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Old 10-14-2014, 08:06 PM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: TN, Nashville
Posts: 71
Slow Build for a slow van

After endlessly showing pictures of vans to my wife for several years, the right opportunity came along. Hopefully this doesn't count as advertising as the wrap came on the van and is about half removed at this point.

A 1996 e350 cargo. 156,000 on the apparently invincible Ford 4.9L. Yep, an inline 6 ford with something like 170hp. Still an upgrade from my last camper which boasted 36hp.

Like most in the DIY van group, I have dreams, and there are necessities.

Remove the wrap job, this van is white. It's like the world's hardest gift to unwrap.
Add some thoughtfully placed windows... I teach high school, so I don't want this thing too creepy for too long.
Misc blemishes and wear and tear junkyard repairs.

Dreams: (ordered by likely priority)
1. Super sized westy/EB51 layout. Including plumbing and electrical. Plenty of carpentry/sewing experience to DIY.
2. 4inch lift w/o 4wd. Make new elongated radius arms(welded DOM steel), bump stop drops, have custom springs made, sway bar drops, relocate axle pivots, blocks and bolts out back. Anyone know of any compatible pitman arms with a drop?
3. DIY fiberglass top - I shape and repair paddleboards (not much surf since I left CA) so I have a vac press and glass experience to lay up my own top. I think?
4. DIY canvas and bunk.
5. 4wd swap. Maybe someday, who knows?

And and introduction:
As a teacher, DIY is a financial necessity. Since I have summer's off, I have more time than money. Hence digging, building, plumbing, and wiring my own 25,000 gallon inground pool two summer's ago. I teach physics and like math, so the engineering of the upgrades is as exciting as the build itself.

So I have an odd skill set, but am a master of none of these skills. I am sure to learn a great deal from this project as I already have from seeing so many of the builds others have posted. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Old 10-14-2014, 09:18 PM   #2
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Location: Turlock Ca
Posts: 10,194
Re: Slow Build for a slow van

Just don't tell us Mark Williams is your brother
I had a work truck with that engine and it's still going with 300+ miles on it. Good luck on your build and getting that wrap off. Hopefully someone here can get you some tips to help pull it off. Seems like a nice platform to start on.

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Old 10-14-2014, 10:03 PM   #3
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Location: TN
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Re: Slow Build for a slow van


2010 Chevy AWD home build
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Old 10-15-2014, 08:34 AM   #4
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Re: Slow Build for a slow van


If you are planning on fabricating your own radius arms I hope you are a good welder......not something I would attempt but my welds look rather bird-turd-ish.....

Have you tried a heat gun on the wrap?
2008 E350 RB passenger 4WD SMB penthouse
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Old 10-15-2014, 09:43 AM   #5
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Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
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Re: Slow Build for a slow van

I think Action Van Suspesions will sell you their drop pitman arm.
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Old 10-15-2014, 10:07 AM   #6
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Re: Slow Build for a slow van

Taking a wrap off is a real PITA!
Four time Baja 1000 winner, four time Baja 500 winner. Solo'ed the Baja 1000 to LaPaz/Cabo twice.
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Old 10-19-2014, 08:07 AM   #7
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Location: Denver, CO
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Re: Slow Build for a slow van

I used a skyjacker pitman arm with the stock steering gear. Pro Comp also makes one that will fit and has different geometry in the drop. It will probably be a trial and error of which combination gets you clearance from other components and the drop you need, I had to try 3 before I found the right one but I have 4wd and the whole front end is modified.

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Old 10-24-2014, 09:33 AM   #8
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: TN, Nashville
Posts: 71
Re: Slow Build for a slow van

Originally Posted by BajaSportsmobile
Taking a wrap off is a real PITA!
I have about 3/4 of the wrap removed at this point, and that's a perfect description of this process. In my infinite wisdom (sarcasm) I haggled the price down from 1500 to 1400 when I bought the van if I removed the wrap myself instead of the PO taking it to have it done. Worst $100 saved!

Originally Posted by sidetrak06
Pro Comp also makes one that will fit and has different geometry in the drop.
Thanks for this information, I'll likely put it to use at some point. I think I'm going to be somewhat patient and junkyard Dana and U-joint my way to a new front end with a proper 4wd conversion.

Since I'd like a bit of lift before my budget and time allow for 4wd, I'm thinking of temporarily going 2 inches with the Maxx-lift setup. What I can't seem to figure is what change occurred to the front end that makes their kit 1999+, rather than 1992+?

I've pulled part numbers for my 96, a 99, and even an 07 and the front suspension replacement parts all seem interchangeable?

Does anyone know if the lift specified as 99+ is actually 92+?
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Old 12-06-2014, 05:04 PM   #9
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: TN, Nashville
Posts: 71
Re: Slow Build for a slow van

Some Progress on the van, the wrap is now nearly removed. Only about half of a panel's worth of old adhesive to remove. Denatured alcohol in a spray bottle has been really effective.

Picked up some seats, all from an astro conversion: $175 CL got me two fronts, two rears with bases that allow the seats to be removed. The bases themselves are only about 1 inch tall. Also got a bench seat that lays down flat as a bed. And all seatbelts.

I plan to keep four captains chairs with the gaucho style bench. I will be recovering all the seats, and will widen the bench seat in the process. I hope to build a kitchen setup that will sit directly in across from the bench seat.

Anyone have experience or wisdom to share about that style of floorplan? It is a complete departure from my original westfalia style plan, but these vans are huge compared to a VW and the seats for this configuration were all included.

Any guidance on modifying the astro seat bases for a swivel in a replicable fashion?
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Old 12-23-2014, 09:01 AM   #10
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Posts: 156
Re: Slow Build for a slow van

Looking good. That's some great progress. I bet the wrap was a pain.

I like that layout that you are going with only if you will consistently be carrying 3-4 passengers. If not, I would imagine the extra captains chairs in the middle would only serve to clutter the middle of the van and take away from valuable living space. The good news is you have the EB van which has a ton of room regardless so you can pretty much set it up however you want and still have room.

As far as swivels for Astro seats I think you said, you may need to pick up some welding skills if there is not a swivel base currently being manufactured for them. Any chance you could find two more E-Series seats and Ebay your Astro seats then they would match the fronts and you could find swivel bases for them easily.

If you haven't bolted everything down just yet, I would look up Born Free RV, namely the 24RB (rear bath) for some ideas on the living space in your van. I am a huge fan of the guacho across from two swivel base captain's chairs that can be locked forward for kids, passengers, etc.

You could almost set up a really cool living area in the back where 4-5 people could visit or watch tv and then your galley kitchen could be almost exactly where the EB50 plan puts it right behind the driver's seat like in a Westy.

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