Canadian Hospitality: A 7.3L Turbo Diesel Powered ’52 GMC 9700

bobward
Classic trucks are currently going through a bit of a renaissance period with hot rod enthusiasts saving vehicles from rusting away, or worse the dreaded crusher, every day.

Learning how to bag a truck on his own gave him the opportunity to use what he calls “seat of your pants” engineering.

Our search for these cool vehicles never ends, and this time around we find ourselves in Canada, where we are happy to report that Canadians are also rescuing forgotten classics and giving them a second life.

Bob Ward, the owner of the laid out AD (Advanced Design) GMC truck featured today, built his pavement scraper a hundred times over in his mind before he picked up the tools in earnest three years ago.

A millwright by trade Bob says; “This is the first vehicle I’ve owned with the intention of modifying it from the start, taking three years once I really started, and turned out exactly how I wanted.”

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Taking an authentic former fire truck – a number one pumper from a city not too far from where Bob lives in fact – he removed the 9700 cab and from its original three ton frame.

The 9700 emblem on the hood denotes a larger front end than the standard AD truck, and with that extra space Bob was able to think outside of the box for motor options.

A diesel motor had always been a part of Bob’s plan and he didn’t have to look too far before the perfect motor found him.

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In a show of classic Canadian hospitality, Bob’s neighbor gifted him with a 7.3 liter International mill that was formerly taking up residence in a van used as a storage container.

“He’s one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet, and all he asked for in return was a ride in the truck when it was finished,” says Bob.

After spending some time researching possible go fast options – this is a hot rod after all – Bob opted to add the incredibly durable and resilient Holset HX35 turbo to the passenger side of the engine bay.

Plans are to eventually crank the boost all the way up to 20 psi, so to keep the head where it should be, he upgraded the head gaskets to Fel-Pro units and used ARP hardware to clamp it all together.

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For now the motor sees about eight pounds of boost, which is more than enough to spin the dually wheels that came from the same Ford E series van the motor did.

The narrowed Dana 70HD rear end has been upgraded with a Detroit Locker and Moser axles, so when Bob wants to leave his mark, which is often, he leaves a four tire mark signature rather than two.

While he’s deep in the loud pedal, diesel smoke pours out of a three-inch mandrel bent exhaust that terminates with a six-inch tip.

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To keep up with the motor, the E40D automatic transmission has been upgraded by Tri City transmissions who replaced the clutches and torque converter in an effort to put as much of the diesel torque to the ground as possible.

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Stance wise, Bob always knew the truck had to hit the ground, and learning how to bag a truck on his own gave him the opportunity to use what he calls “seat of your pants” engineering.

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The chassis under the trunk started as a factory extended cab 1989 S10. However, now the spring pockets have now been enlarged to fit 2,600 pound, six-inch diameter air bags up front, with relocated shock absorbers.

Since the frame on the AD truck sits higher than the running boards Bob was able to skip drop spindles, but he is running tubular lower control arms and drop tie rods.

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In the back Bob had to work around larger 3,055-pound, seven-inch air bags, and a 300-pound rear axle, with the aforementioned dually wheel and tire set up.

This meant that in order to get everything to fit, with enough room to operate, none of the factory s10 frame rear of the cab could stay.

The rear end of Bob’s truck now features a double triangulated four-link of his own design.

Once the welder was set down, the truck ended up with a wheelbase slightly longer than a standard box, but shorter than a long box.

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Overcoming this opened up another opportunity for “seat of the pants” engineering, and Bob made the bedsides and stake pockets himself so he could get the exact side profile he was after.

The cab is mostly stock aesthetically (save for the shaved door handles) but inside there was some repair work to the floors and build a transmission tunnel large enough for the monster E40D automatic transmission.

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Atop the gargantuan transmission, a shift knob made from a beer tap handle was added. The size of the shift knob comes in handy since Bob manually shifts the transmission thanks to a US Shift Quick 1 programmable shift controller.

Once all the metal work was done inside he painted the floor and roof in LizardSkin spray coating, then had his painter Joe spray what was supposed to be metallic gunmetal on the dash, doors, and jambs.

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A mistake at the paint shop wound up in the color being metallic brown, not gunumatal, but Bob ended up liking the accidental color affectionately naming it Burnt Rootbeer.

To keep an eye on the truck’s vitals, Bob has added a slew of gauges for everything from boost to air pressure, and for long drives there’s an amp and speakers hidden in the truck.

There is even a heater added for a bit of climate control. However, the AC only kicks in when the speedometer hits 50 or better – with the windows down.

Wilwood Brakes bring the truck to a stop while still allowing Bob the ability to run 16-inch wheels. The modest diameter wheels let the driver go low while still being able to turn, uncommon for many larger trucks on bags.

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Near the end of the build, Bob was putting almost 36 hours a week into the project, practically a second job, to meet a personal goal of driving the truck for his 39th birthday.

We’re happy to report that not only did he make that goal, he drove 30 well deserved miles that same day!

That was back in April, and since Bob has, at times, put as many as 250 miles a week on the truck. He has even towed a camping trailer with it making it a far cry from a show queen, and exactly the type of vehicle hot rodders love.

Like all of us who’ve emerged victorious at the end of a long build Bob has his family to thank above all for for their support and understanding while he locked himself up in their one and a half car garage for hours at a time. His neighbor, painter Joe, and pinstriper Adam also deserve a “thank you” for their contributions in helping building his dream.

About the author

Dave Thomas

Currently living near Toronto, Dave spends much of his free time behind a camera at car events, and likes just about anything with wheels, but usually the lower the better. When not taking photos, writing articles, or going upside down on his bike he can be found in the shop wrenching on his 1951 GMC pickup.
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