Frame/chassis swap compatibility

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Brothajack93

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So here’s the situation…. I made a naive and impulsive buy cause I wanted a work truck and specifically seeked out an obs Chevy due to my love for them and the sentimental value they have for me. This particular one is a ‘97 c1500 ext cab 6.5 bed. Due to not having knowledge of extensive corrosion damage and what to look for to know if it’s safe and possible to repair I made a bad buy and can not trust anything in my chassis to be structurally sound or safe. Rather than to do the usual scrap it and start over method that most people would and everyone tells me to do I would rather go in much deeper and learn more than just how not to be dumb as restoration has always been a passion of mine but have not had the opportunity to learn in my life. Auto body is a difficult field to get your foot in the door of here and that’s just bolting on plastic bumpers for the most part these days anyway. Restoration is more of a self taught hobby than a profession because to work in those specific shops you must already have skills to display. As much as I tried you can’t just walk into a shop with a passion, willing to sweep floors and organize inventory for a chance to learn how it’s done and eventually be promoted if you show promise like people could back in the day. That’s why I’m using this opportunity to become self taught via YouTube and trial and error by throwing myself into it. Most I have to lose is a body that almost anyone else would scrap anyway. I plan to remove the cab and bed and put them on blocks somewhere they can stay for a little while and do the cutting and welding necessary to them to fix the typical lower half stuff that rots out. I will start with pre fab panel replacements but also intend to try my hand at making some panels myself as well. But that’s not what I need expert help with so I’ll get to the point. I will state that I understand how much work is involved here and that it’s more investment than it will ever be worth on a monetary level and I don’t need constant reminder of that…. I’m naive not stupid lol. This is about using this as an opportunity to build skills and do more extensive body repairs that most would shy away from instead of just learning the lesson of “don’t buy that”

I would like some knowledge on frame compatibility of various degrees. Both bolt in replacements as well as the fabrication/alterations that would be required for upgrades or just simply working with what I can get my hands on up here as the best options aren’t always reasonably priced in Canada. For instance if I wanted to upgrade to a beefier chassis like a c2500 that is a bolt in swap correct? But if I were considering a drivetrain upgrade as well what would it take to make it compatible to convert it to k1500 or k2500? I hear the frames themselves are the same up to the front cab mounts forward. Cross members would have to be relocated to account for a transfer case and front differential but these are just topics I come across on Facebook groups and more people have knowledge and experience in these particular topics here on this forum site dedicated to these trucks so I ask for your knowledge and expertise to better understand what can be done and the work involved to make it happen. Opinions are welcome but I’m not a guy to be told what to do without at least an explanation as to why it’s not a good idea at all. Some things aren’t practical and I get that. Some things are truly painful or difficult to accomplish but it’s up to me whether or not I’m willing to take on the headache and I believe I have the skills to do so but lack the knowledge required to apply them. Also I do understand that no matter what I do to the chassis or suspension that it will still be a c1500 no matter what and that towing/hauling more than what the truck on paper is rated for can put me in hot water should d.o.t decide to give me grief. I will take advantage of a beefier chassis and suspension that can handle heavier work at my own risk because it’s not often those guys look at pickups anyway. I’m looking to know what can be done and what it takes. Whether I can upgrade for heavier applications or simply work with what I can find because it’s what I can find that’s not beyond repair up here. I could find better shape out west. I lived out there for years and they use sand therefore greatly reducing the pace of corrosion. All my previous trucks were from out there and only suffer body rot while the chassis gets slight rust that can be cleaned up and coated without the issue of corrosion to structural parts that hold your truck together. A future project may be bought out there and stored at my brothers till it can be worked on there or brought back here but right now my options are pretty local to the lower half of the province I live in which is where the work with what I can get mindset comes in cause not many people took care of these things and are getting rid of them for the same “salty” reasons lol. I really appreciate any advice I can get on this topic and I’m sure there’s a few guys who have the knowledge and experience to know what works in both the regard of bolt in as well as alteration and would just like to have the knowledge to make my best decision based on what I can find for a roller chassis in the salvage market. Thanks for any help you can give me to hopefully keep one of these trucks alive. Frankenstein or not!
 

