Astro van cat conversion

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Some nice spring like weather today and for another day or two.
The nasty winds, ice storm and other events left the cat covered with limbs, cones, needles and a big mess.

Decided to get the little tractor up to the house and get the cat pulled out of it's place in front of the shop and clean things up A LOT.

A couple pix.

Cat pulled back out of the way....cleaned out all the crap that had accumulated over the winter.

We are actually starting year two of the resto/mod.

All the work that got accomplished last year actually amounted to a lot of progress.

All the old hydraulics and such removed.
Original tranny removed.
Chassis cleaned up
Small block Chevy procured along with a TH 350 TRANNY.
Power pack fit into chassis.
Exhaust all built and fitted.
OC12 completely rebuilt
S10 pickup purchased to provide a cab and bed
Cab fitted and mounts built.

Front axle to be replaced with a hybrid type similar to the later style Thiokol 3700 axle..separate axles on each side.
Currently have 4 of the alloy wheel hub combos....front and rear axles.
Wheels and custom centers on hand for the 6 center wheel locations.
Currently have a good Chevy 400 small block.... Crank, Rods (Just reworked).... Have a complete 1998 Chevy 350 Vortec.

Going to use the Vortec heads, Serpentine accessory drive and a few other goodies.
Bore the block .030" Oversize and wind up with a VORTEC 406.
Will likely sell the 305 that is sitting in the cat now.
TH350 will be kept...

As soon as the weather allows....will remove the cab and get after the drive shaft mounting and get the OC12 back into the cat.
Small repair work needed on the outer diffy axle tube mounts at the frame.
Engine and tranny mounts need to have the finish welds done.. (Mounts are a slip to fit and weld type)

Ant eater nose Hood needs to be fabricated....
Looks like a front end similar to what the 2100 had originally will be the plan (Box tube assembly)

The pickup box from the S10 MAY GO ON THE REAR....UNLESS ANOTHER SIMILAR CAB CAN BE LOCATED.
A double cab would be nice.

A lot of work really has been done in this year.

The design for a set of 3 foot wide tracks is complete and will include the original 2100 tire guides...(We have nearly enough guides now to build two tracks)
Original track sprockets are so so....will get us going...they will need to be recovered at some point.

Getting outside today really got the Cat itch going again.....
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Getting back to work on things now a little bit.
The 400 block is just about ready to head out to the machine shop for cylinder boring.
One hole has a tad bit of RUST ETCHING on one side.... .030 pistons SHOULD be fine....Butttttttttttttttttttttt.
Gonna do a test bore on that hole and make sure we can do the .030 OS and clean up before I order the pistons

Found a set of .030 OS New old stock pistons really right $$
But the price means zip if we need .040 OS

Anyway...Crank I got looks sweet...measures great at standard size...both rods and mains.
New bearings sitting here on my shelf.....

Getting some stuff done on the 400 seems like a good idea...at least until the sunny weather gets here and I can work outside again.
Really anxious to get the heads off the Vortec engine and see if they are any good........

Ahh yess....
Getting the Short block together on the 400 (Will end up being a 406 cube) will be sweet....

The piston clearance is spec'd to be .0017" which is mighty tight...
Snow cats are like boats...no coast and high RPM.
Likely open the bores up to about.003"

A steady 3500 RPM and or above will not be at all uncommon on this beast......

Do not want any scuffed piston skirts......
I ran many boats with V8 inboards and always gave them extra clearance.....
 
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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Absolutely marvelous day today....Great working weather......

Been far too long since I had a good cat fix.
Dragged out the last of the wheel centers (Snowflakes) and got to work on drilling the lug stud holes.

The Jig was so so.....Decided to make it better.
I had one snowflake with the holes drilled and the fit was perfect.....
Transferring the hole locations with a transfer punch is OK but it is so easy to get a tiny mistake....and end up with a hole that does not line up right.

Decided to USE the one good one as a drill jig and turned the original fixture into a holding tool.
Drop the undrilled part on the fixture....then add the one with the holes.

Locate the fixture to the mill table then index the drill bit and get it lined up on the first hole.
Remove the 17/32 drill and insert the 5/16 pilot drill....do the pilot hole and then put the 17/32" drill back in and finish the hole.

