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Old 04-17-2017, 03:23 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Creepy Van - '95 Ford E150 Cargo
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Creepy White Van - E150 Build

I had been looking for a car hauler/construction supplies hauler/bike hauler for a while, and almost ended up with a used Honda Fit. But with my hobbies building old Mustangs and racing Miatas, I really needed a do-it-all car and a Fit just can't haul 4x8s, carry big blocks or tow a 5000lb trailer. Although a pickup might end up more aerodynamic with a proper tapered tonneau cover, it's just impractical in Floriduh where it rains nearly every day from April to October. So when the company closed an office I bought the old 1995 E-150 for $500, with only 31,000 miles!!! Unfortunately it has pretty much the worst efficiency combination of 4.9L inline six + 3spd C6 transmission. Indestructible, but horrible BSFC and lots of power dissipated in the transmission means that I'll definitely be limited on my final highway MPG, even if I were drafting in the middle of a semi truck convoy. With that in mind, I'm working on improving the aerodynamics and engine/tranny efficiency the best I can without compromising the utility of the vehicle. Here's my current no-compromise list:

1) Must be able to tow 5000lb or more. This will require a large hitch hanging off the back, which is probably horrible for aerodynamics.
2) Must be able to carry 1000lb or more. As with the towing capacity, this will mean big honkiní tires with high load ratings. Thatís a rolling resistance and aerodynamic compromise, but itís necessary.
3) Must keep the ability to carry 4x8s flat in the back, preferably 4x10s.
4) Doors must be able to open fully (about 90 degrees) to allow backing up to loading docks, forklift dumps into the bed, etc.
5) Must improve blind spot vision. Even with the stock 3-point towing mirrors you can fit a truck in the blind spot, not to mention a Miata, motorcycle or a bike.
6) Without a doubt the handling must improve, right now itís like driving a 5000lb pig wallowing in mud.
7) Cannot use a trailer-based tail, itís already so long that itís tough to park.

Initial plans are for:
1) Replace the huge 3-point mirrors with later year stock paddle mirrors (with blind spot mirror) and possibly passenger side camera and small spot mirror.
2) Side skirts to fill the huge gaps.
3) Improved headlights and DRLs over the OEM 4x6Ē sealed beams.
4) Adding anti-roll bars to front and rear. The CG is relatively low in this van, but it came stock with no front or rear barsÖyikes!
5) Replace stock 225/75/15 tires with higher load + larger diameter in back (lower cruising RPM) and wider/lower profile in front (better handling).
6) Full belly pan
7) Rear skirting around the hitch Ė possibly extending the bumper to smooth airflow
8) Front airdam
9) Remove FM antennas and use an internal glass-mount or whip antenna
10) Weight reduction (if possible) though itís not a critical factor. Itís already over 5000lb, so a 100lb savings is only 2%
11) Electric fan replacement for hydraulic/viscous fan head
12) Eliminate bizarre air pump system for simplicity. If it eventually kills the cat Iíll just buy a new one for $65.
13) Exhaust change to 3Ē from 2.25Ē, probably a cat-back setup.
14) Stiffer rear springs and/or helper springs to improve load carrying capacity
15) Rear partial shell taper, keeping in mind 90 degree door opening requirement

And yes, the van's nickname really is "Creepy White Van" or "Creeper Van." The van had some mold growing on the side when I bought it, and friend of mine was so kind as to write "FREE CANDY" on the side in 4 foot tall letters. I had to pressure wash them off...but the name stuck!

