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Christian Orban

1996 Chevy 3500 HD long wheelbase do I make it a wrecker or a rollback?

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I just bought back my old 1996 Chevy 3500 HD with the long wheelbase and the 6.5 turbo diesel with a 5-speed manual transmission. I'm debating on whether 2 look for a rollback body from another truck to put on it or adjust take off the existing worn out stationery flatbed and cut the frame off behind the rear leaf springs and put on a wheel left I have from another wrecker that works excellent. It is the original sneaker lift made by Hi-Tech in Texas. I should be able to reuse PTO pump from the Old Wrecker and transferred over but I'm not positive. I'm really looking for opinions on which way I should go based on knowledge and experience. Which one will require less modification? This truck has dual fuel tanks that automatically self level so I'm wondering if I would have to get rid of the rear fuel tank for either one of these modifications. Right now I have a 1986 Ford F-350 with a Holmes 440 body and the sneaker lift. It is a great old truck but too late and too short of a wheelbase so anything heavy what's the front end up in the air and makes it unsafe on the road. I'm thinking with the extra weight and when wheelbase of this Chevy 3500 HD I should be able to will of almost anything safely

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i would add the wrecker unit to it. There just isnt enough gvw on that chassis to turn it into a roll back. Yes, i know they used to build them but times are different. people didnt really pay too much mind to gvw back in the day and lived by the old "if it fits it ships" mantra. You would lose the rear fuel tank for either install. shortening the wheel base is not as horrific as it sounds as long as you have a clean level place to work and know how to read a tape measure. if your not versed on welding and metal fabrication then I suggest you hire someone who is. Leave it a bit long and install a tunnel box between the wrecker unit and cab to keep some of that wheel base for heavier picks but keep in mind, it is just a 1-ton. Good luck with it. I had a 98 like yours with a chevron self-loader on it years back. It was a decent truck but mine was an automatic and I had nothing but problems with the transmission. I eventually got rid of the truck and installed the wrecker body on a 12 ram 3500 chassis that we still have and use today.  


There are Tow Truck Drivers, Then There is Towing and Recovery operators...... Which one are you??🤨

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Yes I completely understand about the newer trucks and how things have changed with the GVWR. I believe this truck is either 15,000 or 16,000 but I can check later. I would definitely take your advice on leaving the long wheel base. As far as removing the rear fuel tank that would be fine I just have to figure out if the fuel gauge will work accurately if I simply disconnect the rear tank and sending unit. As far as the transmission this truck shifts like butter and the clutch is great. Also I'm in New Jersey and to find a completely rust free truck is like winning the lottery, so guess I won.

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It would all depend on how much money you want into the truck when your finished and how much your budget is. The suggestion of the longer wheel base and tunnel box is a solid one. There are quite a few beds stacking up all around the country. Not sure why we are not seeing too many of them being listed for sale.

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I am not 100% sure on this, but I believe you will need to install a different (single tank style )sending unit in the saddle tank for your gauge to work properly. There will be obvious fuel line re-routing to do as well with eliminating the rear tank. Having the manual transmission is a big plus for you because in my opinion the automatic that was available for those trucks was junk.I went through 4 of them in 2-1/2 years. 2 were Jasper rebuilds and 2 of them were Gm factory tranny's. Being in upstate Ny I completely understand the whole rust thing. It certainly is like hitting lotto to find an older rust free rig. Not to downplay the amount of work that needs to be done but if your pretty well mechanically inclined and have some metal fab experience it really isnt too big a job to do.


There are Tow Truck Drivers, Then There is Towing and Recovery operators...... Which one are you??🤨

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Is this one of the models with fuel tanks that fed each other or is this one you would switch from tank to tank. If it has a switch, then it's as simple as deleting the watch or not using it. Knew a guy once that thought he ran out of fuel. He accidentally switched to the eliminated tank. I am sure others here have had that experience.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, TowZone said:

So, that means it's likely the sending unit is with the fuel pump in the front tank? Removing the rear tank and disabling the transfer will not effect the gas guage.

Sent from my SM-G950U using TowForce mobile app
 

That was my experience when deleting the add-on tank on my '95 3500HD; it had a wiring jumper and lift pump to move fuel from the add-on tank to the OEM tank.  I just removed the aftermarket stuff and left the OEM tank/sender alone and they worked correctly.

 

Funny you mention the Sneeker and Holmes bed on your '86 Ford.  A friend of mine still owns an '88 F350 with a Sneeker topped by an actual wrecker bed, where most Sneeker installs are on dually pickups instead of chassis cabs.  Does your bed have three shallow toolboxes at the tailboard?

