Subscribe to the Free
  • |
  • |
  • Letters To The Editor - Ask The Experts - November 2009

Letters To The Editor - Ask The Experts - November 2009

Ask The Experts

Mike Finnegan
Nov 1, 2009
Photographers: Charlie Hayward
My Truck's a Slug
First off, great mag! I have been a faithful reader for some time now, but let's get down to business. I have a 1997 Chevy Silverado with a pathetic excuse for an engine, a 305ci V-8. My pickup struggles to go 60 mph up nearly any hill with 3.42 gears and 32-inch-tall tires. Worst of all, I live in Nodak and it's not exactly flat country. I am looking to rebuild the 305 with all the fun goodies like new heads, intake, flat-top pistons, cam, throttle-body spacer, and an air intake, plus anything else that could make my motor worthy. Or I am considering switching to a 350ci V-8 and building that the same way.
My question is if this was your truck how you would do it? I'm lost trying to figure out the best way to pull more power out of the motor. I would prefer to use what the truck already has and just build the stock 305 into a killing machine, but I also hate to waste the money doing that if I will not gain that much anyways. This is my project/daily driver, but I intend to put a 6-inch lift and 35-inch tires on it and have 3.73 gears as well. I just want a decent powerplant under the hood before I even start on any of that. I do not know much about engines when it comes to performance. I'm a mini-trucker at heart, but it's hard to drive a Mazda that's 2 inches off the ground in 12 inches of snow, so I put my mini aside for awhile and now am focused on my Chevy. Any help at all would be great. Thanks!
Tim C.
via email
You bring up a number of questions that are often overlooked when beginning to "pump up" your truck. It doesn't surprise me that your truck feels a bit anemic given your present tire size, gear ratio, and engine combination. By changing your tire diameter to 32 inches from the stock 29 inches, you have effectively changed your rear gear ratio to a 3.10. Combined with the 30 percent overdrive of the 4L60E trans, you are only turning the engine about 1,750 RPM at 70 mph, which is hardly ideal for power or mileage in a 4,000-plus pound truck.
In 1997, Chevrolet offered the C-series trucks with a 3.73 rear gear, which is a better all around combination for hauling, towing, and adverse terrain in my opinion. You mentioned changing to 35s in the future. A 4.56 rear axle ratio with a 35-inch tire would net the same final drive ratio as the 29-inch stock tire diameter and a 3.73 rear gear and would cruise 70 mph at a comfortable 2,150 RPM. This will drastically improving acceleration and driveability.
Now, onto the muscle part of your question. There are multiple choices for your engine package, including everything from stock replacement crate engines to turbocharged big-inch strokers. As usual, the extreme end of the spectrum costs bundles of money and presents many challenges. In almost every case, a daily driver deserves some upgrade, but not to the extreme, unless you're prepared to deal with the headaches that typically go along with it. For my money, I want good driveability, good power, and to be reasonably trouble-free. In the case of a 4,000-plus pound truck, bigger is better (especially when starting with the 305). GM currently offers the HT383E replacement long block (part # 17800393), which retails for $6,378.00 (our local GM parts manager indicated almost every dealer has sale pricing) and is emissions-legal. While advertised as a 383ci, high-torque, direct replacement for the 350ci, it would most likely require some custom tuning You will have to address the computer tuning issue with any upgrade, which should include engine tuning, transmission shift points and pressure, as well as speedo calibration to optimize your new drivetrain package.
After the tuning, you'll have an engine that makes much more torque down low in the rpm band, which means your truck will turn those big tires and climb those hills much easier. You may be able to save some bucks with other crate packages or your local engine builder. Whatever choice you make, do your homework, be clear on what you expect, and what someone is selling, consider local emission laws, and then dive in.
This question was answered by Steve Brule', General Manager and Director of Technical Service's at Westech Performance Group in Mira Loma, California. Steve's been a professional in the performance industry for over 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to engines and trucks. You may recognize the name from the numerous dyno tests conducted at Westech.
