Astro van cat conversion

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Back at it.
After studying the relationship between the outer orbit of the inner track belt and the NEW INNER ADJUSTER.....It became somewhat troubling .....THERE DOES EXIST a slight possibility that under a worst case scenario the track could dive down and hit the adjuster...

The track sits about 2 inches away from the inner adjuster.....With the rig jacked up and the axles at the lowest point they can travel the track is about 1-1/2" above the top of the adjusters top tube.....

Soooooooooooooo...Decided to add a 4" x 4" x 1/8" box tube 6" long plus some "Wings" to bolt a piece of UHMW to.......This will act like a "Nerf bar" and "IF" the track were to dive down the top track belt will simply glide over the NERF and not hurt anything.

I do not trust the amount of parts and such flying about NOT to do something weird......

The entire assembly is looking pretty good....
I have not ordered the air bag assemblies as yet.

Thinking that tomorrow I will start building the fabrication for the RH side.
I still need to finish removing the old torsion bar and such from the spindle housing for the RH side axle.
I have the U BOLTS and most of the materials.
Still need to get the outer 3" x 3" slider tube.....

I can use the setup jigs and such to get the RH side as far along as the LH is now.....

Still contemplating just how the finished inside adjusters will end up......the grease cylinder seems like the plan.
The idea of a locking device of some sort to keep the axle from wanting to try and walk in and out seems like a plan....????

The 6" wide UHMW can be seen laying on the frame.
A heat gun and form the plastic....then two bolts on each wing...

JUST AN FYI....The orange on the parts is not paint.
Seems to be a reflection from the bright steel catching light off the tub..????? There is not any paint on these parts as yet.
 

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Snowy Rivers

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Decided to try a mechanical track adjuster setup on the new inner track adjusters.
The plan sort of came together the other day....decided to sketch it up....Awe hell....lets make it.
Machined up the parts and welded stuff together.
Unit slides into the outer tube ....has a threaded rod that connects to the inner axle support and an adjuster unit.
The adjuster was simple enough.
A sleeve with the threaded portion inside of a tube that slides into the main support tube.

We shall see just how well it works....I fitted the beast up with a greasing device to help keep the threaded rod and the adjust from rusting.
One 3/8 grade 8 bolt secures the adjuster into the unit....If it goes south.....simple to pull the bolt and slide the entire unit out.....
 

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Snowy Rivers

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Spent a short time today adding a "Donkey Wheel" out front on the LH assembly to make certain that the track can't interfere in a worst case scenario
A similar setup can be seen on the Pisten Bully in a couple key places near the front road wheel.....


The little wheel stud is welded in.....still need to add a couple gussets....need to wait until the inner bushing tube is located and welded....

The little idler is courteous of a snowmobile I owned back in 1979....These were still on the shelf....
Easy to replace and pretty sturdy.....
Noe they have a job....
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Been a bit slow around here...at least as far as the cat goes.
Other stuff got in the way.....

Finally got back at it today.
Cleaned up the shop and got a big bunch of plastic TUBS, TOTES, STORAGE BOXES and gathered up all the parts for the cat......
Bench actually has a top that can be seen now..

Cut the steel pieces for the RH front axle inner adjuster assembly......
Tomorrow if all goes well I will get the holes drilled in the frame mounting plates for the inner adjuster.

Sure nice being able to find all the bits and pieces and have a fairly neat work area.

YES IT WAS A REAL CHITHOLE.....
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Decided to move to the RH side and get it caught up to where the LH front side is now.
The Spindle/casting cut off has been on the table out in front of the cat for quite a while.

I had chopped it off a used axle last fall...

By the looks of things (Welds) it had been re-welded .....

Tossed that bad boy in the vise and buffed off the rust and grunge......
Next it was to the mill to get the old weld chopped off and find the joint between the casting and the torsion bar....

That center bar is HARD....chips come off blue or red.....

Got the break lines showing all the way....to the press and shove out the old bar.....The LH one took 50 tons to get it loose.....this one was pushing my 20 ton to the limit.....but it came out..... :clap:


Off to the mill to get the back end of the casting square with the hub ( It is as cast....)

Then flip the sucker over and into the table vise.

Indicate the square bore (Best I could) stuffed in the boring head and let it rip.
The square bore leaves things with an interrupted cut .....so its a slow slog....Light cuts and slow speed..

The casting is not hard.....but still very good material.
Chewed on this sucker until the bore measured 1.993"
The new shaft is 1.9975" (2" cold rolled steel)

Finished deburring and it's ready to go on the new shaft.....

Gonna heat that bad boy up hotter than hell and damnation and slip it onto the shaft......

Good to go.

Some pics of the spindle as I cut it apart.
The torsion unit was Fubar'd
The inner nylon guide bushing...JUNK
The axle tube was cracked badly too....
The outer split bushing was still in fair shape.....

The spindle proper is lovely......

