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New owner engine swap guidance
#776649 May 24th 2021 3:02 pm
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New member/first post.
I recently acquired a 1990 Vandura 2500 conversion van.
It was a free van that is pretty straight, clean and rust free.However it is non running.
It came with very little history but was told that it was burning a lot of coolant and the owner was told that it needed either a new engine or a rebuild. It has sat for the last 10 years.
I assume, at a minimum, this means a blow head gasket.

I am very interested in getting this thing back on the road and doing it in a timely manner.
I am far from a mechanic but I have taken on a few big projects, one of which was replacing an engine in an air cooled 911.

So here are my questions (the first of many I’m sure):
The Van has a 350. I’d love the experience of rebuilding a v8 at some point but I have a feeling that would turn into a much more drawn out project than I want right now. I’m thinking seriously of just buying a 350 crate engine set up for TBI (maybe a 383).

I’m wondering what are the best How-to resources for replacing an engine in one of these vans. I’ve done a few searches but haven’t found anything I would consider a step by step how to.

I’m also wondering what the recommended “while you’re in there” projects are for when the engine is out.

Thanks for the help :-)

Re: New owner engine swap guidance
COVandura #776650 May 24th 2021 3:32 pm
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Welcome to the site .... maybe a 454 ?

I would change all rubber vac hoses .. the engine either comes out the ft, after removin the grill or out the passenger door. havent done it myself but have seen it done.

Again welcome ...


SUNSHINE VANS-VAN DIEGO
ADRENALIN BY THE GALLON & CHASIN RACIN
ONE FOR THE DIRT & ONE FOR THE STREETS
'93 CHEVY G30 454 4X4 SPORTVAN EXT 146" WB
'92 CHEVY G30 454 BEAUVILLE EXT 146" WB
Re: New owner engine swap guidance
COVandura #776651 May 24th 2021 3:34 pm
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Welcome to the site .... maybe a 454 ?

I would change all rubber vac hoses .. the engine either comes out the ft, after removin the grill or out the passenger door. havent done it myself but have seen it done.

Again welcome ...

Here is a excellent thread to read about most of all your going to do ...

https://www.vanning.com/threads/ubbthreads.php/topics/776562/1.html

Last edited by frscke1; May 24th 2021 3:35 pm.

SUNSHINE VANS-VAN DIEGO
ADRENALIN BY THE GALLON & CHASIN RACIN
ONE FOR THE DIRT & ONE FOR THE STREETS
'93 CHEVY G30 454 4X4 SPORTVAN EXT 146" WB
'92 CHEVY G30 454 BEAUVILLE EXT 146" WB
Re: New owner engine swap guidance
COVandura #776682 May 25th 2021 8:58 am
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Hello, and welcome. I am basically a year ahead of you with an 87', except I'm not doing the engine install myself.

There's quite a few quirks with the TBI motors. I hot rodded out the build on mine a bit, since I was paying for the swap, I figured why not. The TBI heads are just not the best, sonI went with a vortec head. ATK HP74 crate. Custom TBI unit and tune.

I don't regret it, but there's going to be a handful of things that don't match up for van. AC compressor barely fit. Valve covers have different holes on van. Wires might not reach all the sensor connectors on the new block.

Happy to answer any specific questions you've got. The whole front end comes off and you pull er out the front.


1987 G20
2015 XL1200C
2010 E61
Re: New owner engine swap guidance
DrCaldre #776828 May 28th 2021 3:26 pm
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Thanks for the info both of you.

DrCaldre - I looked up that engine, looks awesome. Did you do anything with your transmission to accommodate the jump in power?
When you say TBI heads are not the best, what are you referring to? What kind of issues are they prone to?
I'm in a town of about 70,000 is it hard to find a shop that can do a TBI tune or is that a pretty run of the mill thing?

Re: New owner engine swap guidance
COVandura #776837 May 28th 2021 6:18 pm
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Ive had many tune up in the last 15 yrs on my vans and the most I have to do is cap rotor, O2, oil , twice I changed the coil .... the computer controls the mix. Not much to to do to the TBI injectors, have never touched them. Unless you have a major problem tune up are easy..... set it to factory spec and just change parts .....


SUNSHINE VANS-VAN DIEGO
ADRENALIN BY THE GALLON & CHASIN RACIN
ONE FOR THE DIRT & ONE FOR THE STREETS
'93 CHEVY G30 454 4X4 SPORTVAN EXT 146" WB
'92 CHEVY G30 454 BEAUVILLE EXT 146" WB
Re: New owner engine swap guidance
COVandura #776844 May 29th 2021 7:33 am
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Mine had a 700R4 put in by the PO, so no. I had the whole rear end done with a Eaton unit and a 3.73.  Let's just say I'm excited to get it on the road.  If the tranny goes, I'll take it to a reputable local shop and have it rebuilt.  From what I understand, it should take the power fine though.

