Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

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Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » July 26th 2019, 6:38pm

Hi everyone my name is Steve and I've just acquired a new to me 2003 AWD Safari with 112k on it. I will be the 3rd owner and this is my 3rd Astro/Safari in the past 20 or so years.

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I'm 60 years old and plan to stop working in about 6 years and move back to Southern Oregon from where I live now which is North San Diego county. For the next 2-3 years my needs for the van will be primarily as a cargo van. And then I will start to shift more toward setting it up as a casual adventure van. I've been lurking here on the site for a few weeks and know there are a couple of you who also live in San Diego county. I'm looking forward to sharing what I do to the van and I will definitely need your advice on a few things.

I already have 2 questions:

1) Has anyone ever swapped cargo van rear doors onto a Dutch door van? If so, where there any issues?

2) Has anyone tried to either shed weight off the rear bench seats or grafted a different (lighter) seat onto the attachment claws/feet of the GM brackets?
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Van Model Year: 2003
Van Make/Model: GMC Safari
Extra Info: AWD

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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » July 30th 2019, 3:20pm

First up was a quicky project - converting the hood latch release lever from the way GM made it to the way they SHOULD have made it. I don't know how they expect the lever hook to move side-to-side when the shape of the lever handle makes the hook want to pivot fore/aft. And in the case of my van, no amount of pulling on the lever would get the latch to release. So I took it apart and tweaked it to a 45* angle.

I made a small slit at the base of the lever with the wheel of death, then bent the thing and then laid a weld bead to beef up the area where I had slit it.

003.JPG


005b.JPG


There! that's better. Now I can open my hood and work on the engine!
Last edited by Sparkydog on July 30th 2019, 3:37pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sparkydog
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » July 30th 2019, 3:32pm

Next up was getting started on equipping the van as a mostly cargo hauler, which is what I need it to do for a couple of years. So out came the seats and carpet. I put the rear bench seat up in the attic of my garage as I do not plan on using the van to haul more than 5 people.

Will you look at how clean the floor area is! This is one of the reasons I bought it.

008.JPG


This van only had 2 cargo tie down rings and I want a total of 6 of them. So I went to the junk yard and harvested 4 more out of the back of a Suburban. I really like these guys and have used them on a pickup in the past. I also practiced removing the door handle on an Astro that was at the yard - more on that later. The 4 cargo tie down rings are in the lower left of the picture.

012.JPG
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » July 30th 2019, 3:51pm

And with an extra 20 minutes left in the day I just went ahead and gave it a 5" lift!!! :banana:

013.JPG


Well that's just for now so that I can work under the van and add the extra tie-down points.
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Rockridge » July 30th 2019, 11:33pm

Wow, you are really getting after it! Good looking van.
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby sixsix » July 31st 2019, 12:51am

Sparkydog wrote:First up was a quicky project - converting the hood latch release lever from the way GM made it to the way they SHOULD have made it. I don't know how they expect the lever hook to move side-to-side when the shape of the lever handle makes the hook want to pivot fore/aft. And in the case of my van, no amount of pulling on the lever would get the latch to release. So I took it apart and tweaked it to a 45* angle.

I made a small slit at the base of the lever with the wheel of death, then bent the thing and then laid a weld bead to beef up the area where I had slit it.

003.JPG


005b.JPG


There! that's better. Now I can open my hood and work on the engine!


Your problem w/ the latch was probably not the release lever itself.
Truthfully, I had not ever heard of anyone having a problem w/ the hood opening that wasn't "Latch Mechanism" related.

Your problems have just begum, I am afraid.
Better get that latch lubed up.



Mike
.

Well, after all... what would Banacek say ?... Anyone that condones the actions of the American People during the Storming of the Capitol are as complicit as the Assholes themselves.
But no way does this let the Democrats or the MSM off the Hook.

.
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » August 6th 2019, 3:11pm

Rockridge wrote:Wow, you are really getting after it! Good looking van.


Thanks!

