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'97 Tahoe Reformation -Official Build Thread 8.1L/4L80E Swap
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Chevy 97 wrote:
It has been awhile since I last read about your vehicle, looking really good. Like your bumper and the spare tire carrier.


Thanks - I'm loving it. She is really fun to drive. All torque but smooth as butter (except for the axle wrap chatter at take off).



Last edited by jakenatour on Sun May 08, 2016 5:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post Third row added 
Hey all,

Just getting around to updating more work that was done earlier this summer.

I had been to the local Pick n Pull last year during their half off sale and grabbed a leather third row seat from a Suburban with the intention to eventually get it installed. Now I have three kids and they don't always get along well enough to sit in the same bench seat. More than a few times I was wishing they were far apart during travels. A planned boys camping trip with a good friend and his two boys became the motivation for me to prioritize this project.

I started by folding back the carpet and placing the bench seat onto the body pan. I used a sharpie to mark the location of the mounting points with careful attention paid to the amount of leg room and keeping the bench centered and orthogonal to the vehicle.

Blacksmith Allen had some 3" x 10" box steel that I cut into sections which would become the boxes within which the pins would be mounted. Here's a pic that shows that marking and one of the box sections.



I then used a die grinder to cut out openings for the boxes in their proper locations.

The next step was to create the pins within the boxes to receive the seat mounts. I used grade 8 bolts slipped into drilled holes crossways into the boxes. I cut off the heads and threads and welded them into the boxes. The depth of the pins relative to the floor of the truck was important and I did a lot of measurements and estimations. It turned out to be just right - a little on the snug side, but the carpet and padding settle in and make it fit perfect.



I then took some steel plate and welded each box onto a square.



Using a die grinder and a hole saw, I cut slots into the plate to accommodate the carpet covers that will be mounted within them.



Alignment was my biggest challenge. At each step, I was using a tape measure and the actual bench to make sure it was going to land where I wanted it and that the spacing between the mounting points was correct. It was painstaking, but it paid off.

Two of the boxes had to be shaped to accommodate frame stuff underneath. This pic shows the rear shock directly under the location of the box. I had to create a dent in the rear of the box to create clearance. Also, I had to weld in a thin bottom to the boxes to seal them from the undercarriage elements. I actually used the steel that I cut out of the floorpan for this. The weld had to be thin to maintain clearance, so I had to finish the sealing with marine silicone. I also used it to seal around the plate before welding.




Here's a shot of all four boxes welded into place.



I was thoughtful enough to grab the carpet covers when I grabbed the bench seat and I'm glad I did. It took some patience and iterations to get the carpet pad and carpet trimmed properly, but the end result looked very factory.




Here's a shot of the seat mount close up.


And here's the seat in and in use.






Last edited by jakenatour on Sun May 08, 2016 5:27 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post AC lines and Cone Filter installed 
Two more projects also completed more recently.

AC - what a big deal to have this summer. On my camping trip I didn't have it and we were stuck in getaway traffic in Tracy when it was 100 degrees outside - she was cooking us.

My condenser was trashed from the removal two years ago when the line nut seized on the condenser and destroyed the threads. The same thing happened to the liquid line from evaporator to condenser. Went to Pick n Pull and got a new compressor (just in case) and a condenser. Got a new liquid line from the dealer, the expansion orifice and accumulator from Napa Auto Parts and took the truck to the AC line fabrication technician in San Jose. The place is called Sease's Auto. Danny did quality work, but it was pricey - just over $500 for the two lines that he fabricated from the factory compressor manifold.

Once I got it all together and charged with Freon, it turns out the original compressor leaked like a sieve from the compressor housing. I lost all of the Freon in 24 hrs. I dropped in the junk yard compressor and it fixed the problem. I recharged the system and it now runs cold.

Also, I got the Spectre air intake system installed. It was a nice upgrade that added a very slight pedal response improvement, a nice growl at WOT, and a nice visual touch with the polished aluminum on the engine.








Here's a shot showing the cold air intake solution. I was able to use the factory airbox passthrough into the fender. It just happened to be 4" diameter, like the rest of the intake system.





Last edited by jakenatour on Sun May 08, 2016 5:28 am; edited 2 times in total
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Post One more addition 
Got this at the DMV a few months ago. So glad it was available.





Last edited by jakenatour on Sun May 08, 2016 5:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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Yeah I had considered "well maybe it does have some play in the latch." So for light wheeling over the short term I think it would hold up. In the long run I don't see it lasting, it will have a lot of leverage on the sheet metal even during street driving everytime you accelerate hard or brake hard it will pull back and then push forward (not greatly but enough to cause issue over time especially with that size tire) and even if it's enough to pop the latch causing it to swing out and then shatter the window on re-entry, it would still suck to take out the door and window in one shot.

