Adventure Van Build...on the cheap...'99 Econoline

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by ClutchDumpinDan, Dec 23, 2017.

  1. ClutchDumpinDan

    ClutchDumpinDan Go do

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Oddometer:
    1,014
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    Virginia
    Upon deciding I needed to build an adventure van, the intense research began. I quickly decided I needed an F-350 extended with 4 wheel drive and a 7.3L diesel.

    Those hopes were crushed rather swiftly when I saw the $15,000 - $50,000 selling prices. Yeahhhhh, that ain't gonna happen. I'm more of a $1,500 van kinda man.

    Not long thereafter the Craigslist gods shined down upon thee and I was the proud...slightly
    embarrassed...completely embarrassed owner of a slightly dirty, rather smelly and certainly unsightly '99 Ford Econoline conversion van.

    Let the fun begin!



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    The 70 mile drive back home in the dark (so nobody could see me) was slightly adventurous in itself. As the front brakes were putting off the all too well known grinding noise that is the brake pad backing plate eating it's way through the rotor. No worries though, the leftover home entertainment system speakers that someone had patched in were working well enough to drown out the noise...despite them sliding around on the floor on the twisty backroads chosen to avoid a potential run in with the law. Now, I'm not saying the tags and insurance weren't up to date with the previous owner...but I have my suspicions. In this case, ignorance is bliss.

    First order of business upon rolling her into the shop was a little cosmetic improvement. I painstakingly scraped off some of the endless graphics and buffed a spot or two to see what was what.

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    Satisfied enough that I could most likely clean it up and get my money back, it was time to investigate the front end noise...
    #1
  2. luftkoph

    luftkoph Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    563
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    U.P. mich
    That's my kinda van
    #2
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  3. ClutchDumpinDan

    ClutchDumpinDan Go do

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
    Oddometer:
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    Virginia
    Well now, that wasn't too hard to locate...





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    Further inspection revealed that the ball joints were beyond dead and the entire front end had some wear. It's 18 years old and has 114,000 miles on it so no real surprise there. Seeing as how my intentions are to take this to far away places unknown, I'd like a little reliability.

    So new front suspension, steering and brake parts were ordered. The driver side coil spring was sagging pretty bad. Wanting to gain any ground clearance I can, I ordered heavy duty coils from an F-350. With a spring rate of 1,708 LB as opposed to the stock spring rate of 1,250 LB, I'm hoping to keep it riding a little higher in the travel while not screwing up the camber too badly. We'll see if it pays off when it hits the ground.


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    And installed...


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    I'm primarily from the 40's-50's car world, so this was my first time doing press in ball joints. The local parts store loaner tool saved me from buying a ball joint tool. More money for air fresheners...and it needs them.


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    Final parts list was:

    Front calipers
    Front pads
    Rotor
    Front brake hoses
    1 wheel speed sensor
    Inner/outer wheel bearings & seals
    Upper/lower ball joints
    Trailing arm bushings
    Axle pivot bushings
    Inner/outer tie rods & drag link
    Front/rear shocks
    Front coils
    Rear brake shoes
    Rear axle bearings and seals - New fluid is a given there
    Rear brake hose
    Rear wheel cylinders
    One slightly rusty looking steel brake line replaced
    Master cylinder
    Fuel filter
    Spark plugs


    That's right, we're in too deep now to quit. Let the adventure-izing commence!
    #3
  4. Trailrider200

    Trailrider200 Been here awhile

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  5. Scott_PDX

    Scott_PDX Leisure Engineer

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2010
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    6,419
    Location:
    Portland...the newer one on the left side.
    This looks like it will be fun. Thanks for sharing.

    How much and how many miles?
    #5
  6. BoneDigger

    BoneDigger Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    104
    Location:
    Oxford,GA USA
    Looking forward to your build. I've got a similar picture of my front brakes and suspension when I rebuilt it on my conversion van.
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    Keep up the good work.
    #6
    ClutchDumpinDan likes this.
  7. ClutchDumpinDan

    ClutchDumpinDan Go do

    Joined:
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    Virginia
    Upon pulling out the extra captains chairs, motorized bench seat/bed and carpet (gag). I was pleasantly surprised to find it already had a thick foam mat leveling out and insulating the floor. So I patched the 16 or so seat bolt holes with some sheetmetal circles and seam sealer.

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    Leveled out the missing foam areas with some 1/4" plywood and cut up a shop floor mat that was the perfect thickness to fill in the missing foam...

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    Screwed down some 1/4" plywood...



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    And covered it with peel and stick vinyl flooring from Lowe's. It only cost a little more than sheet vinyl but looks a lot nicer and is roughly 1/16" thick which should take more abuse. (Please note the bitchin' add on home speakers in the lower left corner and right side window sill).


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    Those four pictures don't do any justice to the time that took. That shit looked SO much easier on Pintrest :hide
    #7
  8. ClutchDumpinDan

    ClutchDumpinDan Go do

    Joined:
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    During my aforementioned research it seemed clear that one can not properly adventure van without swivel seats. I may not have gotten the 4 wheel drive or 7.3 diesel I really wanted, but damn it, I will have swivel seats!