Frank Enstein

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I like that you already know the issues regarding the restore/chassis swap stuff.

Getting a donor truck with all the drivetrain stuff that you want will help quite a bit over adding crossmembers and such.

Creating your own Frankenstein's monster of a truck is a bunch easier than buying someone else's freak show of horrors. Ask me how I know.

The only recommendations I can give is to keep asking questions especially here, take your time because rushing costs more money, and to keep a folder of everything that came from another vehicle including the V.I.N. of the donor if possible. That will save you and whoever you sell it to headaches later on.

Enjoy your project!
 

Brothajack93

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I like that you already know the issues regarding the restore/chassis swap stuff.

Getting a donor truck with all the drivetrain stuff that you want will help quite a bit over adding crossmembers and such.

Creating your own Frankenstein's monster of a truck is a bunch easier than buying someone else's freak show of horrors. Ask me how I know.

The only recommendations I can give is to keep asking questions especially here, take your time because rushing costs more money, and to keep a folder of everything that came from another vehicle including the V.I.N. of the donor if possible. That will save you and whoever you sell it to headaches later on.

Enjoy your project!
I appreciate your kind words of support. Most people want to just say “it’s not worth it” when the goal isn’t exactly to add value here but to develop skills that are dying rapidly with the millennial and younger generations that classics in the north are in desperate need of. I’m tired of seeing these trucks scrapped or parked to rot further cause they need something as simple as cab corners or rocker panels because body work is unaffordable to most and a skill that not many have. If I can save a few by being the guy who can do the body work a vehicle needs to be road certified and make the next generation of old truck/car kids dreams come true then I gotta start somewhere. I’ve learned a lot already from my own purchasing mistake and learning to fix it is the next step. Wasn’t intending to go this far but go big or go home right? Paperwork is definitely important but unless there is a question of title, most people have no issues just using the cab plate but I will definitely get a bill of sale with copy of registration/vin from the frame/chassis donor truck to save any issues regarding the trucks legality. Judging by your username I can safely assume your advice comes from a position of experience and I really appreciate any help I can get
 

someotherguy

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The frames are very different up front C vs. K, as well as differences overall 1500 vs. 2500. Pick which one you want/need and get the entire correct frame for your purposes and go from there.

Richard
 

Brothajack93

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The frames are very different up front C vs. K, as well as differences overall 1500 vs. 2500. Pick which one you want/need and get the entire correct frame for your purposes and go from there.

Richard
Ok this is informative for sure… I was under the impression that the compatibility was fairly close but required some less than desirable modifications to make possible. So basically there is not really options and more of a choice you’re saying? This is why I ask questions here and don’t just take the words of guys in OBS Facebook groups. People on social media will lie for image or cause they sleep better at night knowing they convinced someone to do something stupid. I’ve found nothing but useful information posting and researching here and guys are willing to admit when they’ve been corrected on accidentally giving wrong advice because it’s a community about the truck and not a clout show. For a guy like me with no experience it’s important to start with the right information. If I couldn’t get the simple c1500 option. What would be the next best option and what would it involve for modification?
 

Hipster

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I appreciate your kind words of support. Most people want to just say “it’s not worth it” when the goal isn’t exactly to add value here but to develop skills that are dying rapidly with the millennial and younger generations that classics in the north are in desperate need of. I’m tired of seeing these trucks scrapped or parked to rot further cause they need something as simple as cab corners or rocker panels because body work is unaffordable to most and a skill that not many have. If I can save a few by being the guy who can do the body work a vehicle needs to be road certified and make the next generation of old truck/car kids dreams come true then I gotta start somewhere. I’ve learned a lot already from my own purchasing mistake and learning to fix it is the next step. Wasn’t intending to go this far but go big or go home right? Paperwork is definitely important but unless there is a question of title, most people have no issues just using the cab plate but I will definitely get a bill of sale with copy of registration/vin from the frame/chassis donor truck to save any issues regarding the trucks legality. Judging by your username I can safely assume your advice comes from a position of experience and I really appreciate any help I can get
The 2500 will bolt under there but dimensionally the 2500 frame is taller. Not sure exactly how much without looking at a frame sheet. Wouldn't bet on the front suspension control arms/knuckles interchanging but you already mentioned getting a c2500 roller.

