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Stevie Ray Van, My 1987 Astro CL SBC Swap Project

2182 Views 32 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  AstroWill
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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V8 hot-rod shorty's get my vote!
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I was eyeballing my sliding door-to-tire clearance two nights ago and realized that there isn't a lot of space for the tire to stick out before it interferes with the door. Your rear tires must be close to the limit, yes?
Your rear tires must be close to the limit, yes?
My 295/50-15's on 10" rims (with 5" backspacing) slightly exceeds the limit and causes interference with the door. It will pull open.. but rubs tire hard. I solved the problem by cutting a slice down the underside-center of the door, then overlapping the metals (pulling the inside bottom of door toward the outside making it thinner). This worked completely.

This does however leave a slight opening gap (when closed).. which I live with. There may be a solution for this too.. but I never bothered.
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.
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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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.
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.
Is pressing involved anywhere in the job? If not, I wonder what is holding the bearing in place.

I just watched this. I was thinking that there would be pressing on the axle rather than the housing. This doesn't look so bad.
That's a "repair bearing".. they generally fail.
My attempt failed after 1 month while on a vacation trip.
It also destroyed my axle.

Bearings are removed with a tool, and tapped back into place.
Here's a repair bearing that I highly urge you.. DO NOT USE

Tire Automotive tire Motor vehicle Tread Wheel
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You just carefully tap them in with a hammer. It's a press fit, but not an extremely tight one. Axle just slides through the bearing.
But they MUST be tapped in straight (hence the tool in the video)

None the less.. there are many creative things or ways to tap in a bearing straight using things you might find available in your shop or garage. Large sockets (same size as bearing) work well, so long as you don't hit the roller bearings (or turning parts), just the race.
A bearing driver set is $30 on Amazon.

You can also rent them from AutoZone
You can also rent them from AutoZone
This, you can borrow pullers/drivers/etc from many different LAPS.
For something that you are only ever going to use a few times, no need to buy and store it.
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