I recently put the hood back on Truck Norris, Car Craft’s project 1967 Chevrolet C10, and anyone who’s done an engine swap knows that this is cause for celebration. While there’s still plenty of work left to do on Truck Norris, the major stuff is finally done. It’s been about 14 months since I last drove the C10, and it’s great to be behind the wheel again.
This is just another step in the journey Truck Norris has been on since I took ownership of it May 2, 2012. It’s seen a lot of changes since then. Former Tech Editor Jeff Smith and I wasted no time swapping the original (and very worn-out) 283 engine with one of his 350s just three weeks after buying the truck. I welded in some homemade rust-repair patch panels in the floors, attempted (and failed) to weld the broken seat springs, and gave the truck a weekend scuff-and-shoot to eliminate the white and rust finish with a somewhat respectable black primer and white Rust-Oleum paint job in July of that year. Next up, I replaced the sketchy four-wheel drum brakes with four-wheel discs from CPP, lowering the truck in the process and upgrading to 17-inch Rally wheels from Wheel Vintiques. A 383 replaced the 350 not long after that.
Now, the small-block and original four-speed have been supplanted by a BluePrint Engines 540 big-block and Tremec T56 Magnum, a step which itself is part of a plan hatched nearly two years ago between Car Craft and AEM Performance Electronics to put a high-content, multi-port fuel-injection system on a big V8. The 540 runs on AEM’s Infinity ECM, a sophisticated computer that rivals the content of the best OEM engine-management systems. Able to incorporate features such as traction control, coil-on-plug ignition, flex-fuel sensing, drive-by-wire, two-step launch control, and electronic control of wastegates or nitrous controllers, the Infinity is using only a fraction of its computing power controlling just a single coil and eight fuel injectors. Don’t worry, we will be stepping up our game throughout the coming year.
In the meantime, I’ve been slowly breaking in the McLeod dual-disc clutch and getting used to the newfound power the big-block is delivering-already 200 hp more at the wheels than the outgoing 383 made. The T56 is a huge improvement over the original SM420 four-speed, with much quicker shifting and ratios that suit aggressive driving. It’s a riot. It’s also a bit nerve-wracking as I scrutinize every sound and sensation to make sure everything is running OK. So far, I’ve had to fix several fuel and coolant leaks, two burned spark-plug wires, a loose U-joint, and a bad alternator. There still may be more problems, but they haven’t manifested themselves yet. That just means I need to drive it more. On a more personal note, I was overcome by a sudden and surprising wave of sadness when I put the seat back in the cab. As I tightened the seat frame to the floor, I recalled how much my dog, Culver, loved riding in the C10 with me. Normally relegated to the back seat of my other cars, I believe the C10 was his favorite because his only option was to sit next to me, and our drives together would often end up with him sleeping with his head on my lap. Those are happy memories, for sure, and a reminder that, to us enthusiasts, cars are so much more than horsepower, power-adders, or burnouts; they are a lens through which we experience the world.