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1968-2013 Full Size Vans Econolines. E150, E250, E350, E450 and E550

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  #1  
Old 06-25-2014, 04:08 PM
4x4 camper van 4x4 camper van is offline
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4x4, diesel, camper van project: TTB, 6.9 IDI, pop-top

Hello everyone,

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.

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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).

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Old 06-25-2014, 04:18 PM
4x4 camper van 4x4 camper van is offline
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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.


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Old 06-25-2014, 07:46 PM
4x4 camper van 4x4 camper van is offline
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I scour through craigslist as least once a day, and not long after buying the dana 60 pair I found a little gem.


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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.
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Old 06-26-2014, 11:20 AM
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Gettysburg150 Gettysburg150 is offline
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Awesome! I have similar dreams, I'll be watching this one to see your progress
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  #5  
Old 07-05-2014, 03:37 AM
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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.
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1988 Ford E250 Club Wagon | 7.3 IDI + RD2-90cc IP + Hypermax Van Turbo Kit | C6+GVOD w/ MaxOD Deep Sump & Electric Temp Probe | Wrapped Pipes & Turbo w/ Auber Instrument EGT/Boost Gauge | 4" Dia. Alum Driveshaft | 4.10 Gears | 32-gal Custom Alum fuel tank w/ Centroid sending unit | NAPA Coolant Filter | Michelin LRR 16" treads | Chrome Warn Winch Bumper | 115W PV Array | Brass Heatercore shutoff valves | Aftermarket Steering Stabilizer | Synthetic Lube all-around.
1998 Jetta TDI.
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  #6  
Old 07-05-2014, 11:50 PM
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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.
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Old 07-06-2014, 01:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maples01 View Post
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.
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1988 Ford E250 Club Wagon | 7.3 IDI + RD2-90cc IP + Hypermax Van Turbo Kit | C6+GVOD w/ MaxOD Deep Sump & Electric Temp Probe | Wrapped Pipes & Turbo w/ Auber Instrument EGT/Boost Gauge | 4" Dia. Alum Driveshaft | 4.10 Gears | 32-gal Custom Alum fuel tank w/ Centroid sending unit | NAPA Coolant Filter | Michelin LRR 16" treads | Chrome Warn Winch Bumper | 115W PV Array | Brass Heatercore shutoff valves | Aftermarket Steering Stabilizer | Synthetic Lube all-around.
1998 Jetta TDI.
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  #8  
Old 07-06-2014, 05:56 PM
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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".
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Old 07-06-2014, 06:15 PM
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austinljordison austinljordison
I absolutely love it. I hope it comes together quickly, I am excited to watch.
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Old 07-27-2014, 01:54 PM
4x4 camper van 4x4 camper van is offline
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Hello everyone. Sorry I haven't been writing this thread nearly as fast as I would like to. It's been a very very busy summer for me. But I will be adding more to it over the next week.
Keep an eye on it, as a teaser I will tell you that the progress shown in this thread is FAR behind where I actually am, I'm just trying to sufficiently document everything I've done up to this point. In reality the front end is in, suspension work is done, and the IDI is actually sitting in there.
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Old 07-27-2014, 03:01 PM
Hank85713 Hank85713 is offline
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I understand the want for a diesel, however if the 351 was in good shape I think I would have kept it over the 6.9. I had an 89 f250 with the 351, it would pull anything and when we pulled our TT we passed a lot of smokers (6.9) as they struggled up the hills. Forget the HP of 6.9 but it was only around 200 as I recall, the 351 was about 275-300 or something. I also had a 10 ft slide in camper in the back and it would haul it and aghain we passed a lot of smokers, but the mileage was nothing to write home about!

Anyhow as long as you understand that there is little support for the 6.9 as far as aftermarket you should be ok. The only turbo kits I think were Banks and you might want to look for one, but check with banks 1st to see if it would work in a van enviro.

For the best of the camper you can raise the 'trailer' you made, get a 4K generator, add a house ac (5-9K btu) some electric and then you will have it all good to go. Check for some used rv stuff on CL like small 3 way refrig's etc, dont waste time with sinks etc. Easier to have something out side with water supply (trailer?). Porta potty up to you. My brother had an a chebby van with the camper mod, had all the inside stuff not a lot of room. Had to make the table into the bed when needed (he was single so never had a table.

Have fun
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Old 07-27-2014, 04:56 PM
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deciding on a TTB

