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Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

ANYTHING OFF ROAD RELATED - LIFT KITS, BODY LIFTS, SUSPENSION LIFTS AND PICS, LOTS OF PICS!
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cowgirlcullen
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Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by cowgirlcullen »

Hi everyone, I bought a 2003 Astro AWD with the 3:73 open diff and 215k miles for $875 about a month ago, it's my first van. Unfortunately, the seller covered up the fact that the engine was bad. I'm on the cusp of either buying a new crate engine from a private party for $1k and a tranny with 90k for $400 or an engine tranny set from the same vehicle with 85k for $1,350 from a guy who's been in business for 25 years and will give me a receipt with a guarantee - not sure how long the guarantee is though. The set is still in the vehicle and can be started.

So, here's my dilemma. We live in Montana and wanted a van for the backcountry to take on weekend adventures, but now I can't figure out which route to go with a new engine, drivetrain, torque converter, cam, etc. We'd like to continue to buy vans and fix them up and outfit them for the backcountry and then sell them. Our thoughts are that we can have fun with them while they're for sale and one day keep one that's a keeper.

However, we had planned to do just the basics on this first one (lift kit, bigger tires, cargo rack, tinted windows, stereo), not a complete ovethaul since we are very inexperienced mechanically and are just learning about these vans. We have a mechanic that will now be doing most of the work, but he is VERY expensive despite being incredibly good. Labor is going to be about $1,600 plus we also have to put in a new water pump, thermostat, plugs etc due to the engine swap, so now we are way over what we had originally planned.

I am out of time and have to move on these deals I mentioned above and my research is taking me down rabbit holes. At first I thought the V8 would be overkill and the wrong route to go for using it in mountains, but now I'm not so sure. I keep reading and reading and getting swayed back and forth. Advice on the best, yet cost effective route for replacing the engine and tranny and possibly other stuff would be GREATLY appreciated!! We are considering keeping this one though since it's going to get the whole shebang. If you have knowledgeable advice but not enough time to post then feel free to message me and I'll give you my number to call. Thanks so much!
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MountainManJoe
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Re: Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by MountainManJoe »

Baby steps, I think. Start with easy stuff since you're inexperienced. Sounds like you're trying to take huge bites.

Astrophysics
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Re: Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by Astrophysics »

Howdy,
Yes, keep the 2003 AWD for yourself. 2003 to 2005 have 16 " wheels, 6 lug, and disc brakes front and rear.

Just stick with 4.3 liter v6 engine. I think the v8swap guys have friends with lots of Mech skills.

The AWD transfer case is np136 which is a single speed TC. AWD is good in snow.
get motor and trans installed by shop, since it is not easy to pull motor from Astro van.

The Astro was built from 1985 to 2005 that is 20 years.
‘There are still lots of them around. 1996 to 2005 have the fancier front grille and bumper cover.

For future wish list parts for Astro, look at Journeys Off Road JOR, Mike in Prescott, AZ. He has lift kits, etc.

But first , gotta fix motor/trans ,

Happy New Year.

AP

Bret Schmerker
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Re: Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by Bret Schmerker »

:yikes: Looks as though ye need a whole new POWERTRAIN. My ideal engine for an outback CM11006 would be the V6-4300 from an S-10/Sonoma. I'm hunting for a new gearbox for my highway-only M11006 and have narrowed it down to the TREMEC® TR-3160B-CH and the MAGNA® PT 7MTI550, but both will require all sort o' mods to crossmembers and different-length propshafts; General Motors considered the stock 4L65-E good enough, and a reman will drop in. General Motors used the BORG X WARNER® 4472 on some years, the New Process 136 on other years; a reman will drop in, but I've tall requirements for a transfer case: My ideal would be an Advance Adapters® ATLAS® all-gear with 3:1 Low ratio and a split-T shifter, but the New Process 241OR may be good enough - either requires different-length propshafts. EATON® builds a Truetrac for the General Motors 7.563" axle, but I'd want a Currie® 9-Plus full-floater with a Truetrac or Electrac out back for the overall axle toughness - don't know whether Currie has 37:10 or 41:10 ring-and-pinion sets for the 1948 Ford 9" dropout to match the available IFS gears.
1997 GMC M11006 (Safari SLE, 2WD, V6-4300/4L60-E/7.625" 3.73:1 open)
Acquired Jul 2018 / In service Sep 2018 - present

Astrophysics
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Re: Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by Astrophysics »

Hi All,

Happy New Year.

Let’s get 2021 cranking on Astro updates.

AP

Astrophysics
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Re: Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by Astrophysics »

Howdy,

Light duty axles on Astro mean that we need to take it easy off road.
But Astro is a nice platform for a rugged camper type Overlander vehicle.

High priority updates:
a. 2" body lift with pucks. And rear leaf spring adjustable shackles. Journeys Off Road or Overland kit has front bumper relocation brackets also.
B. Rear 2" trailer hitch stiffens rear and provides good place for a recovery strap to be attached
C. LED dome light bulbs
D.

Topic author
cowgirlcullen
I am merely driving my van
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Re: Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by cowgirlcullen »

Thank you so much for the replies! So, I have some developments. I basically stole a brand new '99 V6 crate engine for $900! Without a core. I also got a tranny with 90k for $400 that was in excellent condition from a very reputable person. The engine currently sells for $2,500-3,000!! It has a bunch of upgrades too, although I'm still figuring out what all they are, but I will update once I learn more. We have decided to save this awesome engine and tranny for the perfect van (good body and interior and G80 and maybe 4:10 gears) and will probably just buy another engine and tranny for the van we have, which was also mentioned in my original post.

However, I think the goal now will be to fix up the van we have as best we can with the limited resources we have and to sell it and then find a van we can keep. Hopefully we can keep the costs to about $5k, but in addition to the engine and tranny it needs, we also want to do: a lift kit, window tint, big tires, stereo, paint the wheels black, and add a roof cargo rack. I actually found a cargo rack on Amazon for $200 that's 84"x39"x6" from a YouTube vid, which seems like a pretty darn good deal, especially since it just clips right into the roof rails - keeping a nice, low profile and avoiding additional equipment such as cross rails.

Anyway, if you'd like to see the van we bought, here is a link to the ad since I don't have any photos of it yet.
https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/it ... 573825600/
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markinnh
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Re: Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by markinnh »

The original roof racks on these were put on with rivnuts. You can buy the inserts on amazon then the tool there too. I bought the tool then found a site that sells the inserts cheaper then amazon and they are stainless steel. Then I took the rivnut insert to the local hardware store and bought stainless bolts so there is not rust. The factory rivnuts are steel and they do rust.

Topic author
cowgirlcullen
I am merely driving my van
I am merely driving my van
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Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2020 6:42 am
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How many wheels are on an Astro van? (4): 4

Re: Montana Newbie Needs Advice on New Engine, Torque Converter, Cam, & 4x4 vs AWD

Post by cowgirlcullen »

Welp, we did it again, bought another van lmao! We really caught the bug! Haven't even started work yet in the first one, but came across a deal too good to pass up, so now we also have a 98 Safari Mark 3 conversion 2wd. Thinking of doing a solid axel swap (SAS) to make it 4wd, but I barely know anything about that stuff so will have to look into it. Worst case, we'll just use it as a summer road trip cruiser. Has a blown head gasket, so at first we bought it for parts, still not sure yet if we'll fix it or part it out though.
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