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Old 04-17-2017, 05:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlyn2220 View Post
2) Must be able to carry 1000lb or more. As with the towing capacity, this will mean big honkiní tires with high load ratings. Thatís a rolling resistance and aerodynamic compromise, but itís necessary.
3) Must keep the ability to carry 4x8s flat in the back, preferably 4x10s.
4) Doors must be able to open fully (about 90 degrees) to allow backing up to loading docks, forklift dumps into the bed, etc.
6) Without a doubt the handling must improve, right now itís like driving a 5000lb pig wallowing in mud.
7) Cannot use a trailer-based tail, itís already so long that itís tough to park.
I would think the stock spec tires would already be enough to handle 1000 lb payload, shouldn't they? The vans I worked on all had 80 PSI truck tires. A box cavity may work for you, super easy to make, super easy to remove, doesn't have to be long, and should work just fine by mounting it on the rear doors.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlyn2220 View Post
13) Exhaust change to 3Ē from 2.25Ē, probably a cat-back setup.
14) Stiffer rear springs and/or helper springs to improve load carrying capacity
15) Rear partial shell taper, keeping in mind 90 degree door opening requirement
If you are going for low end torque, upping the exhaust size significantly is not the best decision. Stiffer rear springs may increase understeer, you will have to decide that for yourself after the sway bar installs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlyn2220 View Post
And yes, the van's nickname really is "Creepy White Van" or "Creeper Van." The van had some mold growing on the side when I bought it, and friend of mine was so kind as to write "FREE CANDY" on the side in 4 foot tall letters. I had to pressure wash them off...but the name stuck!
Loving the name already!

Check the wheel bearings and suspension components right away. Heavy vehicles like vans tend to kill wheel bearings. Your wallowing problem could be a shock/strut problem, they may be leaking or blown out. No anti-roll bars sounds fun . After you put new roll bars in you should assess the state of handling, if it is still unsatisfactory, then you should take further action.

These charts have been ever so useful for suspension tuning in Forza:

Understeer: How to recognise and control understeer
Oversteer: Oversteer - what is it, and how to control it
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Old 04-17-2017, 07:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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That engine / transmission combination is the largest limit to your gas mileage. You might consider replacing with a small block Chevy in front of the six speed manual transmission from a late model Chevrolet Colorado. That transmission has the widest ratio range I've heard of. With the right rear axle ratio, first gear is low enough to get any load started, and sixth is enough overdrive to keep any hypermiler happy.
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Old 04-17-2017, 07:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Creepy Van - '95 Ford E150 Cargo
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The stock spec tires were either 225/75/15 or 235/75/15, neither of which would ever give me a chance of decent handling, even at 80psi. The tires that came with it were somewhat dry-rotted and not even XL or XLT tires, they were barely rated for the front axle weight (~2600lb) and rear weight (~2000lb). I did some opportunistic shopping on Amazon and Walmart, and ended up with:

285/70/27 General Grabber HTS LRR on American Racing 172 rims in 17x9 - 3200lb @ 65psi
245/45/20 BFG Comp2 A/S on 20x9 Deegan 38 rims - 2000lb @ 50psi

I've thought about a box cavity for the back, and am not sure that I could get enough depth to make it truly functional. It's tough to back up out of parking spots, even with a truly 180 degree rear camera. I'd have to keep any addition at less than about 1 foot, which is probably not enough to make a significant improvement. I've been playing around with a rear shell, so I will post pictures shortly.

The overall state of suspension is actually pretty good for a 22 year old van, probably because it rarely carried cargo and only has about 45k miles. The bushings look pretty good, the brakes are in pretty good shape (original pads and rotors!) and the shocks are certainly "acceptable" even if they don't have a good mix of fast/slow rebound. But it's not a Miata racecar... I have 1-3/8" front and 1-1/4" rear Hellwig sway bars on the way from SDTrucksprings, and will see if anything else needs to change after that install. I thought about a 1-1/2" rear, but I'd rather tune towards heavy understeer than accidentally end up with more lift-throttle-oversteer than I already have. With a 60/40 F/R weight distribution and the engine way out front, I definitely don't want oversteer!

