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Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/12/18 3:28 p.m.

To preface this build thread and introduce myself, I’ve had a thing for LS motors and little trucks for quite a few years.  I never really had money or space for a project car and always got my fabrication and wrenching fix helping out friends or in SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Mini Baja Collegiate Design Series.  I was lucky enough to go to a high school that had a good shop program where I learned how to weld and fabricate.  I took those skills with me to college and found that the Baja Team in college needed a guy to run the smokewrench.  I spent arguably too much of my college career in the Baja shop and not enough in the library, but I honed my skills as a fabricator and gained a lot of experience in building things with my hands not just imagineering around in CADland, which is something most young engineers lack.  I left the club after 3 years and immediately had the itch to work on something bigger and faster.

Enter the truck... I had some extra cash burning a hole in my pocket since I didn't have to buy books going into my fourth year of mechanical engineering, it helps to know people older than you to borrow books.  I was looking for a project car, first gen S10 and Dodge D50 were at the top of my list.

 I purchased this truck on 9/13/15 for $300 with a blown head gasket. I was still in college and have spent the time since then working on it with out a real clear direction of what I want to do with the truck.  Originally, I was planning on boosting the stock 4G64 Mitsubishi motor that came with this truck from the factory as it is basically a stroked version of the popular DSM 4G63.  I stuck with buying parts and building the 4G64 for boost for about a year before I discovered my block needed a ton of machine work.  This was the final straw as I already knew that the Mitsubishi motor wouldn’t make the power levels I wanted as reliably as I wanted and also, I really wanted a V8 because well all trucks deserve 8 cylinders.

I was very surprised to see just how clean the entire truck was the body was solid except for one little patch of rust near the gas door on the driver’s bed side and the frame only had surface rust, zero rot. Anyone that lives in or is familiar with the Upper Midwest will tell you this truck should not have this much sheet metal.  I consider myself pretty lucky for finding such a cheap, clean truck.

The DSM parts basket that never saw the sunlight.

Fast forward about 8 months I’ve gathered an excess of DSM speed parts for cheap off of Craigslist and I have also lost interest in the 4 banger.  I attribute most of my loss of interest in the Mitsubishi engine to one of my friends who had just finished a LSA top swap on his 5th Gen Camaro and also introduced me to Sloppy Mechanics. The first time I heard that thing fire up I knew I was going to put an LS in my truck.

Fast forward again to December 2016/ January 2017, I have acquired a 140k-ish mile fully dressed and harnessed 5.3L and an LS6 intake/TB/Injectors.  Test fitting begins.  Everything is too close for comfort but I lie to myself and say it'll fit, we'll make it fit.

Jump ahead again to April 2017, the weather is getting nicer and I’m spending more time in the garage. Really good deals on seals and gaskets from RockAuto wholesaler closeout sales led me to cracking open the motor to replace some stuff.  I then found flat top pistons in a very early iron block, I measured the stroke and confirmed that the so called 5.3 I bought was in fact a 4.8L.  I didn’t really have a problem with this I actually was originally looking for a 4.8 because they handle boost and high revs a bit better than the 5.3.

Finishing up my penultimate and most challenging semester yet, changing jobs, moving and trying to keep the lady friend happy ate up most of my spring and summer. However, the truck got new resting grounds and a lift kit… sorta.

I scored a low mile CD009 out of a 2010 370Z for about the same as what I bought the truck for (this is an important financial metric for me with this build) and I got an LSx swap kit and T56 bellhousing from Collins Adapters. The pedal box was a leftover from the big slow tanks that the Baja team used to build. We put the cars and the shop on a diet when I was part of the team.

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/12/18 3:46 p.m.

More pics of the CD009 and the Collins Adapter kit.

Collins makes a billet input shaft adapter plate for the Nissan 350Z/370Z transmissions that allows you to bolt a bellhousing of your choosing to the input shaft cover.  These gained a lot of popularity in the drift world in the last few years with LSx swapped 350Z’s and 2JZ swaps as R154 and W58’s are going up in price, becoming more scarce and are just not as strong.  This entire setup and a flywheel and pressure plate cost me less than what a core T56 goes for in my area.