I've also literally seen guys rip welded brackets off during hardcore wheeling. My brother for example had a simple A-frame welded on to a horizontal bar with a trailer bearing hinge and had a piece of acme thread and a large nut with two pieces of round stock welded on it to make a large wing nut to secure it. Not only did the round stock wedge on a tree and break at one point, but over time the forward/backward motion of accel/braking fatigue his welds on the 1/4 wall he used, so he eventually came down off of a ledge, catching the tire on the ledge and ripped the whole upper part of his carrier off of the trailer bearing.

I'm a firm believer in building something not only bullet proof but bombproof, which is even part of the reason I went with a doubler over an atlas after a conversation with Steve Watson at Off-road Design, he said quote "I've seen several guys break several Atlas T-cases. I've seen ONE guy break ONE input shaft on the 205 section of a doubler and he's was doing something really [really] stupid. Your truck is going to be a pig (considering weight) anyway so the added weight is worth the strength."

But very nice job on the truck, I'm secretly very jealous yours is running now.

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Post Re: One more addition 
jakenatour wrote:
Got this at the DMV a few months ago. So glad it was available.



Great, great build...and I love the fact you were able to get your Plate! It's been brought up several times as to gas mileage...about how bad these 8.1L are gas guzzlers!! Since you've had yours on the road for a while now...do you mind sharing what kind of gas mileage you're getting? Both in the city and hwy...and if you've done any towing?

I have a buddy that has an 81L in his 04' 2500HD with the Allison 5 speed trans....he pulls a solid 10mpg in town, towing or not! Then he moves up to 12mpg on the hwy empty...towing 7-8! Just wondering if you're doing better with a much lighter set-up.

Thanks again for a great write up. And also thanks for all the member that posted and helped you out along the way!

Russel
Happy Trails

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Post Re: One more addition 
RussBadDmax wrote:


Great, great build...and I love the fact you were able to get your Plate! It's been brought up several times as to gas mileage...about how bad these 8.1L are gas guzzlers!! Since you've had yours on the road for a while now...do you mind sharing what kind of gas mileage you're getting? Both in the city and hwy...and if you've done any towing?

I have a buddy that has an 81L in his 04' 2500HD with the Allison 5 speed trans....he pulls a solid 10mpg in town, towing or not! Then he moves up to 12mpg on the hwy empty...towing 7-8! Just wondering if you're doing better with a much lighter set-up.

Thanks again for a great write up. And also thanks for all the member that posted and helped you out along the way!

Russel
Happy Trails


Thanks for your thoughts. It was a great journey and I continue to enjoy it.

My gas mileage is pretty crummy. Around town its probably only about 8-9. My truck is approaching 6000 lbs, so I'm not sure how much lighter it is vs other GMTs. If I have it on cruise control at 70-75mph over a full tank, I'm probably getting 11-13. Not much worse than comparable HP engines, from what I've heard.

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Post Transfer case 4HI to 4LO problem solved 
For completeness of the build thread, I'm including a mention of the fix here.

Earlier in the thread, it was noted that the transfer case would not shift from HI to LO. I spent the last few weeks troubleshooting the problem.

I ended up adding a switch to two of the inputs to the Transfer Case Control Module.

See the details here : http://www.pacificp.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=13192

It works now - not exactly in the factory fashion, but it works.

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Post Keyless Entry Receiver/Control Module added 
Also, since my truck didn't come with the keyless entry option, while I was at the junk yard a few months ago, I grabbed a factory receiver/control module (with the connector pigtailed) for $20.

My thought was I would plug it in to the existing harness, assuming that the plugs were there, as an option for any harness.

Wrong.

The wiring is actually different for the two options - two different chassis harnesses.

I debated on whether to just buy an alarm system and install that instead of the factory unit. I finally landed on just adding what I had figuring I could add an alarm later.

The control unit I grabbed was from a '99, which had one extra wire than the '97 diagram had. A quick google search showed me the extra wire was for the horn hookup.

Got it all wired in while I had the dash apart for the Transfer Case wiring. Worked on the first try. It doesn't have any security feature to it, like I was hoping, but at least I have keyless entry now. Less wear on my key and lock mechanism.

Guess I'm just a glutton for punishment when it comes to GMT400 wiring challenges Very Happy

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Post Paint! 
Hey all. It's been a while. Hope you're all doing well. I've been tinkering every chance I get; between my consulting job, 3 kids in little league baseball and trying to keep my marriage and friendships intact, there's not much time for tinkering!

Anyhoo - In November I set a goal to have her painted before departure for our holiday vacation on New Year's. That left about 4 weeks to get all the prep done.

One of the redeeming values of this truck when I bought it was that the body was very straight. Except for the clear coat being completely sun-baked, the condition was good.

I stripped off all the front and rear bumpers and lights. I thought that the only rust I had to deal with was the roof surface rust where the clear and paint had blown through. There were also a few dings and dents I planned to bondo over while I was at it. The hood ended up being a lot of prep since the paint was "chicken feet" cracked all the way to the metal. Had to strip off all the factory paint and primer.

