of danger when towing in my experience.

Based on the condition of the fender I'd probably Fluid Film those bumper slides too.

chandlerGTi PowerDork
4/22/17 6:31 a.m.

You were not joking about the condition of this truck, it is beautiful!

jh36 Reader
4/22/17 7:31 a.m.

That is fantastic. Thoughts on the running boards? The truck, with cap, is particularly nostalgically attractive to me.

ebonyandivory UberDork
4/22/17 7:50 a.m.
John Welsh
John Welsh MegaDork
4/22/17 8:38 a.m.

The "bumper artistry" is amazing.
That is one huge camper.
The truck really is magical.
New wheels look great.

ShawneeCreek Reader
4/22/17 12:19 p.m.

Thanks! I really like this truck too. I even got an unsolicited "you know, it's a cool, old truck" from Mrs. ShawneeCreek

In reply to ssswitch:

I'm sure the bumper being moved effects towing capacity negatively. It helps that they really only towed the motorboat with it in that position. The tongue weight is lower than say, a race car in a flat bed trailer, because the motor is in the back of the boat.

I'll definitely be investigation the whole system before I do any towing with the truck. I already know that there are a couple of tears in top of the steel bumper that I should fix. You can see them in a couple of the photos.

ShawneeCreek Reader
4/22/17 12:22 p.m.

In reply to jh36:

For now, I think the running boards will stay. They kind of match the whole look of the truck, and really help with climbing in. I'll reconsider it later. I'm trying to do my best to make it safe, then reliable, then cool.

ShawneeCreek Reader
4/24/17 11:32 a.m.

And the last bit of the story from Easter weekend...

We loaded up the old wheels and tires in the back of the truck. I checked all of the fluids (or so I thought) and topped up the coolant reservoir. We said bye to Grandma and Grandpa and headed for the nearest gas station, 10 miles away.

I noticed a few things on the drive:
- The brake pedal was a little soft
- The "Brake" light on the dash was lit up
- Whenever the turn signal was on a musical tone would play?! Very simple, much like the music to early 8-bit video games. Then when you turned off the turn signal (no auto-canceling here) the musical device would loose power and die a sad, off-key death. I found it hilarious at the time, but knew it would drive me crazy by the end of the drive. I'll have to make a video to share before I remove it.
- It drives like a big, old truck with not enough weight in the back. Which is good, because that is what it is.
- The power steering definitely works. One finger is all it takes to steer.
- Only having a lap belt is really weird, having grown up wearing 3-point seat belts.
- The gas gauge needs some work. It started out around 1/4 tank, then crept up to around 1/2 tank.

We made it to the gas station and I topped up both gas tanks. It took 10 gallons in each 20 gallon tank. So maybe the sensors just needed freeing up. .shrug.

I popped the hood and opened up the brake reservoir. I had forgotten to check that before we left. One of the two chambers was completely empty. That just might explain the wonky pedal feel. I bought a container of brake fluid from the gas station and topped it off. Then, out of an abundance of caution I went around and felt the temperature of the wheels to check for heat from bad wheel bearings and/or stuck brakes.

The driver's front wheel was too hot to touch. Well, poo. I can't drive this thing three hours home at highway speed with a stuck brake caliper. We turned around and headed back to my grandparent's house to park it in the barn. It was getting late on Sunday and both Mrs. ShawneeCreek and I had to work on Monday. I took it slow and thankfully the brake became unstuck about a half mile down the road. By the time we got to the barn the wheel and brake had cooled off and the pedal had firmed up.

So, I jumped the gun a little bit trying to get the truck home without doing the proper maintenance. I'm going to be ordering parts tonight (coolant hoses, spark plugs, caliper rebuild kits, rear wheel cylinders, rubber brake hoses, etc...). We're planning on heading back down in a couple of weekends and we'll do this right.

To end on a high note, a few more interesting things I learned about this truck:
- My grandparents bought it new in 1975. That makes me the 2nd owner.
- The original dealer sticker is still on the tailgate. I normally hate the things and scrape them off of my cars immediately. This one has earned its place on the truck though. It stays.
- The bench seat slides forward and back. I didn't know they did that.
- One of the sets of keys is on a nice 3" diameter leather key-chain with "1776-1976 Bicentennial" and a bald eagle stamped into it.
- It has a sticker on the windshield for a national park in South Dakota from 1976 with "Bicentennial" on it. Unfortunately, I forgot to grab a picture. But I think that the truck's name is now set in stone.

Until next time.

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