Next up was welding 4 nut plates into the floor of the van so that I can have a total of 6 tie down eyes.
Here are the 4 plates as seen from the back side. Welded, primered and seam sealed.
001.JPG


I'm putting the nut plates directly over the top of the frame "rails", which are on 42.125" centers in case anyone wants to know that trivia. :geek:
Here's the clearance hole for the nut and weld area.
002.JPG


And welded in.
007.JPG


Then I shaved the jute pad off the OG carpet from the van, trimmed it down a bit and glued it to a sheet of 3/8 OSB. I'm keeping the cutouts for the forward bench seat but not going to bother provisioning for the rear bench.
004.JPG
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » August 7th 2019, 3:04pm

After the nut plates were welded into the floor the area was epoxied and seam sealed.
002.JPG


And then I machined some simple spacers out of plastic to take up the gap between the top of the nut plates and the bottom of the sheet of OSB so that the tie down eyes would have a nice solid connection into the nut plate.
003.JPG


004.JPG
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » August 7th 2019, 3:06pm

So now I have the basic ingredients for a cargo floor. Next up I need to buy some rubber matting to cover the OSB.
001 (2).JPG
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby icebrrg3rd » August 7th 2019, 4:44pm

I've seen some full rubber mats in the junkyard in cargo vans, some in good condition.

As for the Dutch to barn door swap, I think some have done it the other way around. The hinges are identical, so the doors would fit right in. I believe you'd have to remove the upper hinge mounts and that piece of upper weather strip has cutouts for the hinge mounts but the barn doors would need a solid piece. Hinge pins on the doors are a bear to get out. As I don't have Dutch doors, I'm not sure what else would need to be addressed, but should be doable.

And that's a nice clean van.

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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » August 8th 2019, 9:11pm

Thanks!

Oh yeah - another project was losing my virginity on the broken door handle swap. I did the "drill another access hole" technique and also practiced on a van at the wrecking yard. I ended up using the access hole I drilled as a window to look through while I snaked a 10mm speed wrench up from the door cavity to get the top nut on/off of the handle. I also forgot to reconnect the linkage rod from the key lock to the latch assembly - but refused to re-disassemble everything so it took me about another hour of contortions and a significant amount of luck to get ALL of the linkage rods back on the latch.
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby intermod1 » August 15th 2019, 7:11am

I tried jumping on that that van in the craigslist ad like the day after it hit but it looks like you beat me to it! Well done sir... well done. That does look like a crazy clean and dry So Cal AWD van.
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » August 15th 2019, 3:37pm

Thanks! Yes I was pretty much just dumb lucky on my timing. The seller mentioned he had people stacked up behind me.
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » September 4th 2019, 6:11pm

I purchased an aftermarket rubber floor for pickup beds and installed it.

003.JPG


And then started hauling stuff!!

004.JPG
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby nonhog » September 4th 2019, 11:24pm

Are you Sparkydog IH Chevytruck swap, Sparkydog?
Either way nice start on the build.
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » September 10th 2019, 3:17pm

Hi Nonhog, yes it's me. I was reading your thread about your van a year ago and it sort of helped push me in this direction. Your van is wounded now?
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » September 10th 2019, 3:24pm

I'm getting started on my version of the Excursion center console mod. There's almost nothing left of the GMC dog house facia (or whatever it ought to be called). I will be trying to design some brackets so that the console can be easily removed in case I want to haul something long between the front seats. It was interesting to see how freakin complex Ford designs stuff like this. So many parts and very weird assembly concept. Oh well, variety is the spice of life! Somehow I hope to figure out a way to utilize the large volume of space that is hidden inside the envelope of this console. If nothing else I can stash a bunch of drugs down there. :dance:

001.JPG

003.JPG

002.JPG
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby AstroWill » September 10th 2019, 5:09pm

Welcome!

Great start! That is a sharp looking 03.

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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby nonhog » September 10th 2019, 6:02pm

Sparkydog wrote:Hi Nonhog, yes it's me. I was reading your thread about your van a year ago and it sort of helped push me in this direction. Your van is wounded now?

Yep the 4.3 seems to have spun a main bearing.
Be fun to watch your take on a Safari build.
.
On your question about the rear seat weight reduction. I thought a couple or few fiberglass race seats mounted to a modified stock bracket would get extra seating but not heavy like the factory piece. Never got around to it. Just a thought.
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Re: Sparkydog's 2003 Safari AWD

Postby Sparkydog [OP] » September 15th 2019, 1:39pm

Yesterday I repaired my faulty ABS module by following Rolling_rock’s thread/video. This repair is like the Holy Grail of DIY - a relatively simple fix wrapped in a layer of complexity, mixed in with a dash of hard to reach, with a nice payoff at the end. I saved myself $100’s (if I’d used an overhaul vendor) or $1,000’s (if I had drank dealer Koolaid).

This was one of those days where I feel like I stuck it to the Man! :banana:
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