PLANNING THE BUILD FOR OUR SHOP VAN

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THIS IS WHAT WE DECIDED TO START WITH: AN E-350 ECONOLINE.
 

WE NEEDED A TRUCK FOR TOWING, HAULLING, AND CHASING WHEN WE RACE IN BAJA. WE DECIDED A FORD VAN WOULD BE A GREAT CHOICE. HOWEVER IT COULDNT BE JUST ANY VAN, IT IS OF COURSE OURS, SO IT HAS TO REPRESENT THE SHOP IN A POSITIVE WAY. WE WANTED TO SHOW HOW YOU CAN BUILD A SAFE AND GREAT HANDLING VAN OF THIS SIZE. NOTHING WAS SPARED TO BUILD A SAFE AND RELIABLE TRUCK. BUT THEN AGAIN THATS WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS HAVE COME TO EXPECT FROM OUR SHOP. TO START WE NEEDED TO DO ALOT OF RESEARCH, WE WANTED TO KEEP THE ORIGINAL FRAME AS IN TACT AS POSSIBLE. WE SAW ALOT OF QUIGLEY VANS AND WERE SURPRISED AS TO HOW MANY MODIFICATIONS WERE MADE TO THE ORIGINAL TRUCK FOR NO OTHER REASON THEN TO SAVE A FEW BUCKS. FRAME MODS, AXLE MODS AND A HOST OF OTHER SHORTCUTS THAT WERE JUST UNACCEPTABLE BY OUR STANDARDS.

SO OFF WE WENT TO SEARCH FOR A PERFECT CANDIDATE TO CUTOMIZE. OUR CRITERIA WAS SIMPLE, A CARGO VAN WITH A DIESEL POWERPLANT AND AS MANY CREATURE COMFORTS THEY OFFERED.
THEN BEGAN THE RESEARCH FOR REPLACING THE FRONTEND. AFTER WEEKS OF SEARCHING WE LANDED THE PERFECT AXLE WE HAD BEEN SEARCHING FOR, AN F-550 MONOBEAM FROM AN 08 TRUCK. WE FOUND IT AT A WRECKING YARD ALL THE WAY IN ALABAMA. AFTER NEGOTIATING A FAIR PRICE WITH SHIPPING WE MADE THE PURCHASE. HMMM GREAT AXLE ONLY ONE GLITCH, ITS A 10 LUG ON 225MM BOLT PATTERN. SO AS WE DISCOVERED THE F-550'S USE A MUCH BIGGER KNUCKLE AND BRAKE SYSTEM IN FACT THE ROTOR IS 14.53 INCHES IN DIAMETER. MASSIVE KNUCKLES AND JUST BRUTALLY HUGE BALL JOINTS. HOWEVER ITS WAS STILL A 10 LUG. SO AFTER EXHAUSTING RESEARCH AND PHONE CALLS TO MY LOCAL DEALER WHO WAS MORE THAN NICE TO ASSIST ME IN MY NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK QUEST. WE WERE ABLE TO CONVERT IT TO A STANDARD 8X170MM LUG PATTERN. NOT CHEAP BY ANY MEANS BUT WORTH IT IN MORE WAYS THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE. YOU SEE BY SETTING UP THE TRUCK TO THIS PARTICULAR AXLE, IF WE EVER DECIDE TO USE A 4WD AXLE ALL THE SUSPENSION WILL ATTACH IN THE SAME WAY. WITH NO ADDITIONAL MODIFICATION AT ALL WHATSOEVER. SEE PLANNING PAYS OFF.

NOW THE REASON WE DIDNT JUST DO A 4WD CONVERSION TO BEGIN WITH IS FIRST AND FOREMOST WE WILL BE USING IT TO TOW AND HAUL. SO 4WD ISNT A PRIORITY, BUT RANGE IS. YOU SEE IN ORDER TO ATTACH A TRANSFER CASE TO AN ECONOLINE VAN YOU NEED TO CUT APPROXIMATELY 10 GALLONS OF CAPACITY FROM AN ALREADY SMALL TANK. THIS WAS REALLY NOT A GOOD OPTION FOR US. ESPECIALLY IF WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. WHAT WE DID DECIDE TO DO, IS HANG THE FRONTEND FIRST GET THE TRUCK SITTING THE WAY WE WANT IT TO, THEN CAREFULLY LOOK AT THE FUEL SYSTEM AND SEE IF WE CAN POSSIBLY ADD AN ADDITIONAL TANK IN THE REAR WHERE THE SPARE TIRE USE TO BE. THIS WILL GIVE US MORE THAN ENOUGH FUEL CAPACITY AND RANGE FOR ALL OF OUR NEEDS AND THEN WE CAN ADD THE ADDITONAL COMPONENTS FOR 4WD.

 
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MOCKING UP THE BASIC AXLE ASSEMBLY THIS WAS THE BEGINNING OF OUR VISUALIZATION. WE KNEW IN ORDER TO FIT A 36" TIRE ON A 12" WIDE KMC ROCKSTAR WE HAD TO GO BIG ENOUGH SO WE COULD ACTUALLY MOVE THE TIRE THROUGH ITS RANGE OF TRAVEL. WELL 17" WAS THE TOTAL LIFT WE CALCULATED. IT SEEMS ALOT BUT IN REALITY IT TURNED OUT TO BE VERY WELL PROPORTIONED. THIS IS WHAT WE ALWAYS TRY TO EXPLAIN TO CUSTOMERS ABOUT LIFT KITS. DONT WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT THE SIZE OF THE LIFT MORE SO THEN THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF LIFT TO FIT THE TIRE.

NEXT WAS TO FIGURE OUT THE STEERING. WELL AFTER PULLING OFF THE PITMAN ARM AND LOOKING AT THE INDEXING BLINDS WE KNEW RIGHT AWAY WHAT ARM WOULD HELP US STEER. THE ONLY THING IS WE NEEDED TO CHANGE THE TAPER FOR THE DRAGLINK END THAT ATTACHES TO THE PITMAN ARM. HARD? NOT REALLY IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT MACHING TOOLS WHICH WE DO. SO AFTER THAT WAS DONE. WE NEEDED TO MAKE A NEW ADJUSTER SLEEVE FOR THE DRAGLINK TO ACCOMODATE THE WIDER AXLE. HARD? NOT REALLY IF YOU HAVE AGAIN THE RIGHT TOOLING TO DRILL AND TAP THE RIGHT AND LEFT HAND THREADS.
THAT BEING DONE WE NEED TO MOVE ONTO THE TRACK BAR.

WELL THE TRACK BAR NEEDED TO BE IN PHASE WITH THE NEW DRAGLINK POSITION THAT WE NOW CREATED. THIS WILL PREVENT BUMPSTEER AND MAKE FOR A VERY ENJOYABLE DRIVE EITHER ON LONG TRIPS OR BUMPY ROADS. AFTER FABRICATING THE MOUNTS WE INSTALLED AN ADJUSTABLE TRACK BAR TO CENTER THE AXLE PROPERLY UNDER THE BODY OF THE TRUCK. JUST A SIDE NOTE BUT WITH THIS MUCH LIFT BELIEVE IT OR NOT OUR TRACK BAR AND DRAGLINK ANGLES ARE ABOUT EQUAL TO THAT OF A NEW SUPER DUTY WITH ABOUT A 2" LIFT. AMAZING RIGHT? MAYBE, BUT WE THINK ITS JUST WELL THOUGHT OUT PLANNING.

 
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 UPDATE!
 
HERE'S A LOOK AT THE NEW PRE-RUNNER WE CUSTOME FABRICATED FOR "DA VAN" THIS PAST WINTER!
 
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