You know, over the past few months I've received a huge amount of letters and emails here, and it seems as though the vast majority of them have mentioned the fact that they're building a classic truck on a budget. Well, I'd venture to say that makes it virtually unanimous. We're all building on a budget. Unfortunately, some folks' budgets are bigger than others. Now don't take that comment the wrong way; I'm not being a wise guy or thumbing my nose at low-buck, shoestring classic truckers. In fact, I could be the poster child for the down-and-out enthusiast-but I've always managed to have a pretty bitchin ride in the driveway while keeping food on the table at the same time.
Perhaps the most repeated statement in these letters goes something like: "Sure, I'd love to have a $3,500 (insert your brand of choice here) IFS unit, but I don't have the cash." A few years ago, I used to think the same way. In fact, in the early days I didn't even bother to send for manufacturer's catalogs because I thought I couldn't afford those high-dollar components. Heck, I figured I'd just trudge off to my local boneyard, drop a few bucks on a front clip, and be on my merry way-home run, game over. Well, was I ever in for an education! I think what led me to see the light was the last time I spent the better part of a cold, damp, Saturday wandering through the picturesque confines of Elmo's Used Auto Parts. I'd finally come across what I thought was a pretty solid donor car. And after giving it as good a looking over as I could (given it was sitting in the dirt on four flats), I then spent another hour or so finding Elmo, only to have to practically drag him over to show him where the Camaro was resting so he could have one of his employees dismantle the thing for me. Once I got it loaded onto my rented trailer, I dragged my treasure toward home, but not before stopping at the nearest auto parts store for $20 worth of Gunk degreaser. From there, it was off to the car wash, where I proceeded to drop a pocket full of quarters (and thanks to the high-pressure wand) to transfer 25 years or so worth of grease and grime from the clip to the front of my body. At this point, I really began to question my junkyard wisdom. Heck, I didn't even get the thing home yet, and it cost me over $600, my one day off from work, and my favorite event T-shirt.
The next evening I headed out to the garage to give my new front clip the once-over. At first glance, all looked well, but after a bit of close inspection, I soon realized that not only were both calipers and rotors shot, but the seals were gone in the steering box as well. And, to add insult to injury, the tie rods and ball joints were toast too! After making these disturbing finds I retired to my favorite stool (the one at my workbench, not the bar), and began to calculate just what this cheap way out was really going to cost me, both in cash and time. After brooding over my less than economical conclusion, I picked up one of my dog-eared copies of CLASSIC TRUCKS and began to thumb through it yet again, this time paying quite a bit more attention to the ads for frontend components.
Once I realized that I was ready to seriously look for new aftermarket components, I began to really pay attention to those ads. And do you know what I found? I discovered that once you get past the high-dollar, fancy chrome-plated or polished stainless top-of-the-line pieces in the center of the ads, there are almost always less fancy (read: plain steel) versions or component packages of equal quality available for a fraction of the cost of the deluxe offerings. The next day, I spent most of my lunch hour checking out the websites of at least a half dozen of the companies whose ads I'd marked off in that issue of CT (and ordered a catalog from each of them as well).