ShawneeCreek Reader
Nov. 11, 2015 3:44 p.m.

It's official. We've purchased the major components for our $2016 Challenge - Soccer Mom class entry. You crazy people won over Mrs. ShwaneeCreek at this year's Challenge. She decided that:

1) We should come back next year
2) The minivan competition sounded like fun
3) We should build the van together
4) We are starting NOW to avoid scrambling last minute to finish

Who am I to argue with that? :-)

We did some research and decided that we liked the GM "dustbuster" minivans from the early '90s for their small size and available 3800-series engine. We figured that this would lead to an easy swap to a supercharged variant from Buick Park Avenue Ultra, Pontiac Grand Prix GTP, etc...

I did some digging online and found this van for sale 3 hours away near Flint, MI. It was listed as a "Mechanics Special" because it was brought in under one of those "push it, pull it, drag it" trade in deals. Called them and they said it didn't run "it just clicks when you turn the key." Ok, we really only need the chassis. And the asking price of $275 was hard to beat.

I get up there and look it over. It’s rusty, but fixable and most of the components are there. I ask the salesman if we can try jump-starting it to see if it’s just a dead battery. He agrees and sure enough, it starts right up. The look of surprise on the salesman’s face was priceless. I do a brief test drive around the lot to find any more issues and then get to the paperwork. For a mere $275 (plus $50.25 in taxes and fees) the van is mine. That happened to set a record for the salesman: Cheapest Car he's ever sold. We secured a tow dolly from U-Haul and got it home. I’ll get some better pictures later when we clean it up and give it a good looking over. But this was a luxury model, complete with electric sliding door (yes, in a ’96).

Now we needed a donor vehicle for more power. The original idea was a supercharged 3800, but they all came with automatic transmissions. And Mrs. ShwaneeCreek had requested that the van have a manual transmission (have I mentioned how much I love this woman?). Additional research discovered the 2006-2007 Pontiac G6 GTP. They came with a 3.9L V6 with 240 hp and the option for a 6-speed manual transmission. But, being only 8-9 years old I would need to find a wrecked one to get it in budget. Compound that with the fact that the manual transmission versions were pretty rare. Luckily I found this one on Copart with some front end damage, but still able to run. It also has a cold air intake, so it might have some other performance goodies.

Even better, the GTP was located a mere 4 ½ hours away from me in Lexington, KY. This morning we won the auction, via a broker, for ~$900 (plus $300 in fees). YES!

The current plan is to swap over at least the engine and transmission into the van. But I’d really like to swap in the suspension and electronics to upgrade from the solid rear axle that the van has now. We’ll see how the measurements work out after we get the two in the garage together. And even if the soccer mom class doesn’t pan out due to any SCCA / Martin Sports Car Club rollover regulations this will end up as my daily driver. I’m excited. This should be fun.

physician
physician New Reader
Nov. 11, 2015 6:10 p.m.

Awesome project! Nice buy on the donor! I'll follow this.

Looks like there is a bunch of sporty van conversion about to happen!

Nov. 11, 2015 6:50 p.m.

Very cool

JohnRW1621 MegaDork
Nov. 11, 2015 6:58 p.m.

Please tell Mrs. ShawneeCreek that she is my hero and that she is the wind beneath my wings!

andxx0r New Reader
Nov. 11, 2015 7:57 p.m.

When I was a kid I thought the GM spaceship vans were really cool.

...no, I don't know what was wrong with me.

But I do still think they're cool enough to follow this build closely! I can't wait to see where this goes.

JtspellS SuperDork
Nov. 11, 2015 8:08 p.m.

This has workings of quite a stealthy van here....

pimpm3 Dork
Nov. 11, 2015 8:18 p.m.

Another manual van, sweet!

Vigo PowerDork
Nov. 11, 2015 8:43 p.m.

Nice! I've always thought the 3900 was a neat engine that would be cool to swap into an earlier GM fwd.

Dusterbd13 UberDork
Nov. 11, 2015 9:29 p.m.

And I've wanted to try and swap one into a fiero.

Ill be watching.

pres589 UberDork
Nov. 11, 2015 11:34 p.m.

I had no idea the 3.9 had ever been mated by the factory to a manual trans. I bet they sold dozens of these...

Cool project, good luck!

midniteson Reader
Nov. 12, 2015 12:42 a.m.

This is a whole lot of awesome.

maschinenbau New Reader
Nov. 12, 2015 7:21 a.m.

If you're going through all the effort to swap suspension in the back of the van, you might as well put the engine there too.

Just sayin.

RossD UltimaDork
Nov. 12, 2015 7:27 a.m.
maschinenbau wrote: If you're going through all the effort to swap suspension in the back of the van, you might as well put the engine there too. Just sayin.