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Initially I took pictures of the TTB front end and planned on posting it on craigslist to sell it. At this point I was still completely sold on a solid axle as being my best option. I researched the TTB to figure out how much it was worth and to learn about them out of curiosity since I knew nothing about them. I found that the majority of people had absolutely no clue about them and about 95% of people hated the thing, calling it too complex, weak, wears tires funny, etc. etc. But their logic didnít make sense to me; I mean after all aside from a completely different appearance and being IFS it is remarkably similar to a dana solid axle, just with an extra u-joint. I found enough people praising them for their incredible ride both on and off road and enough success stories to get me intrigued on these seemingly strange front ends. I began to research them extremely extensively and discovered that essentially all the ďhorror storiesĒ about these front ends as being pieces of junk were from people who had them set up entirely wrong or were using them for the wrong purpose. The TTB is just very misunderstood by the majority of people. I discovered that everyone who had problems with them would instantly jump to the conclusion that they were just ďpieces of *****Ē or ďnot worth the work compared to a SASĒ and go straight to bitching about them instead of actually discovering a cause to their problems.
The other thing I discovered in my research was that aside from their strength and ease of setting them up, solid axles were nothing special. Sure they are incredible for rock crawling and extreme 4x4ing, but thatís not what Iím after in an extremely heavy camper van with a very long wheelbase. Iíll need to get through snow, down nasty roads, and perhaps the occasional mild trail; but I certainly will not be doing any hill climbing or going through boulder gardens with this thing. The dana 44 HD is plenty strong enough to run 33Ē tires (which is what I will run) and has 8 lugs just like my rear end. An independent front suspension using a TTB will be considerably harder to set up under the van, but the nicer ride would ultimately make the difficult swap well worth it. Besides that, the idea of doing something so unique yet extremely effective appeled to me. I was set on building a TTB van.
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Old 07-27-2014, 05:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hank85713 View Post
I understand the want for a diesel, however if the 351 was in good shape I think I would have kept it over the 6.9. I had an 89 f250 with the 351, it would pull anything and when we pulled our TT we passed a lot of smokers (6.9) as they struggled up the hills. Forget the HP of 6.9 but it was only around 200 as I recall, the 351 was about 275-300 or something. I also had a 10 ft slide in camper in the back and it would haul it and aghain we passed a lot of smokers, but the mileage was nothing to write home about!

Anyhow as long as you understand that there is little support for the 6.9 as far as aftermarket you should be ok. The only turbo kits I think were Banks and you might want to look for one, but check with banks 1st to see if it would work in a van enviro.

For the best of the camper you can raise the 'trailer' you made, get a 4K generator, add a house ac (5-9K btu) some electric and then you will have it all good to go. Check for some used rv stuff on CL like small 3 way refrig's etc, dont waste time with sinks etc. Easier to have something out side with water supply (trailer?). Porta potty up to you. My brother had an a chebby van with the camper mod, had all the inside stuff not a lot of room. Had to make the table into the bed when needed (he was single so never had a table.

Have fun
Hello,

The 351 was in excellent shape and scooted the van around very nicely, but the gas millage was just terrible.
That's interesting that you say you were passing smokers on your travels up hills. Although they are only about 200 HP, they are pushing out 338 ft lbs of torque on a stock setup. I will be fabricating a 4" exhaust system with no muffler, which should give me even slightly more than this. The torque of the 6.9 ( as well as any diesel motor for that matter) makes them very happy with regards to hills and pulling heavy loads which is why I can't imagine they were struggling too much. Perhaps they were trying to avoid over heating, or maybe they turned the fuel up and were avoiding visible emissions (which many states have laws against). I will be putting the biggest aluminum radiator I can possibly fit to keep everything nice and cool.
Regardless, like you said if it struggles I will add some turbo . Banks does make a kit for the IDI, but I doubt it would fit because of the doghouse. If it came to that, I would have to get creative with my fabrication skills to sneak a turbo (or 2) in there.

As far as the camper aspect of it, I want the van to be one compact, self sufficient unit (i.e. no trailer necessary). I am going to do a solar setup with plenty of battery and might carry a small portable generator and use as needed. Also I am going to install a propane system so that will run my fridge, heater, stove, and hot water. My camping style is far from luxury so really all I need electricity for is lighting, music, water pump (I do want a small sink and outdoor shower), the occasional small things (cell phone, GPS coffee grinder, etc), and maybe an AC unit. Although I've thought about it a lot, this stuff is far from completely planned out since that part of the project is a little ways down the road.

Thanks for the input!
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Old 07-27-2014, 07:49 PM
Hank85713 Hank85713 is offline
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As to the AC that is why I referred to a 4K gen set. That is the minimum size you will need to start and run one comfortably. OR YOU CAN GO WITH 2 2k hondas if you have the room and only run 1 as needed for everything but AC.
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Old 07-27-2014, 08:59 PM
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U-joints are a weak link in a drivetrain, the TTB has an extra, and lifting one requires a more expensive kit to drop everything to keep the geometry correct. Their limitation is exposed when tire selection comes up, but if you aren't trying to put it in the clouds on tractor tires they are perfect, the D50 TTB is only available in diesel applications I believe, 35" tires push it on them, and a heavier vehicle with that tire choice is going to break parts. I like them because you can get it under there without forcing you to raise the van way in the air, FYI a solid axle under an engine cradle designed for I-beams, even with the trimming, you are going to be pretty far up. When the TTB starts to fail is when people have put lockers in them and 38" tires, and start trying to rock climb. I traded tires to a guy, giving him my 35"x15.50" R15 TSL swampers, he put them on his TTB truck, then a Bronco with one, I don't recall him breaking anything, he played in the mud, it's loose, nothing to ****** the tire and cause it to require force to turn.
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