The Lunch Truck: From Built to Blown Up in Three Days
The guys at Shear Performance are no strangers to tight deadlines. As the shop owner, Justin Shears has been building custom hot rods for his customers for years, many of which turn heads at various shows in SoCal. Shop Manager Sandy Sausser is known for working at lightning speeds, especially when it’s him against the clock. So it was only fitting that they bought their show vehicle just four days before the 2019 Holley LS Fest West in Las Vegas—and it didn’t have an LS in it yet.
Nicknamed “The Lunch Truck,” this 1979 Chevy C30 single cab has certainly been around the block. Though the history of it isn’t quite clear, the box on the bed was built to vend some sort of food and beverage at some point. With heated cabinets for hot food and hidden refrigeration coils, this truck probably fed crews of people. The guys were told it was last used as a locksmith truck, which was evident by the presence of dozens of keys thrown about the bed box. While the truck hadn’t ran for many years, it easily rolled up and down the trailer, had brakes and seemed to be in working mechanical order.
Under the hood was a stock small block 350 (which Sandy later found out to be a Goodwrench crate engine, likely replacing the original engine decades ago), which did run—briefly. Because the rules of LS Fest require all participant vehicles to be powered by a variant of the LS block, Justin and Sandy had to swap in something that was allowed, and try to squeeze every ounce of power from it, all in just three nights. The shop was busy wrapping up other customer vehicles bound for LS Fest West, so the guys only had evenings at the shop to work on this project.
Beginning with the LS Swap
Work began on the first night, cutting off the exhaust, draining all fluids, disconnecting hoses and unbolting the peripheral components under the hood. Soon after, the small block 350 was out of the hole, and the C30 was ready for the transplant. On night two, Justin began the teardown and assembly process of an LS-based 6.0L iron block they found at a junkyard. The new motor was suspiciously clean inside, but Justin checked as much as he could while putting the long block back together.
The next day, Justin and Sandy began building the wiring harness needed to run this engine in the truck, splicing and re-pinning a stock GM truck harness and computer to suit their needs. Once the wiring harness was completed, the engine was dropped into the hole with the help of some motor mount adapters, and mated to the existing TH 400 automatic transmission.
Built for Boost
But that was only half the battle, because the boys at Shear were hungry for boost. Simply running a naturally breathing LS wasn’t enough for the Lunch Truck, so they started plumbing the piping needed for an off-brand GT45 turbocharger. Sandy focused on making the exhaust work with the turbo and installing the wastegate, while Justin tackled the fueling needs for the extra air coming in. The truck was idling shortly after, breathing through a “custom” hole in the hood Sandy made with the plasma cutter for the exhaust stack to vent through.
Together, they completed the swap in the time frame needed to get to LS Fest West, however, the Lunch Truck still wasn’t donut-ready. In order to do proper burnouts, both tires need to spin, and that’s not possible with the open Dana 60 rear differential that came under the Chevy C30. Instead of buying a spool or limited slip, Sandy opted for the ol’ Lincoln Locker. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it entails draining the differential oil and welding the spider gears in the carrier so they are permanently “locked,” ensuring both tires will spin at the same speed at the same time.
The Dana 60 is plenty strong enough to handle the abuse from the turbocharged LS, but the tires and wheels that came with the truck were outright dangerous. Justin and Sandy mounted a set of 265/75/16 Nitto Terra Grapplers to a set of steel wheels with a fresh coat of white powder coat. The all-terrain Terra Grapplers fit the truck body much better than the highway-terrain tires that came with it, and they’ll come in handy if the Lunch Truck ever finds itself off the pavement.
Once at the show, with only hours to spare before the Lunch Truck had to be slaying tires and making smoke, Justin took the time to make adjustments to the tune, and solve for the E85 fuel that’s now rushing through the truck veins, in order to make the most horsepower they can. Once the tune was settled, the truck headed for the skid pad at the Cleetus and Cars burnout competition, under its own power, sounding healthy and menacing.
30 Seconds of Glory
Unfortunately, that feeling of accomplishment only lasted about 30 seconds or so on the skid pad. After the third donut, Sandy, who was taking the reins, noticed something was off. The truck wasn’t sounding right and stopped making power. Not risking total failure, the two drove the truck back to the pits to investigate. It was determined that the truck had likely grenaded a piston (or two) during the burnout. With 18 psi of boost on the stock internal components, it was almost bound to happen, but no crowd pleaser ever played it safe.
Phase Two Begins
The Lunch Truck, now leaking oil and misfiring horribly, made it back onto the trailer and to the shop again, where it awaits phase two of its wake-up call. Justin and Sandy have plans to replace the internal components of this 6.0L with forged variants, able to handle higher boost pressures and more fuel before failing. Now that the shop isn’t under the gun, they will also have time to fabricate a proper water-to-air intercooler with an ice box on board, drastically reducing intake air temperatures, resulting in much more power.
Justin and Sandy have a lot of work on their hands to make this burnout machine indestructible, but now with much more time (and sleep), you can bet it will be a completely different machine.
Without a doubt, the return of The Lunch Truck will be an epic sight. Be sure to follow along on Driving Line for more content around this build, and some of the other crazy creations to come from Shear Performance.