BUILD: Third time's a charm - LX450 (1 Viewer)

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*mods: I couldn't figure out how to add the "BUILD" prefix so typed it in manually. Edit as needed!

Build title might be a little unfair and cheesy, but there's some truth to it. Full disclaimer, the build threads these days have gotten so impressive and so detailed; this will unlikely be anywhere close to that. I'm primarily doing this to share experience and also document the truck's journey during my ownership, in the event it ever needs to be sold. Note emphasis on the word need, as I can't imagine wanting to watch this one go. That said, it's way easier and provides a buyer piece of mind when a seller can reference the full history.

My love affair with the 80's (and ih8mud) has been a long one, and I've been super fortunate to be able to dabble in them so much. Without delving into too much history, this is the third long-term 80 I've owned (a few others were quick) and the third truck I'll have had serious changes made to it. Like many, my only beef with the 80 has been lack of usable power for DD purposes. Hence the direction all the trucks have gone.

My first 80 experience was a '94 that my parents gave me in '05 after it hit 250k miles - it ultimately lead to a Profitt's cruisers 4BT conversion

The next was with an LX that I bought mostly stock. I did a mild build w/turbo.

The diesel swap and turbo 1fz were very cool, both filling certain needs. However, after going a couple years with only a 100, I missed the 80 and so I snatched a mildly built '97 LX450 that had spent most of its life on the west cost. Below is how I purchased it:

250k miles (ish)
OME heavy lift
ARB front with 10k t-max winch
Lockers
4.88's
315 KO's
Rear bumper with dual swingouts

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Aside from the typical head unit and door speaker upgrades, the first notable thing done was a pair of new Corbeau sport seats. These are a viable, cost effective solution to a worn out 80 seat, however I would not buy them again and I do have plans to replace them with proper rebuilt 80 seats or something better. For now however, they fit the bill

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Although the plan WAS to keep the truck largely as-is from when I bought it and only add sliders, we all know it's a slippery slope with these trucks. Next up was a 1" body lift from roger brown and tube sliders from WKOR (built to accommodate the 1" body lift).

The body lift was installed by @OTRAMM . Ryan deserve a special shout out, as he's been putting up with me since I was a clueless high schooler (still clueless).

Photos show the truck with following setup (not all changes had been documented in this thread):
- OME J's all around
- 1" body lift
- IPOR skid plate
- FR/RR bumpers
- Empty cargo area
- WKOR sliders
- 315's
- sans roof rack

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Can't have too many pics of 37's. They fit the 80 well.

Setup shown is same OME J's all around, 1" Body lift, full armor, 17" FJC steelies and 1.5" wheel spacers.

Sadly, I've had this setup for about one year and not been able to truly wheel it. All test flexing shows little to no rub, but hopefully we can truly test it soon. Truck was down from May-October '20 (more to come on that) so didn't get to do any wheeling.

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Only change here, was removal of sliders. Going from the original setup as I bought it, to the new height with 37's lead to some complaints from the :princess: in terms of entry/exit and loading kids into car seats.

Up next, a set of step sliders from Mike at BIOR

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Next up was just getting some fresh powder coat on the rear bumper. The PO had it lined with a truck bed liner but it was tired.

The long-term list may include upgrading to a 4x4 labs or something with greater clearance, but for now this works well.

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Old motor out at 295k miles.

Clean engine bay with firewall insulation removed.

One layer of Second Skin Damplifier

Three layers of Second Skin Spectrum

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Motor/Tranny/Cooling specs:

Engine/Tranny removed from 12k mile Camaro (just broken in!)
  1. Motor: L99 with DOD/AFB/VVT delete and GMC truck cam (basically making it an LS3 minus a few minor differences)
  2. Tranny: 6L80 - 6-speed transmission - came from same camaro so no mods other than shortening the output shaft to work with Marks adapter
  3. Cooling: New OEM radiator, Derale fan shroud with dual 13" electric fans
With mods, motor is putting out ~420hp
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Case closed.

I drove the truck 3 hours home on 10/22 and have put about 1000 miles on the new driveline.

Final engine bay pics and new stance shown below. Gained .5-.75" in the front due to lower weight of the LS vs 1FZ
New BIOR step sliders added with accommodation for 1" body lift.

For those debating an LS swap, here is one man's feedback. Hopefully it helps.

Overall: To say the difference is night and day is wildly understated. I never sought to make it a race car, and it's not, but rather wanted to have ample power on tap, so that power was not something I thought about. Driving the 80 was always a pleasure, but now pulling steep grades at 70mph, and accelerating to 80+ if needed, increases the enjoyment exponentially. The investment to pay someone to do it right is massive, but it's still cheaper than a new SUV and better in many ways. I would absolutely do it again. The new setup will certainly need to earn its keep in terms of reliability, but I have high hopes.

Motor (6.2L LS): Not much to say here. Yes, I'd love to have kept it all toyota and used a 3UR, but we all know that's not really possible. The LS is a well-proven, reliable motor. I've never driven a 5.3L in an 80, but if debating the time and expense of the swap, going with the larger motor I feel is worth it. The power band feels very similar to the 200, albeit much more radical/raw due to the exhaust, 80 series platform, etc.

Transmission/T-case (6L80): In speaking with a few members here who'd done similar swaps, many strongly recommended skipping the 4L80 and going straight to the 6-speed. I'm glad I took this recommendation. First gear is much lower than the A343F was and couple that with the 3.11 low range gears is a recipe for a much more controlled slow-speed wheeler. The smoothness/harshness of the shifts do seem dependent on the throttle pressure, which I'm sure is by design when they tuned it. I won't say it's as smooth as the 200 but I wouldn't expect it to be either; they're different animals. The shifter is out of a chevy malibu, which does allow manual mode and has + and - for gear selection. Keeping the stock shifter would be nice, but tricky with the 6-speed and there's no real value in doing so.

High speed: With 4.88's, 37's and the 6-speed, I'm spinning the motor at 2150 rpm's at 70 mph. I've debated running some 35" A/T's on the street, but might want to consider the t-case high range gears to bring the RPM's down. In the current setup, 70-80mph is smooth as glass and effortless in maintaining speed. Maybe it's in my head, but 37's seem way more manageable now at highway speeds. Factory cruise control switch is fully operational but I only use it seldomly.

Low speed: I've only yet played around my house, but can't wait to truly test out the full setup. Based on the calculator I've played with, my final crawl ratio is 61:1 due to 4.02 first gear, 3.11 low range and 4.88 Ring and pinion.

Exhaust: Using a flowmaster muffler, 3" and test pipes in place of cats. There is no hiding the LS due to the exhaust. It sounds great. It's honestly a little louder than I had hoped, but once the RPM's are settled and just cruising, it's great. I find myself listening to the stereo less, as the V8 exhaust note is music in itself.....that or my speakers just can't compete so there's no use in trying. There is room where the original spare tire sat to add a resonator or something to quiet it down but that almost seems sacrilegious.

Throttle feel: This is a drive by wire motor, which does make the throttle feel very smooth from an input standpoint. The shop retrofitted a camaro pedal setup and unless you looked, you'd never know. The placement and fab work looks stock in my opinion.

Insurance note: Given the normal value of less than $10k, I did secure a "stated value" policy from Hagerty. It's not cheap; I think I'm paying $275/month, but with that premium, the 80 is insured at $70k. Protecting the investment here seemed like a no brainer. Something to consider for those dumping big money in their old trucks that NADA says is worth only $8k in the event of a total loss.



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Bludozer

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Almost positive I saw this truck sitting outside of Ryan's shop a couple of years ago. Quite the evolution it's gone through since then!
 

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