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'97 Tahoe Reformation -Official Build Thread 8.1L/4L80E Swap
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Post '97 Tahoe Reformation -Official Build Thread 8.1L/4L80E Swap 
So here it is - the kickoff of my build thread.

I'm new here and I am using your forum to document my adventure. I'm hoping that my experience will be enjoyed vicariously by others. Also, since I'll be endeavoring to do conversions, customizations and swaps that I've never tried before, I'm hoping to get a little advice from the forum contributors in exchange for my entertaining exploits.

Just a warning: this thread will be verbose. It will have a lot of pictures. I may tend to ramble or get off topic. It may end up being a dead thread, which I would be ashamed about, but I would still own up to. Regardless, my goal is to inspire, entertain, and document - not necessarily in that order.

With that said...here goes



Last edited by jakenatour on Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post The raison d'etre of this project 
As a little background, I will tell the story that led up to my interest in this project.


Perhaps out of a classic mid-life crisis, I have recently realized that I have spent the last few years denying the fabric of my existence. What does that mean, you ask? Well, my whole life I have maintained "projects" as a constant. But for the last few (5 or so) years I have used the age-old excuse "No time, no money". There is an additional excuse in my area: "No space".

What has this led to? Mostly just being busy, but also not having any fun anymore. I came to realize that I had forgotten how to let down, relax and do the things that I love to do. It's even got to the point where, when I would get some free time (which would happen, on average, once per quarter for about 15 minutes), I wouldn't know what to do with it and I would just find more work to do.

There was a particularly acute incident this summer that catalyzed the feeling into a real, tangible sense of frustration that was, of course, rooted in MY CHOICE OF VEHICLE. Here's the story, with all of its sordid details. WARNING: NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

Because I am a proud family man, our family car is a minivan. I know, I know...before you jump on the "I will NEVER own a minivan!!!" wagon, let me just extol the virtues of minivans for moment (before I tear them down). Before I had a minivan of my own, I, too, said I would never own one. But....when you are family of five with three kids under 5 years old, a minivan is the way to go. Loading and unloading kids into carseats, power sliding doors, seats for the grandparents/nanny to sit in, dozens of nooks and crannys to store all your kid stuff - the minivan has it all.

Our minivan of choice for the last 7 years is a 2000 Honda Odyssey. Whatever you do, don't buy this model. Why? Bad transmissions. Honda knew it and extended the warranty to 100,000 on the tranny for this model only. At 85,000 miles (in 2008), Honda replaced the transmission, no questions asked with 12 month, 10,000 mile warranty.

Fast forward to Christmas 2010. Fully loaded van, two adults, three kids and 500lbs of skiing gear cruising up a rural Highway to the lake at 530PM - dark, 30 degrees outside, snow piled up 5 feet on both sides of the highway. With 105,000 miles on the van (20,000 miles on transmission) the transmission completely fails 50 miles from our destination leaving us stranded on the side of the road. Two tows, 6 days and $3800 later, we had a new transmission with a 3 year, 36,000 warranty.

Fast forward to July 4, 2012. Fully loaded van, two adults, three kids and 500lbs of camping gear cruising up a rural highway to the lake at 530PM - light, 80 degrees outside, clear road on both sides of the highway. With 131,000 miles on the van (25,000 miles on transmission) the transmission completely fails 50 miles from our destination leaving us stranded on the side of the road. Two tows ($900), 12 days, one rental car to get us home ($300 for 9 days), and one car transport service to get our van from the lake to home ($300), we had a new warranty transmission with a 1 year, 10,000 warranty.

Clearly, a minivan is NOT a good vacation vehicle.

Perhaps you all knew that, but I needed a few VERY stressful events to get the message across. Meanwhile, that cursed minivan pretty much ruined my 4th of July vacation.

So, I vowed that my minivan will not leave the county, much less be a vehicle that we rely on to go on family vacations.

More to come tomorrow...



Last edited by jakenatour on Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Cut the sweet talk

http://www.mautofied.com/350-Vortec-Short-or-Long-Block_Complete-Engines/listing/100502335/

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Post The vehicle 
So, after returning home from the lake, bitter and frustrated by my vehicular mishaps, I vowed that the minivan was going to have a limited role in my life.

But....without either replacing it or buying another vehicle to use for family (or manly) excursions, we would be stuck never going anywhere. Not acceptable.

