The General Motors GMT400, '88-'98 (or OBS trucks, as the kids are calling them) have come back in a big way as of late. Not that they were ever totally gone, but it seems like everyone and their sister have embarked on an OBS truck project lately. And as you'll see here, Truckin is no exception. Without dating ourselves too badly, we remember when these trucks hit the dealerships and sparked a worldwide sport truck movement. There were a handful of places right here in SoCal that were churning these trucks out by the hundreds for several years in a row. It was the first time since the thick of the muscle car era where you can drive your brand-new vehicle right off the lot fully customized to your liking. The standard modifications included a lowering kit, billet wheels, low-profile tires, a roll pan, a billet grille, and some paint matching for that monochromatic look.
Having recently pared down the list of Truckin projects, we found ourselves looking to get back into the OBS game. We scoured the sale sites a bit and could not believe how quickly the prices have risen. Funny thing, though—the extended cabs were much more sought after back in the day, but now, it's the standard cabs that everyone wants, including us. Since we also wanted a fleet side, a 350 V-8, an automatic transmission, and a trim level higher than a work truck, while not really having any money, we knew we would be settling on a truck with some wear and tear. And for our purposes for stories like these, we hoped that the truck would be bone stock.
| After weeks of searching, this is the truck we found. A Chevy C1500 Silverado, standard cab, fleet side short bed with a 350/700R4 combo. It's worse for wear, but it's all there and all original.
After weeks of casual perusing, we found the '95 C1500 you see before you. It's high mileage, needs new pins in the driver's door, has a horrible DIY bedliner, and has a couple cracks in the dash. But on the plus side, it met all of our original criteria, was bone stock, had a working stereo, and was only 15 minutes away. We made a deal and drove the truck back to the house.
We have big plans for the truck, consisting mostly of the items mentioned above, but there were some immediate items that needed to be addressed before we drove the truck any further, and especially before we hit the local smog station. So that is what this first installment is about: doing some of the necessary stuff before we get to the fun stuff. For starters, the battery died as soon as we parked it. Also, we heard the telltale swooshing noise every time we hit the brakes, indicating a bad booster. We decided to hit up or friend Crystal at the Autozone in Hawthorne, CA, using the Duralast Gold line of replacement parts whenever possible. We then decided to do a bit of the essential maintenance during this first onceover and performed an oil and filter change, flushed the radiator and added fresh coolant, cleaned up the throttle body, and finally did a quick detail of the entire engine compartment. This was basically our bare minimum before we hit the smog station, but it was enough to pass with flying colors. It was also enough to transform a truck that we limped home into a daily driver. From there we gave the rest of the truck a deep cleaning, and the stage is now set to start the transformation of the truck into a retro '90s cruiser—with a few modern touches, of course. Check out the captions below, and check back right here soon for the next installment.
| The bed and back end of the truck is the area that will be transformed the most, but we had more pressing matters.
| We had to start somewhere, and today it was under the hood. The goals were to make it back into a daily driver and make sure it passed smog the first time around. At a glance it appeared to be bone stock with very few replacement parts or amateur "fixes."
| The first order of business was to replace the dead battery. We gave it one last chance and charged it overnight with our trusty Optima charger, but it was a lost cause.
| Our first entry on our AutoZone order was this 78-DLG Duralast Pro Power Ultra replacement battery that features 800 cold cranking amps.
| The other big issue was the faulty power brake booster. It wouldn't help the truck pass smog, but it would keep us from rear-ending someone on the way there!
| Duralast Gold came to the rescue with their premium factory replacement unit. We added it to our AutoZone order.
| We placed an order online, and the next day we headed over to the Hawthorne AutoZone to see Crystal and pick it up. While there we decided to get a few other items to get the truck on the road. We picked up an STP air filter and oil filter, five quarts of Valvoline oil, and a few cans of engine degreaser.
| The first order of business was to get rid of the old battery. One side had the factory terminal bolt, the other had a car audio-style terminal.
| With the old battery gone, we cleaned up the surrounding area and scrubbed the cable ends clean with a brass brush and some WD-40.
| We installed the new battery and attached the cables. We found a proper bolt to clean up the positive side a little. Time will tell if we'll need to replace the cables, but so far, so good.
| From there we jumped right into the power brake booster replacement. The first step is to unbolt the master cylinder from the booster.
| Next, we pulled the master cylinder off the booster and laid it out of the way, being extremely careful not to kink the brake lines in the process. We also detached the vacuum hose at this time.
| Then we moved into the cab and under the dash, where the booster's pushrod was removed first by simply popping off the clip that attaches it on the brake pedal. Then the four mounting bolts are removed. For this step it's best to bring out an assortment of swivels and extensions because a couple of the nuts are hard to reach.
| Back in the engine bay, the booster can now slide right out.
| We damaged the factory gasket, so we made a new one out of double-sided tape to avoid another trip to the parts store. Then we slid the Duralast booster into place.
| From there it was just a matter of remembering which tool combo worked where for snugging up the mounting nuts and attaching the new pushrod.
| Now we could bolt the master cylinder onto the new booster and snug it down. No brake lines were harmed!
| The last step was to install the vacuum hose onto the booster fitting.
| At this point we pulled the air cleaner assembly off and checked out the throttle body. We gave it as good of a cleaning with carb cleaner as we could without disassembling it.
| We gave the air cleaner a good cleaning inside and out and reinstalled it with the fresh STP air filter. Simple but effective!
| Everything we needed for an oil change was rounded up in the garage.
| Then we headed under the truck and removed the drain plug, exposing some extremely black oil, and not nearly enough of it.
| We always take a few minutes and fill the new oil filter up a few times before installing it. We also dab a little oil on the rubber gasket.
| The no-name oil filter was removed and the premium STP unit was tightened into place.
| These Chevy 350s take five quarts of oil, and that's exactly what the bottle holds, so we could simply dump it in.
| The last things we did were flush the coolant system and clean out the overflow tank before adding new coolant. Then we sprayed the whole area with degreaser and pressure-washed it. This truck felt like a major project on the way home just a few days before. Now we were cruising to the smog station in a full-on daily driver!
| Going to the smog station in California can be a terrible experience. But luckily we found a place called North Star Smog in Long Beach. Jeremy, the owner, makes it as quick and painless as possible.
| We pulled the truck up onto the rollers, hooked it up, and punched it. The high-mileage truck passed with flying colors! We went straight to Auto Club for new registration and plates and now our new-to-us OBS is ready to play ball. You'll be seeing a lot more of it right here—and we've got big plans!