Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) Chronicles: Creek’s Project BOV Truck: Series Post #1

Hello friends.  I’ve owned several Bug Out Vehicles over the years.  Some have been my daily drivers and others have been a dedicated stand alone vehicle.  Some have been new and some have been old.  I had a pretty cool 4×4 Ford Cargo Van that I really liked.  I’ve had a couple old Broncos and I even had a 90s Explorer.

A new project:

I decided a few months ago to take on a special BOV project.  I wanted this one to be different.  First, I’ve never owned a Diesel and it was about time I got one.  Second, I wanted a dedicated BOV that was truly EMP proof so it needed to already have no electronics/computers or it needed to be such that I could eliminate these items without too many compromises.  Thirdly, I’ve never owned a military surplus truck and I’ve always wanted one.  And lastly, like most of us, I was on a budget.  I wanted the biggest bang for my buck.  Oh, and I didn’t want too much of a project.  I’m not the best mechanic in the world and I didn’t want to get in over my head with too much of a fixer-upper.  Tall order, right?


The decision:

After much debate.  I decided on a M1028 retired military CUCV (pronounced CUK-VEE).  It is a 1985 Chevrolet pick-up truck.  I found it on-line and after a few basic mechanical fixes I’ve got about $5000 into it.  Starting with this article, I am going to chronicle my entire build from start to finish of this BOV.  It will take months but I thought it would be a cool project to share here on the blog.  And, I thought you could help provide input and feedback as well.  These posts may at times be very informal – simply an update with my thoughts and/or goals for the project.  I’ll start with a few pictures of the truck and a little bit of background information.


Truck Details:

  • 1985 Chevrolet Pickup
  • GM (Detroit Diesel) 379 cu in. (6.2L) J-series non-emissions diesel V-8 engine, 135hp@3600rpm
  • 1 1/4 Ton
  • 4×4
  • All axles full floating. Front axle is Dana 60 with Spicer Trac-lok (limited slip) and locking hubs, ratio: 4.56:1.
  • Rear axle is 10.5 inch Corporate 14 Bolt with “No-spin/Detroit” differential locker.
  • GM TH400 (Turbo Hydramatic 400) automatic transmission with 3 forward and 1 reverse speeds
  • 5800 lbs (2633 kg)
  • Payload: 3600 lbs (1634 kg)
  • 12/24 volt dual voltage
  • Equipped to tow M101 Series 3/4 ton trailers with maximum towed load of 3100 Ibs. Tongue load not to exceed 300 Ibs.
  • Fuel Tank: 20 Gallons US (75.7 liters)
  • Max Speed: 1st 25 mph (40.2 kph)
  • Max Speed: 2nd 35 mph (56.3 kph)
  • Max Speed: Drv 55 mph (88.5 kph)
  • Max Speed: Rev 9 mph (24.5 kph)





What I like about this truck:

There are many things I like about this truck.  Here is a short list – I’m sure I’ll get into more details as the weeks go by.

  • I love the Black-Out Switch.  Flip a switch on the dash and all the lights go out – even the brakes.  That’s a pretty cool bug out feature!  Sometimes you just want to go covert.
  • There are no electronic or computer parts on this truck – everything is manual.  Minus a few fuses – this thing is theoretically EMP proof as it stands.
  • Gun racks.  It has 2 vertical gun racks behind the seat – cool.
  • Brush guard.  The stock brush guard isn’t fancy, but it sure is functional.  I like it.
  • Beefy shackles.  It’s got several beefy shackles throughout.
  • 83,000 miles.  I’m sure these 83K miles were ‘hard-use’ miles but this is nothing for the diesel engine inside
  • It’s diesel.  Though this has positives and negatives – I like the fact that I have a diesel truck option.
  • 4×4 w/ detroit locker.  This is a real 4×4 truck.
  • Decent gas mileage – I’m getting over 20 mpg with this truck.
  • 8 foot bed
  • No rust hardly at all!