I paid $14k for the van 7 years ago (used, obviously - the only way to go, in my opinion).

Let's just say that I did replace the van with a new one, which, presumably, would be more reliable than the bucket of bolts which currently hauls us around. We're talking at least $15-20k. Not interested...

So, perhaps a beast of a sports mobile is more in order...my thoughts exactly.

Where to get it? That is the big question for us. Well, as it turns out, my mechanic has a vehicle that might just meet BOTH my need to re-establish meaningful projects in my life AND my family's need for a vacation vehicle. Hmmmmm........



Last edited by jakenatour on Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post The Deal 
My local auto shop has been my go to mechanic since I moved in 2004. Gary has owned the business for 30+ years. It is a family business and his son has worked closely with his dad at the shop over the last 10 yrs or so. If you were a friend of Gary (and he was friends with all of his regular customers) he would bend over backwards to help you out. He once turned my rotors and wouldn't let me pay for it when he found out I had just been laid off. As a result of his inherent niceness, there were customers' vehicles that remained on his lot for years at a time.

Sadly, Gary passed away about a year ago. One of the legacy vehicles he left behind was a 1997 Tahoe.






At 121,000 miles this vehicle required a new transmission (no surprise there - it being a 4L60E). The hapless owner paid $1200 to have it rebuilt (by some transmission idiot grease monkeys - names will be named later). At 122,000 miles, the engine threw a rod right through the oil pan. It was towed to the mechanic's. This was 2005. It sat there until...

Now I drive by their shop at least once a week and I would see this vehicle sitting. I asked Gary about it a few times, while he was still with us. He told me the story, but said he was holding it for the family. I noticed when some scumbags stole the wheels/tires and left it sitting on blocks. It sat that way for several years. I also notice when wheels and tires reappeared under it's chassis.

Since Gary's passing, his son has taken over the shop. He and I have a decent friendship and I've been in regular contact with him, especially since his Dad died.

My minivan experience prompted me to ask the son what he wanted to do with the vehicle. He wanted it gone. I offered him $750. He said yes. Done deal.



Last edited by jakenatour on Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post Where do I put it? 
Now, as I mentioned in my intro, we have a space issue when it comes to projects like this. I don't have a garage, since I converted the tiny, one-car garage into living space and left myself about 100 sqft of shop space (more like a shop closet).

So, before I could commit to buying this vehicle, I would have to figure out where I was going to work on it. A big issue, since the space would have to be large enough, in the right location, secure and cheap.

This was also a big deal for my wife, who made it clear that she would only support this endeavor under the right conditions:
- The project needs to be about BUILDING family, not a man-cave for me disappear in for days/weeks at a time. Need to include kids and friends as much as possible.
- It was NOT going to happen in our driveway (a no-brainer, since my driveway is 8 feet wide and 18 feet long)
- It was NOT going to consume my focus (This is a challenging one for me - friends and family will help me with this)

Now, to be clear, my wife is awesome, incredible and extremely supportive and allows me to indulge in all kinds of crazy pursuits. She knows that projects and offroad vehicles are part of what makes me tick. But, we are also a Christian family and we do our best (failing, but always trying) to put God and Godly priorities first in our lives.

With that in mind, we both resolved that, if this project was going to happen, we would pray that it would fall into place, piece by piece, so that it was obvious that it is meant to be. This whole project was therefore contingent on our ability to acquire a space in which to do this. She and I added it to our prayer list and I was able to string the mechanic along while we prayed and I did some homework...

I work in a fairly industrial area and I spent quite a few afternoons driving around looking for industrial space that I might be able to sublet. I inquired at a few places and there were a few prospects but nothing perfect. Until...

I love Craigslist. I thought it unlikely that I would find something affordable there, but, after spending enough hours driving around, I decided to look at the listings in Craigslist to see what I could find...

In two days I found something that looked promising. I called a dude named Scooter and he said he had a 10' x 18' space to rent me for $1.25/ft. I was intrigued. I went a saw it. I loved it.

Secure, clean, 24x7 access.

It is a 180 sqft parking space in a 4000 sqft shop.

It has a LIFT

It has AIR

It has almost every tool imaginable - and yes, I can use them all for the cost of the rent

It even has a fridge and a shower.

I gave Scooter a check said it was a done deal.

Sweet. I guess it was meant to be Very Happy



Last edited by jakenatour on Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post The project is ON! 
Since all the pieces just fell into place, it was time to start moving.