The painter convinced me that removal of the factory rubber strips that run the length of the truck would be a cosmetic improvement and, if I didn't agree, I could put them back on after painting. So they came off. Very glad I did, since there was some serious rust going on underneath. It added a lot to my prep work since I had to grind, treat, fill and primer all those spots (most of the passenger side).

Here's a few shots of the prep work.








Also, I took the time to roll the front fenders where I was having significant rubbing of the 35inch tires when bumping hard while cornering. I am clearly not a body guy, but after grinding, primer and paint they don't look terrible. I also plan to install mud flaps over them to keep the spatter off my doors and mirrors, so the hack work will be hidden (I hope).






My original plan was to go to Earl Sheib or Maaco for a $700 single stage enamel paint job and be done with it. I found a local painter who was willing to shoot real paint in a booth for only twice that price, so I bit the bullet and had him do it. It was a little bit of a nightmare (someone tried to steal stereo parts while he had it) and it ended up costing $1700, but I'm glad I went with high quality PPG paint, instead of cheapo.

As far as the color - I was a little surprised when I got it back. I thought I had picked out a grey with a blue tinge. I ended up more blue than grey. Regardless, I'm happy with the color now - it is very unique and not a cop magnet.






Last edited by jakenatour on Sun May 08, 2016 5:28 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post Exhaust upgrade 
No pics, but just a quick update on this: I persevered through one delay after another getting in to Todd at Exhaust Works in Belmont. By all accounts he does great work, but he's a one man shop and is over worked.

Finally got my 22" long Magnaflow installed from cat back. $400 installed. Two 3" diameter pipes from the cats, piped in to a two-in, one-out Magnaflow. The output pipe from the muffler was a 4" diameter, pretty much following the factory exhaust path. The 4" pipe sticking out where the sagging 3" factory outlet usually goes on a GMT400, makes her look like a diesel, for sure.

She doesn't sound like a diesel, though.

I was almost immediately very satisfied with the muffler selection. I waffled for a long time on which muffler to pick. There are a million choices.

The Magnaflow 22" has a nice growl, it especially sounds mean right at start up, then settles down. On the freeway with the TCC engaged, it doesn't wear out the driver or passenger with a drone, but it announces it presence nicely at WOT at any speed. Very pleased.



Last edited by jakenatour on Sun May 08, 2016 5:29 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post Electronics fun 
After my experience with the painter (people in my truck, doing who knows what to it), I suddenly got urgent about protecting it more securely.

After perusing on Amazon for a while, I came across an affordable GPS Tracker http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0095BJZ7O/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.

I figure for $40, I didn't have much to lose.

Got it. Bench tested in. Works. Cool. This nifty little box will allow me to use a PC or my phone to track anywhere my truck is. I can arm, interrogate or disarm using text messages from my phone. I have it wired to the doors, ignition on, and a siren so it is used as an alarm which will have an audible alarm as well as send out text messages if triggered. Additionally, once I complete the wiring, I can shut off the fuel pump with a text message.

Integrated it cleanly into the rear fender electrical box I created, where the jack used to go.

Inside you will see the GPS unit, the 800W AC inverter, the Solar Panel Charge Controller and the cutoff switch.




I've also wired in a push button volt meter to tell me the RV battery condition. Next to that is the AC receptacle with remote inverter start.




"Solar panel?" you ask...

"Where will that go?" I'm glad you asked...

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Post Roof Rack under construction 
The solar panel will get mounted under the safari-style roof rack that is currently under construction.

I started with a harbor freight hitch receiver cargo rack for the nice steel 90 degree bends




I then used $100 of raw material from the local metal supply and welded on perimeter and center rungs to complete the framework.








I now have a 4' x 7' cage which I will begin to modify to hold the solar panel, off-road accessories, and anything else I need to throw up there.

I'll update when I can.

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Wow... nice. Just keeps getting better Cool

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Nice Rack!



Haha.. Get it?

Looks good man

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Nytmarek5 wrote:
Nice Rack!



Haha.. Get it?

Looks good man


OMG - Too Funny!!

Truck looks fantastic - amazing work!

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Sweet.

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Thanks for the comments. It's been a fun ride so far.

I gotta say I'm very impressed how far the GPS technology has come. Simply activating a SIM card for $10/mo allows configuration of the $40 tracker unit to send out GPRS signals every 30 sec when ignition is on. All configuration is done through SMS. The mobile app is a little clunky but very functional.

Here's a screen shot.



The cell antenna is mounted in the window above the compartment and mounted the GPS antenna on the roof next to the brake light.

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Very nice. Can you get some pics of the paint in the sunlight? Looks like a very nice color on it.

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You've been busy. Did the thief's get away with anything?

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