In this era of audio-visual learning, I have been building an instructional library at Vimeo On Demand, the best use of my time and a worthwhile means for serving the needs of 4x4 light truck owners. This exchange with a thoughtful forum Member characterizes a choice that many consumers make today:
6-11-2018 Forum Member Question:
'"I would like to first off apologize for burdening you with this question, but I have read a lot of your stuff and feel you would be the man to talk to about this particular topic. I understand you are a firm promoter of the restoration of vehicles and know which vehicles are worth restoring. I have a 1979 GMC K 2500 that has 185,000 km's on it. I am the second owner of the truck, after my great uncle passed away and left it to me. The original engine is in decent shape and it runs well, but it could use a tune up. The body is in rough shape with rust around the wells and a nice dent in the door. I used it for a few years until I saved up enough money to buy something newer, and it has since set in my back yard waiting for the time when I can restore it with my son. Isn't that always the story?
All that aside, I will get to my predicament. My wife is in full clean up mode after our recent decision to move and my truck was the first on the chopping block. Reluctantly , I came to grips with letting go of this truck as I am just starting my career and don’t have the time or money at the moment, so she posted it online for $1,750. Within an hour she had 50 people calling wanting to buy it, one of which was willing to drive over 1,000 km's to pick it up! This made us think that the truck may be worth holding onto, instead of letting go because it is inconvenient to keep at the moment. After spending a few days researching costs and the like, I have a good idea of how much it will cost to restore and the amount of time required to do so. I am willing and able to do the work, but I wanted to see if it was actually a truck worth restoring or if I should capitalize on the interest now and then pick another up later when I have the time. Of course, this is taking all the sentimental value out of the machine, but you get what I mean.
I am sure you know better than most, it is a hard decision to financially commit to a project like this. Especially, if you are like me and have to do everything right and easily develop an obsession about ensuring that the project is seen through right to the end...Dune Wolf"
Moses Ludel's Reply:
Dune...First off, this truck is in the cohort of the best G.M. light trucks ever built. 1971-79 K2500 trucks have superior equipment and engineering to any model ever assembled. They drive well and live up to all expectations. They are readily serviceable and rugged, with the best axles, transfer case, power steering and chassis in the industry—then or today.
If the truck has a manual transmission and NP205 gear drive transfer case, it would be my top pick for a 3/4-ton 4x4 pickup. The Turbo 350 is livable but not as stout as a THM400, a choice G.M. made for all light 4x4s except the somewhat rarer K3500 SRW and dually trucks. A THM350 is a relatively simple transmission to rebuild.
That said, the truck is not "new" and does need the work you describe. As for mileage, we bought an immaculate 1987 K2500 4x4 Suburban at 160,000 miles that had a documented G.M. crate motor installed at 160K. We sold the vehicle to a friend at 180,000 miles, and the Suburban is still running well at over 300,000 miles with the use of Mobil 1 engine oil. Without romanticizing, these trucks are simply better built than all others. Period.
Another anecdote: We had a 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer that wife Donna loved to drive, I kept it to my high standards of preventive care and service, it was a wonderful vehicle. We got a "hair" to trade the Jeep on a new Liberty in 2002. The dealership nearly begged us to not force a trade-in and reluctantly gave us a $1500 allowance. (We paid $6500 for the FSJ gem three years prior.) That vehicle/model has since become a cult classic. Ours would sell today for $15,000. A big lesson...
The choice is yours. If you either do your own work or can have access to a reliable shop for restorative work, compare your great uncle's 2-owner vehicle with today's complex G.M. or other trucks that are extremely expensive to service and nearly impossible to fix. Try a Duramax with a cab and front clip removal to replace the turbocharger. Or maybe a new Ford F150 with the 3.5L twin-turbo V-6 certain to fail under load. The Ford 6.0L and 6.4L diesels have cost owners tens of thousands in major repairs. As a footnote, there is not a single electronic module in that '79 G.M. truck. The ignition module and radio are the only "electronic" devices.
My 50-plus years of professional skill at wrenching have been a major coup. I have a wedge against inflation and no compulsion to invest in new vehicles that depreciate like a rock. The replacement for our 2005 Ram Cummins 4x4 is now priced at over $70K MSRP. We may never buy another new vehicle as a matter of principle.
In this era of audio-visual learning, I am shifting from print media to creating a video library at Vimeo On Demand that will meet 4x4 light truck consumer needs. The aim is to produce HD videos that raise the competency of DIY techs, guys and gals willing to buy a truck like your prized '79 K2500 4x4 and restore it to ultra-reliable condition.
A $12000-$20,000 investment in your truck would be worth every single dime. Sublet the body and paint to a highly competent shop that can eliminate rust issues; reupholster the seat and restore the interior; perform any mechanical work needed. Do the work to factory workshop standards and restore the truck to its original condition.
Snag a copy of my Chevrolet & GMC Light Truck Owner's Bible® (Bentley Publishers, available at Amazon, Advance Adapters or from Bentley), you'll see how much I appreciate your truck...That book was written with your truck clearly in mind. Great armchair reading in your wintertime.