Unusual conversion van project.

scvanmanscvanman Member Posts: 2
edited April 2014 in Chevrolet
I have a 1987 chevy g20 conversion van that I want to make into a show car. I have a number of ideas on what I would like to do, but do not know how and where to really get started. I paid 1.00 for this van, have driven across the country and back once, and I never want to sell it. Unfortunately, I have no information as to who did the van conversion on this van. My goals are to make this thing look good, have some decent power, handle as well as possible, have tremendous range between fuel stops, and if I can squeeze better than the 15 MPG highway at the speed limit out of it would be great. 20 MPG would be fabulous. I am thinking about doing the following:

1. Modifying the suspension. I would like to give the van a classic front to back rake, but cannot find shorter front springs. I really hesitate to just take some new springs and cut them, and I do want to do this right. I have to replace the front springs anyhow. I intend to to put bilsteen shocks on and add front and rear sway bars. Just a start here. Any other suggestions?

2. Engine/drivetrain. I currently have a 305 with a 3 speed automatic. I go back and forth here about modifying and building the engine and transmission and adding an overdrive unit, or switching out and going with a 350 and an L4 700 tranny. Have not decided if I want or need to change the gearing in the rear end.

3. Fuel system. One way to increase range is to put in a larger gas tank. Has a 22 gallon tank that for some reason I can only get 20 gallons in. Saw a 40 gallon tank 2 years ago at JC Whitney, but they don't have it anymore. Biggest I can find now is 33 gallon. Any suggestions?

4. Climate control. Main AC unit works fine, but the rear ac unit has problems. The plastic case that surrounds the motor and unit, melted and split open. I cannot even turn it on without binding the motor. The result is the AC does not work well. It is a heater/blower combo in the back. Has heater hoses as well as AC lines running to it. I cannot find any names or numbers on the case. What to do?

5. Exterior. Intend to paint it an off white pearlescent. Will have a fade of pearlescent colors imbedded in the paint (yellow, orange, red). Will replace all plastic glass with tempered glass if it can be done, and replace all all glass with smoked glass if possible. Want to have the undercarraige treated with undecoating to block out road noise.

6. Interior. This will be redone with the same color scheme if I can. I like the red seats, side walls and, and ceiling fabric. But want to modernize and upgrade. Sound system would have upgraded speakers and maybe add a subwoofer. Has a working TV, but would like to upgrade and add a DVD player. Has a cb that doesn't work, and would like to replace it. Carpet will definitely have to be replaced, and the olive green color thats in it is sickening.

I want to start with the climate control and the suspension. The engine has 120,000 miles on it, but my mechanic says it looks like it has about 30,000 on it on the inside. As I said, I have searching the net, and this is the 1st sight I have found that I can post and maybe get some leads on. Finding parts is a bear, especially performance parts/or replacement parts on the conversion van parts. The local Chevy dealer won't help at all. I have stopped at a couple of street rod shops and they can't help. Hoping maybe some here could. I live in the upstate of South Carolina, and cannot even find any van conversion shops. Any ideas, connections, suggestions, or leads that you may have would be greatly appreciated. Also, if there are any van conversion shops that would be helpful that you could point me too, that would be great. Thanks in advance.


  • frank1969frank1969 Member Posts: 1
    I just came in touch with a 1987 chevy conversion van for parts, i may be able to help you!
  • adesazzadesazz Member Posts: 2
    Just wound up with the same thing, a 1987 G20. Great deal you got there! Anyways I've got a few different ideas, some the same, but let me know what you found out especially about the gas tank, rear ac, and cb. And undercoating. And carpeting. My 305 pulls a budget-busting 11 mpg, do any better?
  • alumicarus1alumicarus1 Member Posts: 2
    Hi, I have a MINT 86 ford Econoline 150 with a 5.0 Gas engine.

    The vehicle is a conversion van and has 60K miles but I would like to put a Diesel engine in it.

    Does anywone know if the 86 ever had this option (i.e. the 7.3 Liter engine)
    And does anyone know where I can get such a van for parts..

    I could have the engine re-built and use all of the ancillary diesel components from the junk van..
  • vanzilavanzila Member Posts: 1
    After a year in my car port I just pulled my 1985 g20 out. I have swapped in a 1998
    fuel injected vortec 350 4l60E Trans and a 33 gallon fuel tank. I will let you know what my fuel mileage is when I get it all the way on the road. I was getting 10mpg with the last engine but I had put a cam and aftermarket carb on it. It never ran the way I wanted. It has 4.10 gears and a limited slip rear end which does not help mpg any,but with the overdrive trans it puts the rear ratio around 3.73.
    good luck on yours
  • adesazzadesazz Member Posts: 2
    Any updates? (Nevermind my old questions. The rear AC units are way more trouble than they're worth and come out quickly, btw). Been researching engine builds, and it seems like a shame to replace your middle-aged 305. I have the same drivertrain and adding an OT gear and a light rebuild seems like the best option. Intakes have the most impact by far, followed by compression, cams (RV?), bigger wheels... Exhaust upgrades and weight reduction are especially worthless for highway. The idea is to bump up efficiency enough to both gear it a bit taller (3.10...) and run lower (2000?) rpm at choice speed, no? Do we know the rpm's for the factory stall converters? Most truck forums are posting better mileage with 350's, but I'm sure that's just because they're geared more efficiently; there's less compromise between towing capacity and higher gearing.

    At any rate, once you start messing with pistons and heads and pull the engine, why not put a 350 back in while you're at it? Heck, why not a turbodiesel like the 2.7's out of the Sprinter (27 MPG!)? Point is, 305s are cheap, especially if you're the kind of guy that gets a van for $1, and working in that doghouse is a PITA. If anyone has 305 setups geared for highway cruising that info would be amazing...
  • ctvang20ctvang20 Member Posts: 1
    I have an 85 G20 van with the 305, auto,ac the works. Like yourself, I haven't been able to find who did the conversion. When I bought it ($600) 3 years ago, It ran fine (minus one water pump replacement) it also had the Cruise Control which still worked! Had 155,000 on the original eng. Got 13-15 MPG. After having it for about 3 months (Daily Driver) it blew the head gasket. A lot of carbon build up in the intake. I've since replace the motor, then got the same GPM. After that the Tranny went, I replaced that,and the Emissions letter came. Brought it to a place and it failed miserably. I ran out of money at the time to fix. I'm Just about to replace to Carb. I'll let you know what happens..
    Mine came original with the 34 Gallon Tank. There is one problem with this tank, is that you can't take of the rear Differential cover off without taking the tank down.
    I might have the same AC/Heater unit that you have, my AC was disconnected before I got it. So I have no Idea what's working or not. The Heater part works fine since I live in NE. But the Summers are less than Ideal. If I find any info on the case I'll let you know.
    This is the first site that I've found that even remotely resembles the problems that I'm having. If you have any info that you would like to share send it along..
    Thanks, I hope that I helped a bit...
  • cbshagginwagoncbshagginwagon Member Posts: 1
    i know that you can swap conversion van springs and spindles to a caprice and they will bolt right up and keep the same bolt pattern. so i would think that you could do the reverse to the van and it would lower the front. when it's done to the 91-96 caprices it gives them around a 3" lift in the front, so there for in a sense it should lower the front of the van around the same.
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