Now comes the interesting part.  The CD009 is a two piece trans, not a 3 piece like the T56, so the bellhousing and main case are one casting.  To attached the shiny billet plate you have to cut the bellhousing off with a sawzall behind the second casting rib.  It was a little nerve racking but I had watched a couple youtube videos on it and decided to just wing it.

Torqued the heads down and test fit all of the things for photo op.

This happened after striking out at the Jefferson Swap meet.

I still didn’t like where it sits, the crank pulley was too far forward and the trans hit on the tunnel EVERYWHERE!

The truck gets a new home and new perspective mid November 2017 to make room for the daily.

I hate gearbox steering and this gearbox especially. This thing was the bane of my existence and my exhaust.

Time to increase firewall ventilation.

Liking this crank pulley placement much better also most of the engine weight is much lower and behind the front axle.  The steering bar was completely in the way and lead to the push to search for rack steering options.


Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/12/18 4:16 p.m.

The front frame rails are quite narrow and made finding an appropriate set of headers/manifolds quite difficult.  I picked up a set of Hooker cast manifolds because they were supposed to tuck tighter than stock manifolds and have a larger primary.  They did appear to be a much larger primary but they did not tuck any tighter forwards or backwards and I was overall disappointed with the quality of the castings.  I am however rather critical and difficult to please when it come to castings since I worked for a Investment Casting firm for most of my college career.  Oh and I snagged a C5 batwing oil pan and a very lightly used Spec Stage 1 LS7 clutch and and flywheel assembly off of the LS1Tech classifieds.

I have plans of going turbo somewhere in the future and I’m also not very conventional if you haven’t yet noticed.  I mean the whole project is unconventional (for an LS swap); it’s a Mitsubishi truck that’s masquerading as a Dodge with the engine of a Silverado, it has Corvette intake and oil pan and the drivetrain from a Nissan. And now with a set of 304 SS natural finish Flowtech headers the exhaust is going the wrong way…

My arch nemesis Mr. Steering Box we meet again.

Just enough is more than enough.

The old vacuum booster just wouldn’t do, it was way too big and doesn’t provide enough braking assistance in these truck when they are stock. I picked up a SN95 hydroboost, steering rack and all of the lines for a song off The List and it fits better than I could have hoped.

Don't worry I paid attention in Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer I already know the problems the proximity of the exhaust to the brake mc will cause and how to solve them.

More CAD (Cardboard Aided Design) for the universal motor mounts I have.

I bought myself a late graduation present with the money Uncle Sam decided he felt bad about stealing from me.  I have been welderless ever since I left SAE Baja and it feels good to have a torch in my hand again. I had chopped apart my motor mounts a couple times to try and make them work with the LS7 manifolds I had on the truck.

Like riding a bike.

I also shortened up the 370Z E36 M3er bracket so I won’t have to dislodge my shoulder reaching behind he seat everytime I need to change gears.

To anyone who is thinking about using the CD009 trans in a swap and doesn't want to buy a used 350/370z or G35/37 driveshaft or doesn't feel like spending +$150 on a small 1310 driveshaft yoke. I found a Spicer yoke with a 1330 that is for some sort of Toyota. It matches all of the dimensions I could find for the part that Collins sells and the stock yoke.  It fits on my trans just fine I will update more in the future as I get the truck moving.


nlevine GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/12/18 4:25 p.m.

Heck of an intro post! Can't wait see this thing fire up!

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/12/18 4:37 p.m.

I have been toying around with the idea of transplanting C4 front suspension and possibly rear suspension onto my truck.  I have want the truck to be a great all-rounder, it’s not going to be a dedicated drag machine, track slut or daily driver but rather just a wild little party animal I can take anywhere and have fun with.

