Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

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Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby dead [OP] » January 25th 2021, 9:55pm

Hi folks.

I've been stalking this forum for a few months, and found a lot of helpful info. Work gave me a little bonus recently and I want to treat myself, and I keep dreaming about a 2nd gen Astro with a V8 swap, so I think I'm gonna try to go for it. I'm a musician, so I occasionally (during non-pandemic times anyway) need to haul a bunch of gear and folks across long distances. I have a Volvo V70R now, and it hauls *** somewhat and can handle a moderate amount of gear. I'm looking for something that hauls serious *** and a serious amount of gear, while still being small enough for city driving. Thus, a V8 minivan.

I can turn a wrench but I'm no mechanic, so I might do my own small projects but I'm going to let a professional handle the swap. I'm already in touch with a shop. I'm wondering if anyone has any advice for me on picking a van out. What else besides the obvious? No rust, no accidents... I want RWD in the end, so I know I'm looking for a RWD van. And I want power locks and windows, so I know to look for an LS or LT. BTW what's the difference? And are there any important changes between model years, or between Chevy and GMC? All I know so far is 98-95 have different steering wheels than the later ones, and some 95s I've seen have entirely different dashes. But did they make any important mechanical changes over the years that I should be aware of?

I have more questions but let's start there

Thanks y'all.

BTW, I'd been thinking about some kind of V8 van for a while, but the black one in this thread is what hooked me on the idea of building it out of an Astro: https://www.astrosafari.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=8901
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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby AstroWill » January 26th 2021, 2:24am

dead wrote:Hi folks.

Hi and welcome to the site!
dead wrote:I can turn a wrench but I'm no mechanic, so I might do my own small projects but I'm going to let a professional handle the swap. I'm already in touch with a shop. I'm wondering if anyone has any advice for me on picking a van out. What else besides the obvious? No rust, no accidents... I want RWD in the end, so I know I'm looking for a RWD van. And I want power locks and windows, so I know to look for an LS or LT. BTW what's the difference? And are there any important changes between model years, or between Chevy and GMC? All I know so far is 98-95 have different steering wheels than the later ones, and some 95s I've seen have entirely different dashes. But did they make any important mechanical changes over the years that I should be aware of?

RWD v8 swap is the easiest way to go esp if you are using a 5.7 of the same year/fueling type.

General overview of changes over the years. https://sites.google.com/site/astrosafa ... enerations

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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby dead [OP] » January 26th 2021, 3:53pm

Wow, that's a neat little site! This is some relevant info here:
2003 Larger brakes/wheels(16inch 6lug)/tires/axles, rear disk brakes, aluminum wheels standard on LS/LT, improved cabin safety(smoother surfaces and energy absorbing foam), Dynamic Rear Proportioning


I did notice the 03-05s seem to be going for a bit more money. Bigger brakes sound nice but I think I'm going to go aftermarket on those anyway. I'm wondering about this "energy absorbing foam" though. Does that quiet the interior at all? I was thinking I'd have to do my own sound deadening, but maybe not with an 03-05?


About the swap, the shop actually suggested going with the 6.0. I saw a thread here where someone did an LQ4 swap, so it seems possible. Vortec for Vortec, makes sense. Probably would have to upgrade the transmission to handle it though.
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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby markmitch » January 26th 2021, 4:43pm

the 95 models are a mix of first gen and second gen so they may be a bit harder to find things for. The Ls series engines do offer more in the way of power and torque as well as reliability. there are many kits in the market for the swap too. Yes you probably will want a V8 transmission too. Best bet is find a truck that was in an accident to get the engine/trans & harness from as well as the ECM/PCM. Keep us posted on your project and we love pictures. Oh and welcome to the forum!, Mark
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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby sixsix » January 26th 2021, 7:10pm

Welcome !

" '03-'05, Ground Effects, chopped, dropped, upgraded mechanicals, no rust or accidents and 6.0 LQ/LS/LT V8 Swap "


Must have been a NICE Bonus !

:shock:


Again... Welcome & must be the best Nick / Username I have seen in 6 mos... !
( hopefully there is not a story about some grisly, disgusting, provocative crime involved )
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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby dead [OP] » January 26th 2021, 7:42pm

Well I've hit a snag, as the shop I was chatting with actually wont be able to take on my project. Says they're booked till Fall '21 at least. He also mentioned that he wasn't able to find an oil pan designed for this swap. The V8 Swap List thread doesn't mention oil pans, so I was under the impression that stock would fit?
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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby AstroWill » January 26th 2021, 8:00pm


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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby dead [OP] » January 26th 2021, 8:12pm

Good tip, but that's an AWD, and he is lifting it. I'd like to stay stock height if not an inch or two lower.

This post says the stock 5.3 pan fits on RWD Astro: https://www.astrosafari.com/viewtopic.p ... 2#p1524182
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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby dead [OP] » January 28th 2021, 4:51pm

Ah, wow. I emailed JTR and then spoke to Greg on the phone to get an answer one way or the other. Turns out I was getting confused. When people here say "the 4.3 is just a 5.7 minus 2 cylinders, the swap is very straight forward," the 5.7 they mean is't the LS1 but the small block 350. But he did confirm that the pan from the small block fits no problem. I should have googled "TBI V8" when I saw it at the top of the V8 swap list...

I think the shop I was talking to is LS-focussed so let's see what he says to this correction. Should be cheaper in p+l but I don't think I'll be hitting 400+ HP like I'd imagined. On the plus side the stock 4L60 trans is probably fine.
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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby AstroWill » January 28th 2021, 7:37pm

dead wrote:Turns out I was getting confused. When people here say "the 4.3 is just a 5.7 minus 2 cylinders, the swap is very straight forward," the 5.7 they mean is't the LS1 but the small block 350.

Exactly. The SBC drops right in with very few changes because they designed the van for it :)

dead wrote:I think the shop I was talking to is LS-focussed so let's see what he says to this correction. Should be cheaper in p+l but I don't think I'll be hitting 400+ HP like I'd imagined. On the plus side the stock 4L60 trans is probably fine.

You can still meet your goals either way. Though at least having a RWD makes it easier and cheaper both ways.

Is there a reason you don't want to do the swap yourself, would leave more money for the engine build.

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Re: Shopping for my first Astro, any advice?

Postby dead [OP] » January 28th 2021, 7:59pm

Who knows, I might. I don't have much in the way of tools, but I understand those are cheap enough. I've never done anything like this, but I'm sure the JTR book would walk me through it. I think mainly it's that I don't have much of a space to work. I'm in the city. We have a driveway but it's shared with 3 other apartments, so I would feel bad taking up their parking spaces.
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