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2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

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Snowgeek
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2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by Snowgeek » Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:44 am

One year ago I was inflicted with the camper van flu thanks to a friend with a Westy Camper. I had no interest in a 20 year old VW nor the cash to buy a Sportsmobile so I spent countless hours searching for the right option....then I stumbled across T.Low's Astro.

In April I ended my long run of Toyota vehicles and bought a Chevy mini van.....this was the hardest vehicle choice I have ever made.

Over the last 5 months I have installed a 4" overland kit, powder coated the wheels, installed Cooper AT3 245/75/16 tires, and started making other visual and functional tweaks.

2 weeks ago I picked the van up from Derek at Colorado Camper van and this is where I am at now. :bounce:

I will follow up with a full build thread soon.

At Derek's cabin outside Loveland Colorado

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Camping outside Sinclair Wy on the way home

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Before the top:

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When I brought it home:

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2004 Astro (was AWD now 4X4) 125,000 miles: purchased April 2012
Colorado Camper Van poptop
4" Overland lift, Rancho 5000 Cooper AT3 245/75/16 C,
4x4 - NP236 Transfercase
Propex HS2211 propane heater
I am copying a few of you hope you don't mind!

See my build here

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mdmead
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by mdmead » Thu Nov 08, 2012 3:31 am

Cool! That top looks a lot like mine... except mine doesn't lift!
Matt
Selah, WA
-96 GMC Safari AWD Hi-Top Conversion -->Stalled 5.3L swap & 5" lift
-74 Ford Bronco -->Far from perfect but mine!
-99 V-10 Ford Super Duty Super Cab 4x4 -->Stock with 285 Cooper ATs
-00 Ford Focus Wagon -->The Red Turd
-95 Ford 24' Class C Motorhome -->My big block sleeper
-07 Can-Am Outlander XT -->My yellow 4x4 quad for work & play
-04 Ski Doo REV Summit -->Still several chassis behind!


No new projects until the current ones are done!

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Snowgeek
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by Snowgeek » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:56 am

Ok so i am doing this build thread a little backwards because i have done a ton of work and had no time to organize or post pictures. So back to the beginning even though i have already posted what it looks like now.

Basic 2004 Astro AWD, 95,000 miles, 3.42 gears, good paint, good upholstery.

I know my toyota's but I don't know what to look for on these motors and transmissions. I took it to a trusted mech. every thing checked out with the exception of tires and shocks.... Perfect those were on their way out anyway.

It even came with the old retired couples hula dancer on the dashboard, aarp stickers, and dog hair through out. :rolleyes:

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I got it home and my 4runner in the background had no clue what was about to happen. :axe:

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So the plans laid out like this.

Overland 4-5 kit, 245/75/16 tires, ccv top, weekender style interior.

You will notice as i go through most of this that i have copied and stolen every idea i have from others here on the forum. I hope at some point to contribute enough to be a template for others.

First things first Overland 4" kit. I really wanted to piece the lift together but I had a dead line and tons going on at the time. OLV was a touch slow to respond and didn't answer some of my questions but overall i had a good experience with him. I also ordered Rancho 5000 shocks from him, I wanted to do something a little cooler but i needed to get moving with the build and figured it was an ok starting spot.

I recruited my friend who started me dow the road of this whole camper van thing a year or so ago, to help me lift it......after all i helped him lift his westy... His van is in the background of one of these pics

Subframe pucks and longer bolts:
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Subframe puck and e brake bracket:
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Sketch balls way to support the back end: :yikes:
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Olv lift springs:
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Quick way to get the u-bolts back into place:
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Rolled it out of the garage:
At this point I have installed subframe pucks and rear springs. I still have torsion keys, shocks, bj flip, and cutting the fan shroud remaining to tackle. But this was a good first days work.
Image

I apologize for typos and lack of capitalization.....i will be posting most of this working on an ipad while holding our 2 month old baby.

I am skipping a ton of pics just to keep this build thread from being too boring.... But let me know if there is something you want to see.

More to come....

