Volume 1 Issue 1 - Diesel Articles

The Phoenix

The Phoenix 6.2L Diesel Rebuild

British Columbia and Lilooet

My son Jens stays busy with an international transportation company, keeping their aging equipment between North Vancouver and Lillooet running: laying track, operating heavy machinery and generally making himself useful.

Ever since high school, Jens has participated in an annual silliness around here known as The Birken Ralley. The local off-road enthusiasts spend all their disposable income and sometimes more to build the toughest trucks. Then – here’s the silliness – they get together every Spring and drive out into the bush to get drunk and wreck their masterpieces. Early on in the madness, Jens recognized the superiority of the 1967 to 1972 Chevy/GMC body style. The high degree of GM part interchangeability, the simple, classic lines, the uncomplicated, before-pollution-control systems and the heavier-than-today sheet metal convinced him that the last of the line, the ‘72, represents the zenith in the development of the North American pickup truck. Over the years, he has built up quite a number of these vehicles and he has come to understand them down to the molecular level. In his work travels, he keeps his eye out and knows the location and condition of every one within a couple of hundred miles of home.

A Cherry... Flambeaux

Back in the mid-eighties, a particularly cherry ’72 “heavy half” became available and Jens and his brother, Ole – a talented and certified Chevy mechanic as well – promised to build it up for me if I bought it.

1972 GM Pickup 6.2L Diesel Rebuild Candidate
1972 GM Pickup 6.2L Diesel Rebuild Candidate
The original 1972 pickup: proof that some treasures lie hidden behind rough facades – for those, like Peter Legere, with the eyes to see them.

Ole rented a detached, double carport in an older section of town and I helped him enclose it, insulate it and install some doors and heavy-duty wiring for a compressor. We disassembled the truck and Ole, over the period of six months or so of spare time, repaired, sanded and prepped the front clip parts, the box parts, all the hinges and latches and window hardware etc and rebuilt the cab, repairing the floor and replacing the cab corners and rocker panels. We had the cab and chassis towed to a local body shop to have the interior of the cab painted. While the truck was at the body shop, Ole stacked all the parts out of the way at the back of the shop and moved a demolition derby car in and put it up on blocks. He was sitting on the hood burning holes for the straight exhaust pipes when he started to get uncomfortably hot. Shutting off the torch, he jumped down onto the floor and saw that a pan of oil he had left under the engine was burning merrily. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and aimed it under the car at the fire. The force of the jet from the extinguisher was too much for the heat-softened sides of the plastic pan: they collapsed, spreading flaming oil across the floor of the shop. Unquenched, the growing inferno swallowed up the foam from his last extinguisher. Before long, flames burnt through the hoses of his torch that transformed, before his eyes, into a fire-breathing dragon, writhing and then darting back and forth and all around through the air, torching the tinder-dry structure and everything flammable within it. There was nothing he could do but get the hell out and find a phone to call the fire department.

By the time the firemen arrived, the building was fully engulfed in flame and the propane tanks from the heating system had begun to explode, rattling windows throughout the neighborhood. A great pall of black smoke rose into the afternoon sky. While the cab and chassis survived the fire – safe at the body shop – everything else needed for the project was lost. Our dream pickup project had come to a spectacular end. Ole lost all his tools and equipment: he has not done any body work since.

A 6.2L Diesel Work Truck

In the intervening years, Jens wheeled and dealt, wrecked and built: always setting aside the best parts for the inevitable resurrection of what we had come to call, after the fire, “The Phoenix Project”.

Parts for the Phoenix 6.2L Diesel Rebuild stacked outside the workshop
Parts for the Phoenix 6.2L Diesel Rebuild stacked up outside the workshop.

Since this pickup would be the workhorse hauler for my building business, I wanted it to be as economical to operate as possible. With that in mind, we had set aside a nice...

In this article...

  • 6.2L Diesel Engine Install

  • Refurbishing the 1972 Body

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Comments (1)add comment

argo said:

Beautiful Truck
This truck is the inspiration for my 1993 Suburban diesel conversion. I did not completely restore mine, because the body and chassis were in excellent shape, but it needed an engine and transmission, so I put in a 6.2L diesel. This just goes to show that you don't need an expensive 850 RWHP Duramax or Cummins to enjoy the benefits of diesel ownership. Your truck is immaculate and I wish you a lifetime of trouble-free and enjoyable driving!
June 10, 2011
Votes: +1

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