Topic: The wheelchair van project

Enlisting the wisdom of the internet, this should go well....

Got a 1955 GMC 1-ton panel truck running a 248 inline and SM420 transmission.  The headgasket is gonzo, the con-rods clunk on startup, and the input shaft bearing in the trans is mulch.  Been trying to find a place that will rebuild the block in Seattle, everyone wants to pull the engine and send it to a machine shop.  Nobody even considered doing the rebuild without pulling the block, not sure why that is.  I'm a paraplegic on a very limited income, so I only have $5K to throw at this, and I know that's about a third of what's needed.

A cheaper alternative is to buy a "new" inline to replace the worn-out block, there's no concern over originality since the factory 228 had a rod sticking out the side when I got it.  There aren't too many running 248GMC left and I'd like to keep this one from exploding.  For the cost of a rebuild at the machine shop, I can order a fresh inline that might not even require new engine mounts.  That's looking like a better way to spend my pennies, and it will get me back on the road quicker.

I can already hear some of you saying, "Dude, it's an inline, just pop the top off and change the gasket."  And I would agree, if I didn't live in an apartment building in Seattle, and my lease didn't have a specific clause about doing work on your vehicle in the parking lot.  Basically, if it's gonna be more than a weekend project I risk eviction.  I've done the brakes, wheel bearings, and rewired the dash (twice) in this parking lot, but it always started and drove on Monday when the manager clocked in.

The challenge then becomes the transmission swap.  Got a 1996 Chev Blazer with a 4L60 that I'm told will bolt up to the GM inlines with an adapter plate.  I'll need to enlarge the rust hole in the van's floor and add some transmission mounts, then rebuild the center section of the 2-piece driveshaft.  Add my hand controls to the steering column and I'm off to find a lift that fits the back doors.

I am a member of several vintage truck forums, but when I start talking about chopping into 65+ year old sheetmetal they get squeamish and make preservationist noises.  This ain't a show truck, it's not a candidate for restoration, and I can't afford to subframe and LS swap like all the cool "non-conformist" kids have already done.  There's not a single straight piece of sheetmetal on it, and it's painted with Rustoleum rattlecans.  I don't need to impress anyone, I just need a reliable van.

So now you know what I've been doing during lockdown.  Thoughts, suggestions, and open ridicule are welcome.

Re: The wheelchair van project

Maybe something like this:

https://i.postimg.cc/X7k3hvjg/SRW-Chevy-Micro-Bus.jpg

Re: The wheelchair van project

I get the "engine needs to come out" ethos of the repair shops.  If they do an inframe and it later fails because the block isn't straight or something, it becomes their responsibility and cost to fix.  It's not clear to me the backstory to this GMC.  Was this previously prepared to accommodate you but has a duff drivetrain or is this something you can that needs to be fixed to run and then modified for your needs?  If it's the latter, I don't see how you get there on your budget and weekend constraints.  Seems to me that you either start with something that runs and modify that or find something already modified that doesn't run.  Maybe a municipal auction place like the one below that sells stuff that might already have a lift on it.

https://www.jjkane.com/categories/vans/

1990 RX7 "Mazdarita"  1964 Sunbeam Imp (IOE 2013 Sears Pointless) 2002 Jaguar x-type (Winner C-Class 2021 Sears Pointless)
Gone bye-bye
1994 Jaguar XJ12 (Winner C-Class 2013 Sears Pointless)  1980 Rover SD1 (I Got Screwed 2014 Return of Lemonites)

Re: The wheelchair van project

Mini-buses like my above pic are available in the NE US all day, every day.

Frequently seen:
1-ton van based c&c conversion
runs & drives
not always NSC Chrome (yellow)
'95 - '09
125k - 250k mi
gas 4.6-7.4, or diesel: 7.3/ 6.5-6.6
srw/drw
with or w/o wch lift installed
maybe rear a/c
may/ may not have rear seats removed
$500 - $2,400 (Duramax)

There's got to be a similar source out there somewhere, like mine, and cheseroo's.