Ryan
2004 Astro (was AWD now 4X4) 125,000 miles: purchased April 2012
Colorado Camper Van poptop
4" Overland lift, Rancho 5000 Cooper AT3 245/75/16 C,
4x4 - NP236 Transfercase
Propex HS2211 propane heater
I am copying a few of you hope you don't mind!

See my build here

LiftedAWDAstro
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How many wheels are on an Astro van? (4): 6
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by LiftedAWDAstro » Thu Nov 08, 2012 12:04 pm

Looking great so far. There is one pic that doesn't show though. Let me know if there is anything in here you need changed around. :supz:
Current rides:
2013 Toyota Tundra DC 4x4
2008 Dodge Nitro 4x4
2005 Nissan Sentra 1.8S Special Edition

Mileage spreadsheet

Vans owned:
1986 Safari 2.5L 4 speed manual - scrapped
1995 Astro 2WD conversion 4.11 posi, shift kit, DHC rock rails - sold to Skippy
1998 Astro 4x4 D44, D60, NP231, full hydraulic system with 9k# Milemarker winch and snow plow - sold to Lockdoc
2003 Astro AWD all stock - traded for a 3/4 ton truck
2005 AWD, 4.10's - sold to skippy

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Snowgeek
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by Snowgeek » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:45 pm

Which pic isn't showing up...they are all coming through on this end so far as i can see at least.

Thank you, i have spent so much time here collecting info and ideas it is crazy. I hope to get the thread caught up to where i am now in the coming week and then will get to post as it is built which will be more fun. More storage, interior work, winch bumper and others to come. I have to stick with my stock gears and tc for this year my bank account and my wife will appreciate the spending to stop for a bit 8-[

Just so i know did i put my build thread in the right spot or does it need to be moved over to off-road or something?

Ryan
2004 Astro (was AWD now 4X4) 125,000 miles: purchased April 2012
Colorado Camper Van poptop
4" Overland lift, Rancho 5000 Cooper AT3 245/75/16 C,
4x4 - NP236 Transfercase
Propex HS2211 propane heater
I am copying a few of you hope you don't mind!

See my build here

LiftedAWDAstro
Site Admin
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Posts: 4430
Joined: Sat Sep 09, 2006 10:35 pm
How many wheels are on an Astro van? (4): 6
Location: New Haven, NY

Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by LiftedAWDAstro » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:10 pm

Pics are showing up fine now. This is fine for your build thread. It could also go in the off road or van camper sections.
Current rides:
2013 Toyota Tundra DC 4x4
2008 Dodge Nitro 4x4
2005 Nissan Sentra 1.8S Special Edition

Mileage spreadsheet

Vans owned:
1986 Safari 2.5L 4 speed manual - scrapped
1995 Astro 2WD conversion 4.11 posi, shift kit, DHC rock rails - sold to Skippy
1998 Astro 4x4 D44, D60, NP231, full hydraulic system with 9k# Milemarker winch and snow plow - sold to Lockdoc
2003 Astro AWD all stock - traded for a 3/4 ton truck
2005 AWD, 4.10's - sold to skippy

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Snowgeek
I finally get the smurf thing
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Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:10 pm
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How many wheels are on an Astro van? (4): 4
Location: Boise, Id
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by Snowgeek » Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:44 am

Well, some times in the process of the project you get excited and overlook that one crucial step. For me it was cutting my fan shroud.... After my first day i pulled it back into the driveway and thought what the hell is that noise. #-o I had forgotten motor = connected to the subframe .... fan shroud = connected to the body .....that i just lifted.

So back in the garage i go.

Fan shroud from the top without the air box:

Image

That top of the shroud sure comes of easy...... This lower part was a a bit frustrating: i am still not sure if i was missing something but it was well a pain....kind of like a puzzle. I think i finally just tried enough times it found its way out.

Before:

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Trimming up that shroud. What you are really doing here is just letting the fan drop out the bottom of the shroud. I am kind of the king of used tools.....notice the pawn shop price tag on my saw.

