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While looking into chassis and suspension upgrades for our ’49 Chevy 3100 Advance Design pickup, we came across Robert Hertz from ADEngineering. There are several options out there for these trucks, from brand-new chassis to weld-in Mustang-II-style front cross members, and some people have even cut the front frame off and clipped them with Camaro or other Chevy-car-style front suspensions. Robert actually approached us to inform us of a chassis swap kit he produces for the 1947-55 first series pickups and Suburbans. We were definitely intrigued and started talking about using the kit for project Cindy.

After exchanging a few emails with Robert, we were sold on the chassis swap kit. The complete kit comes with everything we would need to swap the chassis, engine, transmission and steering. AD-Engineering has spent a lot of time perfecting the kit, both on the computer-generated plans as well as on vehicles. We selected the options we would need for our project and the parts were soon headed our way.

The kit from ADEngineering is designed to work with a standard cab long bed S-10 chassis. The 1982-93 model years are a bit easier to perform the swap with, but the 1994- 2005 will work just fine as well. The difference between the two model years is that the earlier versions are not boxed in as far back, making it easier to get to the new bolt locations. If we were to get a hold of a second-generation model we would have to drill access holes, but it’s still very doable. Luckily for us, we were able to track down a retired airport service truck. The truck had seen a lot of use, but it was never involved in an accident because it was always used inside the airport. This, combined with a visual inspection, assured us we would have a straight chassis with which to work.

SOURCES

LMC Truck
800.562.8782
LMCTruck.com

AD-Engineering
Ad-engineering.com

 Tre 5 Customs
602.284.2466
Tre5Customs.com

SALVAGING THE S-10 FRAME

Here’s the donor truck. This 1986 standard cab long-bed S-10 was the perfect candidate for our chassis swap. We picked it up for $450 and it was still running and driving. It did have a blown head gasket, but that didn’t stop us from attempting to completely blow up the engine with a nice burnout.

First we stripped the donor truck down to a rolling chassis, and then we began prepping the frame for the new mounts. The rear cab mount and forward bed mount were the first to go. A plasma cutter made quick work of the bulk of the material.

We then came back with a cut-off wheel to remove the smaller parts of the mount. Finally, we finished cleaning up the frame with a flap disc sander.

The same process was performed on the front mounts as well. There’re also a couple of smaller items, like the rear bump stops, that can be removed at this time as well.

After a total of about five hours here’s what we ended up with: the complete rolling chassis, cleaned up and ready for some new brackets and hardware.

REAR BODY MOUNTS

The main bracket for the chassis swap almost completely covers the side of the frame rail. The piece is held against the side of the frame rail and three bolts secure it to the frame through factory S-10 frame holes.

Next up, we set the transmission cross member mounts in place and loosely bolted up the forward two bolts.

The transmission cross member was placed between the mounts and loosely bolted in place.

Once we had the three pieces bolted together and aligned properly, we drilled the rearward two holes through the mount and the top of the frame rails. The loosely installed bolts were then tightened, locking the transmission cross member in place.

Moving towards the front end of the main bracket, we drilled new holes in the frame for the front running board mounts. The running board mount was then bolted in place with the two bolts that pass through the S-10 frame rails.

These bolts were probably the most difficult part of the installation. Make sure you have someone with long skinny arms that can get their hands far enough up the opening of the frame to hold a wrench on the back of the bolt. If you don’t have someone like that to help you out, you could drill an access hole for a socket on the boxed section of the frame.

The front cab mount shares a couple of bolts with the running board mount. We were impressed with how these pieces fit together even though we were mounting several pieces together at once.

Next we moved towards the rear of the frame rail. The main bracket locates several more holes along the way towards the rear of the truck. The forward two in this photo are for the middle running board bracket. You’ll notice the ones we are drilling in this photo are the two closer to the front of the truck in the set of four. The ones directly behind are for the Suburban mounts, so those did not need to be drilled.

There were also several holes along the top of the main bracket that needed to be drilled. These bolt holes are more for attachment strength of the main bracket. The final holes in the main bracket are all the way towards the rear of the truck and will attach the forward bed mount.

With all of the new holes drilled, we started attaching more new brackets. These mounts will serve as the middle running board mounts.

REAR BODY MOUNTS

Following up the running board mounts were the rear cab mount brackets. Again, we used the provided hardware and mounted them through the newly drilled holes.

The rear cab mount cross member was placed on the vertical mounts that have tabs in them that key into holes cut in the cross member. Four bolts attach the cab mount cross member to the vertical mounts.

Finishing off the mounts that use the main bracket are the forward bed mounts. The vertical pieces were installed in the same fashion as the rear cab mounts.

Just like the rear cab mount, the forward bed mount is comprised of a cross member that bolts to the vertical pieces on each side of the frame.

When we unpacked the boxes we were kind of confused as to its purpose. However, once we read through the detailed instructions included with the kit, we learned that it was meant to be used as a jig to drill more holes. Notice the plate is even labeled, so there’s no way we could install it the wrong way. We used the same jig plate on the opposite side of the frame.

