Saturday, September 05, 2009

And so it begins...

Some of you may know that I've been in the research phase of a new vehicle project for quite a while. Using the excellent resources of the Expedition Portal forums, I've been scheming on the most affordable way to build a 3-4 passenger Overland/Expedition Camper. This should be the start of a series of posts as I being the transformation from8-passenger midsize van to what a friend has dubbed an "Astrolander".

The base for the transformation is our newly acquired 2003 Chevy Astro. I picked it up this weekend from a dealer in Tucson with just 52700 miles on the clock (under 8800 miles/year!) This is a very clean van and the drive back from Tucson was easy-peasy, despite the fact that it was Labor Day weekend. A bit more legwork will be needed to get the car smogged and titled in California, but there just weren't enough AWD Astro/Safari vans in SoCal to get a decent example for myself.

Some people have trouble differentiating between All Wheel Drive and 4 Wheel Drive, so this sticker isn't strictly accurate just yet, but it does portend what is to come. Phase 2 is to begin hunting for a full 2-speed 4x4 transfer case and electronic bits from a suitable S-10, Blazer, etc. You see, one of the great things about this particular van is that the BorgWarner AWD transfer case is an external module that just so happens to be a bolt-in (or nearly bolt-in) match for a New Process 2-speed 4x4 transfer case. It amuses me that the full-size van guys have to go to places like Salem-Kroger or Quigley and spend thousands, or tens-of-thousands, to get their vans converted to 4x4 with parts from the truck side of their family tree, while this humble mid-size is basically parts-bin compatible.
And here's where I hope to end up. This is the Astrolander of T.Low from ExPo and the AstroSafari forums. People are going to think I'm copying him (which I am) or going all Talented Mister Ripley on him (which I'm not) because our vans are the same color and similar vintage. Color was a coincidence, I narrowly missed out on a white 2002 Astro at a GSA auction last month.

Key features of T.Low's build that I hope to emulate: The GTRV Sleeper-Top, a 4" lift from Overland Vans, and a 4x4 conversion courtesy of some GM parts bin creativity. Interior-wise we'll have substantially different builds as we have different needs. I also suspect that his will continue to see much more rigorous offroading than I plan for our van!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice find Mike! Hope it works out well for you.
Our van has been everything and more that we hoped it would be for our lifestyle and it has greatly enhanced the experience of many of our trips.
We'll be watching.