What I don’t like about this truck:

  • The paint is crap.  The guy who had it before me painted it with some kind of janky house exterior paint.  This is going to take some work.
  • This thing starts groaning like a ticked off grizzly bear when you hit 50 mph.  It’s geared for towing, not speed.
  • AC – yeah right.
  • Interior is shot to you know where – everything needs replaced
  • It’s old.  I like that it’s old for EMP sake but I hate that it’s old at the same time.  Old is less reliable – period.
  • It’s beat up.  I guess this is to be expected with an 85 military truck but I will want to spend some time on the cosmetics.  While I’m not overly obsessed with how it looks – I want it to look better than it does now
  • I hate the tires
  • Not much interior storage space – may need a cap on back – must think about this


Some initial thoughts:

  • Need more storage – A LOT MORE – begin search for truck cap
  • Look for tires – and maybe wheels
  • Sand down nasty paint spots and pop out tons of dents
  • Fix some minor things – blinkers, windows (very hard to roll up and down)
  • Get to work on the interior – go to junk yard to find suitable replacements
  • Do an initial test drive to my Bug Out Location – calculate time in transit and also fuel expenditures








Immediate / Long Term Goals:

  • Find a truck cap to create more secure storage
  • Come up with some kind of a camo pattern for exterior / decide on color scheme and overall look
  • Start search for tires/wheels
  • Interior gun racks/storage
  • Source interior trim/panels/seat covers
  • Begin installation of communication tools (CB/HAM)
  • Install DC power points for chargers, etc.
  • More exterior lighting???

What are your initial thoughts?  Any initial ideas for the build?  I want to tackle larger tasks at first and handle the details later.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



  1. Jim Greene says:

    Got a cap in CT $100 barn doors n side hatches. Same guy I just bought my BOV from has it.

  2. Zachary Williamson says:

    A few suggestions as I have a similar truck (dubbed 'Optimus Primer'!) and have been thinking of possibilities for years:

    1) For the bed, I've seen several Utility beds going for $500-$1000 locally. If you can find a good one, the cabinets will all still lock, although you may need to run some new weather stripping.

    2) For the interior of the doors, I believe that standard C10's would have the same side panels.

    3) For the dash, you will be hard-pressed to find a used one that isn't already cracked to kingdom come. A new one would be $300, but then probably wouldn't match your military model and therefor wouldn't necessarily match to all your panels, which would be a pain. There is a guy here locally that makes custom dashes out of fiber glass and quoted me at $300 as well. If you want to add more switches and have some cool stuff built-in to the dash, you may want to try to find someone local to you that can do similar work. Same price, but more functionality – always a good thing!

    4) Grill/guard. I plan on putting a piece of expanded metal over my grill for added protection and debris filtration. This would be quite easy for you to do on your brush guard – just tack weld it onto the back side of the guard.

    Nice truck! Looking forward to your future posts.

  3. Zachary Williamson says:

    A few suggestions as I have a similar truck (dubbed ‘Optimus Primer’!) and have been thinking of possibilities for years:

    1) For the bed, I’ve seen several Utility beds going for $500-$1000 locally. If you can find a good one, the cabinets will all still lock, although you may need to run some new weather stripping.

    2) For the interior of the doors, I believe that standard C10’s would have the same side panels.

    3) For the dash, you will be hard-pressed to find a used one that isn’t already cracked to kingdom come. A new one would be $300, but then probably wouldn’t match your military model and therefor wouldn’t necessarily match to all your panels, which would be a pain. There is a guy here locally that makes custom dashes out of fiber glass and quoted me at $300 as well. If you want to add more switches and have some cool stuff built-in to the dash, you may want to try to find someone local to you that can do similar work. Same price, but more functionality – always a good thing!

    4) Grill/guard. I plan on putting a piece of expanded metal over my grill for added protection and debris filtration. This would be quite easy for you to do on your brush guard – just tack weld it onto the back side of the guard.

    Nice truck! Looking forward to your future posts.

  4. Lynne Eiben says:

    Look forward to reading your posts. Looks like a decent enough vehicle to me.

    • Richard Vandehey says:

      I would either change the size of the tank or add a second one, 20 gallons is a pretty small tank, mine is 36 gallons and Im putting a second one, ever thought of adding a truck box/additional fuel tank (100 Gallons), can travel pretty far off of 172 gallons of diesel if you are getting over 20 miles a gallon, roughly 3,440 miles, extra diesel that runs a generator at your bug out location never hurts either. My .02 worth

      • Awesome ideas Richard!

