Wow, I just found this section on the forum. Great to see so many off-roaders who are also RVers. I wish more members of our Jeep club had RVs to be able to travel with but we are the only ones so far.
My wife and I have had 4x4's our entire married life (23 years now) and she jokes with me that the truck I had in high school is what first drew her attention. I don't think I care for that comment.
I don't have any digital pictures of it but it is one that I wish I had back. It was a 1984 Chevrolet shortbed that I had a 6" Rancho lift kit w/36" tires on it. I bought it wrecked because I couldn't afford a ready to run truck being a poor high school student. Unfortunately GM was putting those wimpy 305 cubic inch small block POS engines in their 1/2 ton trucks at the time. As soon as I got it running and on the road and saw how anemic the powertrain was I started collecting parts for the buildup. I immediately built up a 400 cid small block and backed it with a TH400 transmission. I had also stuck a 14-bolt corporate full-floating rear axle under it and a Dana 44 big hubbed front axle out of an early 70's 3/4 ton GM truck. I painted it Charcoal Gray with Black Sapphire Firemist insert down the sides.
I ran the truck with this configuration for two years until I ran across a 396 cid big block that a buddy was selling after totalling his 72 Chevelle. I snatched the motor and tore it down to have the machine work done on it. I had it bored .030" over which took it to a 402 cubic inch engine and then started collecting parts for the swap from junkyards. It required some major changes to cooling system, motor mounts and a few other odds and ends as I was going from a small block that the truck came with to a big block which was not available in 1/2 ton trucks. Once I collected all of the parts and tried to have as many things ready as possible such as all brackets and parts bead blasted and painted and sitting ready to go. I tore into it and borrowed my dad's truck for a few days to drive while I did the motor swap. This was right after the wife and I got married, she was very understanding of my sickness.
We kept the truck for a couple more years until we found out we were having a baby. At that time I started focusing on something with a little more room. I found a wrecked 1991 GM 3/4 ton truck and grabbed the engine, wiring and computer out of it because I knew whatever I would build would have a big block Chevrolet in it and I had wanted to start playing with the newer fuel injected engines. I tore the engine down and built it up with new hypereutectic pistons (.030" over), ported the heads, Crower Beast camshaft, Harland Sharpe roller rockers, Milidon oil sump/pan, Doug Thorley Tri-Y headers and many other performance parts. Once the engine was built and sitting on a stand ready for a new home I set my sights on finding a truck. I considered a full-size Blazer but I was really drawn to the beast of a Suburban and thought I would build a bada$$ Suburban.
I found a fairly well maintained 1986 Chevrolet 3/4 ton Suburban and started the build. I thought I would focus on the mechanical aspects first and get it where I wanted it prior to working on paint & body. I stripped the front end off of it and transplanted the new engine into it's home. This was quite easy now as this was about the fourth GM truck that I had swapped in a big block in place of the small block. I had all of the part numbers and parts needed written down from my first one. I painted the front of the frame while I had the front clip off. The engine went into the new truck without a hitch and ran great right from the start.
Next I built up the front axle with some new stub shafts, better hubs and brakes. I then searched and found another 14-bolt corporate for the rear and swapped that in along with a disc brake conversion for the rear and Eaton TrueTracs both front and rear.
About two years after starting the Suburban project I was happy with the foundation but the body needed serious attention. I cut out and replaced the couple of spots where rust had gotten ahold and stripped the entire truck down to the bare shell for a new paint job. The interior was in immaculate condition other than the two front seats were showing a little wear. While I was doing the paint & body I had the two front seats re-upholstered and the guy did an awesome job matching it to the other seats.
The body came out flawless and looked great sporting a bright white paint job with some Cadillac silver along the bottom ( the silver was left over from the Cadillac STS buildup of my dad's a year prior). My BIL had passed away a year prior and my sister gave me a bumper that he had in his garage for a winch. I tore it down and had it chromed and found a used Warn 12k pound winch for the front. I had also built some axle trusses for the axles. My wife and I liked the Suburban and owned it for a total of 13 years. We used it for my daily driver and our weekend wheeler as well as used it to tow our snowmobiles to the mountains 2-3 weekends a month during the winter and our sand toys to the dunes during the summer.
Here are a few pictures of our 1986 Suburban.