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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I guess I never created a swap thread here, so I might as well do it today.

The van: 1987 CL with 123k miles. The van was very well kept before I bought it, and I intend to continue giving it a lot of love and care.

The engine: L31 SBC, which means all iron, Vortec heads, 1 piece RMS. It is likely getting a carburetor to replace the CPI. The engine had two rusted cylinders, so it is getting a rebuild. The heads will be ported. It will have roller rockers on original press-in studs, I-beam rods with floating wrist pins, a .030" overbore, a higher volume oil pump, and whatever else it needs along the way.

The trans: Although I expect to need a performance rebuild at some point, I am going to start with the stock original transmission just because I want to limit the time and money involved in making it a running and driving V8 vehicle.

The rear end: whatever is back there is how I'm starting off, but I want to put an LSD such as a TrueTrac in it. But that's going to wait until I convert to steel springs because I don't want to invest in the fiberglass spring rear axle.

Suspension: I have gone around and around and around about suspension. Although I like the idea of lowering the van, I think I need to keep it at stock ride height. As mentioned above, the rear end will eventually be converted to steel springs.

Wheels and tires: I have a set of Superior Dynomo wheels that I will install on the van once the wheels are ready and the tires are mounted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Will be watching/learning. Remember we like pictures. Best luck.
I will do my best. Updates will probably be slow to come. I expect to be installing the engine next winter. Between now and then, I want to have as much bought and ready as possible. In the meantime, I will make some updates with maintenance items that are going to be necessary before we start driving this van (once the salt is gone from the roads.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I did drop off the engine at the engine builder's shop on Saturday, so it is officially under way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The older vans are awesome, especially well kept. I had a 1989 RS Astro from the original owner wish I had it now. The iron Vortec motor is going to be amazing in that little thing.
I really wanted a "shorty" early model. I thought that I was going to have to settle for a late model "longy," but this one came up locally. I pounced.
Wheel Tire Car Vehicle Automotive parking light


The stripes are peeling in places, so I would like to have those redone at some point. But first come the headliner, the AC, and the wheels--and then the engine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
V8 hot-rod shorty's get my vote!
I'm pro-hot-rod-shorty and I vote!

I am curious if the type of van you have (rear door windows and front-side windows, but no back-side windows) has a name. I wouldn't think "panel van," because that means no side windows to me. Yours is the style of my father's 1985, and I always liked the look of those better than the passenger van, plus it offers a compromise of hiding your stuff from prying eyes yet allowing back seat passengers to have a view.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
That was typical, but not the only options.
Cargo Window Options:
That's hilarious--the front passenger seat was an option. I had no idea that the "standard" was so stripped. I drove a Ford delivery van for a parts store many years ago. It had no back windows. I really disliked not having a center rear view mirror. Of course it was all open inside. I remember on cold mornings shortly after leaving the warehouse, that frigid air in the back would slosh forward when I came to a stop. Overall, I liked the job--and the alone time.

That is useful information. Thank you for sharing.

I've always called my 92 a shorty cargo van (window status irrelevant).
I guess so. I guess I had assumed that your white van once had a rear interior, which you removed for work duty. As I said, my dad's 1985 had a complete interior, but no rear side glass and I think no rear seat--only front and "middle." I thought that what we had was a middle step between a cargo van and a passenger van.

I'll put a V8 in my 2000.. but not radical, rather closer to stock.
Lots of mid-torque, mild HP. Most likely I'll keep the exhaust quiet too.
I've heard too many after-market FI horror stories.. I'm sticking with reliable carb.

My 92 is the radical hotrod.. fat tires, raked stance, rumbly exhaust, high HP.
But I've really finally outgrown it.. wouldn't mind taming it down. Still running the stock rear (never opened).
Of course I still get a thrill rumbling at a traffic light, purring down the highway.. or effortless acceleration. It's all I've even known most of my driving life.
I'm trying to go in between these two for smart power with mine--work the heads, polite but better than stock cam, good intake and exhaust. I think I can have 400HP under these limitations, and that's about all I would ask for in a family vehicle. More is certainly available, but more starts requiring sacrifices that I don't want to make. As much as I enjoy a lumpy idle and high RPM power, this isn't the time or place for me to do it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I know that I have this picture in the "exterior" section also. I am going to continue with the de-striping pictures here instead. Running boards are off and stripes are slowly coming off. The silver stripes are the real bear; the stripe itself is brittle and leaves all of the adhesive on the paint. So, I think I am going to make the easy progress of removing the grey and black stripes, then deal with the silver.

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Fill in the gaps, the fiberglass springs are wider than the steel, so the hardware is a bit different, the perches on the rear axle are also wider, so I used poly parts to fill in the gaps to make up the difference. So everythng is tight.
Ah, OK. I will probably pull a late Astro G80 axle and all hardware at the same time. But I will probably buy new 3+1 springs rather than use rusty old ones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
A nice benefit of removing the running boards is that ingress and egress are easier now. The running boards are in the way of entry and exit from the van. They shouldn't be trusted as a step in the first place, so my step from the ground to the van's step was impeded by the boards. And if they were to be trusted as a step, they are too close in height to the van's step to be useful. I can't believe that I ever hesitated to remove them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
I drove the Astro to pull a small trailer Thursday night, and encountered my first two problems with the van.

1) Cruising around 45MPH, I could hear the transmission dropping out of OD. It does leak a little ATF, so the first thing I am going to check is the fluid level.

2) It has begun to start hesitantly. When I crank, it will fire, but it will likely die if I'm not Johnny on the spot with the throttle. It always does fire, so I suspect that it is a fuel pressure problem. We shall see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
It's been an expensive last few days of Astro ownership. I have been working to get the van ready for a family vacation. In the last couple of weeks, I have:

Replaced side mirrors with new late style (early not available);
Changed oil;
Fixed right side exhaust leak (remove manifold, belt sand flat, replace two broken studs from removing manifold, install manifold gaskets);
Replaced wiper blades;
Replaced rear shoes and wheel cylinders;
Serviced AC (receiver-dryer, low pressure side switch, ...and compressor.)

Because I am low on time (leaving tomorrow morning for Florida,) I had a friend do the rear brakes and AC. We are replacing the compressor because the pulley is singing. Might as well, but that compressor is a real chore.

The differential was low on oil and the axle seals had a bunch of gunk built up around them. It is uncertain how fast they leak/how long they have been leaking. It is possible that nobody ever checked the differential oil, in which case the leakage is from the past 37 years and probably isn't an issue. It is also possible that the oil was checked and filled a year ago and that the seals leak profusely. Because I don't know yet which is the case, I'm going to have to take another vehicle to Florida--and I'm bummed about that like you wouldn't believe.

If the axle seals only seep slowly or not at all, I will probably let that dog lie. If they are leaking, I think I will go buy a steel spring style junkyard axle (probably a G80 since the price is the same,) have that rebuilt, and do the steel spring conversion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
The rear bearings and seals aren't a difficult thing to do. Took me 20 minutes per side once I had the wheel off on my 95.
Is pressing involved anywhere in the job? If not, I wonder what is holding the bearing in place.
 
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