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GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
9/27/21 8:53 a.m.

After a nationwide search, I was very happy to find exactly the Astro I wanted right here in central Ohio. I wanted a rust-free first gen shorty just like my dad had, and here it is.  After months of searching, I had resigned myself to buying a second gen van, all of which had the long tail.  The PO, deceased, had loved and cared for this van and reserved it for family trips and vacations, and that is my purpose for the van as well.  No daily service, no salt, no commuting--just family fun.  

The van was advertised as having 235,XXX miles.  I was surprised that the van could be in such condition with that many miles and years--in Ohio.  The seller (the deceased owner's son in law) had misread the mileage; this van has a five digit odometer with a tenths place at the end.  Displayed miles were actually 23,5XX.X, so the question then was had the odometer flipped, and if so, how many times?  I speculated on the drive home after buying it that maybe the mileage was original.  But the PO had left enough records behind to help me determine that it has 123,5XX miles.  At least they were kind and gentle miles.  

The Astro needs a headliner and AC service. 

AC service might be a conversion.  I am not sure about the AC; there is no conversion sticker under the hood, but the seller gave me an empty R134 can that he said was inside the van.  That not being enough evidence to convince me that the system has been converted, I will convert to be certain that all is right.   Since I have no AC equipment, I will probably have a shop do this work for me.

The headliner is no surprise either.  It's a 34 year old vehicle.  I have no upholstery experience, but surely the only right way to do this would be to remove the whole headliner, replace the fabric, and glue it on.  I might chicken out and have a shop do this also.  The plastic side panels that overlap the headliner are long (left runs from the rear to the B pillar and the right if half that length due to the sliding door) and I don't want to break the plastic bits because I would never find replacements as nice as these.  

But just because it's a family hauler doesn't mean it has to be slow, right?  I finally picked up an L31 for a build and swap.  The L31 with a carb and headers would be a substantial improvement over the 190HP V6, but I will install a better cam and rebuild the bottom end.  I might even overbore it if the cylinders aren't really nice.

Might even overbore...

Not that I would ever believe the seller of a used engine when they say "it was pulled a month ago and sheltered," but this was not quite as nice as I had been hoping for.  Ah, well... It's nothing that an overbore can't fix.  It's a $250 rebuildable core.  As long as the heads are healthy, I will still be happy.  They are the 062 heads, also.  Hey, maybe the crank is jacked up and I am forced to build a stroker.  

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
9/27/21 8:59 a.m.

I'm in.  Watching.  

white walls......nice. 

chandler
chandler UltimaDork
9/27/21 10:48 a.m.

Man that's a nice looking van

ShawneeCreek
ShawneeCreek GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
9/27/21 11:15 a.m.

I'm loving the paint scheme on the exterior. And man does that red interior bring back memories. My parents had a first gen Dodge Caravan in red with a similar red fabric interior.

Looks like a great vehicle to start with.

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/27/21 11:18 a.m.

With a name like Stevie Ray Van, shouldn't that paint scheme include some...

blues?

I'll let myself out.

 

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
9/27/21 11:38 a.m.
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) said:

I'll let myself out.

Thanks for not making me ask.  

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
9/27/21 11:58 a.m.
Datsun310Guy said:

I'm in.  Watching.  

white walls......nice. 

I never thought I would have liked them, but here I am.  With that being said, they probably won't last for very long. 

I am going to fix these up and install them, probably with raised white letter tires.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
9/27/21 12:04 p.m.

That interior! Oh my lord! My father in law had a silver/gray version of that van, it was a 1993 and we bought it from his estate and drove it on the BABE rally, in 2005 or so? When we were done with it, it had 275k miles on it and still looked pristine, except for the yellow flames that thw8 had made for us and we left on the hood. To this day I regret selling it, but you can't keep them all.

It had the exact same interior, and I'd forgotten all about it until I saw yours. Major flashback moment.

