RE: Have to hit fuel tank to start?
1971-1997 has two types of fuel tanks. I would highly recommend getting the Hayes Repair Manual number 30065 to review the problem you have (under $20). The fuel gauge sending unit, filter, float and pump are all in the tank as a module. However, getting to the unit to check it or replace it requires one of two ways depending on your vehicle setup.
Starting in 1998 to present, the fuel tank is moved mid-vehicle and has another method for removal.