Growing up in a rural Nova Scotia, when I wasn't working on a farm, I was out 4x4'in, camping, fishing and finding ways of getting full of mud! I've always loved old trucks and knew I would rebuild one some day. So I bought a long box in 2017 which I owned for a year but sold it when I found another one that promised to be in much better shape. Being built in 1976, these trucks are now 43 years old. Even the best shape trucks of that age still require TLC, but I thought it would go beautiful with my gypsy wagon camper and keep me busy over the winter.

My first 1976 Power Wagon
My second 1976 Power Wagon with my home-made gypsy wagon

Bringing the truck home I quickly noticed water in the oil which I had hoped was a head gasket issue. Turns out the issue was much larger and was the result of an engine builder accepting bad tolerances and quite possibly not knowing what a torque-wrench is used for. Head bolts, as well as the exhaust manifold bolts were hand tight.

The head gasket was the culprit for the water entering the oil but the oil spraying out of the truck was caused by an incorrect installation of the crankshaft main bearings. They were shot and leaking oil which hit the fan and sprayed the hood. A full rebuild was required.

Note the oil spray on the hood and wheel well. 

I chose a 1971 Dodge 360la block over rebuilding the 318 simply because of the extra cubes and I found a short block in excellent condition for $450 bucks. Before the rebuild it was imperative I order the old service books.

And so it begins.

Short Block Engine complete.
Bored the engine .30" over, and zero decked the surface 

An old engine with a heck of a lot of new technology!

And once it was built we quickly realized we screwed up!

Notice the red squares drawn in the image above.  Those clean lines are the exact same shape as the top part of the piston image above and are caused by the piston hitting the head. I ordered Keith Black KB-232 pistons as they are a dished piston but they also are raised in that area 10 thousandth of an inch above the deck. There was no damage but caused me a lot of grief trying to locate the pinging noise after the rebuild. We thought it was the rockers needing adjustment.

So out come the pistons to shave them down a bit. I also checked the 63ci chambers and found they varied between 65 and 67ci so my compression wasn't where I wanted it. I shaved the heads a bit to get them around 64ci each. This configuration gets me around 9.3:1 compression which may seem low but considering the camshaft specs, lack of scavenging effect etc, the dynamic compression will more closely match the static compression on this build so 9.3 is a good spot for longevity.

Engine Complete - I kept the original valve covers and painted them because I couldn't find an aftermarket set that I liked.

Engine Specifications:

  • 1971 Dodge 360 bored .30" 
  • Keith Black KB-232 dished pistons with moly ring set
  • ARP bolt set for heads, rods, etc.
  • Performance World aluminum heads 63cc, 2.02 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves
  • MSD distributor and ignition set
  • Edelbrock Performer Intake
  • Compcams XE268H hydralic flat tappet camshaft
  • Camshaft Lift 4.77"/.480" lift
  • Camshaft Duration - 268/280
  • Camshaft Duration @ 0.05"  - 224/230
  • Camshaft Lobe Separation - 110 degrees
  • Carburetor - Quick Fuel 650cfm
  • Hooker Headers 5902 series powder black

I built the engine to have a lot of low end torque. This kept the horse power at a respectful 360 horses but its the smooth torque curve from 3400 to 5000 rpm that really matters for this truck build.

My goal was 380 horse power and 425ft/lbs of torque. My build came in just under. 

Decided to check the rear end to examine the condition and find out what gear ratio the truck has. I was happy to see the posi but was a little disheartened to see the 3.21 gear. I want to install 4.10s but the condition of these gears is near immaculate so I may use them for a little while.

3.21 rears was a big disappointment but not a shocker. In 2020 I will switch to 4.10 gears
At least it has a posi

I struggled with trying to decide if I should go with headers or not. This isn't a show muscle car pushing 500 horse power so I was reluctant to spend $1500+ for a full exhaust system.  But I finally was convinced to go with headers and all the problems that come with it. I needed to install a new gear-reduction starter as the old starter was too big and hit the headers. After the headers are dual exhaust Flowmaster 40 series exiting the sides instead of the rear of the truck to prevent soot from hitting the wagon.

Dual exhausting out the sides to prevent soot from hitting the gypsy wagon
Dual Flowmaster 40 series

My friend Evan and I then installed the Trailer Hitch 

And that is where we stand today (November 16th, 2019)

The engine is nearing completion "again" and we will be breaking it in hopefully this week. The flat tappets require a special break-in oil and it is actually critical that certain precautions are taken. Even for a regular oil change I will be required to use a special zinc additive-oil but that is all part of owning a wonderful piece of 70s history.

I plan to actually use the truck so it is more than just a show car. I hope to take it to events but its main goal is for taking the gypsy wagon out camping. It won't be out 4-wheeling or doing anything too aggressive, this truck is just too beautiful to wreck, but I definitely will put a few miles on it a year.