I figured I would write a blog post in order to help fellow enthusiasts building a AD (advance design) truck. Hopefully sharing all my knowledge learned working on these trucks will help others out as they embark on the journey to do a frame swap. This will be a brief tutorial of how we handle finding the donor, what comes next, choosing a premade kit or fabricating your own. I have experience with these trucks using stock suspensions, mustang II aftermarket crossmembers, Camaro subframes and it’s my personal recommendation(for those trying to do this on a budget) that the S10 frame is the way to go. Not only from a ride and driving perspective but for the simple fact that there are donor trucks everywhere, you can re use a lot of the parts from the donor, and the relatively low cost of S10 parts. Chevy made millions of s10’s and you can go to any auto parts store, eBay or amazon and get any replacement part you need typically the same day.
Step #1 Finding your donor truck. The best thing to do is scour Craigslist or Facebook marketplace to find your donor. The best donor that requires the least amount of work is any year S10 that is a regular cab longbed. If you get that confirguation you don’t have to shorten anything and not mess with cutting the donor frame in half and rewelding it to make it work. While not a big deal most folks aren’t comfortable with cutting and welding and would prefer not to mess with that. You still will do some cutting on the longbed frame, about 6 inches in the front of the frame and similar in the rear but that’s about it. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $700 for a frame and or complete truck. Some people end up parting out the body parts and break even, we typically just scrap everything and take the truck down to the bare frame and keep the basic parts and replace almost everything. The old style (lets call them square bodies) are super easy as they don’t have ABS or wheelspeed sensors and don’t seem to have as much bracing and extra stuff (that gets removed anyways). But at the end of the day any year S10 Regular Cab will work, so don’t be picky. Obviously the only caveat to that is avoid buying something thats been wrecked and has frame damage. There are plenty of trucks out there to not have to deal with straigtening a frame.
Step #2 Dismantling the donor truck. This is actually the fun part, bust out the sawzaws, grinding wheels, plasma cutter, torch, whatever your tool of destruction is! We typically undo all the body mounts, remove bumpers, pull motors and transmissions(we get lucky and find a lot of donors with those already gone) unhook wires, cables, etc. attached to the body and then lift the body of the frame. It used to take us a couple hours, now we can do it in about 45 minutes with 2 guys a lift and a few other helpful tools. At this stage we are pretty much removing everything we aren’t going to use and get the frame down to the bare rails with just the front suspension, rear suspension, steering, and rear end. You can however reuse the steering, the brake pedal and booster, the gas tank, heck I have even seen people reuse the stock exhaust if keeping the S10 motor and trans. We usually replace all of that, but it’s your call on what you keep and ditch. Now you are ready for the next step.
Step #3 Cleaning the frame, prepping and painting. At this stage it’s super easy and fun to get the frame nice and clean. We typically use a bio degradable degreaser but purple power or simple green work also. We spray the digresser, let it sit and then hose away with the pressure washer. After the truck is dry we apply POR 15 metal Prep, let it sit and then wash it away. This actually etches the surface giving the Por 15 paint a better surface to adhere to. Then the moment you’ve been waiting for…. time to paint. I prefer hand brushing it on even though it’s more time consuming, it keeps the cleanup to a minimum and has provided me the best results. Be very careful and wear rubber gloves and clothes you don’t care about, this stuff doesn’t come off (I learned the hard way the first frame we did LOL). Take your time or get a buddy to do one side and you take the other. Expect to spend a few hours and a couple of beers later to complete the job. I always haver gotten away with one thick coat and then get do some touch up at the end with these results:
Step #4 Setting the body on the frame: We typically fabricate our own body mounts, running board mounts, bumper mounts and motor mounts. However we’ve done a couple trucks with the aftermarket kits and I can totally recommend either the Henry Panza kit or the code 504 kits. What’s great about these kits is they are bolt on, they have taken out all the guesswork and you just have to have minimal skills and tools to mate your old truck body to your new S10 frame. Before we set the body on we replace brake lines, shocks, front steering components, install the lowering springs and spindles (so easy to access everything without a body) gas tank, fuel lines, etc. Two people with a hoist, lift, forklift can lift the cab on the frame, mount the bed, and then we typically install the front end in one complete piece. And Voila, you have your frame swap down in a weekend if you work solid for two days and have the help of a buddy or two.