 

Those Sneekers aren't bad units (I had a brand new one installed forever ago on a '96 C3500 dually) but if I recall they are a 3500 lb capacity unit.  The data plate should be on there with the info.  About the only real issue my friend ever had with his old one are the hose fittings on the crossbar to the claw extensions; whenever the angles got too extreme they seemed prone to breakage.  Couldn't tell what they had redesigned on my newer unit but that never happened to me.

 

Easy enough to alter the wheelbase on your HD by chopping the frame as you planned, and drilling new holes for the spring mounts.  A magnetic drill press might help as you have a LOT of holes to drill.  You may need to fab a driver side shock mount bracket depending on whether the Sneeker clears the original or not.

 

Not sure how you plan on attaching the Sneeker to your frame but a friend and I installed one on a '94 3500HD; he designed and built an entire subframe to sit on top of the truck and utilized many existing frame holes to attach the subframe.  This gave the Sneeker higher lift capability than had it been positioned between the original frame rails.  The only real downside I saw to it is that it added considerable weight to the truck, reducing load capacity a bit.

 

Here's a couple pics; yes it is a genuine Sneeker though a prior owner hacked Jerr-Dan spoon receivers on in place of the claws.  I just used it as a shop truck and then later it got a Dynamic self-loader.  First pic was just testing, hadn't done hose management yet.  It carried the weight pretty well..

 

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Richard

Edited by someotherplace

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To me ... the comments here are defining. Why re-intent the proverbial wheel? The words described by the professionals herein, describe, "re-routing, spending, modification, shortening, installing, welding, removing, etc", all cost money. Plus, any time you shorten a truck's frame, it has to be done with precision; otherwise, there's risk of miniscule alignment issues where that (steering), "Death Shake", can be created and experienced somewhere around 40-45 mph. I personally would stay away from shortening the frame, but keep the factory wheelbase for a carrier. Why spend the money to shorten the frame where there are plenty of wreckers out in tow-land?     R.


Randall C. Resch

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Like I stated in an earlier response to this gentleman Mr. Resch,  I dont want to down play the amount of work required to do this job properly. To me it is no big deal as I myself have shortened ( or stretched for that matter ) my very fair share of truck frames and installed or built many of wrecker units and roll backs. Personally, I feel Mr. Orban is still way better off performing the shorten and sneeker/wrecker body install as opposed to installing a roll back for the main reason that he already has pretty much all he needs already. The savings of not having to buy a roll back assembly can be used to have a professional fabricator perform the frame work if Mr. Orban is not ready to take on that part of the job himself. My second reason would be the satisfaction of building something your way with your hands. There is no better feeling in my opinion. The last one I did was the 2012 Ram I mentioned earlier in this thread. That was a bit of a nervous one for me because we literally bought the cab and chassis brand new, drove it the 8 miles to the shop where I promptly cut the truck in half. lol


There are Tow Truck Drivers, Then There is Towing and Recovery operators...... Which one are you??🤨

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To keep things simple and to keep a high lifting capacity I believe I'm going to leave the wheelbase the way it is and cut the frame off right behind the leaf spring shackles. As far as drilling holes in the frame I have done it before with Harbor Freight stepper bits and a cheap cordless Dewalt drill $99 special around Christmas time LOL. This time I think I will order the hugin drill bit set. I know I am spelling it wrong but they make bits that look like spot weld drill bits. They actually manufacture the sets sold by Snap-on under the name of blue point. My friend has them and they are awesome. Although I don't have a huge amount of experience I did have a 2001 Dodge Ram that a friend and I installed a lift and tow 5 series unit under which worked out great. I'll have to find some pictures just sold it last year. I had an aluminum flatbed that I installed on top and somehow without measuring the wheel lift when fully retracted lined up perfectly with the tail board of the bed. Great truck but the two piece riveted frame did not like lifting heavy loads and lift and tow 5 series unit was good for playing around but old and wore out and not heavy duty like the sneaker lift. The sneaker lift is built like an army tank

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Hougen 11087 Fractional Rotacut Combo Kit - 19 Piece, 5/16 to 1-1/2 Inch https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KKO6VKS/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_qkcAEbPZQ81TA

 

 

This is the type of drill bit set I was talking about.

 

I'm not sure what type of body I am going to mount on top. I will start working on ideas. I have an 8 ft dually chevy bed. Maybe I can fill in the gap with something like stacks and a tool box.

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If that were mine I would give it a Vulcan 882 with a massive tunnel box.

As was suggested, a magdrill saves a great deal of stress when drilling holes on a frame. I hate banks and love vintage iron. Take  it slow and pay as you go. 

A paid off truck is worth its weight in toilet paper in today's economy.

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