If you're going through all the effort to swap suspension in the back of the van, you might as well put the engine there too.

Just sayin, again.

patgizz UltimaDork
Nov. 12, 2015 7:39 a.m.

please see this through. i am a dustbuster fan, i've had a couple of them.

maschinenbau Reader
Nov. 12, 2015 7:54 a.m.
RossD wrote:
maschinenbau wrote: If you're going through all the effort to swap suspension in the back of the van, you might as well put the engine there too. Just sayin.

If you're going through all the effort to swap suspension in the back of the van, you might as well put the engine there too.

Just sayin, again.

And while you're at it, just leave the original engine up front too. We're just trying to make things easier for you.

Nov. 12, 2015 8:22 a.m.
maschinenbau wrote:
RossD wrote:
maschinenbau wrote: If you're going through all the effort to swap suspension in the back of the van, you might as well put the engine there too. Just sayin.

If you're going through all the effort to swap suspension in the back of the van, you might as well put the engine there too.

Just sayin, again.

And while you're at it, just leave the original engine up front too. We're just trying to make things easier for you.

Really, I don't think there is any other logical course of action

2002maniac Dork
Nov. 12, 2015 8:53 a.m.

This should be fun! If you really want it to get exciting I hear those motors take boost well...

Nov. 12, 2015 7:35 p.m.

I'm Glad someone is bringing a U-van, even if you are taking the long way around. You're going to have a hell of a time getting that 6 speed to fit.

If you need manual swap bits they can be had. Eurospec U-vans got a 5 speed behind a quad four, so maual u-van components do exist.

Leave the live axle alone, but get the ADDCO sway bar. If your van doesnt have the air ride suspension add the shocks and use the hoses to manually fill them for the drag section. it will help keep your front tires planted.

Your front brakes are early fourth gen F-body calipers and pads on H-body rotors. Plenty of good parts to be had there.

Take the hood off, loose the heavy hinges and cut all of the fiberglass reinforcement from the underside, leaving just the skin. Then use four hoodpins to hold it in place, It'll wind up weighing about 4 pounds.

And I'd reconsider doing the L67/4T65 swap. It'll be cheaper and easier in the long run.

Either way I'll be following this build. Good luck.

Harvey Dork
Nov. 13, 2015 6:32 p.m.

http://imgur.com/ for photos. Photobucket is horrid.

ShawneeCreek New Reader
Nov. 13, 2015 7:40 p.m.

In reply to Harvey:

Fixed the pictures. I'll look into imgur, thanks.

ShawneeCreek New Reader
Nov. 15, 2015 8:29 p.m.

After a day's worth of driving the GTP is now sharing garage space with the APV. (Ignore the University of Michigan colors on the walls, I haven't finished painting over them.)

We had some trouble getting the GTP to roll into the garage because the right front knuckle broke above the lower ball joint during the accident.

It also didn't help that the tie rod end was most definitely bent.

Mrs. Shawnee Creek and I spent this afternoon tearing into the GTP to see what we had gotten. Beyond the broken front knuckle and bent tie rod, both front air bags deployed, the front fenders, hood, front and rear bumpers, and the entire driver's side of the car were damaged in the accident. The front frame of the car took most of the damage and protected the engine and transmission. But the interior is in good shape and the glass is all good to be sold to get money back into the budget.

After we put the serpentine belt back on and gave the battery a charge we were able to test start the GTP. It runs, which is good enough for now. We'll do some more in-depth diagnostics later.

Then we spent some time cleaning up the APV. Mrs. ShawneeCreek vacuumed and I put in the replacement driver's door handle that the previous owner so kindly left in the door pocket. She found a nickel. More money back into the budget. The APV is definitely a luxury model. Built in air compressor, rear air, ABS, roof rack, electric sliding door, and built in booster seats (in the two remaining rear seats). Those are kind of cool. I have no idea how safe they are, but they're cool.

We've got a lot of measuring and thinking and planning to do before we start pulling parts. But the project has begun.

Nov. 15, 2015 9:02 p.m.

Watching this closely..

pimpm3 Dork
Nov. 15, 2015 10:50 p.m.

Awesome, this is going to be great! Are the GTP wheels and brakes going to fit on the transport?

ShawneeCreek New Reader
Nov. 16, 2015 4:27 a.m.

In reply to pimpm3:

Not directly, no. They have different bolt patterns (5x115 vs 5x110)

Opti HalfDork
Nov. 16, 2015 6:29 a.m.

Could you mate that manual to an S/C 3.8? seems like selling the 3.9 to fund a L67 is the cheapest way to HP, with just a pulley and basic mods.

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