One spot on the casting showed a nerf where one of the axle bolts had come loose....no worries....weld it up and dress it off with the grinder...... (LH side near the back of the spindle while in the mill to cut the back square....the nerf is apparent)

Overall the spindles (RH LH) are great parts and will give years of service......
 

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Snowy Rivers

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Finally got the notice that the last six "Snowflake" wheel centers were ready to pick up....

Got them suckers home.

These will give us plenty with a few extras on the shelf....
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Got a call from Griffith Polymer earlier today.
The custom urethane bushings were ready to be picked up.

3" OD X 2" ID......36" LONG (CUT TO SUIT)
Ordered two 36" pieces....They have a $100 minimum order and 1 piece would make the needed bushings....but two pieces were $166....Will make a spare set.

This is 95A scale urethane.(Same durometer as the common urethane spring bushing that are sold by the 4x4 parts guys in the ENERGY suspension brand)
It cuts really nice in the band saw.

All ready to slip in and go to work.
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Not much happening today.
Started working on the RH inner track adjuster....Then the weather went south.
Soft hail balls 1" in diameter and rain....wind.
Crazy weather.
34 F this morning......Cold for late May...
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
With the weather being nasty...Decided to get after the 400 inch Small block and get it ready.

I tapped the 3 oil passages in the front (Cam galleries) for 1/4" pipe plugs.....The little soft plugs literally fell out when I ran rod down the passages....

Tapped holes will be far better..Blue Loctite will keep the plugs in fine.....

Got that job done and then loaded the block up and hauled it off to Machine shop.
A couple cylinders have some rust thats a tad deeper than surface rust.

Want to make sure that the holes will clean up at .030" OS before I trip the trigger on the new pistons.....

While the block is at the shop they can stuff in a set of cam bearings.......

Should know wasssssup in a few days......
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
The word came back today......The one ugly cylinder cleaned up at .020" OS..
The next step is to get the .030" OS slugs coming.....
 
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Snowy Rivers

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Weather good
Back at the Fab work on the RH track adjuster/axle set up.
Got the add on plate bored to fit into the original adjuster to allow the new tube to weld in.
The plate bolts in to locate it.....then will weld in after everything is all dialed in.
The LH mate to the assembly for comparison.
Also going to add a small gusset in the corner...(Cardboard template in the pic)
The add on plate bored and bolted in place....New pivot tube slips in real nice.
The inner plate is shown without the hole bored..

Tomorrows job....rain is back....
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
In the shop watching the rain come down and listening to the mill running away.

Certainly not the most fun part of this project for sure....

Got the last parts that needed to be bored to allow fabricating the New RH track adjuster completed.

A real Boring job...NO PUN INTENDED.

Stuff looks good.
Sadly the original outer adjuster was not the original parts....or at least not all of it anyway.....But earlier I was able to get both of the outer adjusters machined to at least match each other.
Now the new parts should keep both axles looking at each other....(Straight and level)

Some pics
The inner adjuster tube side plates (Still need to have 2 corners trimmed off )
The outer assembly looks good and the new parts fit well......
Next comes jigging it all up and then welding stuff together.

The inner adjuster tube needs the end cut on an angle for clearance (Scribe line can be seen in the piccy)
 

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Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Life is good.
Got shipping / tracking on the new pistons, cam bearings and a couple other goodies for the 406.....
Building an engine one nut bolt and screw at a time is fun...yeah right.

I got very little in the way of parts with the 400 block.
Timing cover and the balancer was about it.
Slowly scraping the rest together.
Need standard push rods.
Oil pump and bolt and oil pickup tube
Pump drive shaft.
Got the large oil pan and bolts...
Here is hoping the Vortec heads are good......
4 bolt valve covers on the vortec are good to go
All the front serp brackets and such are all on the Vortec....Fan and such too are there
Need the externally balanced flex plate and crank bolts.
Need front crank snout bolt and washer
Need a fresh large cap HEI distributor...
Exhaust manifolds in the cat on the 305 are new...good there

Indeed a "Frankenmouse"
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Got more fab work done on the RH axle/track adjuster assembly yesterday....

Got the jigs from the LH side all lined up and clamped in place.....

Stuffed the new pieces in and let them all fall into place....
Looking promising.....
The outer assembly (Original part plus the new pivot tube) all lined up really well

With as much damage as was done to the original axle....I am really surprised that the frame did not sustain any damage.

The main frame on the 2100 is definitely stout.

The outer assembly is pretty well welded up now.

Tomorrow the inner slider tube gets trimmed on an angle and the side plates as well.

Then the inner adjuster can come together......

Some pics.

The bracket bolted to the tub is just a guide jig to keep the assembly aligned during the fabrication process....Same as we did on the LH side.


With the axle and spindle/casting ready to go this thing can come together pretty quick now.

A bit more welding and then the new parts can be cleaned and painted......then the bulk of it can be bolted onto the cat.....Hopefully for the final time.....
 