A call to AAA towing got the vehicle from the mechanic's lot to my house. I needed to give the truck a bath and load some things into it before it's trip to its new home at Scooter's shop.

We gave the truck a serious scrubbing (8 yrs of dust - even some moss) and I loaded my 800 lb tool box and my welder, along with all my other shop stuff into the back, strapped it down and called AAA again.








This time we had the tow truck guy grab it from the rear so it could be placed into the shop nose first. Doing so resulted in the oil from the oil pan bleeding all over the street in front of my house (remember the connecting rod? No, I didn't). You can see the large pile of cat litter soaking up the three quarts of oil.






Turns out the flatbed couldn't swing into the shop entrance, so we winched the Tahoe up the ramp and into the shop. The winch was struggling to pull the 6000 lbs Tahoe with the 1000 lbs of gear in the back. But we got it in.


Here's a pic of it in it's resting place after I removed the wheels to get better access to the engine bay.






Last edited by jakenatour on Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post What are the planned mods? 
So, perhaps you are wondering what the planned list of modifications.

I've been doing a lot of research here (and the other forums and 4 wheel websites) and this is my preliminary list. It will obviously morph with time.

Since it was a failed transmission that got me into this project, but number one goal is going to be BULLETPROOF DRIVETRAIN. With that in mind, I'm thinking about the following:

- GM Performance HT383E Stroker (P/N 17800393) (retain existing fuel delivery)
- CAI with snorkel
- Headers/Dual exhaust
- 4L80E swap
- Geared Differentials (4.10 maybe)
- ARB Air Locker Rear only
- BDS Suspension 6" lift (AAL with blocks in rear - maybe upgrade to Skyjacker rear replacement springs)
- 35" MT Tires
- Custom Front and Rear Bumpers
- Roll Cage


Things I'm not considering for the short term, but might consider down the road:

- Marine intake
- FF Rear axle
- Front Solid Axle swap
- ECM swap

That's it for now. I'll give updates soon.

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Wow, sounds good. Nice to see this truck getting some love, it's sad to say there may not be another GM truck platform as satisfying to own and reliable as the GMT400. 4.10 gears with a 4L80-E and those tires will give you a 65mph RPM of 1830. That's pretty good.

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Quite the read there bud. Wish you good luck with your project. It's also my objective to make my Tahoe bullet proof, but not in so many words hehe. Razz


I like what Ian did with the Blazer:

http://www.powerblocktv.com/player/show_player.php?ep_show=XT&ep_num=XT2011-03

http://www.powerblocktv.com/player/show_player.php?ep_show=XT&ep_num=XT2011-06

http://www.powerblocktv.com/player/show_player.php?ep_show=XT&ep_num=XT2011-07

http://www.powerblocktv.com/player/show_player.php?ep_show=XT&ep_num=XT2011-10

http://www.powerblocktv.com/player/show_player.php?ep_show=XT&ep_num=XT2011-15

14bolt axle 101
http://www.powerblocktv.com/player/show_player.php?ep_show=XT&ep_num=XT2011-09


If you want even more reliability, why not go LS with your ECM swap
LSX
http://www.powerblocktv.com/player/show_player.php?ep_show=XT&ep_num=XT2010-22


I like this style of bumpers
http://www.buckstop.biz/chevy-gmc_90s.html



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@James thanks for the quick calc on the freeway RPM. That sounds like a good spot. 4.10 it is.

@Crazy I warned you I was verbose Wink

I will check out those Ian videos later. Thanks the links.

LS? Hmmm....

I REALLY like that bumper, too. I hope to be able to replicate something like it with my mediocre welding skills. The good news is that next door to the shop is a very friendly blacksmith. I might actually get that bumper made...

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Post Custom Oil Pan 
Here is a shot of the reason I got this truck for $750




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Post The work begins 
So, now that it's in the shop and ready to be worked on, the real fun begins.



Here's a pic of the Engine before anything was removed. Nothing special, just capturing it for posterity. One immediately notices how stinking dirty it is. I hate working on dirty motors...






Removed the brushguard





With some of the plastic and the AC compressor off the motor, notice the rat crap all over the intake. The good news is that the rats didn't chew up any wiring.







More tomorrow.

