Monday, December 10, 2007

Rear bumper finished.

Got the box all finished up and ready for paint.

Got the lights marked for cutting. At this point I'm also trying to figure out how to latch everything together. We were going to incorporate a box in the bumper, but ran out of time. Maybe I'll come back and do that later (yeah right).

This is what I came up with for a latch. Trying to keep it really simple yet secure. One bolt holds everything together and also allows the weight to be distributed.

Time to box in the bumper ends. We thought about hinging these as well, but decided not to because of having to deal with all the wires inside of the bumper. Another maybe later project.

Here is a shot of my Dad laying down a coat of primer. He is the real reason my projects turn out so nice.

Here is the finished "latch". Two feet rest on a piece of plastic (chopped up cutting board). Just unscrew the yingyang symbol and both racks swing out. The tire side clears the bumper, but unfortunately the box side scrapes. I'm sure there will be a curved scratch in my bumper soon.

I love the way the ends came out. Looks like we really knew what we were doing.

Finished product. I really love those LED lights.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Building a new rear bumper

I just can't leave well enough alone. The new tire size is way too big to hang on the stock tire rack. I need a way to carry a spare. Being way to cheap to buy a fancy bumper for 3000 dollars I decided to buy a plasma cutter and some steel to try it myself. Yes this chunk of steel is a bit on the GIANT size, but hey, it was 25 bucks.
With the new higher bumper mounting the tow hitch was almost 4 inches lower. After a lot of hemming and hawing, we (Dad and I) came up with raising the tow hitch and then using it to help support the bumper. We were also able to trim the bottom of the tow hitch to improve departure angles.
Bumper hanging by two bolts. Already starting to look not so huge.
Decided to build the other parts before getting too carried away with the bumper finishing. This is the lid to a 28x28x12 storage box. This is our brake, not sure how to spell it, but it's our version of the machine that is used to bend metal. I used the plasma cutter to cut all but small pieces on the bend. Almost making it like a hinge that will bend easy. Hard part is coming back and filling all the holes with weld, then grinding it off.
Box made in two pieces folded at the short corners then welded. Having a heck of a time trying to finish the welding without warping everything. It won't be perfectly straight, but I'm not telling.
Rough draft done. Made a half inch square frame on the inside to keep the square, and have a surface for a seal.

Took me most of the day to make this simple basket on the lid. Probably another few hours just to grind off all of the excess welding.++

Tire rack is coming together now too. We also found a cool way to make both parts swivel. More pictures coming soon.

Maybe a solution to the ABS problem

I recently learned that the abs sensors from the 05 superduty front axle are not compatible with my van. It appears they changed the sensors in 05 to a new kind. My solution is to purchase new ones for a 99-04 superduty 4x4 front axle and replace mine. At the dealer they go for 168 each. I found one on ebay for 50 shipped and talked the dealer down to 125 with next day availability. Not sure how difficult they will be to change, but it doesn't look good. I sure hope this fixes the problem.
Sure enough. The new sensors work like a charm. Thanks very much to Craig at Salem Kroger for helping me with this one.
I added a picture to show where the ABS sensor is located. That is the sensor with the blue dot in the picture. Remove the wheel, brake assembly, and rotor for access. I was very relieved to have another gremlin behind me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another way to convert a Ford van to 4x4

Finally finished getting my van converted to 4x4. Now it's time to share the experience and maybe help those who may do the same.
I've had motorhomes for many years now, starting with Volkswagon Vanagons. I eventually built my own by putting a custom top onto a chevy blazer. This got me closer to my ultimate goal of a small capable camper, but the whole time I've been eyeing the sportsmobile. Until recently I couldn't come close to being able to afford one. In fact I still can't afford one, at least not a new one ordered from the factory. Hence this post, I found a way to have my cake and still be able to afford a glass of milk to go with it. Buying a relatively old (2001) 2wd sportsmobile and doing my own conversion allowed me to get what I ultimatley wanted without breaking the bank.
There are 5 ways that I know of to convert a Ford van to 4x4. You can order a new one from Ford and have Quigley do the "factory" conversion. Order a new sportsmobile and have sportsmobile west do the conversion. Go to Salem Kroger in California, or go to Quadvan in Oregon. Or........ find the parts, someone who can weld way better than me, and make it happen. I have spoken extensively with both Eddie at Quadvan and Craig at Salem Kroger. I had originally planned on having one of them do the conversion for me. Unfortunately, they are both expensive, and many hundreds of miles from my home. As I researched more and more I soon learned that although not easy or straightforward, one could do the conversion themselves at about half the cost.