The best part about Corvettes is they are well loved by engineers and there’s guys out there that are crazy enough and have enough free time to model the whole suspension up in Solidworks.  I found a full Solidworks model after 5 minutes of searching on the Corvette Forums.  I can’t confirm the accuracy of it yet but it’s fairly complete looking.  Quick measurements in Solidworks confirm it should fit with simple sheet metal mounts onto my frame, no need to cut and graft new sections into my frame.  The only part of this that could become fairly challenging is rear shock placement.  I really don’t want to have to cut the bed and have shock towers poking through.  I have a pet peeve about lowered trucks and cut or notched beds, I think they always looks tacky and it ruins the functionality of the truck bed and it takes away from the sleeper factor. That being said I would also feel bad about cutting up a bed this clean as these trucks are getting hard to find this clean in the Midwest.

Yeah so I got carried away with the Jegs catalog and ordered Jegs double adjustable coilovers for all four corners.  I also scooped up front and rear suspension assemblies with a set of wheels off of an '88 Corvette.  The rear diff is only a Dana 36 but it should hold up pretty well with how light the truck is and with a NA 4.8 for now. I can always upgrade to a Dana 44 or fabricate my own Ford 8.8 batwing in the future.  Now I just need to measure a million and two things and bribe my buddy who used to do the suspension design for the Baja cars with beer to help me get the C4 pieces underneath my truck.

I apologize for any discontinuities in my timeline or grammar tenses. If you've read this far this is basically what I have done to the truck to present day.

Nitroracer UltraDork
4/12/18 8:45 p.m.

Nice work so far!  Its fun to see how many manufactures you can combine into one car.  I had one that spanned many makes and many decades of engineering.  

4/12/18 9:45 p.m.

I friggin' love this vehicular chimera. I seriously hope you seek more parts from different manufacturers just because it's the thing to-do at this point. Subaru gauges? Volvo seats?

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/13/18 8:22 a.m.

I friggin' love this vehicular chimera. I seriously hope you seek more parts from different manufacturers just because it's the thing to-do at this point. Subaru gauges? Volvo seats?

Thanks guys! I have seats from a EP3 Civic Si that are going in the truck, I haven't figured out gauges yet.  Most of my parts are just what I could find off of craigslist cheap and I figured I could make work.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
4/13/18 8:36 a.m.

Scope creep is awesome. You're doing a fine job of it. laugh

4/13/18 5:05 p.m.
Ram50Ron said:

I friggin' love this vehicular chimera. I seriously hope you seek more parts from different manufacturers just because it's the thing to-do at this point. Subaru gauges? Volvo seats?

Thanks guys! I have seats from a EP3 Civic Si that are going in the truck, I haven't figured out gauges yet.  Most of my parts are just what I could find off of craigslist cheap and I figured I could make work.

Two words: Aircraft Gauges. Who could say no to an oil pressure gauge from a Wildcat?

dropstep SuperDork
4/13/18 6:40 p.m.

My first attempt at a v8 swap was a 318 into a d50. I like tiny trucks! 

Run_Away GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
4/15/18 9:37 a.m.

This is excellent!

Are those jegs coilovers universal, or C4 specific?

gumby GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/15/18 8:23 p.m.

Yes, more trucks! I am a minitrucker, especially Rangers, and there is a corner in my heart for D50's.

I inspired and helped swap a StarQuest engine into my ex-neighbor's 4wd D50. It was a special truck to him, and he had fully restored the truck but it rarely left the garage. He saw my turbo swapped Rangers, and my TurboCoupe, and his truck will never be the same! It is currently getting a full sequential intake manifold, injection, and a MS. His wife still hasn't forgiven me. devil


Carry on, good sir!

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/16/18 8:17 a.m.

In reply to Run_Away :

They are universal coilovers. They shouldn't be too difficult to adapt to the C4 mounting points and then I'll make my own brackets for the chassis mounts.

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/16/18 8:48 a.m.

In reply to gumby :

Minitrucks are the best!  Though I consider myself for of a sport truck guy than a traditional minitrucker because going fast is looking cool in my mind.  I love the idea of blowing the doors off of somebody with a motorcycle in the bed.

I had a buddy in college that did a SVO swap on his daily driver Ranger.  I did a bit of welding on that truck for him and I may have influenced some scope creep on his build but those Lima engines really chooch for a single cam when you force feed them with a Holset.