Insert the transfer punch to hold the parts located....Index the plates and repeat....5 times.

Drilled the remaining plates and then put the 60 degree countersink in the chuck....Index the spindle to the proper elevation using the finished plate ( Now a tool) and then countersink the holes for the 60 degree tapered lug nuts.
REPEAT FOR THE REMAINING PLATES

The welding fixture bolts to the back of the snowflake and registers it in the wheel for the proper offset....
Offset is the same as the factory Thiokol 2100 (Or Spryte) wheels.....

I did order 6 more Snowflakes....
Going to keep the one finished plate as a jig.....just in case more are needed.

I did come up with 2 more of the factory aluminum wheels and will use them along with the two that came with the cat....
2 fronts and two rears....The steel wheels with the snowflake centers will be the center 6 wheels.

Great to be doing something again......

Still need to run the plates through the lathe and turn the OD to fit the inside of the wheels.
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
More great weather......
Decided to finish up the wheels I had enough parts for.
Got one Snowflake that is being kept as part of the Jig/fixture and one that I got a bad do on one hole....gonna scrap it.

So 4 are now complete....Need to do a little cleaning up and get them ready to paint.

I think a good coat of silver will suffice.
Then the Snowflake wheels will sort of blend in withe the aluminum factory ones.
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Today was "Get a urethane filled tire off the wheel day"

Grabbed the two wheels I traded for and dragged them up to the shop.
Right off I noticed that the wheels were a tad different.

One is a large bearing aluminum wheel....Probably off a Thiokol 3700 and the other is the standard size bearing alloy wheel.
Both are in good shape.

I really do not want ONE odd wheel on the cat
All my other wheels/hubs use the standard 2100 Packmaster hubs and bearings.

Anyway.
Got out the SAWZALL and did the exorcism .....Fun stuff

A cut a chunk off the outer diameter of the tire.
Then run the saw around the side all the way on both sides and removed the side wall and tread face.

Easy job.
Cut the urethane fill carefully and pealed it off.

Tire spoons got the beads off quickly.
Wash up the Wheel....Sweeeet

Piccy's of the carnage.

A buddy has a mate to that one large bearing wheel.
Gonna put the big bearing wheels up front.
Use the current front wheels in the rear position.....
The custom wheels can fill in the center slots.
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Weather still nice.

Cut the second tire off the alloy wheel.

Old rusty bearing races driven out.
The tire today had a tube inside with the urethane inside the tube.
Nasty black goooooooop between the wheel and the tube.
Not sure what will cut that crap off the wheel.

Will try some high test alcohol free gasoline and a brush.....maybe

The wheels look good.

I definitely am impressed at how easily those tires come off the wheels.

Aside from the gooooop there was zero issues.

Definitely going to have the new tires filled with the urethane on the front and rear wheels.
 

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Who are you having fill those? Schwabbs wanted $140 per wheel, and I can’t seem to get the stuff cheaper anywhere else. Also, when they fill those, how do they pressurize them? I want mine 60 psi-tight, but with foam or something instead of air.
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Yeah...Schwabs is way too high.

I found a couple of industrial outfits up in Portland that do it.
I will post the WHO..WHAT..WHERE when I nail down the best price.....
I called Yesterday but the guy who quotes the $$$$$ on odd jobs was out.

I will get this nailed down.
The pumps have a pressure gauge.
Most of the urethane fill does not expand like "Foam"...it simply jells to a rubber consistency.
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
With the good weather coming up....Another mid course correction MAY be in the works.
An opportunity to Acquire a couple old 2100 tracks has surfaced..along with other goodies....

Looking at using the 43" long factory J grousers as a SINGLE WIDTH grouser.
Only need to drill 4 holes in each grouser...
This plan will result in a lot of time and material saving...
After seriously reviewing the track layout the Thefatsquatch has on his 2100 I am seriously looking at the idea.

Cutting, machining, welding and drilling 144 grousers from scratch is just going top be a buttload of work...

The J grousers are very sturdy.......
Running these as full width rather than staggered raises questions.....but stranger things have been done.....

12" belts inside and outside and the 43" grousers just might get this part of the project finished up with far less work....
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Dug into the leftover grousers from the one original track I got with the machine...

Dragged out one right hand and one left hand piece and got them on the bench.
Using these as single width grousers will be a simple task.
As I mentioned yesterday 4 extra holes needed is all.

Stopped by the steel yard and picked up some 1/4" x 2 x 1-1/2" Angle to make a pair of drill jigs so the grousers will all be the same.
Trying to get a transfer punch down into the J grouser proved to be a non starter....Going to have to cut the blade back a fair amount on the grousers to gain access to the holes.
I hate to sacrifice two grousers....but having accurate tooling that will allow repeat accuracy all the way through the build and into the future if need be is paramount........

After all the drilling of the bolts last summer to get the tire guides off my drill chuck for the mill finally gave up....The jaws are worn out...and the #2 taper on that chuck was not perfect anyway....(Came with the mill back in 2003 when I bought it)

Time for a new chuck....Got a nice 1/32" to 5/8" ball bearing chuck with an R8 shank (Bridgeport type spindle)
New chuck showed up yesterday....... Sweeeeeeeeeet.....IT IS GONNA GET A WORKOUT.....

Busy day today....likely not much gonna get done.....But the next step is to cut the two grousers and then get the jigs made.

I am not really cool with having the "Slide stops" on the outer edges of the tracks which will be how this lash up will work....
May try to add a bolt on slide stop in the middle of the grouser ?????????

Having the original slide stops on the outer edge looks like a great way to drag a track off........

We shall see.....
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Weather is about to get wet for a day or two.
Decided to get after the drill jigs for modifying the standard 43" "J" GROUSERS
Took the torch to one RH & one LH grouser.
Opened them up enough to allow getting a transfer punch into the holes.

Got the jigs all marked as to which grouser they fit RIGHT OR LEFT (Using the factory notation as to the side of the track)

All marked and ready to drill.
Need to add one extra hole for each belt and two for the tire guides.

Tire guides are going to mount on center between the outer bolt holes that are existing.

One tire guide bolt hole will be very close to one of the center group of holes.
May add a piece of 1/4" steel to span that area....then weld it in place.
Only one series needs the extra piece....Can't remember Rh/Lh it is....but I noticed the issue when measuring things up yesterday.....
Marked the jigs with nomenclature so that at a later date the usage will be obvious.....AND NOT END UP WRONG...

Also dragged out that one wheel center "Snowflake" that had the oooooops on one lug stud hole.

Welded it up, ground things smooth and redrilled/countersunk...
Came out fine....."MORE GOODER NOW"

Some pics
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Good weather is coming....but it was nice enough today to get started at getting the front axle out of the cat.

Got the cat jacked up far enough to get the axle out.
The plan is to totally build a new PAIR of axles for the front end.
Instead of a single axle ...there will be a separate axle on each side ...independently adjustable on each side.

I started on this back last fall ....the one shaft is partially built....as are the tubular housings.

Good time to get this stuff done....
I have quite a bit of the materials needed....now with some good weather things can happen..

I want to get both sides done and the cat sitting with all its "paws on the ground"

I have been vacillating back and forth on how to suspend the axle....pretty sure I am going to use a "Timbren" rubber spring to act against an arm fastened to the new axle shaft......These axles do not move that much....but do need some flex......

The Timbren biscuit should be quite capable of handling the load readily.

An adjustable stop to adjust the tension on the axle....and a positive stop to stop down travel for going too far.

Shaft with the original spindle arm welded to it will pivot in a pair of UHMW bushings inside the new housings....
An inner support similar to the original axle mounting will carry the inside ends of each axle section....

Looking at the huge azz sump that the oil pan sat down in while jacking the cat up.

Gonna chop that mess out.....and add a much shorter drop sump that is a bit bigger to fit the new pan for the 406 engine...

The basic idea of the split axle is SORT OF LIKE what LMC did on the later 3700 cats.

More to follow...
Couple pix...
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
The last couple days have not been kind as far as getting much cat work done....always seems that as soon as I get the tools out and try to get to work somebody wants my help with something.

Yesterday did score pretty well...at least I think so....
Looking over the design on the new front axles......There needs to be some thrust washers in the axle "stack" ...Between the spindle arm and the first pivot tube....(Slack adjuster bracket) then another washer between the first tube (Inside face) and the tubular assembly that the air bag/timbren arm attaches too.....then another washer between the arm tube and the inner adjuster bracket.

The piccy has a pretty good show of how this all stacks up.

Originally the plan was to use UHMW washers....too hard to get the material I needed and the thickness was going to be such that ???? A TAD THIN to be comfortable.

Decided to look at aluminum round stock and just make the washers.

The washers also shield the grease seals on the end of each tube. (Yesssss...UHMW does not require grease....but grease will not hurt the poly bushings and it will help keep the shaft from rusting )

Called around and finally found a steel yard the said they should have some 3" or 4" round short pieces (Foot or so long)

We head over to the yard and there was zero short alloy shafts of the size needed...

Arrrrrrrrrrgh
Just about ready to toss in the towel and head back....off in a corner of the small warehouse is a shelf unit with some round stock that looks interesting......

Decided to check it out...Whoa...Sweeet....brass stock....3-5/8" OD x 1-7/8" ID ABOUT 13" LONG (Many other sizes there too)

Grabbed the chunk and head up to weigh it.

$4.50 per pound $117 out the door..

Brass is far better for such parts and will last a loooooooooooooong time.

Piccy of current design for the axle assembly (LETS CALL THIS A BETA VERSION....LIKELY WILL SEE A FEW MODS BEFORE IT IS COMPLETE)
The recent decision to go with the 43" grousers/tracks does give rise to some slight changes on the location of the air bag/timbren arm and the inner adjuster bracket......

But things will be of this basic design.
The axle shaft is currently pressed onto the spindle housing and ready to weld.....

The arm assembly will be retained with two 1/2" grade 8 bolts through the arm tube and the axle shaft.

The forces required to shear those are pretty high.....Likely destroy far more than the axle.

The original axle inner "Torsion cam bar" is a 4 lobe arrangement and about the same section as the 2" shaft.
Whatever happened to the original axle bent the axle tube and did not tweak the center torsion shaft....

I am comfortable that the 2" round shaft supported as it is in the assembly will serve well.

The spindles at the wheels are much smaller.....and should be the fuse....LETS HOPE WE NEVER SEE AN IMPACT THAT CAN DAMAGE THIS STUFF.
 

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Snowy Rivers

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Had some snow this morning...but got the front axle out of the cat.

Bolts were tighter than a bulls azz in fly time....Decided not to waste my time and energy reefing on them....Grabbed the hot wrench and off they came.

Axle out on the ground.
Spindle castings are in great shape....Going to chop the axle up and remove the spindle assemblies for possible future use...

A few pix of things......A well used front unit from a 3700....Torsion unit is shot...Spindle is salvageable.

The LH adjuster bracket and one of the new support tubes and polymer bushing.

The old axle with some very Fugly plates welded on to try and fix the damage done at some time.
Front axle with nasty bend.

Get the adjuster brackets out and with a very small amount of machining the tube and its new flange (Not shown) will bolt right in....
I think I found another pair of adjusters that can be used on the inner ends of the new axles.

Being able to use existing parts will save a lot of work.....
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Ripped out the axle adjuster on the LH side.
Same disgusting mess that I have found all the way through this cat.
Get the rear anchor bolt out of the adjuster grease cylinder and the hose block loose.

Yard the assembly out and the entire thing is packed full of grease.

Some ass hat beat the cylinder rod into the slider bracket with a big club.
Had a helluva time getting the rod out.

Finally made an aluminum horse shoe to slid over the rod next to the piston and tapped it out with a 5 pounder.
The piston and rod are not hurt.

The V packing is shot.
Will need to scare up some new packing......

The slider was packed full of grease....chuck full and really no good way to get it out....

Built a camp fire and tossed the unit in with the open end down.

Got that sucker pretty hot.

Looks like the grease all melted and burned out.

The slider has a few cracks...will need to grind them out and weld things up.

I am hoping that the RH side is not as big of a mess.....

The ugly munge on the end of cylinder is the obvious tracks left by the previous clowns that were in there.