The wheel bearings "seem okay" but I haven't repacked them yet. I'll definitely add that to my list!
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Old 04-17-2017, 07:44 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Does it have barn doors on the side or a slider? Either way there are a lot of vans out there with windows there. Pretty easy swap that really helps vision, same with the back doors. My 300/c4 got 18 mpg at 55 mph empty, it got about 12 at 80 mph. That's as fast as it would go, it was a 76 that I put a small Carter 2 barrel carb off a 318 on. My brother bought it new and we finally sold it in 91.
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Old 04-17-2017, 08:23 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Creepy Van - '95 Ford E150 Cargo
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Here's my fuel log and notes, I'll update as needed:

3/29/16: 12.42
4/12/16: 13.94
5/26/16: 14.17
5/06/16: 13.94
5/20/16: 13.59
6/10/16: 13.02
7/05/16: 13.67
7/21/16: 13.97
8/15/16: 12.90 - battery died so it's way off
8/25/16: 13.58 - new 285/70/17 rear tires with corrected calibration
9/07/16: 13.69
9/14/16: 14.33 - replaced driver's mirror with 2003+ aero version
9/21/16: 13.97 - pulled passenger mirror, added camera + blindspot
9/30/16: 14.33 - fixed tire pressures to 47F/50R from 37&42/37&50
10/05/16: 15.46 - Added most of driver's front tire flare
10/30/16: 15.35 - Finished driver's front tire flare
11/10/16: 14.16 - Finished driver's bellypan axle-axle big drop!!!
11/17/16: 13.45 - lots of idling during 50 mile relay running race
12/13/16: 13.79 - Replaced dead fuel pump 12/10
1/02/17: 13.24 - New 245/45/20 front tires, finished straight shell 12/28
1/10/17: 13.60
1/20/17: 13.68 - Finished larger driver's front flare
2/06/17: 13.10 - Finished basic driver's side skirt - horrible mpg while building
2/14/17: 14.56 - Flare done with some cosmetic defects
2/24/17: 14.02 - Added huge rear hitch, noticeably tougher on highway
3/10/17: 13.66 - Finished driver's behind wheel-to-bumper - worse!
3/20/17: 13.70 - Carved up rear shell to add taper - probably too much taper
3/28/17: 14.36 - Without center of rear top
4/03/17: 14.44 - With new center rear top including easy taper
4/13/17: 14.31 - Increased tire pressure from 35F/45R to 50F/60R
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Old 04-17-2017, 08:53 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Creepy Van - '95 Ford E150 Cargo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMichler View Post
That engine / transmission combination is the largest limit to your gas mileage.
I am sure you are right, but initially I'm just looking to improve the rounded-brick aerodynamics. With all of my other expensive hobbies, I can't afford to do an engine replacement. But I can waste a lot of time and a little $$ with bondo and styrofoam!
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Old 04-18-2017, 05:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Creepy Van - '95 Ford E150 Cargo
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<snip> Moved to Aerodynamics forum thread.

Last edited by Merlyn2220; 04-27-2017 at 09:59 AM..
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Old 04-18-2017, 09:43 PM   #9 (permalink)
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tires

I'd avoid the General grabber tires or just about any Generals. I bought 6 for my van 245 75 r-16 80psi and all of them have serious runout. I ended up buying 2 extra because I thought 2 were bad. The wet/dry traction are good and so is wear, but at any speeds over 60 to 65 they start to get rough. To give you an idea how poorly built these tires are, I run Bridgestone Snows in winter and they have 1/4 the balance weight of the Generals. I had this same problem with some of thier 50 series V- speed rated tires for our VW VR-6 Jetta. Thier snow tires, however are made in Germany by Conti, and I have had several sets that are qutie good.
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Old 04-19-2017, 09:10 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Creepy Van - '95 Ford E150 Cargo
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I waffled a lot on the Generals, just due to the company's really bad reputation. But the Grabber HTS 60 has a fairly good review from the autocross guys at Tirerack, and generally good customer reviews too. So when I found them at $89ea on a size closeout, I figured it would be worth trying them. I have about 8500 miles on them and they balanced out well, drive quiet and have good traction in wet and dry. I haven't driven them in a typical Floriduh torrential downpour yet, but summer is almost here!

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