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Snowy Rivers

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Another leap forward (Small leap)
Inner slider tube pretty well assembled (Just need to locate the pivot tube once the air bag arm can be fitted.
Brass thrust washers go in the assembly in 4 places.
After things cooled off I grabbed the polymer bushings and stuffed them into the lash up to have a peek see.

Oh yeah buddy......this is looking good.

Going to be good support on the axle shaft.....

Sitting there the last couple days looking at things got me to thinking......Having the panel off to mount the setup bracket let me look at the side of the oil pan (Hole was cut by the PO to gain access to the starter.....)
I cleaned up the GAWD awful mess and added the frame and cover plate....

The original oil pan sump dropped into a deep pocket in the tub.....The little Chevy pan sump is in the rear......

The 305 pan clears the bottom of the tub by about 3/4"
I bought a gated road race pan for the 406.....and it is 7-1/2" from the rail to the bottom of the sump

I crawled down and took a peek at the pan and the tub...decide to grab a tape measure and get a visual on the actual distance from the pan rail to the floor of the tub. 8-1/4" (The engine sits parallel to the floor of the tub)
Sweeeeeet
Planning to remove the old sump in the tub.......It is about 8" deep (Ford 391)
Just something more to crash into stuff hanging below the tub like it does.....

The one access cover got a revamp last summer to clean the mess up....and it allows a good chance of being able to replace the starter ......
Going to use the mini starter used on the Vortec pickup engine (68 TOOTH FLEX PLATE)

Very small and fits the 400 easily (Angle bolt pattern)

The new battery tray is just aft of the engine above the starter... fastened to the top flange of the tub.....Very close and easy to get power to the starter and also the cab.....

Trying hard to keep this FrankenCat from being a real BASTARD to work on...
 

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Snowy Rivers

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The hay season is about here and the Vortec 350 parts engine was in the way to back the big trailer inside to unload hay.....

Dragged that beast out and ripped it apart.
HEADS OFF.
SERP DRIVE ALL OFF
Gained several needed parts......bolts and such
Head bolts are good shape...standard grade 8 washer headed stuff
Crank pulley/balancer bolt and washer...
Heads look good....will snoop at them tomorrow for any issues.......
All the serp drive parts are sweet.....all the factory bolts nuts and such....1998 version is a lovely addition to the project.....
Valve covers are good shape (4 center bolt type)

Gonna try to sell off the short block and extra stuff thats not needed.
 

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Snowy Rivers

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Houston.....do you copy....C'mon.

We came home to a Widdle box on the steps.

WE HAVE PISTONS FOR THE 406 CAT ENGINE.
The look great.....Checked all 8 of them for any travel damage....GOOD TO GO.
So now we can bore the block and get the rods and pistons intimate......

Busy today so no cat work happened....But I managed a few minutes to dream up a little jig to drill the steam holes in the Vortec heads.

For anyone not familiar with the Small block 400 Chevy....These beasts have siamese cylinder bores (No coolant flows between)
The block has 6 "steam" holes ...2 between each of the inner bores so coolant can purge through and not make steam pockets.

The original heads have these.....The vortec heads will bolt right on.....just have to use the 400 gasket as a guide and drill the holes in the heads. (3/16" max diameter)

I am going to make an aluminum fixture (1" X 2" bar) and machine it so the two center bolts will allow the fixture to bolt to the block and then drill through the holes and through the head deck.....

One hole must be on an angle of about 15 degrees or so towards the exhaust port...and the other is straight through.

Using a fixture will allow doing this job with a hand drill.....

Yessssssssssssssssssss......I'm getting excited.
 

Snowy Rivers

Well-known member
Hmmmmmm

Thought I posted a piccy of the shiny new pistons

There we go......
Gonna look better when they are peeking out of the holes in the block :thumbup:
 

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Snowy Rivers

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Got a fella wanting that Vortec short block SOON
So decided to clean the heads up and see if they were good.

Yanked out the valves/springs a pair at a time and have a peek see.

Everything looks great...No cracks between the seats, not anything presenting elsewhere either...

Valve stems are very nice fit in the guides too.....

The plan is to take the heads back apart and clean things well...then do a light lap job between the valves and seats to freshen them.

They simply do not need anything more than this.
Fresh set of guide seals and it's off to the rodeo.

I feel very pleased that these Vortec heads were not junk....
The urban legends say that Vortec heads....although great power makers tends to be junk as they age.

So we are good to go there.
 
Got a fella wanting that Vortec short block SOON
So decided to clean the heads up and see if they were good.

Yanked out the valves/springs a pair at a time and have a peek see.

Everything looks great...No cracks between the seats, not anything presenting elsewhere either...

Valve stems are very nice fit in the guides too.....

The plan is to take the heads back apart and clean things well...then do a light lap job between the valves and seats to freshen them.

They simply do not need anything more than this.
Fresh set of guide seals and it's off to the rodeo.

I feel very pleased that these Vortec heads were not junk....
The urban legends say that Vortec heads....although great power makers tends to be junk as they age.

So we are good to go there.
they are good heads they just dont usually survive an overheat
 
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