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swapping in a 6.0L/4l80e combo would be bullet proof and also no mods to the drive shafts. no more intake gasket, poppett-injector failures, transmission or distributor issues.
you can buy a used COMPLETE setup and bolt in for under 2500 bux and be way ahead.... and it looks like rats "may" have had their way in that engine bay... make sure the wiring hasnt been eaten. if you swap to a 6.0/80e a new harness and ecm come with the take off also

edit.... oops, just saw u posted about the rat poop



Last edited by stroker97k1500 on Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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stroker97k1500 wrote:
swapping in a 6.0L/4l80e combo would be bullet proof and also no mods to the drive shafts. no more intake gasket, poppett-injector failures, transmission or distributor issues.
you can buy a used COMPLETE setup and bolt in for under 2500 bux and be way ahead.... and it looks like rats "may" have had their way in that engine bay... make sure the wiring hasnt been eaten. if you swap to a 6.0/80e a new harness and ecm come with the take off also



+1

100 times over.

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Looks like fun but ya know condoms prevent minivans lol

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Post 6.0 L / 80e Swap 
@Stroker97 That's a very intriguing idea, especially since the GM Stroker alone is $4600.

What is the 6.0 litre typically found in? Is there a model year that's a best fit for the GMT400?

Regarding drive lines: no mods needed assuming I get txfr case with the 6.0/80e? Or are you suggesting to grab the drive lines along with the rest?

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Post Re: 6.0 L / 80e Swap 
jakenatour wrote:
@Stroker97 That's a very intriguing idea, especially since the GM Stroker alone is $4600.

What is the 6.0 litre typically found in? Is there a model year that's a best fit for the GMT400?

Regarding drive lines: no mods needed assuming I get txfr case with the 6.0/80e? Or are you suggesting to grab the drive lines along with the rest?

you can use the current driveshaft and axles... but you can use your current t-case(just install the new input gear in the t case to mesh with the tailshaft of the 80e) (27vs32 spline) and get a 4x4 4l80e tranny
the 2001 6.0 lq4 is cable driven throttle body... later ones use drive by wire and require more effort

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Post Re: 6.0 L / 80e Swap 
jakenatour wrote:
@Stroker97 That's a very intriguing idea, especially since the GM Stroker alone is $4600.

What is the 6.0 litre typically found in? Is there a model year that's a best fit for the GMT400?

Regarding drive lines: no mods needed assuming I get txfr case with the 6.0/80e? Or are you suggesting to grab the drive lines along with the rest?


http://www.crateenginedepot.com/60-Ltr-366-CID-GM-ENGINE-2002-2007-New-89018179-P10580C719.aspx

89018179 LQ9 6.0 Engine 300 - 325 Horsepower

The LQ9 or Vortec 6000 is a V-8 truck/ Sport utility engine. It is a bored version of the Vortec 5300 that displaces 6.0L from its 101.6mm bore and 92mm stroke.
The LQ9 uses an iron block and aluminum heads, and in produciton form produces 300-325 hp and 360-370 lb.-ft. of torque. New!!

LQ9
2004 2007 CHEV/GMC PICKUP,SUBURBAN,YUKON (CK1)
2002 2003 CHEV/GMC PICKUP,SUBURBAN,YUKON (K1)

http://www.crateenginedepot.com/All-60-62-65-Liter-V8-Goodwrench-Engines-C719.aspx

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Welcome aboare, Jake. And, it's no longer "your forum", it's "our forum." As long as you're doing it as we do, ie building your rig the way you want it and not throwing a bunch of whining hissy fits, you're golden.

On the 4L60E vs 4L80E concerning driveline, the 4L80E is a longer transmission so it will require that the front driveshaft be lengthened and the rear driveshaft be shortened. It's not much to have this done. I think it cost me about 200 bucks to have it done for my GMT800 truck, should be about the same for yours depending on how much they charge for labor. You will be able to reuse the existing trans crossmember, you should already even have the holes drilled in your frame to allow you to slide it back. At worst, you will have to drill the holes.

I also concur with the rest of them, go with the 6.0L LS style engine. From the factory they'll do what you want, and a simple cam swap can pull over 100HP more out of it. On top of that you can have full tuning access via EFI Live, which allows you to tune the truck almost as though you were a General Motors programmer.

Consider installing electric fans as you go as well. No need to concern yourself over towing with them, as GM has been using them since 2006 in their trucks. It may require a slightly wider radiator. You can use the 2006 Silverado as a basis for parts on this to see how your existing radiator stacks up. There are also several options for controlling the radiator, we can get to that when the time comes.

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