      • My cousin has a small farm and has a 100 gallon fuel tank in the back of the truck. He just has a dispenser hose and 12 volt pump on it so he can supply his tractor, his truck, or whatever else he needs to put fuel in. So the extra truck bed tank is very versatile.

  5. Thomas Ryley says:

    Craig's list near me in Fl always has free toppers at least once weekly check your local craig's list.

  6. Charlie Odom says:

    Wheels and Tires.
    First you need to find out what the original equipment is. It will probably be either 235-85R16 or a 7.5D16 (bias as opposed to the radial option, D vs. R). If that’s not what size is on there now, it was probably changed by the previous owner. The 235-85R16 is approximately a 31 inch overall diameter tire (31.6"-31.8"). There is an optional "floatation size" for this, the 31-10.50R15. These options should fit the stock setup. "Plus sizing" is tricky and may need to be measured by a local shop. You don’t want to end up tearing the fenders, or worse, ruin a brand new set of tires by catching them on a jagged piece of metal or some of the steering components.
    Wheels, in my opinion, should stay steel. The main reason is that steel wheels, although not very attractive, can be dismounted, heated up, and hammered back into form if need be. Aluminum alloy cannot. Damage is damage and without the right equipment, cannot be fixed (and even then can be tough).

  7. Cache Valley Prepper says:

    Richard is right about adding aux fuel tanks or increasing the size of the one you have. All the fuel you can carry may be all the fuel you ever have and I’m sure you already know that diesel stores a whole lot longer than unleaded, especially if it’s stabilized. Plus you can buy when prices are lower. Dual batteries really come in handy, as does a Priority Start module that stops your battery from being drained if you leave the lights on or the like (a killer if you’re back in the wilderness), cap it for sure, definitely go with some quality comms gear. Look into Anderson Power Pole connectors for your 12v wiring. Hopefully it’s not a 24v like many military vehicles. I really wouldn’t spend too much on the bodywork and paint. I just did a flat tan rattle can pain job on mine. Makes it less likely to get broken into and fixing scratches I get wheeling is a piece of cake. It’s fantastic that it has lockers, but it looks like it could go for larger tires. I went with the largest that I could fit where my spare goes 33’s. When you get a cap, make sure it can take a roof rack. Then you can have 360 flood lighting for seeing obstacles crawling at night and working on stuff. Plus it’s a good place to store some extra cargo and your extrication gear if you put in a little ladder up to it. Your family situation will probably dictate whether you want to stick with the bench or go switch to buckets and put in a locking steel console. The console would give you a lot of room for comm gear and make it more theft resistant. The blackout switches are a cool feature, time for some NVG’s if you don’t have them yet.

  8. An idea for you to toss around….. you might look into an after market overdrive unit. That way you will be able to keep your power and towing capabilitiesas is, but be able to shift to a higher gear set when on the highway.This should improve fuel mileage and make highway speeds easier on your engine/transmission.

  9. Almost forgot to mention, a lot of people do not know that most modern diesel engines do have a small electronic device on the injector pump that turns on the fuel supply when you turn the key switch on. This same small device also shuts the engine down when you turn the key off. So in an EMP scenario, this small device could be fried and prevent the fuel from getting to the engine. Most engines can be converted to a manual shut-off. Essentially, it adds a cable push-pull to your dash that turns the fuel on or off at the point where the electronic device was. It would actually allow the truck to run with no battery, alternator, or starter. It could be push started and would run until you shut the fuel off at the injector pump.

  10. Highdesertlivin says:

    Im a big fan of a safari type rack, as you can load lots of gear and still have a mobile residense in the back.Make a (im visualising a stout topper in place) plat form in back.This givesyou additional storage below, and a sleeping area above. thanks for the read

  11. can't have an interior?