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After:

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Now my next task was to flip the upper ball joints. Remove two bolts..... Drill two rivets.... Simple enough. [-o<

How she looks normally:

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In the middle of the process:

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The end product:

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Some where in the middle there i broke almost every drill bit i own.... i still haven't gone back to the drill doctor to sharpen them all up. There are so many i hate to even look at the pile. :cry:

Next step is the torsion keys.

Now i should say i really am not looking for the tallest van out there. I simply want enough height to clear my 245/75/16 tires. I really don't need to install the keys for that but i know i will be adding a winch bumper down the road so I wanted the adjustability and didn't want to have to work on the lift again.


Stock key dropped out:

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Stock key v.s. the overland key:

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My left key was a cinch but some where in the process of getting my right key installed i broke a few and twisted a few more c-clamps, i would post pictures of how i finally made this work but i am afraid of being utterly flamed for my technique. i will just say it had to do with a long socket on a floor jack, a bunch of protection, and some luck.... The factory tool for this would have been great.

Overland key in place:

Image
2004 Astro (was AWD now 4X4) 125,000 miles: purchased April 2012
Colorado Camper Van poptop
4" Overland lift, Rancho 5000 Cooper AT3 245/75/16 C,
4x4 - NP236 Transfercase
Propex HS2211 propane heater
I am copying a few of you hope you don't mind!

See my build here

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H2OJoe
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by H2OJoe » Sun Nov 11, 2012 8:00 pm

Thanks for the post Snowgeek. I still need to do that ball joint remount on mine. Pics help alot. Your van is looking awesome. :cheers: Someday maybe I can get my fixed hitop converted to a poptop like yours. \:D/ :guitar:
2001 Astro LT AWD "Redneck Edition", 4" Custom Lift, 30x9.5R15LT on stock wheels, Hightop conversion, custom interior, custom roof racks, external solar shower, front recovery points

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Snowgeek
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by Snowgeek » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:01 am

H2OJoe wrote:Thanks for the post Snowgeek. I still need to do that ball joint remount on mine. Pics help alot.
If you need any more pics or have any questions let me know. 2 of the 4 rivets (2 on each ball joint) were a bear to remove, if i went back and did it again. I might drill the rivets before separating the joint or removing the 2 connecting bolts this would provide a solid surface to push down on while drilling and while hammering.
2004 Astro (was AWD now 4X4) 125,000 miles: purchased April 2012
Colorado Camper Van poptop
4" Overland lift, Rancho 5000 Cooper AT3 245/75/16 C,
4x4 - NP236 Transfercase
Propex HS2211 propane heater
I am copying a few of you hope you don't mind!

See my build here

User avatar
H2OJoe
I finally get the smurf thing
Posts: 185
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 3:49 am
antispam: No
How many wheels are on an Astro van? (4): 4
Location: White Salmon, WA

Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by H2OJoe » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:46 pm

Good advice. Thanks. :prayer:
2001 Astro LT AWD "Redneck Edition", 4" Custom Lift, 30x9.5R15LT on stock wheels, Hightop conversion, custom interior, custom roof racks, external solar shower, front recovery points

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T.Low
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by T.Low » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:18 pm

Great stuff. Love that Penthouse! =D>
ImageImageImageImage
AstroLander Build Slideshow
Church bells ringing in the middle of a gunfight.

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Snowgeek
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by Snowgeek » Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:50 pm

When i was looking for my Astro, i was really looking for the light grey on grey. I didn't really want white.....and one of my least favorite colors was this bronze-tan color.

Well there were only 3 ok condition Astro's that came on to my local market over 5 months. This was far and away the best one that came around so i bit.... despite the 3.42 gears and the color.
After purchasing the van i ran across Rastafari03's van. His rig inspired the look of my van in many ways. Thanks for the inspiration Rastafari :cheers:

see Rastafari03 build here

I may or may not already have z71 stickers made :-$

I chose to powder coat my wheels rather than buy new ones....it was cheeper and well i kinda like the stock ones. The powder coater baked the clear off and powder coated them for about $250. This included the center caps as well. On the center cap note.... I pealed the tabs of the metal face plate off and was able to have them powder coated as well.

