CDA's 96 K1500 build


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Hey all,
First off saying Hello First few posts here on FSC, been lurking for a long time but now going to dive in and start a build thread of my own. Story goes,

Six months ago I bought my 5 speed K1500 for super short money with a MMI plow and a 4.3 with a spun rod bearing.

^brandy new to me^

So I swapped in another 4.3 and two months later spun a bearing on the highway and blew a hole in the side of the motor.

^like this^

Swapped in another 4.3 and had the intake manifold gasket go bad, replaced that. And two days later while on a little off roading trip and accidentally took the truck swimming and killed that motor (water in the oil, again with the rod bearings :banghead:).

^Pro Tip: Don't trust friends "memory" of trails, It gets expensive quick^

At this point I decided to scrap the v6 truck as all these things must have been signs that it is not meant to be, and go with something more appropriate and purpose built to what I'm going to do with it.

Some background info, the truck does about 80% on road and 20% off road and some late night Toyota and Jeep recovery missions. Also it's the brute of a little garage I work at a day or so a week(, so it will be pulling trailers, hauling engines, transmissions, parts and all sorts of stuff.

Truck: 96' K1500
Color: Victory Red
Tcase: NP241C
Trans: NV3500
Rear: Stock 10 Bolt
Engine: Effed' 4.3L

Based on what I do I'm thinking this is what I'd like to finish with
14 Bolt rear
SAS someday (obviously)
4-6 inches of lift
35 12.5 15 tires
Selectable Lockers
NV4500 with the 6.34 first
Full lighting setup (off road lights, fog lights, reverse lights, rock lights, work lights)
Dual 10k winches(front, rear)
Front and rear bumpers
Protect the frame with POR15
A winch in the bed for loading atv's and other things
350 sbc carbed
HEI ignition
Air gap manifold
Shorty headers
All aluminum dual core radiator
Dual e-fans
Aftermarket Oil cooler
Dual batteries
Switch panel for accessories
Aftermarket gauges (oil temp, oil pressure, water temp)
Navi radio with provisions for bread crumbs and a rear facing rear axle camera (watch for rocks!)
10" sub
Speaker upgrades (marine!)
3 chan amp
CB radio with PA

The list is long and will continue growing I'm sure. Alot of the things on that list are under way or almost completed as I have had the truck off the road for almost a month now and some of those things have been done already but im gonna throw them up later before I start to do daily coverage haha. I'll follow sometime soon with posts on the specific projects and more details.
Here we go!
Last edited:


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Re: CDA's 96 K1500 build

Next update, gonna try and cram a quick overview of everything that I have done to the truck since that picture of the day after I picked it up to right before it drowned.

The oil cooler fits nicely between the support and the radiator. The oil filter is completely hidden behind the grill when it is installed on the vehicle. The lights, power steering cooler, oil cooler, and plow wires are neatly concealed behind the grill of the truck.

^everything installed^

^View of the oil cooler from the radiator side^

While the truck was apart the first time I installed a rear view camera and a Pioneer AVIC-N3 nav unit. The rear view camera serves a special purpose, the camera is focused on showing the driver what is coming up on the rear tires and more importantly what the clearance between an obstacle and the rear differential. Incorporated into the navigation software and hardware on the N3 are a host of sensors it provides a magnetic compass, accelerometer, and inclineometer which are used to measure compass direction, acceleration, deceleration, yaw, roll, pitch, and incline . These parameters can be displayed on the screen at any time while in the navigation mode and are very interesting to watch while navigating different terrain in different conditions. The N3 has a fantastic road GPS built in and is also able to leave breadcrumbs on the map when the truck is traveling off the road. The NavTEQ maps have bodies of water, streams, and rivers built into the base map so it is useful both on and off road. The 7 inch touchscreen allows both *navigation and cameras to be toggled with ease. One nice feature is that even with the flip down screen closed the unit has a small LCD screen on the front of the face to show the current track or song that is playing and any other important information.

^This is what the display looks like with the rear differential camera on, the camera can see the differential and both tires, pretty useful if trying to navigate in close quarters.^

^view of the navi menu^

Amps, EQ, Scanner, and CB install

Since I wasn't all that interested in trying to make the rear speakers that didn't work when I got the truck functional I decided to go with an alpine MRP-F300 amp wired as a two channel amp with channels one and two as left and right, while using channels three and four bridged for a sub output. The amp is fed through a Kicker 30 band EQ to help tune the sound to my liking. I ended up installing a pair of 6.5" Kicker speakers in the doors and a Kicker TC10 sub behind the passengers side of the bench seat. I Used the remote wire from the headunit to trip a relay and provide power to the remote turn on connections for the EQ and the Amp as well as power for the CB radio and the scanner. I mounted the Amp, EQ, and scanner to the back of the seat using some thin plywood mounted under the fabric of the seat and some short drywall screws to hold the components to the board. This keeps the components up off the floor and keeps them safe from any water that may get into the cab. This turned out to be a winning idea because when the truck tried to go swimming the cab filled up to the trans tunnel with water after about a half hour of being dry.

