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$uperJoe's van build

49369 Views 361 Replies 52 Participants Last post by  Stroverlander
this will be my ongoing attempt to document the build of my van from the $500 set out to pasture model, that i found locally online, to as close to the goal as was set in the beginning.

the idea came about with some down time and reminiscing the family trips we took as i was a child. they were all in a 1995 astro ext LT. my dad loved that car. to date it is still the favorite that he has owned and about 10 different vehicles have passed since then. i never understood why it was such a favorite, until i got my first one. the fact that i can take all my friends to where i am going or within 10 minutes have the seats out to load with cargo or camping gear was the first glimpse into this thought. that i can take either of these cargo's and still pull 5000#s worth a trailer has helped move it along. on the subject of trailers, the turning radius of the van and the wheels on the front corners let it maneuver the trailer in tighter spots than a front mounted hitch on a comparable truck is sealing the deal. to cap it off the insurance on the van is less for a whole year than one month on a new vehicle and the comfort and economy are better in my opinion.

my vision of what i want to build must have started before it was our family car though. i remember playing with some cars as a small child. my favorite was the mercedes unimog. this was the neatest looking thing i had ever seen. i wanted one my whole life. i think this got me started on the idea of a van since from the three year old perspective they look similar. over the years i have had a few of them from hotwheels.
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also i had a micro machine van in my collection that i played with every day. i had shown my gf the van picture i found on the internet and she surprised me with a gift of a similar one. after i showed my folks the gift my dad went to the drawer and pulled my original one out and gave it back to me. the purple one is the original one i had. the white one is the gift. there is a lego guy in the pic in case you forgot what size micro machines are.
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with the down time i had i drawn up a picture of what i think it should look like when i am done. this is the only picture that i had made since it takes so much longer to draw instead of photochop, come to find out.
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awesome... i cant wait..
i guess the first thing would be a pic of the van in stock form. this is the day i brought it home. i bought it for $500 from a family that lived about 45 miles from my house. i posted up on the CL that i wanted one and this guy called. turns out it had everything i wanted and was in the range of what i wanted to spend. i asked if it would drive home and he said maybe not. the trans is bad. i went and looked at it and asked what else was wrong. the windows and locks didnt work. the carpet was trashed and the seats aside from the front were gone. this didnt bother me cause i took off the door panel at his house and hooked up the wires for the switches and now both locks and windows work. imagine that. the switch has to be hooked up to work. also i have rear benches in my other van so thats not an issue. i will be removing the carpet for a spray in lining so it will be hose out-able. so all in all its just down to a bad trans now. just so happens i have one at the house hooked to the back of the 350 that will go in the van. this is on the trailer when i got home before i took it off.
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after i get it home i took it around the block and feel the tans is not bad at all. it runs hard and shifts firm. the vss is going out so sometimes t does not downshift to 1 at a stop. for about 60 bucks i could have two working vans but who wants that easy of a fix. lets tear it all the way down to nothing, add a bunch of stuff and then put it together so its almost back to stock configure right. hahahaha stock. thats a funny word.
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You know, I have always wanted to make an astro out of legos. Please don't ask, let's just say that I was propositioned at a very young age with legos (that I just still happen to own). :whistle: Anyways, if I make one, I have to make one with that lift for you.
that would be awesome. get a pic from the same angle as the one i have drawn. i love legos but over the years have lost most of mine to time and siblings.
Sorry, this is way off subject but...

I built a six foot star destroyer (yes, uber nerd) in my garage and the scary part was that I didn't need to buy many legos to do it. Its funny, my kids don't even play with them.
i think it is a different generation thing. legos are not electronic except the robot ones. and those are way expensive and not as fun.
Looks like you've got a nice starting point!
this is the starting point of my swap. its a 1996 vortec 350 4x4. the truck looks ruined but i actually watched what happened to it. it was really nice till the bi-polar owner lost it and took both sides out on the truck with a cinder block. it was really funny to see him yelling at himself and scary at the same time that either of him would flip out on us standing there
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over the years i have had it as a candidate for many projects. first it was going to be a tube buggy, then it was going to be the drive train for a geo tracker, then when the motor blew in the blazer it was looking like it was gonna end up there, so now i have a van and actually started moving so i cant just keep passing it along. thats why the top and sides are cut off.

