I can hear all the more experienced gear heads groaning in unison now, and I will readily accept every ounce of scorn and ridicule. I should have known better.
It was a seemingly simple little task, but because I wasn't as careful as I should have been it could end up keeping the truck off the road for a long time. While trying to tighten up the the loose air cleaner stud, the nut that had been holding it in place fell into the carburetor. I removed the top of the carb in an effort to retrieve it, but it was nowhere to be found. I hoped that it was sitting harmlessly where I simply couldn't see it, but the sound of the previously very smooth running engine has proven otherwise. I'm not a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but even I can tell that this could be disastrous.
To make matters worse, I've got the Saginaw 4 speed transmission, a new shifter and a new clutch package all ready to go at considerable expense for the planned drivetrain upgrade. Of course, it's all wasted if I've destroyed this engine. At the very least, if it's fixable, the cost of doing so will delay the drivetrain upgrade until next year's tax refund comes around. If it's not fixable, looks like I'm pretty much out of luck unless some lottery numbers come in.
Thanks for stopping. See y'all down the road (hopefully)...