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Can I retrofit truck suspension on my van?

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

Can I retrofit truck suspension on my van?

  #1  
Old 09-16-2018, 01:00 PM
78 E250 CW
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Can I retrofit truck suspension on my van?

I'm about to buy a 78 E250 van from family. It's been sitting since 2010 and I want to completely go through it and make it reliable/safe.

Just for the sake of finding parts easier can I take components from a newer F250 pickups (earlyish 90s).

I just want to make it so I can keep the van going for another 40 years
 
  #2  
Old 09-16-2018, 06:29 PM
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What kind of parts are you looking to replace?
 
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Old 09-16-2018, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by 98Econoline150 View Post
What kind of parts are you looking to replace?
pretty much I want to update the entire front assembly. Wheels, brakes, bearings, tie rods, ball joints, etc.

I want to basically take the front end off a 3/4 truck and put it under my van
 
  #4  
Old 09-16-2018, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by 78 E250 CW View Post
I'm about to buy a 78 E250 van from family. It's been sitting since 2010 and I want to completely go through it and make it reliable/safe.
A 78? Love the front end on those models.

That's 40 years old. So, you're pretty much planning to rebuild it from the ground up? Basically, a frame-off restoration? Steering system (the whole thing), complete brake system including all the lines, of course. New engine, trans, diff, all seals, rubber parts, door latch & lock mechanisms, (don't forget the ignition cylinder), wiper motor, cooling system (including heater core), AC (if present), all the lights (dash, too), and probably a few other things I've forgotten.

Nice project.

Or, you are fooling yourself.

 
  #5  
Old 09-17-2018, 08:24 AM
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Just my opinion so take it for what its worth............

How much is this van going to cost you? Honestly anything more than "free" puts you at an economic disadvantage. Most likely if you need/want a "safe/reliable" older van something into the later 90's or earlier '00's will be easier to upgrade and/or maintain. Since this particular van has been sitting (mostly idle?) for going on 9 years you'll most likely have a LOT of issues related to that non-use; decaying rubber lines & hoses, moving parts seized up from rusting away---this list could be quite extensive.

While a very few chassis components are common on both the F-Series and E-Series those you mention tend to not be. Those are two significantly differently designed and built vehicles so any interchangeable part(s) are a matter of luck more than design.

E250's from '97 up to 2007 can and do benefit from a front brake upgrade to parts from an '08 E250--I've done this and its a vast improvement over the stock configuration. I don't know enough about the '78 era to say whether this sort of improvement would work, how much effort and engineering would be necessary.

For my money and time I'd avoid a "vintage" E-Series and instead opt for one somewhere into the 2000's.

Please let us know what you decide!
 
  #6  
Old 09-17-2018, 09:12 AM
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You can always clean up and paint a bunch of stuff yourself. Get stuff rebuilt, and refurbished by a service company, but a quick check of RockAuto shows very few parts available.
 
  #7  
Old 09-18-2018, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by 98Econoline150 View Post
a quick check of RockAuto shows very few parts available.
There's the other part of the equation. Not only is everything that can rot, rotted, and every seal that can dry up, dried up, but finding parts will be very difficult. Sitting unused is very hard on vehicles. You have bearings that are now out of round, and will soon fail, you have rust, you have seized parts. It's not just fixing a few things and away you go.

A 40 year old vehicle CAN be restored to 'daily driver' reliability, but not cheaply, and not quickly. It's a labor of love, done for a hobby, not to get into a cheap, reliable vehicle. That is not going to happen.

If that was your plan, cut your losses now.
 
  #8  
Old 09-22-2018, 01:44 AM
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You can tell the guys/gals that aren't use to working on older vehicles. "It's old just junk it and get a newer one. Old vans will cost more then they are worth" There's nothing on a old vehicle that isn't fixable. And if a person wanted a newer one they would have bought a newer one to begin with. I personally prefer the older vehicles over the newer ones.

For the wheels you can get those from any 75+ E250/E350 Van or any 96/97HD or older F250/F350. 98+ trucks will have a different bolt pattern. Your van has King pins, no ball joints. All the parts you need should be available. I'm completely rebuilding my 89 E350. Most if not all the parts should be pretty much the same ( or interchangeable ) from 75-91 on the vans. I would stick with van parts. But some parts might be the same between a truck and van ( bearings, seals etc. ) A good parts place will be able to look up what you need. Bigger parts like the Front I-beams, rear axle assembly, etc will be different. The van and truck chassis's are different. You could make anything work, but the truck stuff will be more of a hassle to use. If you really want newer model year parts for your van then find a newer third gen. Econoline parts ( up to 1991 ) . They will be the same basic body style as your van and most parts will be a direct bolt in. It really should not be that hard hard to find the parts you will need.

There isn't a whole lot of parts to these vans compared to the newer ones. On the front suspension I would replace the following:

I-beam pivot bushings
Strut rod/radius arm bushings
Sway bar/anti roll bar bushings and end links if your van is equipped with one.
Front shocks
Front hub/wheel bearing seals. Check the wheel bearings when you tear it down. If they are in good shape just clean them up and repack them with fresh grease. If they are bad replace them.
I would also replace The Master cylinder and all brake hoses and thoroughly check the hard brake lines for rust or damage.
It's a good idea to replace the front brake pads. When doing this, check the condition and thickness of the front brake rotors. If they are good you can have them turned ( resurfaced ) . If they are bad replace them ( hub/rotor assembly ) .
It would also be a good idea to replace the calipers since you will have the system open to replace the hoses.
And most importantly replace the tires. Any tire that is 10 years old or older is just a ticking time bomb. It's just plain dangerous running old tires.