^Everything mounted up on the seat back^

Dual Battery Wiring and Electronics Install
managed to pick one of these up at a local junkyard while on a hunt for a front fender. To address the problem with the charging systems and isolating the batteries I decided that normal battery isolators, or a more conventional continuous duty solenoid wouldn't be in the future for the truck, I needed something more reliable and more importantly totally submersible. It's no secret that I'm a fan of overbuilt electronics so I immediately turned to a market that would have the second highest quality electronic switches. (second only the the insanely overpriced aviation market) By that, I mean that I went straight to the marine Industry. I looked within the marine industry because their products get exposed to everything that one could call "worst case" for electronics. These electronic components are subjected to high temperatures in the engine compartment of a boat, they are also subjected to chemicals in the air in the engine compartment, and most importantly to me, these components need to be able to function at 100% even when submerged in liquid. Even though I was planning on mounting the solenoid above the fan shroud, I wanted to be able to have it work even if I drive through a water crossing and it goes under. The idea of some day driving into an obstacle, and not having the battery that my winch is connected to charged by the alternator scares me a little. After much research I bought an Automatic Charging Relay from Blue Sea Systems. This unit has Start Isolation feature, and a batteries combined indicator both on the unit and one that gets mounted in the cabin, and my favorite part, this charging relay is totally submersible for up to 30 minutes. This beauty is entirely automatic once it senses a charging current from the alternator for 30 seconds it combines the batteries and allows them to be charged together by the same alternator, then 30 seconds after it senses the charging source removed, the ACR separates the batteries again. The two batteries were then wired in parallel with the ACR between them. The Dual battery setup has been installed for a few months now and it works great both batteries are in very good health and the ACR has performed flawlessly so far!

^The ACR is mounted over the power brake booster^

Power and Ground Distro
The next part of the power distribution project was to upgrade the ground wires and increase overall charging system performance
This was done by installing a four gauge positive cable from the alternator to the battery, upgrading the frame ground to a two gauge cable, upgrading the engine ground to a two gauge cable, and upgrading the cab ground to a two gauge cable as well.
After the grounds we're improved upon I installed a Blue sea systems twelve place fuse block on the right side of the engine bay. This fuse block provides the power to the relay pack that is hidden under the factory PCM.

^The Fuse Block^

I love everything 12volt. I also have a special fondness for a good set of lights. I decided to go with four auxiliary lights behind the grille of the truck. Two Wide pattern KC rally 800 Lights, and two KC 26 "All Season" lights with the amber lens installed. I converted both sets of lights to HID for less current draw than the lights that came in them and more light output. The Lights are mounted on an aluminum cross bar that is bolted to the radiator support. The Fogs and the Rally lights are mounted to this bar.

^Mounting the Lights^

^The HID Lights shining across the road from my house^

I also have a set of LED rock lights installed over the rear axle and a set of KC 26 Lights in the rear bumper with the clear fog lens installed.

^Reverse Lights Working on the trail^

I Also installed a super bright Rope LED string in my hood with a tilt switch so when i open the hood the lights turn on and Its super bright at night, perfect for seeing the engine bay at night on the trail and while jump starting other vehicles at night.

^Strangely one of my favorite mods^

Switches and Gauges
I'm Planning on running more than just Oil Temp, However the only gauge currently installed is the Oil Temp gauge. I built a gauge pod that mounts to the rear view mirror to hold three Autometer Pro-Comp gauges. Oil Pres, Oil Temp, and Water Temp. There is a Run of 9 conductor speedwire run to the panel that will carry the signal for the gauges and the power ground and accessory feeds for the gauges themselves.

^Over Rear View Mirror Gauge Pod^

There is also a switch panel installed in the dash where the push button four wheel drive controls were and where the cd player would have been on a pre 95 truck.
The switches on the left control the lights and the switches on the right control engine and drive train items. These switches are connected to the relays through two speedwires that go to the relay banks where the power is distributed from the fuse block through the relays to the items needing control or power.

^Toggle Switches are lights, black toggles are for engine and drivetrain control^

Last for tonight and almost the start of the recent stuff.....

Elocker Install

I decided to stick with the 10 bolt while I had the 4.3L motors and bought a selectable locker for it because I had no fears of blowing an axle shaft with the v6. Looks like i'm stuck with a 10 bolt for a while now >.>

So I bought a new to me rear axle to build the rear end out of the truck and make sure everything worked like i was hoping it would.

