The engine wasn't in as bad of shape as the rest of the truck would indicate. Brian was able to get it turned over with some simple maintenance. Then he made an interesting discovery.
"A few days later, I had it running," Brian says. "It did have a miss in it, so just for fun I did a compression test. The little (318) had over 130 psi in all but one cylinder; No. 6 was dead. I pulled the valve cover to discover the intake and exhaust pushrod poking through the rocker arms. I replaced the rockers and she ran like a dream. The owner told me the 81,000 (odometer) miles were correct."
Then Brian put on a pair of mono-leaf front springs to get the front end down. He also installed a pair of 15x7 Mopar Rallye wheels. After driving it for a little while this way, he started to tear it down.
Brian's original plan was to just put on a new paint job and use the truck as a driver, but that changed.
"I did everything in my two-car garage," he continues. "I replaced the rockers, built my own floorpans, and did most of the paint and bodywork for the first time. I did everything in sections. I did not have the room to tear everything apart, so I replaced the floorpans and rockers first, then the front-end sheetmetal bodywork came off. I had the fenders and hood blasted. That's when I realized the 318 was not going to work for me. I had a 400 engine from a '76 Dodge truck and a 440 steel crank. I had always wanted to build a 451 stroker. Hughes Engines helped me greatly with sorting out my engine combination. After about a year, it was back on the road. It had a lot of go, but stopping the truck was a different story. A good friend of mine, Earl Schank, machined the spindles to my specs. A few weeks later, I installed 11.75-inch Mopar rotors and pin-type calipers on the truck.