Nice van, hope it turns out exactly how you want it.

bentwrench
bentwrench SuperDork
9/27/21 1:16 p.m.
GasTungstenArc said:
Datsun310Guy said:

I'm in.  Watching.  

white walls......nice. 

I never thought I would have liked them, but here I am.  With that being said, they probably won't last for very long. 

I am going to fix these up and install them, probably with raised white letter tires.

No Uni_Lug wheels for me......

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
9/28/21 7:11 a.m.
bentwrench said:
No Uni_Lug wheels for me......

For me either.  That is what I am going to fix.  I will TIG the not-5x5 portion shut, then put the wheels on a mill and remachine the 5x5 holes.  I have a friend with a CNC mill to help me with this part.  The welding shut part is all up to me.  I am also considering making some center caps that double as centering hubs, but that might be more than I can get machining help with.  

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
9/28/21 7:28 a.m.
dculberson said:

That interior! Oh my lord! My father in law had a silver/gray version of that van, it was a 1993 and we bought it from his estate and drove it on the BABE rally, in 2005 or so? When we were done with it, it had 275k miles on it and still looked pristine, except for the yellow flames that thw8 had made for us and we left on the hood. To this day I regret selling it, but you can't keep them all.

It had the exact same interior, and I'd forgotten all about it until I saw yours. Major flashback moment.

Nice van, hope it turns out exactly how you want it.

You don't know how many "we had one like that" stories this van has evoked.  I enjoy hearing them.  My father had a 1985 that he put more than 150k on over several years of ownership.  I loved it.  That van was my motivation for getting this one.

V6Buicks
V6Buicks Reader
9/28/21 7:42 a.m.

This going to be an awesome!  I love the van, and I've always wanted to see a detailed thread for an Astro swap.  Good luck!

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
9/28/21 7:43 p.m.

YES! Meet Jean Clyde Damn Van.

SBC, rebuilt 700r4 with Corvette servo, carbed, axle flip drop 4 inches, Corvette Sawblades, Recaro Trophies. Not done. Lots of fun.

Stevie looks awesome.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/28/21 8:08 p.m.

In reply to vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) :

That is pretty sweet. 

birdmayne
birdmayne GRM+ Memberand New Reader
9/28/21 8:22 p.m.

My parents has two of these when I was a kid. Holy memory blast! 

Such a cool find, I'll be watching this one

nlevine (Forum Supporter)
nlevine (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/28/21 8:30 p.m.

Had a racing buddy who V8-swapped his Astro van - made for a great tow vehicle/track-side accommodations when he was done with it.

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
9/28/21 8:36 p.m.

There's one near me, shorty first gen, running a BBC and a Strange rear axle, tubbed with huge Mickey Thompson's.

Billy_Bottle_Caps
Billy_Bottle_Caps GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/28/21 9:33 p.m.

Nice looking van. Add me to the +1 flashback group

Loweguy5 (Forum Supporter)
Loweguy5 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/28/21 10:00 p.m.

That is fantastic!  I absolutely love those.  If I found a decent deal on one around here that wasn't totally rotten, I could easily see adding it to the fleet.

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
9/29/21 6:57 a.m.
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) said:

SBC, rebuilt 700r4 with Corvette servo, carbed, axle flip drop 4 inches, Corvette Sawblades, Recaro Trophies. Not done. Lots of fun.

Stevie looks awesome.

Very cool.  A local salvage yard has an early C4 with baloney slicers still on it.  I have been tempted to buy them.  What did you do to adapt to the Corvette bolt pattern?

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
9/30/21 8:45 p.m.

Straight up adapter spacers. Two inch thick.

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
10/1/21 7:09 a.m.
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) said:

Straight up adapter spacers. Two inch thick.

How are your fender and suspension clearance with the 2" adapter?  How much of that 2" was necessary to gain clearance to suspension components?  What tire size(s) are you using? And which widths are you using front and rear?