It's not just in the restoration market. As you already found out, if you get hired on at a bodyshop with absolutely no experience you're the floor sweeper/bathroom cleaner until you show somebody your thorough and worthy of somebody spending time with you as their helper/apprentice. Even then they're going to give you repetitive tasks until you can complete them without error.

Alot of the questions about bodywork you will have will pertain to specific things as you go along.
 

Canadian Rust Bucket

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I made the exact same mistake. The guy drove past the jobsite I was on, said anybody with $500 could have the truck, it just needs a new gas tank.
Three years later, I'm finally able to drive the thing around the property, but it still won't pass a safety.
I can't really comment on the frame compatibility concern, but I wanted to voice my support for you trying to build the skillset. Going over every single square inch of my c1500 has taught me a lot. If you stick with it, you'll learn a lot too.
And, I can't emphasize this enough, take your time and do it right once. Doing it wrong and having to fix your mistake on top of existing issues is soul-crushing.
 

Brothajack93

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The 2500 will bolt under there but dimensionally the 2500 frame is taller. Not sure exactly how much without looking at a frame sheet. Wouldn't bet on the front suspension control arms/knuckles interchanging but you already mentioned getting a c2500 roller.

It's not just in the restoration market. As you already found out, if you get hired on at a bodyshop with absolutely no experience you're the floor sweeper/bathroom cleaner until you show somebody your thorough and worthy of somebody spending time with you as their helper/apprentice. Even then they're going to give you repetitive tasks until you can complete them without error.