The following parts I would inspect the condition of:

King pins
All steering parts
If any of the above doesn't have wear/free play in them then you can just grease the grease zerks with a grease gun. No need to replace parts that aren't broken.

Inspect steering gear box ( check for leaks and excessive play, check how much the steering wheel moves before the wheels turn ) and PS parts. If you need to replace the steering box I suggest getting a rebuilt unit from: RedHead Steering Gears
They do great work and they actually re-engineer any weak links in the steering box design. I avoid the standard auto parts stores reman'd boxes. Most are total crap. The RedHead boxes will cost more but are well worth every penny.



On the rear suspension check the condition of the leaf springs. If they are worn ( back of the van sagging ) or if there are any broken leafs, then replace them. If the springs are ok, then I would replace the spring bushings and mounting hardware. This can be a royal pain but the difference in how the van drives can be major. Also make sure to check the shackles and spring hanger brackets for severe rust or damage. Also it's a good idea to replace the rear shocks.

Go thru the rear brakes and replace the rear brake hose and wheel cylinders. Check the condition of the brake shoes and drums and replace them if needed.

Also check the driveshaft/U-joints for free play. If it's solid just grease the U-joints ( if they have grease zerks ) . If there is free play then replace the U-joints.

Most engine and transmission parts will be the same between the trucks and vans. But there may be a few items that are different like oil pans and PS pumps, etc.








 
  #9  
Old 09-22-2018, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by fordman75 View Post
You can tell the guys/gals that aren't use to working on older vehicles. "It's old just junk it and get a newer one. Old vans will cost more then they are worth" There's nothing on a old vehicle that isn't fixable. And if a person wanted a newer one they would have bought a newer one to begin with. I personally prefer the older vehicles over the newer ones.
I somewhat agree with your POV Fordman however there really, really does come a point financially or time-wise where all the work you suggest simply doesn't make sense. Once completed has the goal of "safe/reliable" been met, does the van have an expected life expectancy that would justify the cost in time and/or money?

IF the goal is to have something that'll last another 40 years nothing short of a complete mechanical restoration with as many new parts as can be sourced or adapted, assuming OP has the space, tools and expertise or wallet to take on such a project.

Because most suspension parts even for a '78 E250 would be fairly easy and "affordably" replaceable there's no real need to considering swapping F-Series front end components. Briefly and quickly looking through the RockAuto catalog for a '78 E250 shows a lot of mechanical parts still available. If there's an upside to Ford vans is they're so simple, suspension designs not changing significantly over the years so parts can still be found brand new.

It'll be interesting seeing how OP deals with this.
 
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Old 09-22-2018, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by JWA View Post
I somewhat agree with your POV Fordman however there really, really does come a point financially or time-wise where all the work you suggest simply doesn't make sense. Once completed has the goal of "safe/reliable" been met, does the van have an expected life expectancy that would justify the cost in time and/or money?
Bingo. Nobody is saying it can't be restored. We're saying it's not going to be a matter of slapping in a few parts and PRESTO! Now you have a "reliable/safe" daily driver.

It's going to take time and money, and it's not the cost-effective route to the goal of a safe and reliable daily driver. It will be much cheaper and easier to get something newer.

If the goal is to have a reliable and safe 78 because you love that particular year, then it certainly can be done. Go for it. People do it with Model Ts.

It's just not the cheap route.

 
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Old 09-22-2018, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by JWA View Post
I somewhat agree with your POV Fordman however there really, really does come a point financially or time-wise where all the work you suggest simply doesn't make sense. Once completed has the goal of "safe/reliable" been met, does the van have an expected life expectancy that would justify the cost in time and/or money?

IF the goal is to have something that'll last another 40 years nothing short of a complete mechanical restoration with as many new parts as can be sourced or adapted, assuming OP has the space, tools and expertise or wallet to take on such a project.

Because most suspension parts even for a '78 E250 would be fairly easy and "affordably" replaceable there's no real need to considering swapping F-Series front end components. Briefly and quickly looking through the RockAuto catalog for a '78 E250 shows a lot of mechanical parts still available. If there's an upside to Ford vans is they're so simple, suspension designs not changing significantly over the years so parts can still be found brand new.

It'll be interesting seeing how OP deals with this.
Originally Posted by wirelessengineer View Post
Bingo. Nobody is saying it can't be restored. We're saying it's not going to be a matter of slapping in a few parts and PRESTO! Now you have a "reliable/safe" daily driver.

It's going to take time and money, and it's not the cost-effective route to the goal of a safe and reliable daily driver. It will be much cheaper and easier to get something newer.

If the goal is to have a reliable and safe 78 because you love that particular year, then it certainly can be done. Go for it. People do it with Model Ts.

It's just not the cheap route.

Just because a vehicle is newer does not mean it's going to be reliable. Newer vehicles are more complicated. More electronics, more parts, more chances of something failing. Old vehicles are simple and pretty cheap to fix when they do need it. For what a "newer" van cost you buy a whole lot of parts for a older one. And just because you buy something newer doesn't mean it isn't going to need repairs too. I've daily driven old high mileage vehicles my whole life. I've had old daily drivers that went years with needing nothing more then oil changes. Vehicles don't have expiration dates. Old does not = crap.

That list I made doesn't need to be done all at one time. If it was me I would rebuild the carb, replace the fuel filter and rubber fuel lines, Inspect all the hard lines for rust, clean out the old fuel. Get it running. Make sure the engine and transmission are sound. Then replace the basic tune up parts, change the fluids, etc.Then out of the list in my last post I would go thru the brake system, replace the tires and check over everything else. Fix the safety items, other repairs can be done over time.

It really depends on the actual condition of the body shell and if 78 E250 CW can do the work. Having to pay a shop to do the work would be way too expensive. We are talking about fixing a driver here, not flipping cars.
 


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