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
10/12/21 1:08 p.m.

It ain't much, but it ain't much.  Very young baby in the house plus lots of paying and non-paying side work to do on the weekends means progress will sometimes be slow.  I had a chance to test fit the Superior Dynomo (thanks to this group for the ID) wheels this weekend.  The look and fit are as much as I had hoped for.  I am leaning toward a 225-70-15 tire in order to keep nearly stock tire diameter.  If I wanted to lower the van (and I do, to be honest, but also don't want to get into the weeds any more than I have to,) I would go with a shorter tire.  But I also know that I am a long long way from a sporty, crisp-handling vehicle here, and don't want to fool myself into thinking that this will be like my many previous import hot rod projects.  

The wheels themselves will be a project.  The PO has a second pattern (5X4.5) drilled into the wheels, leaving a sort of peanut shaped hole.  I have decided to weld in the inner part of the peanut and, with a friend's help, machine the hole back out to the size of the Cragar mag style nuts that I bought.  Happy surprise for me: the Cragar nuts are slightly larger than the original 5X5 holes, so we get some forgiveness in identifying a start location for milling the new holes.  It's great to have a friend with a CNC who enjoys helping a friend and exchanging favors.  

I know that Unilug exists, but this isn't exactly Unilug.  Plus I feel a bit squishy about Unilug on a lug-centric wheel--in a family vehicle--that will travel great distances from home--with that baby that I mentioned.  

The Cragar nuts that I bought have a .680" shank.  For that size shank, is there a standard bore size for the hole?  I'm guessing .700" for a .020" clearance fit, but I'm open to experienced opinions.  

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
1/4/22 9:49 a.m.

I'm not excuse making here, but fatherhood is really taking a lot of my time.  It's not that I would have it any other way, but it is the reality of life for me.  

I was able to finish tearing down the L31 this weekend to prepare it to go to the engine builder.  Apart from the two rusted cylinders, there were no other problems with the engine. 

This is my first close look at a SBC, so several things surprised me. Most of the surprises probably have to do with the fact that the SBC underwent many changes across 50 years:

1) I can generally sight-identify most any thread, but the head of the fastener is a different story.  This is complicated by the fact that 14mm and 9/16", 16mm and 5/8", and 19mm and 3/4" are for all intents and purposes interchangeable.  What I am trying to say is that I was often confused as to which socket out of which set to reach for.  I guess that I should have known that a late model SBC would be a mixture of metric and SAE, but it seems that I wasn't really prepared for that fact.  This experience has made me wonder which GM engines in the last 30 years are purely metric and which are mix-and-match. 

2) Almost all of my engine building experience is with VW/Audi inline fours and fives.  I never thought about how having two cylinders stuck in their bores could cause such difficulty gaining access to rod nuts.  

3) The way that GM did the one piece RMS change kinda made me chuckle, as did how the front timing cover kinda acts as part of the oil pan.  

 

Anyway, I was pleased that the rust in the cylinders, as is often the case, wasn't as bad as it looked.  I think that the cylinders will be fine with a .030" overbore.  .060" is the worst case, and I have to keep in mind that it's a SBC.  If somehow I need another overbore in the future, I can get another block.  

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc Reader
1/27/22 3:44 p.m.

Update, albeit a small one:

The engine is at the engine builder's shop now.  He has to keep restraining my enthusiasm with the engine and reminding me that this is a whole different animal from what I have worked with before.  I am used to much smaller engines (1.8-2.2L) that require every last little trick plus a turbocharger to make good power.  a SBC can make 400HP without breaking a sweat of being anywhere near "radical."  All the usual things that I think of as basics, such as squeezing in larger valves with thinner stems, aren't necessarily necessary.  In fact, going from a 1.94" to a 2.02" intake valve *can* be counterproductive without careful attention to the chambers.  

The wheels are also dismounted from the tires, so now I can weld in the second bolt pattern and get the machining done.  

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