About the motor.  Nothing inherently wrong with the TBI heads, they just notoriously underperform.  Ask anyone that owned a 3rd gen Camaro. If you want something relatively fun, the cheapest option is to ditch them for a vortec head.

Any good shop should be able to service a TBI unit.  The guy that wrote my tune is Brian Harris from TBI chips, new literal chip he burns for $300.  You replace the stock one in the computer.

Beefy tune naturally meant a thirsty motor and a upgraded fuel pump.  Pressure is regulated at the line in the TBI by a spring, so that is changed as well.

Of course you can say heck to all that and put in a 454. good bit more money for a crate, but you could run a bone stock one. But your engine bay and wiring harness were built for a TBI 350, so that'll come with its own set of challenges, which I know nothing about.


1987 G20
2015 XL1200C
2010 E61
Re: New owner engine swap guidance
DrCaldre #776848 May 29th 2021 11:25 am
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Rust N Dents
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Originally Posted by DrCaldre
About the motor.  Nothing inherently wrong with the TBI heads, they just notoriously underperform.  Ask anyone that owned a 3rd gen Camaro.

I might be inclined to agree with that.
I had a '92 Camaro RS back in '96 and I'm pretty sure just about anything could outrun it.


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Re: New owner engine swap guidance
DrCaldre #776956 May 31st 2021 11:07 am
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Originally Posted by DrCaldre
Mine had a 700R4 put in by the PO, so no. I had the whole rear end done with a Eaton unit and a 3.73.  Let's just say I'm excited to get it on the road.  If the tranny goes, I'll take it to a reputable local shop and have it rebuilt.  From what I understand, it should take the power fine though.

About the motor.  Nothing inherently wrong with the TBI heads, they just notoriously underperform.  Ask anyone that owned a 3rd gen Camaro. If you want something relatively fun, the cheapest option is to ditch them for a vortec head.

Any good shop should be able to service a TBI unit.  The guy that wrote my tune is Brian Harris from TBI chips, new literal chip he burns for $300.  You replace the stock one in the computer.

Beefy tune naturally meant a thirsty motor and a upgraded fuel pump.  Pressure is regulated at the line in the TBI by a spring, so that is changed as well.

Of course you can say heck to all that and put in a 454. good bit more money for a crate, but you could run a bone stock one. But your engine bay and wiring harness were built for a TBI 350, so that'll come with its own set of challenges, which I know nothing about.

Personally would not use Brian Harris. Use Dave at OldSchoolEFI in the north west of you don't tune it yourself.

That being said the TBI heads can make a solid 325 hp in stock form and more than 375 with a little work to them. They make more low-end torque than even Vortecs. Just have to get the right cam with them and open up the restrictive exhaust and intake.

I have an 87 with a 6.0L I built for a camper van fpr my mom. I have a cammed 8.1 in my 83.

Last edited by 1983G20Van; May 31st 2021 11:08 am.

1983 G20 Conversion Van, 350 TPI, Reed Hydraulic Roller cam, Ported 906 Vortec, Edelbrock 3817 TPI-Vortec Base, Doug Thorley Tri-Ys, Dual 2 1/2" exhaust, Speed Density 7730 ECM tuned by ME, 700r4 by ME, Stock 1,600 rpm converter, Rebuilt Stock 10 bolt with posi by ME, 3.08 gears, 358 RWHP @ 5,200, 384 RWTQ @ 3,400, 14.66 @ 95.43 w 2.28s 60'
Re: New owner engine swap guidance
COVandura #777015 June 02nd 2021 3:13 am
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The biggest issue I think you might have is you will have to watch the accessories, alternator, etc. - GM liked to change stuff for no real reason every couple of years and whatever is in there now will have to go on the replacement engine.

For example between 91 and 95 the alternator changes - the case back is clocked 1/3 turn different - for no real reason. It bolts up but it's a lot harder to get plugged in. The exhaust on my 88 is different than on my 1991, different hangers, pipes, etc. Just goofy things. The 95 was a 1-ton but for some reason it had the same manifolds as half ton pickups which made fixing the exhaust on that one a pain.

I do think if you have access to a lift you could pull the engine out the bottom, drop the trans crossmember and slide it back and down.


1994 G20
2002 Express, sitting dead
1988 G20 conversion, stored

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