After considering many options to get my truck back on the road, I finally have a solution.
I found a running Chevy 250 cubic inch straight six engine for $300. The guy selling it had a video of it running before he pulled it out, so I was fairly certain it would work. It had sat for a week before I went to check it out. I picked this thing up, and got it home with most of what was needed for a total of about $450. Not bad for the most reliable engine you could get for this truck.
It will not have much power compared to a proper V8, but it will have more power than the previous engine. The electric fuel pump used on the previous engine was failing and misplaced, causing very low fuel pressure under load. This caused the engine to struggle severely. This made the engine very weak and the truck very slow. It could not rev up properly. Highway speeds were almost impossible.
After installing the engine, I could not get the starter motor to turn the engine over. It just didn't have the power. This was a started from a V8, so it should have easily had the power to turn the engine over. The solenoid just clicked very quickly. I eventually managed to short out the alternator on the frame and burn up all the fusible links in the starter motor circuit. After a few days, I managed to get some beefy 60 amp fuses, replace the blown links, and get the circuit functioning again.
I told a buddy about this, and he immediately said that there was a ground circuit problem. He reminded me to hook up the ground strap that grounds the engine to the firewall. This fixed the starter motor problem. I could now turn the starter motor over. I ended up replacing the ground strap with a new copper strap from Summit Racing Equipment.
After checking everything over, and clearing tools away from the engine, I turned the motor over. No fire. It would absolutely not start up. I made sure it had fuel in the line, but no luck. I found that my fuel filter was leaking badly, just before the single barrel carb. After replacing this with the old one from the V8, I got the leak fixed. This gave me fuel pressure again, but the engine still refused to start...
I took off the air cleaner assembly, and opened the throttle a few times. No fuel sprayed into the carburetor from the fuel bowl. This meant that no fuel was making its way into the carb. Cranking the engine over long enough to get fuel from the mechanical fuel pump, into the bowl, would surely kill the battery. After searching for starting fluid, I gave up and found a small can of mixed, 2 stroke gasoline. I opened the throttle and poured a few ounces of fuel directly into the carb. Turning the key, it fired right up, sputtered for a few seconds, then ran steadier than any engine I have ever heard. Shutting it off, I tried to restart it, and this tired old engine started faster and smoother than anything I have ever seen.
I drove the truck to the local baseball fields and back, but made it only two blocks from home. The engine sputtered, and lived just long enough to get the truck safely into an alley. I found that it had dumped all the coolant from a tear in each coolant hose, and overheated. It stalled and refused to start. I threw on the hazard lights, locked the truck up, and walked home, carrying an empty coolant bottle with me. I grabbed another coolant bottle from the garage, filled them both up, and headed back. I refilled the radiator, sat around listening to Norse Myths, and waited. I got it started up again, drove it home, and backed it up into its parking spot in front of the garage to cool down.
After hooking up all the original gauges, I had every single factory gauge working for the first time since I bought the truck. 34 years old, and every gauge on this truck still works. The only things not working are the electric choke on the carb, and the vacuum line for the transmission. The choke isn't actually needed, as the engine starts and runs fine. The vacuum line is a simple fix, which, without, will cause...
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