^New housing drained, cleaned out and stripped^

^E-Locker installed, Gears Checked, adjusted, checked, adjusted checked, checked, adjusted and re checked^

To help protect this now quite expensive rear end from damage and flex, I picked up a Purple Cranium products Full Spider diff guard. These things are SOLID! Already put it to use once in some mud and It was nice to know it was there and protecting me.

^Sealed up the housing and de-greased, cleaned, scrubbed and POR15 coated the rear end before rolling it under the truck^

^After many dunkings, some mud, and a medium hit in some mud^

Only a few more things to catch up on before I finally get to cover the "restoration and upgrading scramble that I started this for. :)

A teaser shot from today! Cant wait to get this thing put back together!


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Re: CDA's 96 K1500 build

Due to some surprise income I have managed to scrape together the parts to get a motor in the truck!

Over the last month I've managed to do the following,

Get the truck into the garage!

washed, degreased, stripped, and wire brushed the frame, then painted it with POR15

Removed all the fluids from the truck

started to flush and refill all fluids

checked rear axle setup, no metal shavings same backlash. 6 months later! yahoo

acquired a NV4500,

opened it up,

flushed it, painted it and filled it with 3 qts of regular transmission fluid and 1 qt of marvel, going to put 30 miles on it drain it and put the right stuff in.

Mounted the transfer case, and rolled it under the truck.

Cleaned and prepped and painted all the metal parts that I removed.

Mounted a winch in the bed to help load ATV's and other rolling things

Picked up a new radiator

Installed a return style fuel pressure regulator.

Installed my Intake manifold

Prepped my motor to go in

Wire up my new harness and put my red top back in

Mount my HID ballasts to the radiator support


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Re: CDA's 96 K1500 build

added the IPOD interface to my radio

acquired more parts

Setup my accessories so they are all run off the fuse block through relays! Then managed to fit all the relays and wires under the PCM

Changed more fluids

Installed and wired my second battery

Added more switches to my switch panel to make room for the fan, battery, and locker controls.


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Re: CDA's 96 K1500 build

So After a long break from my forum posting ways, I'm back to report my progress!

So I pulled my second battery, and started to cut the old engine harness out of the truck

Then I had to go to work so I took my lighting harness with me to cut up and clean the mud out of, here they are after an encounter with the hose.

I started to tape off the wires that I was going to preserve and cut out the wires I wasn't going to need anymore this process involved teaching my fiancée how to read electrical diagrams, a lot of long nights and countless racks of beers of reading alldata page by page for the wiring alterations.

Almost all the engine wires are sorted out and all but 4 dash board wires are done! Time to pull the old motor!

Got the old motor out, separated everything and started to inspect the damage.

Found out I needed a new transmission

Bought some serious degreaser for the frame.

Found a donor truck with an NV4500!

Got it home and it was manufactured in 93', Yay super low first gear!

Ended up having to drill out the bolts that the junkyard cut with a sawzall........ >:0

Made myself some sweet relay banks with a single harness for the trigger wires.

Stripped and degreased, brakeleen'd and POR15 coated the frame

degreased the transfer case and painted it gray.

Added a 12 position fuse pannel to run my accessories and engine power off.


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Re: CDA's 96 K1500 build

loomed all the accessory wires.

picked up some shorty headers and wrapped them.

spent more money on truck parts than everything else combined that month!

After what felt like forever dropped the new motor in, and wow is it nice.

Finished up installing my strobes for plowing while everything is apart.

Ran into problems with the carb's accelerator pump, disassembled that and found a machining defect, fixed it and we're good to test drive.

Drove it to work, timing was all jacked, fixed that on the side of the highway.

A week later I did a 3" block in the back and cranked the front, in anticipation off.......

33x12.5 15 dunlop mud rovers and some wheeling!!!

Then truck had to go back to reality and get some more upgrades.

First was a full set of pro-comp gauges

Then a shift knob

Recently I picked up a set of 35x12.5 15 KM2's and a set of cragar "soft 8" 15X8" wheels.

For now this is how she sits on the 33x12.5 mud rovers.

Now I'm waiting for my 6" rcx lift to show up and enough free time to install it before winter hits!

Once I get the lift and tires on It'll be off to the fab shop that I work with to get rock sliders to use for my hi lift, and a set of rock light mounts made, and to have the A frame of my plow dropped so I can still use the plow to clear my driveway this winter.


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Re: CDA's 96 K1500 build

More progress!
I've been doing my preparation for winter as the temperature slowly drops.
I made up an LED rear facing fog light for the truck from some led strips, These are infinitely helpful when Im out with my buddies and we're driving around in the snow and its a whiteout even before the truck starts kicking up powder >.<
Came out pretty good I was pleasantly surprised by how bright it ended up being.