  12. John Dunlap says:

    Interesting idea. I have a 1978 GMC I learned to drive in, over 700K miles on it and just wore it out. Been trying to rebuild it on a non-existent budget. For after market restoration parts such as dash, seats, door panels, and other trim, look at http://www.lmctruck.com. They have reproduction parts for just about everything excluding the drive train. I would also think about installing a second fuel tank, and having a welder fabricate some side impact protection for them (despite the rigged media hype, being an owner I can say that the tanks on these trucks really can be crushed and ruptured if you get hit from the side, that kind of accident just isn’t common). I wouldn’t count on older vehicles being immune to EMP either. Russian research from the 50’s indicated that even normally resistant parts, such as starter motors, solenoids, etc. can be fried if the pulse is big enough or close enough (the intensity diminishes with the cube of the distance, I think).

  13. That motor can be a pig. I had that same motor in an 89 model. I abused it pretty good tho when hunting. As long as you keep all the fluids changed it might do okay. I drove mine several times thru water half way up the doors while hunting. I would get a snorkel kit and a couple of egr valves as spares. Good luck.

  14. I have built many 4×4 wheelers for mud, rocks or whatever is in my way.
    The best tires I have found are http://www.4x4groupbuy.com/store/-p-2929.html?gclid=CJiVhuqq7LgCFdAWMgod3ycAEg
    A bit noisy at freeway speeds but with the chugger Diesel you will be fine.

  15. check this one for ideas

  16. Andrew Young says:

    Creek…I had the Banks turbo kit on mine. Turned it from a dog to a beast! when I removed the factory air intake connection in the grill it really got some power. It was trying to breath through a coffee stirrer. I still have the turbo…might be able so send it your way. The rest of the kit was a plenum intake on top of the motor and and air cleaner box with a tube connecting them. Banks might have some of those old parts still laying around on the back of some shelf somewhere. Let me know…i HIGHLY recommen it for the 6.2

  17. The military has surplus radio huts that were designed to slide in the back of these trucks making them mobile command centers they are very rugged secure and ample storage with in could install a couple cots inside for sleeping quarters that's my plan just google military surplus you'll find them

  18. I presume that you'll be doing most of the work by yourself. The first thing I would concentrate on would be the drivetrain. I purchased a similar model from surplus sales for $1700. It ran well and I really didn't see or hear any major issues. I decided to check the brakes and bearings… Whoa Nellie! Maybe I'm just more inclined to worry about mechanical than cosmetic but I spent around $3000 rebuilding the entire drivetrain. Spend time on the axles, shafts, bearings, seals, etc. leave the paint for last. Ugly is good! A thief really isn't as likely to steal something ugly. Tires…go with something standard. You may not have many resources available to choose from later. Figure $200-$300 to have yor seat repaired. Get a cheap dash cover from JC Whitney. Definitely retrofit the fuel shutoff to manual. Keep the 2nd battery but get an Isolation switch installed. Spend the extra money on a 60 – 100 gallon cross bed fuel tank. Make sure you have a drain point to draw off water and use a fuel stabilizer. Remember that low profile will keep others from wanting what you have. Definitely get a topper with a rack on it. Above all remember that weight impacts everything from fuel economy to tire wear. Invest in a good winch that is setup to be used on the front or rear of the truck. Leave the cosmetic stuff for last. Spend the extra money on 2 good batteries. I have one standard cranking battery and one marine battery. Both are maintenance free glass mat types so they're not affected by my low maintenance attitude! Good luck, Loggerhead2u2@aol.com

  19. try LMC trucks
    i get a lot of odd interior pieces and such from them, also year one
    can’t wait to see the progress

  20. Wish you were close I would like to help, I like working on things but my back limits me on what I can do since I an disabled because of it. The light and electric is easy for me I a Aircraft Electrician when I was in the Marines.

  21. Creek Stewart says:

    Wow – awesome suggestions! Thanks.

  22. Creek Stewart says:

    Thanks Charles!

  23. Creek Stewart says:

    I've seen these – they are awesome! Trying to locate one nearby!