Professor_Brap GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/16/18 10:56 a.m.

My first truck/vehicle was a 88 Ram 50 Sport 4x4 with a 2.6L, I would kill for a nice Ram 50 again. Keep up the good work!! 

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/23/18 1:08 p.m.

I finally got around to doing some new E36 M3 on the truck this weekend. I managed to finish fabricating a trans mount and burned in my engine mounts the rest of the way. I cut a piece of plate that would mount to the 370z stock trans mount, added tubes to and endplates to tie it into the frame and then welded some flange nuts to the frame rails to bolt the trans mount to.

Not my finest work but it'll work

Step drill put the perfect sized and countersunk hole in my frame for flange nuts to sit flush for a quick and easy fusion weld.

It worked!

The impossibly long month of January decided it was over finally so some spring cleaning and rearranging was in order.

I always forget just how little this thing is until it comes off of the blocks.

If the Fast and Furious movies taught me anything it's that you cant build a fast car without a working grill. The spot welds holding one of the shelves on my grill fell off when moving last year so I got a little bit of stainless steel practice since it's been awhile. While I may have reduced the austenitic grain structure in the frame of the grill, shelving capacity has been increased by 200%.

Still got the moves.

Half trying to assimilate, half trying to enrage Corvette guys.  I figured the suspension justifies a Jake window sticker.

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/30/18 5:19 p.m.

Spent Sunday cursing at rusty Mitsubishi parts, huffing PB Blaster and fighting my Milwaukee Impact as it tried to break my wrist multiple times.

The Mitsu stuff is weird...  It's like the Japanese actually tried to design a real truck based on American trucks but messed up the conversion factors and wound up with something 60% smaller than a Silverado or Super Duty.

If anyone has one of these trucks or knows someone with them, the suspension and steering components that came on the truck are 110% free if you come take them away. I'll even give you a beer and help load them.

With the rear end clear of garbage I mocked up the C4 Rear End. The frame is on stands and I need to remove the bed, ride height is obviously going to change.

*Warning Gratuitous rear end pics below*

A slight notching of the frame may be in my future, but who cares at this point.

The whole assemble clears the stock gas tank and the trailing arms mounts clear the outer edges of the frame rail. My two biggest fears of this swap have already been alleviated.

The joys and wonders of 80's GM Black Magic. Apparently these center cap locks are actually a keyed interface with more than 100 different possible keys. From what I've read there are four ways to determine which lock you have:

     1) Already have the key or the 5 digit code to order a new one

     2) Look at the key code is on the outside of the screw head which is unreadable when mounted

     3) Send a picture to the company that did this for GM in the 80's and if they can determine which key it is they will send me a new one for a small fee

     4) Berkeley the Corvette Tax and drill the motherberkelying things out. Replace with metric socket head cap screws

I will be opting for the fourth option because metal shaving and power tools are more fun then buying over-priced obsolescence.

I need to locate another 255/45/17 tire to put on my bare wheel or wait until my friend with a C4 puts his C6Z wheels on and poach his C4 wheels off of him.  New bushing kit, shim kit and Hazard Fraught shop press are on my shopping list as optional currently those would eat into what I'm currently budgeting for new tires.

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/13/18 1:47 a.m.

Been a minute since I lasted posted.  I've been spending a lot of after work time on 3D printer stuff rather than rearranging the garage and working on the truck like I should be. 

I did pick up a new set of rolling stock this week. SLP C4 ZR1 17x8  with some old 235/45/17.  The date codes on these Potenzas puts them back to a time when the Iraq War was still a new thing, Lord of the Rings movies were all the rage and I was learning long division.  While old tires would normally deter me given the debatable demise of Brian O'Conner, these were a pretty slick deal and will be great for mockup and initial shakedown.

I put up a post in the Mighty Max and Ram50 facebook groups offering up the appendages and tires for free and to my surprise five minutes later I had a guy in my inbox that lived 40 minutes away that wanted to come pick the stuff up that second. I had to cool him down a little bit since the front suspension was still attached to the truck, still it's good to know I won't be forced to maintain ownership of the stock truck bits.  After that conversation I got to ripping the suspension off. Many ugga-duggas later the truck is in its kangaroo roo configuration.

