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artur1808
artur1808 HalfDork
3/11/20 10:46 a.m.

A few months ago, I came to the realization that I don't get any joy out of my truck lease. It's real nice for long highway drives and pulling the trailer, but driving a full size truck in a relatively urban area day-to-day gets old fast. I started brainstorming what to replace it with and came up with a full size van. I've always loved the practicality/blank slate of a large van, and most are capable of pulling a trailer. So the plan became to get a full size van that I'd do a basic camper build in, and then get a cheap econobox for daily driver duties.

Well, my internet searching led me to the realization that ambulances are already pretty much perfect for this setup. Dual alternators, usually a high roof/extended body, often diesel, wired for shore power, have nicely made cabinets, etc. 

So last Saturday, I flew down to Atlanta to buy this disused ambulance:

Here are some basic stats:

1999 E350, Ford/Osage ambulance conversion

7.3 Powerstroke, 337xxx miles

Extended body, high roof, dual alternators, wired for shore power. 

 

I don't think the neighbors are particularly fond of this thing sitting in front of the house, but I'm very excited. The colored lenses and decals have been removed, but the lights all still work and you can still (barely) make out "Sheriff" across the hood and "Crime Scene Unit" on the side. 

The build plan goes in phases:

1. Make it reliable mechanically, catch up on maintenance/issues that haven't been taken care of

2. Outfit the "cab" with some creature comforts for long drives

3. Make the exterior less ambulance-y

4. Build out the rear area for camping/rally support

wae
wae UltraDork
3/11/20 10:52 a.m.

But the most interesting part is the INSIDE!  MOAR PICS!  =)

artur1808
artur1808 HalfDork
3/11/20 10:57 a.m.

It made the 750 mile drive home without much drama. So far, the following mechanical issues have become apparent:

1. Hard to start. Glow plug relay wasn't functioning, replaced it yesterday and it fired right up. Hopefully that's the end of that

2. Accessory belt noise. Apparently a common issue on 7.3's, need to do some investigative work to figure out where the source of the noise is

3. Slop in the driveline. I noticed a substantial amount of noise whenever coasting. This symptom, combined with the rear diff being soaked in fluid from the pinion and the speedometer only working above 45mph leads me to believe it's the diff. (speed sensor is on the diff)

 

My plan is to make a junkyard run this weekend to find a rear axle I like. I checked the door sticker and if the decoder I found online is correct, this thing has a 4.10 Limited Slip. I'm sure that's nice for rushing around town, but not ideal for highway cruising. I'm hoping that there's an axle with a 3.55 ratio in good condition that'll solve the driveline noise and help with fuel economy.

artur1808
artur1808 HalfDork
3/11/20 10:57 a.m.

In reply to wae :

I know, I somehow failed to take any pictures of the interior. I'll definitely take some "before" pictures all around outside and inside. 

AxeHealey
AxeHealey HalfDork
3/11/20 12:19 p.m.

All for this.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
3/11/20 12:46 p.m.

Considering that it was a crime scene unit, I think task #1 on my list would be "steam clean inside of vanbulance."  smiley

slowbird
slowbird Dork
3/11/20 12:52 p.m.
stuart in mn said:

Considering that it was a crime scene unit, I think task #1 on my list would be "steam clean inside of vanbulance."  smiley

Mine would be "remove, burn, and replace all porous materials" laugh

golfduke
golfduke HalfDork
3/11/20 1:14 p.m.

I've always wanted one of these.  They make excellent tow pigs.  Carryon!

Greg Smith
Greg Smith Dork
3/11/20 2:36 p.m.

Following

 

irish44j
irish44j MegaDork
3/11/20 4:27 p.m.

Following along with Chris Nonack "Chief" model :) 

Brett_Murphy
Brett_Murphy MegaDork
3/11/20 7:07 p.m.

I'll follow along as well.

 

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
3/11/20 7:13 p.m.
golfduke said:

I've always wanted one of these.  They make excellent tow pigs.  Carryon!

Given its history, I think "carrion" may be more appropriate. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
3/12/20 8:13 a.m.

Given the potential for carrying valuables in this van and given the medical/commercial nature of this van, I think a couple small and discrete stickers like the following would be cheap insurance to keep people from breaking into the van... 