Make Mine a Real Shaker
First off, I love the mag and have been reading it for years. OK, now to the question at hand: My father is building a Chevy LUV. He has swapped a small-block 350 into it and wants to put an actual shaker hood on it, not the cheap fiberglass sticky tape ones. So far, he is unable to find a company that manufactures one. Any help with the search would be great. We do not want to try and fabricate one ourselves. Thanks for any help you can provide.
Chad Lynn
via email
Photo 2/4   |   ask The Experts November 2009 truck Cartoon
When you say you're looking for a "shaker hood," I'm going to assume you are referring to the classic Mopar and Pontiac hoods, which feature an air scoop assembly mounted to the engine that pokes through a hole in the hood. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any aftermarket company that makes a bolt-on shaker hood for your truck, which means that you'll have to adapt the shaker assembly to your stock hood. A competent body shop or fabricator should be able to tackle this job relatively quickly since the shaker assembly is available in the aftermarket. If you're not already a member, this site ( has a ton of good info on LUV trucks
Some Questions About that Swap
I am gathering parts for a first-gen S-10 V-8 swap. In December of '08, you all ran a story on such an engine swap with a Ford 9-inch rearend. My question is threefold: First, will I need to use the oil pan you all used or can I use the stock one? I'm using a 350 from a '99 Chevy 2500. The JTR manual says that I don't. The year of the motor goes into my second question. Due to the fact the Vortec heads are different (when comparing intake manifolds), will the same be true for exhaust manifolds or can I run the same headers as in your article? Last question, did you all run an electric fuel pump or use the stock pump and aftermarket regulator? Any info would be great. Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more about your Dime on steriods!
A. Jones
via email
Photo 3/4   |   ask The Experts November 2009 oil Pan
Mr. Jones, the JTR manual is correct, you don't have to use the oil pan from the story. We used the pan because we didn't have an appropriate one already and we wanted the better performance the windage screen will provide. The headers should bolt on. Even though the heads are different when it comes to the intake manifold, the exhaust ports are similar. The S-10 we worked on had an electric fuel pump and an aftermarket regulator. You can use the stock pump, just regulate it for your fuel delivery system. A great source for more information will be or
Gimme Some Overdrive
I've got a three-speed tranny in my '81 Chevy dualie. I'd like to upgrade it to an overdrive tranny with the hope that my fuel economy will improve. My truck has a carbureted 454ci engine in it. What tranny will be my best option? I think the rear axle has 4.10 gears and the tires are stock size.
Ben Williams
Atlanta, Georgia
Photo 4/4   |   ask The Experts November 2009 1981 Chevy Dualie
I'd recommend a 4L80-E transmission with a billet cover B81 converter. The 4L80-E is the equivalent of a five-speed automatic; it will maintain the same gear ratio in the first three gears as the TH400 you have now, but it will also give you a .068 overdrive 4th gear. Additionally, the lock-up converter will afford you another 4,00RPM reduction at highway speeds. This means that you'll be able to utilize the engine's torque to get the truck moving effectively in the first three gears and then cruise at a lower rpm on the highway to achieve maximum fuel economy. This is a computer-controlled transmission so it will require a standalone unit to control the functions of the transmission.
The 4L80 E transmission is 3 inches longer than your current TH400. Your truck's transmission crossmember will have to move 2.58 inches backwards on the chassis and you will have to have the driveshaft shortened 2.5-3 inches. Your bolt-on yoke will interchange with the 4L80-E.
This question was answered by Zach Farah, a 25-year veteran of the tranny biz and owner of Gearstar Transmissions, a high-performance transmission builder that specializes custom trannys that handle a ton of power. Each Gearstar tranny is built by a single technician to assure quality control. Zack can be reached at or (800) 633-2353.



Subscribe Today and Save up to 83%!

Subscribe Truck Trend Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truck Trend

Subscribe Diesel Power Magazine

Subscribe to:

Diesel Power

Subscribe Truckin Magazine

Subscribe to: