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Old 04-22-2009, 06:49 AM   #1
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Engine / Tranny / GearVendor Time

Well the story begins. Airstream 1 finally said it was time for the heart transplant.

We weekended in Washington NC and I was just beginning my work week Monday when I heard some noise up front as I pulled into Greenville NC.

Some time later and with the excellent help of Ayden Diesel I knew my worst fears had come true. The harmonic balancer was toast. Though hanging and rattling it wasn't seized up yet.

I made the executive decision to roll home 245 miles and actually made it to Sumter late Monday.

Now we begin the complete power train swap with the 86 Suburban I purchased last year for the value of the GearVendor unit in it. I'll have to do a little head service on the donor but other than that it's in great shape.

On the list of things planned I wanted to hear from you all on any suggestions.

1. Service heads on replacement motor.
2. Replace water pump. (high flow option?)
3. Swap stock carb from original vs. Holley on donor.
4. Add phenolic spacer beneath the carb.
5. New motor mounts.
6. New hoses.
7. Explore replacement of fan clutch with electric fans.
8. Add transmission cooler.

I'm sure there is much more to consider but here we go.

As luck would have it I've found a good bunch of guys locally in Sumter who have the desire and ability to do the work. I just have to keep earning so I can sign the checks.

It should also be noted that the carpet in the coach will be changed out prior to hitting the road again. I'm working with my friends at Truline Greens and will be replacing the carpet with an indoor outdoor carpet used in their putting mats. The floor will role a true 10 on a stimp meter and I'm going to have a regulation hole ready to go into the floor just forward of the bulkhead. The end result is that Airstream 1 will emerge as a mobile putting studio / lab at the end of this saga. Stay tuned for photos and stories of this undertaking.

Ideas?
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Old 04-22-2009, 07:02 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GlenCoombe View Post
Well the story begins. Airstream 1 finally said it was time for the heart transplant.

We weekended in Washington NC and I was just beginning my work week Monday when I heard some noise up front as I pulled into Greenville NC.

Some time later and with the excellent help of Ayden Diesel I knew my worst fears had come true. The harmonic balancer was toast. Though hanging and rattling it wasn't seized up yet.

I made the executive decision to roll home 245 miles and actually made it to Sumter late Monday.

Now we begin the complete power train swap with the 86 Suburban I purchased last year for the value of the GearVendor unit in it. I'll have to do a little head service on the donor but other than that it's in great shape.

On the list of things planned I wanted to hear from you all on any suggestions.

1. Service heads on replacement motor.
2. Replace water pump. (high flow option?)
3. Swap stock carb from original vs. Holley on donor.
4. Add phenolic spacer beneath the carb.
5. New motor mounts.
6. New hoses.
7. Explore replacement of fan clutch with electric fans.
8. Add transmission cooler.

I'm sure there is much more to consider but here we go.

As luck would have it I've found a good bunch of guys locally in Sumter who have the desire and ability to do the work. I just have to keep earning so I can sign the checks.

It should also be noted that the carpet in the coach will be changed out prior to hitting the road again. I'm working with my friends at Truline Greens and will be replacing the carpet with an indoor outdoor carpet used in their putting mats. The floor will role a true 10 on a stimp meter and I'm going to have a regulation hole ready to go into the floor just forward of the bulkhead. The end result is that Airstream 1 will emerge as a mobile putting studio / lab at the end of this saga. Stay tuned for photos and stories of this undertaking.

Ideas?
Sounds good...maybe rename it the 19th hole? Sink in one and get a free beer

I would replace ALL seals and gaskets on the donor engine and possibly the freeze plugs. Easier to do now rather than later.

Aaron

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Old 04-22-2009, 08:22 AM   #3
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Not sure what GM used for rear crank shaft seals on the 86 gasser but on my 87 diesel they used asbestos rope and when I replaced it because it was leaking there was only 3/4 of an inch of material left.

You mentioned a Gear Vendor in the title but not in the text. I had one on my 87 Sub and with the 700r4 trans made a great tower.
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Old 04-22-2009, 09:14 AM   #4
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Glen---Good luck with your project---give us (those of us that have not done a heart transplant, but will) every detail. It will make our lives so much easier.

