Starting a New Year working!

Happy New Year to all! It seems we have been doing a bunch of chatting about how we are feeling about the work, but we haven’t actually done a good job explaining the work we are doing. So this post is for our fellow car and vanagon nuts out there, so you know some of the mods we are doing.

First up, let’s show you our workspace! Again, Burl has been great to us and so giving. We have had full use of an entire bay, rack, and master mechanic tools, and did we mentioned there is a full on machine shop on the other side of this. Yeah, we are living a dream. This totally beats out our dark and cold Chicago workspace, and has saved us tons of money having Burl’s expertise on call. I feel a little bad because we ARE taking up so much time and space. This shot also gives you an idea of all of the crap we loaded up and brought with us to Install. All the boxes and such are ours.

So there is a lot of work that’s happening that no one will ever see or appreciate, but its work done the right way. The van is rear engined so there is no space under the “hood” to mount stuff. The van had a unibody construction so there is very little empty space around the “frame” either. We are literally working to use every inch we can outside the van to maximize our space inside the van. so let’s take you on a tour underneath the van.

First up, You can see the shiny silver tanks for our air system. They do not hang down very low, but we do want to work on some simple protection for the condensation drains on the bottom of the tanks. We went with two smaller tanks vs one to maximize the space underneath and minimize the need to move existing components around. It also gives us some redundancy if a tank gets a leak or such, we can bypass it. Next up, let’s talk about the awesome shiny plate running from front to rear! This is Burl’s work. He has developed us a skid protection system for the drive train, and developing a storage system and skid plate for the front of the van. The goal is to protect all of the vital drivetrain components from impact in the event we run over something or have to scrap along something. The plating is attached to heavy duty steel bars that run front to back along both sides of the drivetrain. More on this set-up later as we finish it over the next month or so. It will be getting powder coated red to match the rest of the build. Next is the red plating behind the silver skid plating. This is Bostig’s genius in their engine conversion system. It’s integrated skid plating that protects the engine and trans from the same types of impacts we just talked about. It’s beefy and well engineered. The two systems together provide total protection for the vehicle for the rough stuff. If you move on to see the big red “wing like” arms on either side of the van, those are Burl’s custom extended trailing arms. They move the wheel back further allowing you to put bigger wheels on the van and dial in a better suspension set-up. The red little “sticks” heading to each wheel are our heavy duty axles. Let’s go back to the middle of the car now and look on either sides, and you will see the dark black cavities. These are black because we rust protected them, then primed them, then painted them for protection because this is where the auxiliary tanks are going to go. Once the tanks are mounted its a pain to get back to that metal, so its better to just handle it now and have peace of mind that we wont rust out above the tanks. The tanks are molded to fit into that space. We have one tank that goes on the passenger side that is for fuel, and the other that goes on the driver side for water. While we have our expedition rack on the rear van with additional jerry cans, we need the capacity since we are a gasoline engine vs diesel. We’ll stop the underbelly tour at this point now, but there is more to come for another post!

We have had lots of unexpected little and big jobs. The first big wrench was that our ball joints in the front were shot. This was discovered when the shop had our front end torn apart putting our upgraded braking system in. Bummer they didn’t have the ball joints then, and instead we had to wait until we got out here. This was an all day job because everything in the front of the car has to come apart; wheels, brakes, stub axles, etc. to get to the ball joints. And then you have to use a hydraulic press to push the old joints out and press the new ones in. While Burl was at that, we also found that we needed new wheel bearings… Joy… Got those handled while we were at it.

New ball joint pressed in


Another little job that turned out to be not so little, was the mounting of the rear heater. We initially were going to use an awesome little propane furnace made for RVs and Boats, but the more we researched, the more worried we got about both finding propane filling points along the route and also figuring our where to mount another tank. We were simply running out of room on the van for more stuff. So after some searching we found a gasoline burning furnace made specifically for small work vans. This allows us to run the heater independent of the van being turned on, and also allows us to use our inboard gas tanks for fuel. One wrinkle though is the way that it mounts to the van. You need to drill 7 precisely located holes into the floor. But the kicker is that the vans floor is not flat under the rear seat where we are putting the heater. So both trying to mark and transfer the template and then trying to drill the holes without the drill “walking” across the uneven floor, proved too much for us. So we just cut a bigger rectangular hole large that encompasses the 7 holes and then made a steel plate using the drill press with our 7 holes and welded it back into the van as a mounting base.

Here’s the hole we cut


Well, it’s getting close to time to head to Burl’s. We’ll take more pictures today of some of the complete elements so we can continue our tour in another post. Back to work!

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