Once we had all of the new holes drilled through the frame, the jig plate was removed and the remaining bed mounts were installed. These went on just like the first . All of the pieces are keyed together so it’s nearly impossible to get this installation wrong.

ENGINE MOUNTS

Moving towards the front of the truck again, we began to work on the engine mounts. Robert gave us the idea to drill out the factory engine mount holes and weld in nuts to make installation easier. We decided to go ahead with this plan and began by drilling holes large enough for the flange nuts to sit inside of and be nearly flush with the mounting surface.

Once we were happy with the location of the bolts, they were permanently welded in place. In order for the new engine mount plate to sit as flat as possible, the welds were sanded down a bit to flatten them out.

The engine mount is pretty sophisticated. It not only ties into where the factory engine mounts once were, it also uses holes on the rearward lower control arm mount, adding strength to both pieces. Installation on the rearward lower control arm mount is made simple by the use of a threaded plate. The supplied hardware threads into this plate and secures the engine mount plate in its new home.

AD-Engineering has several options for engine mounts. We are dropping an LS-based engine in Cindy so we were supplied with these mounts. It appears that these same mounts could also be used with a small-block Chevy. Using the supplied hardware, we attached the engine mounts to the engine block.

The final part of the three-piece mount is the U-shaped bracket that will sandwich the engine mount bushing. There are two options for holes when mounting our LS-based engine. We decided to go with the furthest rearward mount in order to get closer to a 50/50 weight bias with the overall chassis. With the engine on a hoist, we slid the new mounts together.

The engine and transmission were mounted as one unit and dropped in very easily. Locating the transmission mount in the proper bolt holes per the instructions allowed the supplied transmission mount bushing to fall right in place.

FRONT BUMPER MOUNTS

All the way at the front of the truck, we needed to remove more of the factory S-10 mounts. The factory S-10 bumper mounts and radiator support mounts needed to go. A 4.5-inch cut-off wheel on a die grinder was used to remove these two items. We tried to cut right at the welds, which make it easier to clean up the frame.

Here’s what it looks like after the mounts are cleaned up with the flap wheel. Make sure you’re not using a rock wheel grinder for this type of clean up because it will leave you with a much rougher and unattractive finish.

The first part of the new bumper mounts is another ingenious little idea included with the kit. These pieces fit together snuggly with dowel pins.

On the S-10 frame there is a slot, and the mount fits perfectly into it. This locates the bumper mount bracket in perfect alignment with the frame.

With the center hole lined up and bolted in place, the outer two bolt holes were drilled and the new hardware was installed.

The next step for installing the front bumper mounts is cutting away the top of the frame. Following the instructions, we measured back from the front edge of the frame. Then we used the top of the bumper mount to mark the horizontal cut line and removed the mount to make the cut.

To finish this part of the job, we reinstalled the bumper mount with the second part of the mount bolted to the rear most bolt hole.

FRONT CROSS MEMBER

Since we were already at the front of the truck, the new radiator support assembly was tackled next. The first part bolts up using the factory sway bar mount holes.

Up next was a piece that’s easily distinguished by the ADE logo. This bolts to the lowest piece with the three supplied bolts and the corresponding hardware.

The new radiator support from LMC Truck needed a modification. Actually, the entire bottom of the support is cut off just below the two horizontal bolts.

Once we had the modified radiator support mounted to the new lower piece provided with the chassis swap kit, we installed the assembly to the lower mounts. The radiator support is isolated from the lower mounts by urethane bushings.

FINISHING THE REAR

The final modification to the S-10 chassis happened at the rear of the frame. Per the instructions, we located a bolt hole on the side of the frame.

We temporarily installed the rear bumper mount using this hole. The new mount is used as a guide for the final holes we need to drill in the S-10 chassis.

It also served as a guide for the cut we needed to make in order to remove the tail section of the frame. We removed the mount after marking the rails and used the cut-off wheel to slice through the frame rails.

With the frame rail shortened, the mount was reattached with the provided hardware. The outside bolts will act as the attachment point for the factory rear bumper mounts.

BOLTING ON THE BODY

The last pieces included with the kit are for the running boards. We already installed the mounts along the sides of the frame rail, but now we are working on the running boards themselves.

This allows for the new plates to slide into the running board. These plates are threaded to accept bolts, which will make mounting the running boards much easier.

After only two days of work, one stripping the S-10 frame and one installing the new parts, we had ourselves a new chassis under project Cindy. We rolled the truck outside the shop to get a better look at our quick accomplishment.

The following day was spent installing the body panels. Anyone who knows these trucks will vouch for how much work it takes to get all of the front sheet metal installed. It’s not an easy task, but we were able to get things installed and roughly lined up for the body shop to dial in.

We set the bed on next and jacked the wheel up in the wheel well to ride height. We wanted to make sure the rear wheel was also centered in the rear fender. It’s amazing how close the wheelbase between a ’49 Chevy pickup and an ’86 Chevy S-10 are. With all of the body panels mocked up and the new suspension installed, Cindy is on her way back to the body shop. I know you’re asking yourself about the new lowered height also; we’ll get to that next time.

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