A pile of obsolescence with Midwestern flavor flakes

I'm starting to realize I'm not very good at organization and I might be a little bit of a hoarder or rather a car parts adoption enthusiast.

There's less backspacing on these wheels, I will need about 3" of fender flare to cover the new rolling stock.

I'm thinking about doing something time attack/ Pikes Peak-ish. I really like the look of the open rear flairs, it just seems less stancey and ricey to me than the half moon riveted fender flair that everyone and their dog has on their slam'd nuf GTI.

pinchvalve GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/13/18 7:41 a.m.

run the smokewrench...I love that. 

MadScientistMatt PowerDork
5/14/18 8:10 a.m.

Very cool project! That C4 suspension lines up much better with the frame than I'd have ever expected.

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/14/18 12:06 p.m.
MadScientistMatt said:

Very cool project! That C4 suspension lines up much better with the frame than I'd have ever expected.

Thanks! I was surprised myself honestly too when it fit under there.  All of my measurements said it should work but I still doubted myself for some reason.  The frame might have to get notched slightly to allow the suspension to fit up higher but that's the worst I see happening.

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/14/18 1:42 p.m.

A guy from one of the Mighty Max Facebook groups came and picked up all of the stock truck suspension components and wheels yesterday.  He didn't look at me like I was completely  off my rocker when he saw the truck, so that was reassuring.  We talked for a quite while about crazy projects and weird little import trucks.

I have a lot more room in the garage now with all of that stuff gone and a lot more room on the underside of the truck. Next step is to fire up the plasma cutter and start removing unwanted metal from the frame and the C4 front clip.  I also need to sort through everything in the bed and find a home for that jumbled mess so I can remove the bed to do rear suspension and fuel system work.   

I thought this was a pretty cool picture that I found in my camera roll.  It kinda sums up the entropy and progression of the whole project and made me look back on this wild ride of a project.  I'm starting to feel like I'm actually making real progress on the truck which is something I really needed as this truck has really become a big part of my life in the last couple years.  The last year with this truck has felt like not a whole lot has happened in an almost disheartening sort of way.  I didn't feel like I was giving up on the truck just more like it was perpetuating itself and scope creep and budget were galloping away from me while I was trying to balance it with work and school still.  I'm reeling everything back in now, harnessing that entropy and continuing forward on a clear path.  Summer is coming, the girlfriend is graduating and moving back to the area so I won't be obligated to make a 4 hour drive every other weekend anymore.  That being said my next three weekends are already spoken for between her graduation, the Indy 500 and a road trip that consists of 3 National Parks and ST Octane academy.  The big wins are off in the distance, I just need to get better at doing the 10 minute mini-jobs when I have 10 free minutes.  The truck is finally nearing equilibrium, I don't think I can make it any crazier for the time being and I'm in too deep to ever turn back and try to simplify it, just as the second law states.  I need to learn this same balance of chaos and interject it into my own life.

Ram50Ron GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/21/18 10:37 a.m.

I've been contracting out my 3D printers like the street walkers they are to a friend from engineering school that designed a cup holder for a Honda CRX.  He designed a cup holder that fits into the ashtray slot and gives you a place to hold your favorite zesty drink. After he put a post up in one of the CRX Owners Facebook groups and got inundated with orders he reached out to me since I've helped him dial in his troublesome printer in the past, we struck a deal and my printers ran almost non-stop for the next 3 weeks.

I dropped off my last batch at his house last week we talked about how to make these faster on future orders, ideas for other 3D printed car parts and whether or not we should look into starting a side business doing this.  It was a fun little side project I got to play with my printers, I got paid and then I blew that money almost immediately on a set of tires for the truck.  I bought a set of Kumho Ecsta V720 in 255/40/17 on sale, paid for standard shipping and they showed up on my porch 40 hours later.  Shipping logistics are ridiculous nowadays and making shipping speeds just plain dumb.

MulletTruck Reader
5/21/18 1:21 p.m.

Sweet! Another Mini Truck! 

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