1968-2013 Full Size VansEconolines. E150, E250, E350, E450 and E550
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4x4, diesel, camper van project: TTB, 6.9 IDI, pop-top
I havenít really posted anything yet, but Iíve been lurking around on FTE for a little while now. Iíve learned a ton from reading forums on here and you all have helped me figure many things out. This certainly seems to be the best Ford forums out there. So I guess itís time to post up my project Iíve been working on.
Well so a little bit of background on me. I am 21 years old and have an engineering mindset. Although Iíve been very into cars/ trucks as well as working on them for about 7 years, I have been playing with German sedans (had a bimmer for a while, now an Audi) and this is the first Ford or any American brand for that matter that Iíve owned. For the last 2 years I have been apprenticing/ working for an automotive restoration/ custom fabrication shop. Here Iíve learned the vast majority of what I know about building and modifying cars.
I am very open to any advice, ideas, suggestions, opinions etc. from anyone. I am new to just about all of this and although I am confident in what Iím doing, I am a firm believer that input from anybody should be heard. Bad advice can always be ignored, and you never know who might come up with a brilliant solution/ technique/ idea. So here we go:
Well it all started last July when I decided I wanted a van for camping, hiking, mtn biking, snowboarding, canoeing, fishing, and the plethora of other things I like to do outside. After researching, I quickly realized Ford was the way to go for many reasons. Craigslist here I come, but I was on a serious budget. I was after something less than 1000. I found this fine specimen very close to where I live.
A 1978 Econoline 250. It was on someoneís property who said he bought it from a meat company a while back. The thing had not been registered since 1998. He was asking 600 for it but there was a ton of rotted sections: under the mats, behind the slider door, behind the rear bumper, and the front wheel wells. The rust was overall not that bad and the rot was very present but it was nothing I couldnít deal with. On the other hand, it had the 351w with a c6 behind it and that thing ran like a champ. Drove it around his neighborhood for a while and the tranny felt good and smooth, the motor was strong as hell and didnít smoke, spudder, or anything even a bit. Plus the whole thing was insulated and more importantly had deep deep **** throughout with a crazy headliner. I was so sold, it was love at first sight. I talked him down to 400 and drove home happy (and with a buddy riding my tail so he instead of a cop could stare at my 15 years out of date plates).
After a few quick patches to the worst of the rusted sections I just registered it and drove it around as my camping/ activity rig for the rest of summer. I instantly appreciated using a van for all the things I like to do in the outdoors. It had tons of room for bikes, camping equipment, and really whatever I wanted. Plus unlike a full size RV it fits in normal parking spots around town and any campground I want to go to. Not to mention the cheaper registration than an RV. Then the idea of a full blown 4x4 camper van with a mini kitchen, pop-top bed, and other conveniences took over and became my ultimate goal. Also as awesome as a van it is, the gas mileage was painful. Iíve also always wanted something diesel, and so the decision to go diesel was obvious. Fall came around and it was winter project time.
My first priority was doing a 4x4 swap. So after researching it seemed a SAS with a dana 60 was by far the most popular way to go. So after scouring craigslist once again, I found a pair of dana 60s for 400 which seemed like an absolute steal, even though I didnít need the rear at all. The thing was an old, closed knuckle, drum brake front end so it wasnít perfect (king pin, disc brake would have been ideal), but I figured a minor rebuild with a disc conversion would do great. Besides, my realistic budget would never allow for the best of the best. So I snagged them.
I scour through craigslist as least once a day, and not long after buying the dana 60 pair I found a little gem.
It is a 1983 F-250 with the 6.9 IDI diesel, NP 435 tranny with a very low granny first gear, and an NP 208 behind that. It also had a dana 44 HD TTB up front which I knew nothing about at the time (I was after the motor), but I would soon. The truck body was beat to crap and had no title, no registered plates (out of state as well), and no registration. It fired up very happily and ran awesome though. After a test drive I realized that the tranny shifted into each gear very nicely, the clutch felt real good, and everything mechanical seemed to be in very good shape. Due to the lack of title I was able to bring him down and we settled on 500$.
I immediately pulled the motor/ tranny/ transfer case. Next I had to deal with getting rid of the body. Because the scrap yard will not take a vehicle without a title (for obvious reasons) I was forced to get a little bit creative on disposing of the thing. I decided having a trailer wouldnít be such a bad thing and because it was a long bed it would make for a decent little trailer. So I pulled the cab and fenders off to slice the frame. I cut it just behind the leaf spring hangers for the front end, made pie cuts where I wanted the frame to bend in, heated the frame rails up, bent them in to the perfect center, and welded a receiver hitch and safety chain onto it. Obviously there was lots of careful cross measuring done and it turned out pretty nice for my first one.
I then sliced the rest of the truck to pieces with an oxyacetylene torch and an air hack to get it all fitted in my new trailer. I forgot my camera this day but it was quite the sight to see. Using about 10 ratchet straps, I had random sliced pieces of truck stacked damn near 10 feet tall in the trailer. Then it was off to Schnitzerís Steel to scrap it. The new trailer tracked perfectly so I must have done something right. I got 75$ for the scrap and called it a success.
I'm curious to see how this project works too. 4x4campervan, you should really be posting this to the Ford IDI Pre-powerstroke section of the FTE forum. I'm really curious on how you are going to make that truck IDI engine fit like a van IDI engine.
I would have put the van on the truck frame, the ttb 4x4 doesn't make it sit in the clouds, I want a 4x4 van like that.
I always thought that would be a good plan, but from what I've heard, the van frame rails are wider than the truck. That's to situate the van engine lower between the rails.
So, if you put a van body on a truck frame, the truck engine would sit higher in the van engine compartment (assuming the narrower frame rails didn't cause other body mounting problems). If the engine sat higher, then it would clash with the roof of the Econoline engine compartment, wouldn't it? The Diesel Filter head, which is situated in a different spot than the truck position, already is very very close to the roof of the engine compartment as is, so there wouldn't be a lot of wiggle room for a higher elevation engine. And the location of the pulleys are different on the van.
I guess you could install taller body spacers to lift the body up high enough for the van, but doesn't the location of the engine (front-to-back) sit differently in a truck than a van? So, the doghouse wouldn't close if the engine sat any further back than it already does in a standard van? Also, doesn't the exhaust system route differently in a truck and van? I know this if a problem for sure if he had a turbo'ed IDI engine, but maybe there was similar differences in exhaust systems for the N/A engine.
I'm not even going to get into the wiring issues with swapping a diesel for a gasser and simultaneously swapping the truck body for the van body. I can't even imagine if the vacuum system from a gasser will match up with the vacuum system on a diesel, since the IDI's had mechanical pumps to control that sort of thing. I don't know enough about the vacuum system on the gasser Econolines, but I assume climate control selector valves would be a problem to resolve. I'm sure the OP isn't swapping the truck's master cylinder into the van, so will a non-diesel vacuum power assist work from a diesel mechanical vacuum pump?
I'm just speculating cuz I've never done a van-truck body swap. Maybe someone who's done it can chime in on my hypotheses.
I've seen it done once, don't remember where, looked cool, the stance was like a stock 2wd van, but was a 4x4, you could see the ttb under it, it's great for stock tires, but guys going oversize start breaking them, anything past a 33" show the weakness in the knuckles, those closed knuckles you put up have a cutoff around 38".
My wheelchair has yet to stop me from wrenching on my vans.
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