  24. Is a very nice start,a decent GM diesel motor and the 3 speed turbo 400 a great automatic transmission,also good axles.What is the transfer case you have on this truck?Excepting the emp issue would say that truck a good bug out vehicle as is though anything can be improved.I am definetly interested in the process of changes needed to make it a non victim in a solar/man made emp situation.I am a big fan of late 60’s-early 70’s pickups and with family in Cali. can get a reasonable priced one rust free,when out there keep pointing out old trucks with faded original paint and they wonder why I don’t want one with new paint,they just don’t understand!

  25. Don’t limit your interior to a replacement bench. If your willing to sacrifice the middle seat, you could easily get to bucket-type seats and do a squad car style gun rack inside (fixes interior issue and interior gun rack issue) Don’t forget racks for jerry cans (fuel/water). Winch?

  26. sorry, meant “two” not “to”

  27. Think about changing the air intake into a snorkle setup in case you need to cross deep water. Look at what the mud trucks do to seal engines and drivetrain from water as well. Think about your a lead lined overhead console for a 40 Channel CB radio or shortwave, compass and map compartments. The lower portion of the doors can be turned into smuggler compartments. Extra filters for fuel and air should also be kept on hand. Heavy electrical cable for welding has many uses for jumping other engines to tow or crude welding off a generator. Small inverter units encased in a lead lined box can become power plants if needed.

  28. I almost forgot! Pick up a solar trickle charger that you can lay on your dash. They have some at Northern Tool Co. I have one on my JD generator and my tractor.

  29. Gil Irigoyen says:

    Instead of a bed cap fabricate a tube cage with perforated sheet metal between the roll tubes to keep your thing walking away or some chain link fence, with this set up you can always place a tarp for some shade check the internet for Mexican police trucks should gibe you and ide.
    For paint check possibilities of using rhino liner.

  30. Brian Conner says:

    I've had a 1983 K5 Blazer w/ the 6.2 for a year and a half and love it. I'm swapping in a new-to-me HMMV 6.2 in right now to replace my tired civvy 6.2. If you ever need another motor or parts, check out Ted's Trucks and stuff in AL, I had an entire engine that had been gone through shipped to me for a good price. I've picked up a few things along the way engine-wise if you need any help.

    Not sure if you've thought about it, but that engine will run on many more fuels than just diesel in an emergency, if you replace the natural rubber fuel lines with something biodiesel-friendly. Add to the list Automatic Transmission Fluid, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NofGMzgLNQY), Biodiesel, Veggie Oil if it's not cold out(heaters can be installed), and Waste Motor Oil(strained, of course). Those are some of the biggest reasons I got this truck – down in hurricane country, gas stations dry up quick at just a notion of a storm headed our way… but there's a McDonald's on every block with vats of used oil :). If SHTF, which I consider an approaching hurricane to be a "mini" SHTF glimpse, gas stations will shut down very quickly, it's nice to have multiple fuel options.

    Check out the Diesel place and I'd pick up the 3 books that the diesel page offers, I found them to be pretty helpful. The complete shop manual for the truck can be found online, I've found that to be invaluable – the wiring diagrams alone were worth the cost. Look into upgrading the glow plug relay to a later model(I wish I'd have done it before I got stranded at 10k feet in CO!) if you have the old style – can't remember what year they were changed, but it's close to 1985-1986 and the old style was very prone to failure. In the meantime, learn how to bypass the glow plug relay in an emergency – I had to figure it out while stranded and with elevation sickness, not fun! Don't leave the relay bypassed once you start the truck, it will burn out the glowplugs. On that note, the AC Delco AC60Gs are revered as the best for this engine. If I remember correctly, they not only do the best job, but won't break off pieces into your engine or fail if you were to leave them on for too long.

    Camper shell? Your truck, sir, has a heckuva camper shell designed for it that can be put in the bed, or placed in an M101 trailer. Have a look at these – can you say bug out camper? http://www.operationeastwind.com/forum/index.php?topic=2187.0
    You can find more for sale here: http://www.govliquidation.com/auction/search?cmd=results&lvl1=5&lvl2=5411.

    Since I have a Blazer, I'll be looking for an M101 trailer like this: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/M101A3-with-S250-Shelter-HMMWV-CUCV-M35-LSSV-/221273509113?pt=Military_Vehicles&hash=item3384edccf9&vxp=mtr#ht_762wt_1165.