Stock wheels:

Image

Center cap metal facade:
Powder coating these worked really well. There was a little cracking as i rebent the tabs to hold it onto the plastic backing but i have not seen any problems yet. I planned on a dot of glue or a smear of black silicon to seal the cracks if need be.

Image

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Final product: the black center looks a little different shade in this picture. This is not the case i think the wheel was dusty in this picture and the center was not. \:D/

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One note....after powder coating, since this is a hub centric wheel, I had to sand the inner boar in order to get it to slide over the hub. In reality it is no problem getting the wheel on the hub as you tighten the lug nuts, but it takes some amount of kicking the tire to get it off. Not something you want to spend time doing when you have a flat.

In the end i like the color and love the overall look of the van.

Next.....tire selection.....
2004 Astro (was AWD now 4X4) 125,000 miles: purchased April 2012
Colorado Camper Van poptop
4" Overland lift, Rancho 5000 Cooper AT3 245/75/16 C,
4x4 - NP236 Transfercase
Propex HS2211 propane heater
I am copying a few of you hope you don't mind!

See my build here

User avatar
Snowgeek
I finally get the smurf thing
Posts: 162
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:10 pm
antispam: No
How many wheels are on an Astro van? (4): 4
Location: Boise, Id
Contact:

Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by Snowgeek » Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:03 am

Ok, so i planned on doing a big write up on my tires selection.....

Cooper AT3 245/75/16 load range c

Well i don't have enough miles on them to do a review and the selection was fairly simple so i will be brief.

My needs: lots of highway, lots of snow, fair amount of dirt roads, a little gnarly terrain.....and you can't forget for them to look cool.

I chose the all terrain due to the snow; load range c to keep the weight down, and the size because well that is what t.low did. :prayer:

Edge shot: not the most aggressive edge but seems to do the job so far
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Tread design: good stock sipping for the snow, i will likely have them sipped when they are worn 25 or 35 percent.
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Rear profile: fender clearance has been great....no rubbing no problems.
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Front profile: i did the standard work to keep the tires from rubbing, working the seam at the rear of the fender back and cutting the bumper. I have not experienced any subframe rub.
Image

I will be excited to see how these tires wear, handle and stand up to abuse. If any of these these are not up to par the next tire will be the bfg at. I stayed away from this tire on the first go around to get the load range c and lighter weight. We will see what happens.

Ryan
2004 Astro (was AWD now 4X4) 125,000 miles: purchased April 2012
Colorado Camper Van poptop
4" Overland lift, Rancho 5000 Cooper AT3 245/75/16 C,
4x4 - NP236 Transfercase
Propex HS2211 propane heater
I am copying a few of you hope you don't mind!

See my build here

Ballenxj
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How many wheels are on an Astro van? (4): 4

Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by Ballenxj » Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:17 pm

COOL BUILD. I want to use my van as a camper as well.
While we're on the subject of Westy's, I thought I'd post a video of a COOL VW here for fun. :swords:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MIl84JU ... 325D3DF646
-Bruce

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arlon
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Re: 2004 Astro AWD Build: Colorado Camper Van Pop Top

Post by arlon » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:52 pm

I used C tires and they didn't last very long. It was an expensive lesson but I went with the BFG AT/KO in E rated for the 3 ply sidewall. I drive a lot of dirt roads that are littered with rocks. Biggest issue out here are sidewall punctures. I also used 225/75/16 with 3.73 gears I think even those tires are too tall for the gears. It has a hard time getting out of it's own way now and would be a real slug towing my Casita. A set of 4.10s would be a good investment I think. That or a V8 or 4BT cummins swap.. (-:}
2004 AWD Astro 2" lift, overnight-able
2003 Dodge/Cummins Quad cab
2006 Nissan X-terra MT
1985 LTD LX 5.0 HO
Plus wife's and kid's cars to take care of...

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