    My Dad just so happens to have an old RV he's been meaning to part out since a tree fell on it. And what do you know, swivel seats!





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    So I chopped down the swivel seat base and fabbed up a new base plate for the van floor bolt pattern...

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    Bent up an all in one seat riser and bolt pattern changer...


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    While adventure dog kept someone from stealing the seats while they were out of the van....



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    #8
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  9. RedRocket

    RedRocket Yeah! I want Cheesy Poofs

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2003
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    Location:
    SoCal
    Ditching the carpet and extra seats should've taken most of the stink with it.
    #9
    Hannda and ClutchDumpinDan like this.
  10. ClutchDumpinDan

    ClutchDumpinDan Go do

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2015
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    Virginia
    Eager to bolt in my newly fabbed swivel seats and get my swivel on, a little front floor prep was in order. Peel and stick gooey foil backed sound/heat insulation followed by some adhesive backed foam sound insulation...

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    Wanting a vinyl floor covering...but on the cheap...I headed to the local Pick-A-Part and scored a factory vinyl floor mat for a whopping $5.99 + tax.

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    There was a bit of a height difference in the front and rear floors so I pulled it back out and added another 3/8" thick heavy foam pad with rubber backing. That should really knock down the noise and help insulate it...


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    It helped smooth out a few of the waves too....


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    #10
  11. ClutchDumpinDan

    ClutchDumpinDan Go do

    Joined:
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    Now, while the passenger side seat was a simple manual back and forth slide. The driver side is anything but. It's powered. It goes forward, it goes back, it goes up, it goes down, it tilts forward, it tilts back, you get the picture.

    Now mounting all that on an angled swivel that is too tall and needs some modify-in', is gonna take some math-in'.

    A whole shitload of math-in'.

    Having not quite successfully completed the 6th grade I focus on what minimal math skills the public education system could get me to retain. When making an angled cut on a rotating radius one must find the common denominator for the angle of the dangle before dividing by the cube of the pube.


    I'm talkin' precision here people...



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    Even if it didn't need cut open...I was kinda curious what was inside a swivel seat. Sadly, there was no caramel center....


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    Having nailed the math equation with my less than stellar formula, the swivel was ready for weldin' to the new base...

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    Rather than make a new bracket for the funky side mounted power seat slider, I hacked the top off the old seat bracket and fabbed up a couple brackets to mount it to the swivel...


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    #11
  12. ClutchDumpinDan

    ClutchDumpinDan Go do

    Joined:
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    And just like that we've got us one bad ass swivel for a power seat...


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    A splash of paint and you'd think it's original...


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    Passenger area all back together....



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    And the moment we've all been waiting for, adventure mode....


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    #12
  13. ClutchDumpinDan

    ClutchDumpinDan Go do

    Joined:
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    Virginia
    I shot them an e-mail about taking a kidney in trade but haven't heard back yet :dunno


    Despite my disdain for the exterior appearance, it checked a lot of the other boxes for what I wanted.

    It's got 114,000 miles
    Has the 5.4L V8
    Has a 9.75" limited slip rear
    It's not white or blue
    Has power windows, mirrors, cruise control, etc.
    Already has operable windows in the rear area
    Taller roof, even if not the best looking or tall enough to completely stand up in
    And I drove it home for $1,550...although it barely had enough gas to make it to the first station :uhoh

    Indeed it did! It's close to acceptable at this point. :evil
    #13
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  14. villageidiot

    villageidiot Long timer

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    Lookin sharp!
    #14
  15. SJSharkfan

    SJSharkfan Long timer

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    NorCal
    Nice work! Keep it coming. Bonus points for getting the dog in the act.
    #15
  16. RimBenty

    RimBenty Bender of Rims

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2008
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    910
    Location:
    Ashland, VA
    Don’t worry about the smell, just stick this clock in there and everyone with think it’s intentional.
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    #16
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  17. Jollyrogers

    Jollyrogers Long timer

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    Location:
    Ladysmith, Virginia
    There’s one for sale on Ladysmith Rd just down the road from me... wish I knew you were seriously looking... or you did come down here and got it while I wasn’t looking!

    Your work is fun to follow.
    #17
  18. Robb Mc

    Robb Mc what?

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    San Francisco, CA
    Awesome.
    #18
  19. bwalsh

    bwalsh Long timer

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    Location:
    Helltown
    If you want a 4x4 van this one's close to home!

    https://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/cto/d/4x4-ford-van/6429395827.html

    If I were a Ford guy I'd go look at it. I had a short wheel base 1T Chevy 4x4 van years ago. I should have never sold it.

    I've been looking for a van to set up for camping for some time now. I almost bit the bullet and bought a new Dodge Promaster yesterday. Fortunately I came back to my senses.
    #19
  20. Gummee!

    Gummee! That's MR. Toothless

    Joined:
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    Location:
    NoVA for now...
    Unlike the OP: I'm looking for an extended body conversion van. Talk about a rare bird.

    I'm only 5'8" so the 'tv top' is great for me!

    M
    #20