    Anyway, I could go on and on, enjoy the truck!

  31. Brian Conner says:

    Oh and by the way, if you want to put a liner down but not pay rhino line an arm and a leg, I read good reviews about Raptor liner, so I did my whole floor with it. Looks good, is rough textured but with a smooth(think glossy) finish, seems like it will hold up to packing gear in and out, as well as wiping mud out should be a breeze.

  32. Chris Williams says:

    I would recommend a cloth interior. Vinyl or other smooth surfaces would make you slide around if you have to make extreme manoeuvres. And seat covers will extend the life of cloth. Seat covers over vinyl is a whole different problem. Also, get rid of the vertical gun rack. Awkward and hard to deploy. A simple horizontal rack from Walmart will work wonders and be more versatile. As far as camo paint, my opinion is go flat black. On the street in a TEOTWAWKI situation it might work better with the black out lights.

  33. if you want more top end speed/highway ability invest in a quality spring (not block) style lift. 4" will clear 33" tires no problem 6" will clear 36" tires (great lift if you can locate humvee tires and bead lock wheels at surplus. this will change your final drive gear ratio and give you a better top end, but you'll lose your low speed grunt and acceleration.
    A lot of preppers will say to stay stock, but that's only important if you don't know where to find the aftermarket upgrades. I'd suggest cutting out the 24v system and running your batteries in parallel you keep the 12v but twice the amperage, I agree an isolator is a very good idea, so is keeping a spare alternator and belt in a tool box (knaack box) under your shell do it cross wise behind the cab and if you have an oversized width campershell u can sleep crosswise on a folding bunk over the tool box. A spare starter and a good tool kit should be in there also if you're worried about emp's, or finding aftermarket parts. Ideally your camper shell would have the strength to carry gear up top, or you can invest in a shell/ladder rack combo. remember redundancy is key to survival, spare fluids, spare filters, spare belts and tire plug kits, and water, water and more water for you and your rig if you're in an environment where your cooling system freezing is not a concern. you can find electronic rifle/shotgun vertical locking racks on ebay out of old cop cars occasionally, and l.e.d. lighting is sweet for the amperage minded, Amazon is your friend for cheep, durable off road leds, keep an eye on the reviews more than the price tag. Just my two cents. (oh, and a high lift jack and a good 10000k lb winch and a place to mount it never hurts) really a 3/4 ton surplus trailer would go a long way to complementing this bov, it's easier to tow than to carry.

  34. Great truck. Tires, goodyear duratrak are great for snow and ice. Well worth the high price. Check out solor1234.com for a truck power supply setup. You wont be disapointed. Last, consider a vehicle wrap of your favorite camo pattern, also pricey. Cant wait to see what you do.

  35. Matthew Tate says:

    If you’re worried about the paint issue, go up to your local military base and find their DRMO (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) and check to see if they have any of the paint that the military uses for their vehicles and interior of buildings, my dad and I painted an old farm truck that he used to have with it in brown and it covered well and was scratch resistant, weather resistant and oil resistant, it also was really super thick stuff but coated well and went on easily.

  36. The truck is an M1008, not M1028. I have one. I took the T400 trannie to Blumenthals in Oklahoma City, OK to swap out the output shaft in order to mount an adapter for the New Process 205 gear drive transfer case I had installed. It comes with an NP208, which aren't all that great and the seals leaked BAD! Anyway, I had the NP205 custom built, with adapter, at Moonshine Mafia Motorsports in Wisconsin, google 'em. I also put 16.5 aluminum American Racing rims put on, with 36x12x16.5 IROC Super Swampers put on it. With the 4.56:1 gearing and lockers, the the big tires turn pretty good. I'm still trying to get the lights to work again, as they did when I bought it. The problem I had was fixing things which ran off the 24 volt staring system, like the starter and converter, which steps the voltage down to 12 volts after it's running. LMCtruck.com has lots of great parts for the truck, especially the interior!! Good luck with it!

  37. Another thing. With the new Transfer Case and different trannie output shaft, I had to have custom drive shafts made, the old ones were the wrong length. Good luck!

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