Most of the parts come from a 2005 Super Duty F250. I located a complete vehicle with rear end damage only. The truck had 26000 miles on it so components are in good condition. I bought the 4wd drivetrain complete (which was a mistake). This includes a dana 60 axle complete, all steering parts except for pittman arm, springs, shocks, driveline, pinard, track arms, etc. A couple of points to consider here. Make sure the vehicle has low miles, make sure it's not from the east (rust), and you will probably get a much better deal than I did if you buy components individually.

What I learned: The dissasembly guys don't really care if all of the nuts and bolts go with the parts. My conversion guy lost two days finding and ordering specialized oem ford bolts and misc parts. The shift linkage was not included and it took 5 hours to mock up a replacement. The transfer case had the wrong spline count for my transmission. Luckily the salvage yard let me trade it back in for the correct one. I did not use the shocks, springs, driveshaft, or sway bar. May have saved some bucks leaving those behind.

Other parts needed for the conversion:

The fuel tank will need to be shortened to make room for the transfer case. I had a 35 gallon tank which would have been cut down to 29. Assuming it would cost 500 dollars to chop the tank, I elected to put that money towards a new transflow 46 gallon tank which is made to fit the 4x4. If you order one of these, make sure you get the made for 4x4 model or their Quigley model. The tank cost just under 900 dollars.

Wheels are Mickey thompson Classic II 17x9 inch with a 5 inch backspacing. You have to use a 17 or larger wheel to fit over the new larger front rotors. Tires are BFG All Terrains. 285/70-17 I believe. They come out to 32.8 inches tall. Unfortunately they are only rated "D" loading instead of E. I thought I was getting E's when I ordered. The D rating is 3190 per tire (or very close to that number) so should be adequate, but my next set of tires will definitely be load range E. I bought tires and wheels from and was very happy with their price and delivery time. The load range mistake was all me. Van wheels bolt pattern was 8 on 6.5, the new axle is an 8 on 170. That means either two seperate sets of wheels, or wheel adapters. I contacted Fred Goeske at and had steel adapters made. The adapters or spacers go on the rear axle and change the bolt pattern to match the front while also pushing the rear wheels out two inches to match the track of the front. Make sure you have Fred make a lip on the stud side of the adapter to match the inside of your wheel. This gives an extra safety margin, and will keep the wheel from moving on the adapter.

Driveshafts were custom made by my conversion guy. Transmission adapter must be installed to mate up with the transfer case. The transmission is a tricky part of the conversion. My transmission is a 4R100. With a 2wd there is a long output shaft on the 4R100. You can either buy a bracket (from quigley?) and keep the long transmission shaft which makes the transfer case sit farther back. Not sure how this will affect the fuel tank situation. What I did was change the output shaft on the transmission to the (4x4) shaft. You can then use the standard Ford adapter to mate the transmission to the transfer case. When the shaft is changed the whole transmission must be torn apart. They found a bad bearing in mine when it came apart which added another 1000 dollars to the bill. Better to find it now and not half way down the Baja penninsula I guess.

One of the more difficult parts of this conversion was figuring out how to make the speedometer work correctly. I was thinking old school, who cares if it doesn't work for a while, we will eventually figure it out. Wrong, the speedo gives signal to the computer which then tells the transmission when to shift. Post conversion test drive found a van going 20mph with a speedo reading 50mph and shifting into overdrive. The problem comes from the speedo pickup which was located on the tail cone portion of the transmission. Since my tailcone is now gone and replaced by the 4x4 adapter I have a problem. The pickup wire does plug directly into the new adapter, but unfortunately the signal is way off due to the different sized tone ring inside. The solution is a little magic box called a transmission ratio adapter. I used the Electronic Ratio Adapter from Abbott Enterprises. The adapter takes an incoming signal and converts it to the correct ratio to make your speedometer accurate. It can be adjusted for any tire size in the future. The down side is that if this part fails, you are stuck in second gear until it is repaired or replaced. The pickup is also on the transmission side rather than the output of the transfer case so the speedometer will be all messed up whenever you are in low range. Should work fine unless you try to go 40 in low range.


Darnit, it was there when I started, I really want it to work when I'm finished. So far I'm having issues with the ABS system. It works great until you drive about 5 miles then the light comes on. We are currently testing the old sensors vs the new ones to see if we can figure it out. I'll get it going and post the solution soon.