Alot of the questions about bodywork you will have will pertain to specific things as you go along.
Ok so that much was more or less as I was informed of or read up on elsewhere. With the amount of research I’ve been doing in various fb groups, forums and YouTube channels so it’s hard to keep track of sources that I don’t save like Facebook and straight out of someone’s mouth. Add some adhd and it’s hard to know you have the right information and a saved reference to it. That’s why this forum site and YouTube are my best sources. I save videos that I find explain verbally and physically show enough to confidently accomplish the physical task and save them and in here I have an account that shows every question I’ve had and the entire conversation or “thread” that resulted from it. Leads to some personality or personal opinion clashes often but you leave with the information you need or sources to get it from people who have the know how and a way to reference when execution time comes. Every body shop I applied at all over southern Alberta wanted you to pre-apprentice so basically go to school first and come to them a second year with 0 experience or be an existing apprentice jumping ship to another shop to even consider you. One body shop in Calgary posted an entry level job with no experience required and was immediately flooded with applications. I got my shot but did not get in due to not having any kind of tools to start with and no spare cash to buy any. That one was on me though. Always did any work that needed to be done at a friends place who had all the tools so I never bought them. But yea it was cut throat for sure. I think in onterrible (Ontario) it’s easier but it’s also a place where more damage and neglect happens than work and people let them go and scrap them instead. It’s a very wasteful liberal and urban kind of lifestyle here much like a hybrid of California and New York. People will preach about the wastefulness and the planet while buying into marketing tactics that keep consumers buying the same thing repeatedly when it breaks or wears instead of fixing it and act like it’s better cause it’s new or has some new features. They act like when they threw that whole vehicle away for something newer they made the better choice for the environment when they just threw out a whole car which gets crushed and melted with everything harmful in it as well. It’s not just metal burning and melting. When your neglect to your vehicle rotted it out and something minor causes it to not pass ridiculous safety and emissions standards you get a new one and scrap the old is the mind set. These trucks have suffered that fate here where as Alberta still has men in their 60’s and 70’s driving their original square bodies they bought new. A lot of them may not look pretty but they are functional and a perfect resto project for someone looking for one. Point being the market for trucks and old school body work is vastly different here and it bothers me so I plan to learn the skills myself to make the restorations possible as a hobby and a service to the right people. Doing it professionally only means I have to take the money from the kid who is only putting the money in now for a trend and that the truck will ultimately suffer the same fate because I can’t turn down business. Doing it as a side gig/hobby means I get to choose my work so I can choose who I work for and do the odd flip to fill any time gaps that may result from me being picky about clientele.. I’d rather do the work for a middle aged man who wants a clean example of a truck from his younger days with some upgrades or a passionate young guy who you can tell actually loves the truck and isn’t doing it for some “cool kid redneck” image that’s trendy. Maybe he wants to participate and learn a thing or two. Maybe he doesn’t have a lot of money and really needs some help to make his dream possible. That’s why I would do it cause these trucks have been my entire childhood, first wheels and passion for many reasons. Much like the generation of square bodies they are suffering from neglect from harsh conditions in different parts of both U.S and Canada as well as complete d baggery. Sometimes the latter is still better cause it can often be reversed if not bagged too hard, over modified or crashed. I have no interest in getting into a trendy market. These trucks are picking up steam and are becoming desired and expensive now also like the generation before and I want to restore them and make sure they go to the right places and see more years instead of a grim fate. Even out west I knew quite a few punk kids who wrecked these cause they thought they were Ken block in a pickup on the backroads. Yea we’ve all done it but not at 80km/hr weaving down a straight 2 lane road in the snow till you hit the ditch and pray it doesn’t do damage or cause a wreck. That’s not why I would take on restorations at all. It’s about saving history not putting in work and watching it come back to be stripped for anything salvageable shortly after
 

Brothajack93

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I made the exact same mistake. The guy drove past the jobsite I was on, said anybody with $500 could have the truck, it just needs a new gas tank.
Three years later, I'm finally able to drive the thing around the property, but it still won't pass a safety.
I can't really comment on the frame compatibility concern, but I wanted to voice my support for you trying to build the skillset. Going over every single square inch of my c1500 has taught me a lot. If you stick with it, you'll learn a lot too.
And, I can't emphasize this enough, take your time and do it right once. Doing it wrong and having to fix your mistake on top of existing issues is soul-crushing.
Thanks for your support. I’ve seen your name scrolling around a few times and had a good chuckle cause I can safely say I live the rust bucket life myself. The goal is very much so to learn everything about the basic mechanic and body parts of the truck for sure. Going inside engine blocks, transmissions, differentials and any kind of gear boxes is something I find best put in the hands of professionals but I intend to learn the skills and acquire the tools and equipment to restore, repair and upgrade the rest. Seems a lot of people think that a guy with no in depth mechanical knowledge can’t do the research and make it happen so when asking for advice they respond by insulting so words of support from a guy who’s done it himself are an inspiring relief
 

Hipster

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Seems a lot of people think that a guy with no in depth mechanical knowledge can’t do the research and make it happen so when asking for advice they respond by insulting so words of support from a guy who’s done it himself are an inspiring relief
There's a difference when you're doing your own vehicle. If you're doing it for a customer or trying to flip one it absolutely has to add value. It's better to be tired and have a pocket full of money than to be tired and hungry. If you don't value your time no one else will either.

I'm not trying to discourage you, I worked in bodyshops since the age of 14......started sweeping floors and commonly encourage guys to get into it. There's still a ton of money to made in it. If your serious I would look at those tech schools. The ones around here do a night class a couple days a week While maybe not as in depth as a day class, it's enough to get your feet wet and give you some basics.

The customers that want to put 10k into their beat up work truck are few and far between. The money has always been on the collision side.

Some of what I do,
 
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