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LS Swapped Short Bed: 1979 Chevrolet C10

Having grown-up with the Chevrolet small-block engine and wrenched on innumerable I figured its reign as the “be everything” engine would never end. Slowly but surely, it is being passed aside by its replacement, the “LS” series and its follow-on, the “LT”. Hardly new, the LS was introduced in 1997 but now, thanks to plug and play arrangements, it is finding its way into just about everything. And that’s what we have here, a ’79 Chevrolet C-10 that has experienced the swap. This will hopefully be a chance to learn a bit about how it’s done. This LS equipped C-10 is located in San Diego, California and is available here on eBay for a BIN price of $20,000.

A 1979 Chevrolet C-10 pickup is about as bread and butter a truck as you will find. While not as in demand as the vaunted 1967-1972 version, the “square-bodies” (’73-’87), as they are known, are catching on quickly with truck enthusiasts. And they were a display case for Chevy’s panoply of engines at the time, including straight-sixes (250 & 292 CI), small-block V8s (305, 350, 400 CI), and a big-block V8 in the form of a 454 CI, Mark IV. This was definitely a more robust powerplant line-up than was available for passenger cars at the time – perhaps that has enhanced the truck’s popularity.

The LS series of engines (4.8, 5.3, 5.7, 6.0, 6.2, and 7.0 liters) was introduced in 1997 with a 5.7 making its debut in the Corvette. By ’98 the engine had migrated to the Camaro/Firebird F bodies and the new millennium saw the inclusion of the LS in Chevrolet and GMC’s truck line-up. Other than bore-spacing and diminutive external dimensions there’s not a lot in common between the traditional small-block and its replacement. One thing that is different is how easy the LS builds horsepower. Not that the traditional engine was ever a slouch in that department but the LS brought new vigor to an old concept. The issue is, however, that the LS requires, at the least, an Electronic Control Module (ECM) to operate properly, something not in use in 1979. The seller doesn’t detail that specific part of the conversion but he does shed some light, “Truck has been LS swapped with a GEN 3 5.3L and 4L60E combination from a clean but wrecked 2005 Suburban with only 105,000 miles. The motor is stock other than a Trailblazer TBSS intake moderate tune and stainless steel headers. 3” full exhaust system with 2 chamber flow master and stainless tip by Ed Hanson’s exhaust. Sounds great not too loud.” The power rating for that engine would be 295 net HP in stock form and the mods listed have probably boosted the power a bit. The seller claims that this C-10 “drives like a new truck”. The engine compartment is very tidy, the engine looks like it really belongs.

According to the seller, this is a lifelong California vehicle (not sure what the Iowa license plates are all about) and it is listed as dry and rust-free. It has been repainted but the finish still presents itself well. There are some chips, fade, and road rash but mostly minor stuff. The cargo bed is typical, scuffed from use but seemingly sound. The stainless trim is all in place and the bumpers still show well. This truck’s overall condition, and it being a short bed model, should be a sales booster. If this C-10 looks like it’s dragging a bit, it is, it has been lowered 2″ with new spindles and modified rear springs.

The interior is sharp and clean! The red vinyl bench seat presents itself as new, as does the carpet and dash pad. The seller mentions that while speakers are installed in the kick panels there is no radio but the original OEM unit is in the trunk(?) The instrument panel gauges and speedometer are listed as working and illuminated with LEDs.

This is a very nice conversion but it would probably help if the next owner got a brush up on the intricacies of an LS conversion. While they are becoming more common all of the time, each one probably has a slightly different twist on its approach. What do you think, would you prefer an old truck in step with modern times, or would you prefer to stay old-school all the way?


  1. Steve R

    This is a really nice looking truck, if it’s as described it is well worth the asking price.

    Steve R

    Like 3
  2. JerryDeeWrench

    The LS will almost double the fuel mileage. Great swap.

    Like 5
    • Bry593

      Holy cow, really? An LS will cause this truck to get 36mpg? Wow, that is ama-za-zing!

      My ‘80 C10 shortwide got 18mpg on highway with 350 cid, th350 and 3.08 12-bolt. Rv cam, Quadrajet, dual 2.25”. Pretty typical build worked pretty well.

      Sold it because it had the same rust issues as the truck in the ad.

      Like 0
      • TheArgentine

        My 80 short and wide C10, with a 4/6 drop, 350/th350, 2.76 gears and 29″ tall tires got 14mpg everywhere, no matter what, all the time… 1600 mile highway trip, around town, etc.

        With a stock 5.3 and a 4L80E, with 2.76 rear gears and 30″ rear tires (not optimal) I get 25-26 all highway, or 20mixed. 18 if I do a bunch of burnouts between fillups.

        Like 0
  3. Kelly Mann

    There is a great LS swap builder over in Davenport, Iowa.
    Maybe they created this truck.

    Like 2
  4. Troy s

    My first impression of the non-California plate was emissions related, as in flunked, but the seller claims to have the required paper work as far as legality. My question is, and maybe I’ve asked it before, in California this truck would have to pass ’79 emissions or, as I’m thinking here, 2005 the year if the engine. It’s a weird state and the law changes.
    Neat old Chevy right here in southern Cali, I’m not sure if I’d prefer this LS conversion over the tried and true 350, the unknowns bother me for a daily driver.

    Like 1
    • Steve R

      CARB, California air recourses board, has a certification process for older vehicles with a later model engine is legal.

      Steve R

      Like 0
      • Troy s

        Thanx for the heads up. I can’t help but wonder on this one. My old boss would register cars at other residence he owned that had no testing, just to avoid the smog certification altogether,, yeah he had a few bucks.

        Like 0
  5. mainlymuscle

    A clean body ,short box, and an LS, for 20 grand is a deal without a doubt.Double the gas mileage ? At the very least,likely closer to triple.I would prefer if there was a year and a few thousand miles on the conversion,as stated by Troy,there are some “unknowns” or gremlins to work out.I have real LS cars and trucks and I’m a fan except for this 5.3.We have had no less than 3 of them fail due to cam sensors.My favourite conversion LS is a 69 Jag XKE (known as “Bad Kitty “).Minor mods for 366 rwhp in an otherwise totally stock car-awesome.We are currently putting a 6.0 in my 1970 GMC shortbox ,original hugger orange paint.Basically ,the 350 developed a knock. I don’t much care for the numbers matching nonsense,unless a RARE collectable,so mileage ,reliability ,cold weather starts and POWER made the upgrade an easy decision.My next call is weather to splurge on the dress up kit to return to the look of the sbc.
    This truck should sell by the end of the day.

    Like 2
  6. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    That interior shot is so bright and clean it makes my eyes water. I’d love to have this pickup but my budget would keep me at around $10,000.00.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  7. Joe Haska

    I like this truck and I think the price is right. I think the seller should have washed it, I think he knows it will sell, so what the heck.

    Like 0

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