Re: The wheelchair van project

https://seattle.craigslist.org/tac/ctd/ … 17490.html

Captain
1996 Crown Vic. #55
Team Racing Cosmo
On MuchoMacho tires

Re: The wheelchair van project

$4000.  In your city..... craigslist

Captain
1996 Crown Vic. #55
Team Racing Cosmo
On MuchoMacho tires

Re: The wheelchair van project

And another one.....  this one is not a dealership....   offer $3000.

https://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/ … 94693.html

Captain
1996 Crown Vic. #55
Team Racing Cosmo
On MuchoMacho tires

Re: The wheelchair van project

https://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/ … 01524.html

But the miles seems too high.

Captain
1996 Crown Vic. #55
Team Racing Cosmo
On MuchoMacho tires

Re: The wheelchair van project

Oops.  I get it now.  The 1955 van is beautiful.  I just googled that model.  Wow. Sorry i sent you craigslist minivans.  Good luck on your project.

Captain
1996 Crown Vic. #55
Team Racing Cosmo
On MuchoMacho tires

Re: The wheelchair van project

bobnowoc wrote:

Oops.  I get it now.  The 1955 van is beautiful.  I just googled that model.  Wow. Sorry i sent you craigslist minivans.  Good luck on your project.

It's the first series, fat fenders and running boards rather than the eyebrow fenders and smooth sides.  But, yeah, I want to keep the van I've been using for 25 years, it's the devil I know and the engine is the only missing part of the equation (that and a place to work on it).

https://scontent-sea1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/41817445_107219863575699_51437567718981632_o.jpg?_nc_cat=103&ccb=3&_nc_sid=730e14&_nc_ohc=DRAONiYKUrAAX9DRRtr&_nc_ht=scontent-sea1-1.xx&oh=ac7f258cb1e662bc57243588cbd49f19&oe=6054810B

I installed 12v full harness and alternator, power brakes with new stainless line, 6-way adjustable power seats with 3-point retractable belts, replaced the 5.14:1 diff with 4.10:1, installed an alarm after the first attempted theft and recently added dual cameras to the back end.  I know a place that harvests wheelchair lifts from buses and transit vans, they have a selection of 4' x 4' lift platforms that will fit the back doors precisely. 

I can't see the logic in dumping all my money into an unwarranted pig in a poke from Craigslist, or trust some auction house that it's a reliable runner.  Forgive my pessimism, but I can see a situation where I am forced to sell the GMC to support a "new" van with technical issues beyond my caveman capabilities.  I once got a free car that cost me $3k in parts and two month's worth of weekends... perhaps you see why I want to stick with a short list of known problems.

Re: The wheelchair van project

Yep.
I understand.
I have had amazing luck with craigslist cars under $5000, but i never had a green piece of art in my driveway that i wanted to roll.  Good luck.

Captain
1996 Crown Vic. #55
Team Racing Cosmo
On MuchoMacho tires

12 (edited by Lemon_Newton-Metre 2021-02-18 09:26 PM)

Re: The wheelchair van project

My adopted mother's name is Emily Litella

... though it could have been different:

https://i.postimg.cc/1XssjXtx/1955-GMC-panelvan.png

Re: The wheelchair van project

If it were me with your constraints (not knowing the paraplegic ones, but assuming you are gonzo because it sounds like you are):

It costs the same to buy an engine (presumably remanufactured) as have yours rebuilt: Buy a "new" one and either save the takeout for rebuild later or swap it for a core charge if worth it.

Given the weekend constraints, I'd say do the trans swap first because it runs-ish right now. 2-3 weekends for the trans, a weekend for the engine:

My ambitious project plan
1. Receive adapter plate from the interwebs.
2. Drop existing trans and mock up new trans (without the torque converter), make new trans mounts, measure for driveshaft, put old trans back in.
3. Order/make your driveshaft.
4. Install new trans and driveshaft.
5. ???
6. Receive "new" engine.
7. Pull old engine and install new in the same place.
8. Buy a new carburetor because they all hate me.
9. Install hand controls.
10. Install wheelie lift.
11. ???
12 Profit.

It's more work than leaving everything torn apart in the shop, but keeps it running during the week. Slicing the floor pan up to make the shifter fit is the work of minutes. Put lipstick on that pig later.

That guy

Re: The wheelchair van project

I like that plan.  It's a lot like mine, only I put the new block at the front of the line.

I am eyeballing this block to replace the 248 GMC, as I believe the intake and exhaust ports are identical.  I'm still chasing part numbers to verify that rumor.  Pans, pumps, and side covers for Chevy blocks are easy to find compared to my oddball GMC parts.  Total cost should still be less than the estimate for pull and rebuild.