$6.45 for stick on vinyl 10"x7".  Buy one and split it in two having English on the back window and Spanish on the side window.  Each then 10" wide but only 3.5" tall.  Only slightly larger than a dollar bill which is 6" wide by 2.5"-ish

If you apply the sticker to vinyl magnet sheet then you can easily remove the sticker for times when that warning might seem inappropriate.  

artur1808
artur1808 HalfDork
3/12/20 8:39 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Not a bad idea! I am planning on making it look as little like an ambulance from the outside as possible though, so we'll see. Aside from the mechanical/electrical features integrated in the van, I don't intend to keep too many valuables in it. And being from the south, the front windows are already tinted, which helps

Kendall_Jones
Kendall_Jones HalfDork
3/12/20 8:46 a.m.

I think the 7.3 psd in the Vans are not intercooled and thus have a lower power output.  If you can ghetto fab an intercooler you can probably flash it (for economy reasons of course)

artur1808
artur1808 HalfDork
3/12/20 9:15 a.m.
Kendall_Jones said:

I think the 7.3 psd in the Vans are not intercooled and thus have a lower power output.  If you can ghetto fab an intercooler you can probably flash it (for economy reasons of course)

Correct, it's not intercooled. I've been doing some research on it and have seen one person successfully add an intercooler to a van. To be honest, with how cramped the engine bay is already, I'm not in any hurry to add a bunch of intercooler plumbing. I have plans to upgrade the compressor wheel and rebuild the turbo, but that's about as far as the power mods will go. I am prioritizing reliability over outright power.

Sparkydog
Sparkydog HalfDork
3/12/20 9:16 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

The possible flaw in your plan is that it assumes the people breaking into the van can read.

akylekoz
akylekoz SuperDork
3/12/20 2:03 p.m.

My mom just bought this, 2002 54k miles, always stored indoors.  It has roof AC/Heat, generator and a Microwave, the rest she will add to make it an RV.   Following along, I'll add what pics of how she finishes the inside.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
3/12/20 2:51 p.m.
artur1808 said:
Kendall_Jones said:

I think the 7.3 psd in the Vans are not intercooled and thus have a lower power output.  If you can ghetto fab an intercooler you can probably flash it (for economy reasons of course)

Correct, it's not intercooled. I've been doing some research on it and have seen one person successfully add an intercooler to a van. To be honest, with how cramped the engine bay is already, I'm not in any hurry to add a bunch of intercooler plumbing. I have plans to upgrade the compressor wheel and rebuild the turbo, but that's about as far as the power mods will go. I am prioritizing reliability over outright power.

A guy on the sportsmobile forums added an intercooler to his 7.3 PS van.  You are correct in it's a tight fit and a PITA.  Also up for debate is if the power increase was worth the effort. Apparently, the turbo operates in such a way that cooling the pressure charge doesn't help much. 

I have a 1992 E-350 with a 7.3 IDI (no turbo) diesel.  I also had plans to build a camper/tow-pig out of it, but after some soul-searching, I realized it's not really big enough to do what I want along with a few other reasons, so it'll be for sale soon as I attempt to pare down my fleet to a more managable number.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
3/12/20 6:32 p.m.

I know it's not a Chevy, but I still vote for a Mother, Juggs and Speed ambulance color scheme.  smiley

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
3/12/20 8:41 p.m.
Sparkydog said:

In reply to John Welsh :

The possible flaw in your plan is that it assumes the people breaking into the van can read.

Though I did make the assumption they could read Spanish.  

preach
preach New Reader
3/12/20 11:35 p.m.

GIRTHQUAKE
GIRTHQUAKE HalfDork
3/13/20 1:48 p.m.

No joke on the sterilization comments- I'd pull all particleboard and burn it without question. I'd also be MAD careful of where you put your hands until it's stripped- even when I managed stations and had scheduled cleanings we'd find needles left over, it just comes with the territory this was in.

java230
java230 UberDork
3/13/20 2:14 p.m.

Following along! 

IIRC most of the 7.3 powerstroke IC bits transfer over. Its been awhile though.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
3/13/20 2:24 p.m.
java230 said:

Following along! 

IIRC most of the 7.3 powerstroke IC bits transfer over. Its been awhile though.

From the pickup version? From what I've read (the Sportsmobile thread I mentioned is pretty extensive) almost nothing will work in the van without significant modifications. To the point it might be easier to do it from scratch.

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