^30" of led strips cut and arranged into an 8" x 3" pattern.^

Last week my Rough Country 6" kit showed up, along with all new "Problem Solver" front end parts and new half shafts! :cool:

^awwww yea^

Installed the kit, and all the front end parts, I was pretty much thrashing my way through it because I needed to have it done in a day and a half, unfortunately the pictures of the install are sparse. After the lift my fender measurements were 46" in the front and 47" in the back. Rolling on 35x12.5 KM2 Mud terrains around 8" wide soft 8 wheels.

^Pretty much all I have are these pictures my friend took>.>^

But Here are the finished pictures!

^so stoked!^

After the lift was in I did some housekeeping, Added two battery switches, wired the plow back up, got a new solenoid, ran the plow from the second battery, I also added some front rock lights, They look pretty sweet and cast light right where i need it for nightime spotting.

^Over the rear axle^

^Front wheels^

^Battery switches totally disconnect the batteries^

I also added a 5 gallon Onboard Air setup to the truck durring this project.
It's a 5 gallon Helix tank.
Filled from a Viair 480c constant duty compressor mounted in the bed box.
Plumbed with 3/8 air hoses.
Two pressure gauges, High pressure and regulated.
90psi Regulator with air/water separator and gauge for mild air tool use.
Full tank pressure (175psi) line also run for inflating tires.

^air tank mounted under the bed infront of the spare tire holder.^

^the regulator and dryer on the left, the full pressure fitting by the middle.^

Thats about it for now. Next week Its going in for a new exhaust so I can get the front driveshaft back in and go wheeling again!


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Re: CDA's 96 K1500 build

An update on the lift!
after about a month of rolling around on the lift everything is still good! It aligned like a dream and every thing has been awesome so far.

^Some IFS "flex" hah^

^Front shot^

^The lift settled to about here, which wasn't much settling in reality^

^Chillin' behind the garage^


^Previous owner body damage that I still haven't fixed, dressed up with some stencil and spraypaint^

I picked up a light bar to use on the trail, It came with eleven 55w halogen lamps. I decided that since I was going to be using it primarily as work light that I would convert nine of the lamps to LED bulbs with 64 SMD leds on each bulb. Then upgrade two of the lamps on the front to 130w lamps for mid range down hill descents.

^A picture I took with my toaster of the conversion process^

^aiming and fixing some wiring gremlins in the garage^

Then I replaced the RH inner fender because it was all sorts of rotted.

^all the wires and stuff undone, looks very strange without the fender and all the things that we're secured to it^

I then finally got around to taking it to the exhaust shop that I use to have the y-pipe re-routed and have them delete the cat and add a new quieter muffler.

^New y-pipe^

^ clearance to front driveshaft^
^all new tubing from front to the muffler^

The guys at the exhaust shop that I use are amazing. Their attention to detail and clearances is second to none. I wandered in and asked them to make me something quiet that was tucked up as high as possible and allowed my front driveshaft to be installed again. They managed to do all of that and it looks amazing!

I also have some more detail shots of the lift

^Oil thermostat that I have setup between my filter and oil cooler^

^the center link in from the steering drop linkage keeps the steering tight^

^The Performance 2.2 shocks from rough country are amazing!^

While wheeling it last weekend, I was trying to keep my slip angles so if i slipped off a rock it would go center rather than off the side and hit my wonderful torsion bars that are hanging down currently. Unfortunately I did slide off a rock and managed to hit the front subframe and it ended up resting on the skid plate. The pictures below are the only signs that the truck was hung up on anything, I'm pleased with the overall strength of that setup!

^that subframe and skidplate is a tank^

This is what my CV and Steering linkage angles look like, I'm working with a few local companies to try and get some LOOOOONG HD tie rod sleeves made to replace the adjuster as a whole.

^They have looked worse >.<^

One product that i'm very interested in having converted to work with the fullsize crowd is the outfitter design Hummer H3 HD tierod kit that's currently in development.

^good looking and super strong tie rod upgrades^

^Check out the Outfitter Design Website^

Lots of progress happening on other projects right now, Looking to order the realift torsion bar relocators soon and get those F^&%ng torsion bars off my mind while wheeling.


New member
Jan 31, 2012
Re: CDA's 96 K1500 build

This truck is sweet! Do you have anymore pictures of the bar you have the lights mounted to behind the grill?
Found them!

These are the best pictures I have of the mount for the lights behind the grille.
It's a piece of 1/8" aluminum angle iron from Home Depot trimmed and bolted to the radiator support.
Then the lights are bolted to the flat top of the piece of aluminum.