since the front suspension is taken out to repair a friends suburban it was interesting to get the motor out. the chassis is sitting on two high lift jacks. then the chassis had a trailer backed under it for a work area since the job is in the dirt of the back yard
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the motor crane is on a trailer that was backed under the chassis. the friend under the truck is taking out the cross member and making sure the trans clears the front of the frame. the other friend is standing on the crane so it doesnt tip over backwards. not pictured is me using the winch to pull the crane to the front of the trailer. are these faults in good mechanic practice a good enough reason to see why some call me Mr. Safety?
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here are a few of the motor coming out.
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and in the morning light
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Those are great pictures $uperJoe, thanks for posting them. I for one will be watching with great interest on how things work out for you here.:)
finally had some time to get a few hours into the van project. i was in negotiations to come up on a lift and then i was fighting some wheels that were stuck to some tires. each thing took about a week to resolve. if any of you know any soldiers give them a thanks for me. and if you are or were a soldier thank you so very much. i was trying to remove the 16-20s from the wheels and it took me 8 days to get 4 done. 45 min for the first one and the rest on the rest. i could not imagine having an instructor yelling at me or worse someone shooting at me in a combat situation and having to perform that task. i would assume changing a tire is probably pretty low on their totem pole of job concerns at that. if you dont know the 16-20 is aprox a 53 inch tall tire that weighs 330 lbs american and the wheel is about 95 lbs as well. in the end it took two backhoe tractors and a skid steer holding the wheel down to get them off. aaaaahhhhhh!!!!!! good news is i can add backhoe, skid steer, and forklift operator to the resume now.
back on to van issues. i stripped the wiring harness out of the cabin area of the silverado. gave it a quick map to follow and tore into the wires to see what is important when i start the swap. i want every wire that is needed to be spliced with solder and shrink wrap so i can have all components work in perfect order. from the water temp on the gauge to the check engine lamp. i am kinda a stickler for correct wiring. i prefer no smash fittings as to solder and shrink wrap. 3 times longer now and never a problem ever later is worth every second to me. i hate chasing wiring was a fairly simple harness to look at in the beginning.
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it didnt take long for that to boil over and as soon as i started cutting tape off the wires to chase them, it seems they multiply with fresh air
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i feel your pain but have no fear i have mastered this task. the background is the many wiring diagrams needed to follow circuits through the fire wall and back. it was 36 wires and 12 diagrams.
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all wires accounted for and labeled with tape and marker. now i only have to do this once more with the van harness and the solder can begin.
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Do you think it would have been easier to just use the dash harness out of the 96 truck in your 95 van?
cheers as well!
Thats something I just wouldn't have the patience for. :lol:
it was a toss up 355. i didnt want to change out the steering wheel and all the switch components. i didn't know if i was able to replace the switches to the newer style and end result i didnt want to make a bunch of cosmetic work for myself. wires usually tuck away nicely for me but making new fiberglass or molded plastic panels to fit a new steering wheel and gauge cluster isnt really something i wanted to do.
I only ask because the plugs (all of them) should be the same from the 95 to the 96.
no the harness that was cut apart was from the 96 silverado obd2 . the van is 95 obd1. they are the similar plugs on the column as to my 89 silverado.

If that was me, I'd headed to the burn barrel, coppers worth money you know :lol: :lol:
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$uperJoe said:
no the harness that was cut apart was from the 96 silverado obd2 . the van is 95 obd1. they are the similar plugs on the column as to my 89 silverado.
Ok, some reason I keep thinking that 95' is OBD 2. I hate crossover years.
astro355 said:
$uperJoe said:
no the harness that was cut apart was from the 96 silverado obd2 . the van is 95 obd1. they are the similar plugs on the column as to my 89 silverado.
Ok, some reason I keep thinking that 95' is OBD 2. I hate crossover years.
The end of '95 is OBD II. Early part was OBD I and OBD 1.5. I hate crossover years, too.
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