Rust and All: Imperfectly Potent LQ4 Powered Chevy K10

Ever wonder what it would feel like to have your mullet and mustache simultaneously caressed by the summer wind, as you flick the ash from your Marlboro 100 out your pickup truck’s quarter-glass vent window? This 1984 Chevy K10 was there. It probably slammed its vent window shut on that lengthy cigarette just to watch the antics that followed.

This rig has been through a lot, from a carbureted work truck to unwanted scrap, to a hot commodity time capsule. But the same can be said for anyone born in the ’80s.

A machine of this magnitude surely has seen more in its lifetime than most other mechanized inhabitants on this planet. And for the better part of the past few years, it has seen a lot of love from a guy who has never lived a single day of his life in the 1980s.

Chevy K10

What Can Brown Do for You?

When 27-year-old hobbyist Nick Dressler first unearthed this rectangular relic on Facebook Marketplace in 2019, he immediately found himself drawn to the pasty brown pickup because “It had a really good patina on it.”

With zero body damage to be seen, and mismatched body panels in abundance, the funky flashback ’80s GM gem sat forlornly in a field. A truck destined for either the junkyard or the pages of a pickup-oriented publication. Luckily, Nick opted for an LQ4 upgrade, but more for reliability than anything.

Nick tells us that when he was 16, he owned a 1980 Chevy Camaro in the same shade of brown. It was a nostalgic attraction at first glance, and Nick knew that great things were in store for his Chevy K10. A truck that was destined to be turned into something more. And it was all based purely upon the fact that Nick Dressler truly enjoys doing things his way. For better or worse…

Chevy K10 LQ4

Revving to Go… Extremely Slow

Nick grew up around intriguing cars, many of which came in their period-correct paint scheme. Memories of his father taking him to and from daycare in the back of a “Butternut Squash” colored 1968 Malibu project car still stand out firmly in the young man’s mind.

There was also a 1972 Pontiac LeMans, which taxied the two on road trips, car shows, and weekly cruise-ins. Fond memories that eventually formed Nick’s devoted passion for American muscle. By the time he reached adulthood, Nick had become quite the character, especially regarding cars.

Nick’s the type of guy who takes a bone stock 2000 Camaro Z28 with 160,000-plus miles on the odometer down to a track day to see how both vehicle and driver hold up after fifteen passes. You know, the kind of cat who has never owned anything truly “fast” but is okay with that, because even going slow can be a ton of fun in the right situation. This leads us to why Nick adores his Chevy pickup truck so much.

Chevy K10

Lock It Up And Chevy K10 It Again

While his truck may not be built to race, Nick’s K10 has been modded to offset the truck’s weight and 35-inch tires.

However, just because the swap was in didn’t mean Nick’s rig was ready to rumble. Upon firing the engine up for the first time, the LQ4 locked up entirely. Upon cracking the motor open, Nick was dismayed to discover that one of the injectors had been stuck open, subsequently flooding lucky cylinder number seven.

Hydro-locked to hell and back, with a snapped rod and nothing to show for it, Nick evaluated his options. No one ever said that your first garage LS swap would go smoothly. Especially when it’s done all on one’s own… with zero experience… in just two months… on a motor with an equally sordid past…

Refusing to admit defeat, Nick took his decrepit 2001 Chevy LQ4 to Skip’s Machine Shop so that it could be rebuilt. And this time, he had a plan in place.

The engine was rebuilt with a BTR Stage 4 truck cam inside. The Chevy K10 was then upgraded with 34 lb-hr injectors and dual 255 lph fuel pumps. A set of Schoenfeld headers, followed by a true 3-inch dual exhaust with axle dumps and Black Widow 10-inch Widowmaker mufflers finished things off.

The Future Looks Brown

Now powered by 413 horsepower, Nick’s Reagan-era relic of a pickup truck has embarked upon several road trips since its second attempt at an engine swap. This includes hauling from Monterey, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, for LS Fest, with a detour down through the Valley of Fire being one of the highlights from that time.

When asked how his twisty little desert trek went, Nick laughs and says, “Taking a long-bed, 4wd pickup on 35s through that cruise is ‘interesting,’ to say the least.

Chevy K10

Both Nick and his rig get compliments pretty much anywhere they go. And in true pickup truck fashion, this Chevy K10 has only received a polish upon being swapped, but that’s about it. All told, Nick Dressler has spent around 500 to 600 hours, if not more, tootling away on this truck build. As you can well imagine, it is a bit of a handful to pilot in any scenario.

With over 112,500 miles on the clock, the combination of stiff leaf springs, massive tires, and a crazy loose steering box make this Chevy K10 quite the risky ride.

When asked to describe how his K10 drives and handles, Nick provides a very candid look at how a lifted K10 actually performs when packing LS power…

It’s a brick. It was a brick in the 1980s, and it’s a brick now. It feels like a school bus with a big flat sign on top catching the wind. It drives straight, though. Wide enough to stay in the ruts of the road, [and] drives where it wants to… I tried letting my dad drive through Vegas, and he thought we were going to die.  – Nick Dressler

As for what he likes the most about his brown K10 pickup, Nick decrees that it has always been about the paint. Sure, the LQ4 is great for reliability, and the fact that he can take his lifted pickup pretty much anywhere is appealing, but sometimes it’s not all about performance and power.

Nothing beats that paint, for deep down, Nick knows it’s impossible to replicate that grade of authentic 1980s nostalgia. Which is precisely why this K10 kicks ass.

About the author

Micah Wright

Raised on LEGOs by grandfathers who insisted on fixing everything themselves, Micah has been a petrolhead in training since age four. His favorite past times include craft beer, strong cigars, fast cars, and culinary creativity in all of its forms.
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