Been running points for 25 years; they work fine, don't see a need to upgrade.  Not sure what I want to do about the fuel system, I've got a mechanical pump feeding a Zenith 1-bbl carb that probably belongs in a museum.  Not interested in re-engineering for EFI, this is a 3.3 ton truck, not a race car.  KISS principle, and cheap.

The 4L60 automatic is currently in use, so the same day I harvest it I lose my parts runner.  I'll have about a week to scavenge bits off the Blazer before Municipal Parking Enforcement notices it sitting on jackstands.  Then I'll pocket a mere $100 for the running V6 with a new radiator when I have the Blazer towed to its final resting place.  I'd love to sell that V6 to somebody but I have no place to store it except the back of my GMC.

I don't know how long the input shaft bearing has left, it growls at me but everything still works.  I was hoping to have enough coins under the car seats to pay a transmission shop to do the swap, shorten my forward shaft, and replace the carrier bearing.  Randy's Ring&Pinion did the differential 25 years ago, because when I need something done right the first time I usually pay someone else to do it.  My tentative plan is to load the 4L60 into the GMC and drive it to a place that is not the parking lot of my apartment building... but that may require much deeper pockets than mine.

Re: The wheelchair van project

"Borrow" a 4L60 from the pick-n-pull. The one in Tacoma has multiple Blazers (though only one in 2WD, which is what I assume you need) and a 30 day return policy...

That guy

Re: The wheelchair van project

According to HAMB, nothing is shared between the stove bolt 6 and GMC 248 family.

1990 RX7 "Mazdarita"  1964 Sunbeam Imp (IOE 2013 Sears Pointless) 2002 Jaguar x-type (Winner C-Class 2021 Sears Pointless)
Gone bye-bye
1994 Jaguar XJ12 (Winner C-Class 2013 Sears Pointless)  1980 Rover SD1 (I Got Screwed 2014 Return of Lemonites)

Re: The wheelchair van project

cheseroo wrote:

According to HAMB, nothing is shared between the stove bolt 6 and GMC 248 family.

That's what I keep reading on various websites, but I'm both cheap and obstinate enough to measure the studs before I buy new pipes.  I've already added the intake and exhaust to the shopping list... used cast iron, I'm not gonna waste my coin on a polished Offy intake.

DirtyDuc, I live closer to the Lynnwood wrecking yards than Tacoma, but I'll call around to see if anyone has a 2wd housing laying about.  Not sure I want to buy one and return it, but at least I could get some rough measurements at the yard without crawling under the Blazer.

This will be a very slow roll compared to your usual car project.  I am disabled, retired, and I work slow to catch my mistakes... there's no time limits other than the Reaper, and no budget to speak of.  I would happily spend a year prepping the new block before removing the old, but the transmission swap will leave me entirely without wheels until completion.  They say time is money, but what exactly is the rate of exchange?

18 (edited by hedgehog Today 09:30 AM)

Re: The wheelchair van project

Update for anyone who cares.  I'm in a holding pattern.

No warrantied inline long blocks are currently available.  I can get on a waiting list to spend way too much for a 292 Chev long block... or I can get a vintage GMC 270 that "ran when I pulled it" from a farmer turned truck collector in Colorado.  This removes the following obstacles:  Engine mounts, cooling system, fuel system, exhaust system.  The differences between the 248 and 270 are strictly in the valve head and bore diameter, no external mods required.  I can even use the stock manifolds off the 248 if I want to.

The transmission is still in the Blazer, because I'm still driving it around.  Got the Speed Gems adapter kit sitting on a shelf waiting for the engine block.  So far, the cost of the engine and transmission adapter is less than the 292 long block retail price.

Hoping I have enough of a budget left to rent a shop with a level floor when doing the engine swap, if not pay someone else to run the hoist (Seattle shops are overpriced and overbooked, may have to go out of the area).  I'll have to enlarge the hole in the floor slightly, shorten the front half of the driveshaft, attach the transmission to the frame with some new brackets, and zip tie the trans cooler to the grille supports.

The Blazer frame and IFS is sought by users of the Henry Panza retrofit kit... old truck geeks know what I'm talking about.  At some point I'll have to get rid of a working Chevrolet 4.3L V6 with several new parts; it's likely to be on an engine stand once I've separated the 4L60 from it, but no idea when that will happen.