I took my small grinder with a soft pad and relieved the areas shown by the pin hole.

Took little to allow the rod to slide right into the slider.

Gotta ask WHAT WERE THEY THINKING.....
Using a sledge hammer instead of a scalpel me thinks.

Arrrrrrgh.

But......the rod, piston and cylinder bore look good.
Some fresh packing and life should be sweeeeet
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Cruising the net this morning trying to find the track adjuster cylinder seals.
Seems that there have been a couple different designs over the years.

The old 2100 parts book shows a multiple seal type set up and the Spryte 1200 shows a much simpler single seal design.
The unit that is in the LH side is of the single seal type (V PACKING is what is called for in the manual)

Given that this old cat is a mess from the git go We will have to see what is in the other side..

I can only hope they are the same.
The cylinder is the same part number....the rod and some of the internals are different.

So....I think I will get the RH side apart and see whats in there....hopefully the same style unit......Only time will tell.

Very likely the seal is a standard part......Hydraulic supply house item.

Once I nail this info down I will get some hard numbers posted that could help others.


The 21
 

rdynes01

Member
Cruising the net this morning trying to find the track adjuster cylinder seals.
Seems that there have been a couple different designs over the years.

The old 2100 parts book shows a multiple seal type set up and the Spryte 1200 shows a much simpler single seal design.
The unit that is in the LH side is of the single seal type (V PACKING is what is called for in the manual)

Given that this old cat is a mess from the git go We will have to see what is in the other side..

I can only hope they are the same.
The cylinder is the same part number....the rod and some of the internals are different.

So....I think I will get the RH side apart and see whats in there....hopefully the same style unit......Only time will tell.

Very likely the seal is a standard part......Hydraulic supply house item.

Once I nail this info down I will get some hard numbers posted that could help others.


The 21
At the risk of being flamed for the following comments as being "mean", 4
Cruising the net this morning trying to find the track adjuster cylinder seals.
Seems that there have been a couple different designs over the years.

The old 2100 parts book shows a multiple seal type set up and the Spryte 1200 shows a much simpler single seal design.
The unit that is in the LH side is of the single seal type (V PACKING is what is called for in the manual)

Given that this old cat is a mess from the git go We will have to see what is in the other side..

I can only hope they are the same.
The cylinder is the same part number....the rod and some of the internals are different.

So....I think I will get the RH side apart and see whats in there....hopefully the same style unit......Only time will tell.

Very likely the seal is a standard part......Hydraulic supply house item.

Once I nail this info down I will get some hard numbers posted that could help others.


The 21
At the risk of being flamed for the following comments as being "mean", 4 years and 46 pages worth of info, this is all you have to show so far? I hope we all live long enough to see it finished....Bob
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Me too.

Appreciate your patronage.......:lmao:

When you can just write the check and get it done.....you can do it fast....
I can't just write the check......and I am likely older than you....probably not in as good of heath either.

No offense taken Bob

Actually...only a tad over a year with the cat in my possession and something to work with.
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Now that we have been told we are going too slow.

I got the RH track tensioner out....and by the look of things it has not been out in a loooooooooong time.

Cylinder bore is shot......
It is the same style as the RH one....A GOOD THING

Made a couple phone calls and founds all the materials needed.
A chunk of new DOM cylinder tube.....and the proper seals and back up rings.....
Tomorrow we'll get the cylinder tube cut and machined to length....weld the old end cap into the new tube.

The piston/rod is usable....but the cylinder was about like 20 miles of death valley fire trail.

The LH cylinder having been full of grease is all serviceable.....
The new seal parts look great.......

HERE ARE THE PART NUMBERS FOR THESE BAD BOYS
Used in several of the Thiokol...LMC...DMC TRACK TENSION CYLINDERS
THE V PACKING IS 840601625/N
THE BACKING RING 870601625SD/T
These are available readily online

The backing ring is a solid white polymer
Simply cut it on a 45 or 60 degree angle to allow it to be installed.
The original backer was cut on an angle.
 

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vintagebike

Active member
As a fellow Thiokol 2100b owner I am
sure to need to refer to many of the pages of the tips, tricks and even the small mis-steps when ours finally goes under the resto lights, wrenches and hammers.
 
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