What are you doing for a transmission?--origional th475 (very strong), or from the doner---If from the doner, what is in it and what year is the doner.

I will be following this one closely and will have more questions and maybe even a suggestion or two.

Good luck Bob
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:20 PM   #5
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Hi Glen
I can give you a few experiences that I have a had with Electric fans and Gear Venders. I have found that the auto engineers designed cooling systems pretty well and they work. Not that I havent tried to reengeneer these systems. I built a 40 chev street rod with a mild 350 and turbo 350 and tried cooling with several different electric fans pulling air through the radiator. I installed a larger aftermaket rad. I could not keep the temp to maintain at a prolonged idel. I even had a switch to turn the fan on early to no avail. I was always watching the temp gauge! I had to raise the engene a few inches and installed a 7 blade flex fan and all of my over heating problems went away. I never had to watch the temp gauge again.
Here is another experience with cluch fans with my 78 f-250 with a 460. The cluch fan went out so I replaced it with a 7 blade flex fan and it seems to work but they a very noisy at higher rpms. the noise is one thing to consider.

Gear Vender overdrive: I installed one in our 1965 suburban with a 350, 350 turbo and 411 gears. This unit droped my crusing rpm by 700 and works very well. The plug a play system is simple the only thing to check is the gear ratio and tire diameter to get the correct speedo gear for the gear vender unit. The only problem I had was a vibration issue at 60 mph and above. After many hours messing with pinion angles and not solving the vibration issue I called Gear Venders and was instructed to place a hose clamp on the drive line up by the unit and clock it untill the vibration went away. This cure worked but not sure why this short shaft unit would vibrate.

This is my 2 cents worth and good luck it should work out to be a good combo. I know that is does not matter what the engeneers design we will always try to make it better or not. Thats what gives us all of our great experiences in life.
Dave
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:45 PM   #6
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I have a question here if I may.

You stated the Harmonic balancer was toast, Hanging and rattling, but not seized??

Curiosity got me on that one. Hormonic balancers mount to the crank, lower pulley's mount to that. Its job is top keep excessive vibration down/ balance the engine. They do go bad, mostly when used in a other then stock aplication. Sometimes in drag racing, when the engine is reved high the ring comes off. ( it is pressed on with rubber shims) In that case you would use a S.F.I. rated one for your aplication.

I am curious why didnt Ayden just simply replace it?? With the engine operating with out a balancer, it had to be one heck of a vibrating ride home. I am surrprised you made it. Good luck was on your side.

I do wish you luck with your engine swap. I might also reccomend a high volume Oil Pump in your new engine, and your water pump also. As far as cooling fans go. A thermo activated clutch fan, along with a electric fan for back up is what I would reccomend. Just make sure the electric fan, (whether mounted in front or behind the radiator) is moving the air the same way as the clutch fan. ( I have seen that mistake before) Along with the largest tranny cooler you can find. SOme of the better tranny coolers are also thermo controled, as the temp climbs they open more area in the cooler. Use the flat passages also.
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Old 04-22-2009, 09:55 PM   #7
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Let's see...

The heart / lung / leg donor is a 1986 Suburban that was actually built for the Texas Rangers as an overland pursuit vehicle.

It like the Airstream is a 454 TH475 but with the GearVendor. The tranny has a B&M kit in it and the carb is a Holley that will go away in favor of the stock Quadrajet.

Access to the harmonic balancer was the issue. They thought they would have to pull the rad to have enough room to do the job. It was too far from home to be logistically a good idea to do the job there so I took the chance and prayed.

In fact the old girl ran as good as ever on the way home. Found a sweet spot at about 64 mph and didn't move from the seat until I got home. At one point I had to slow down for construction and it caused me some high anxiety but the vibration was actually minimal. I was stiff and thirsty upon arrival but in one piece.

Good points about oil pump and tranny coolers.

All the normal stuff and then more will be checked and or replaced. Especially the rear main seal which is always suspect on the big blocks.

My thoughts on getting the fan off the motor is about the amount of engine it takes to drive the fan. Sort of like a/c and the amount of horsepower lost driving it.

Keep the ideas comming. This is heart lung transplant by committee though I have the final veto do to being the check signer.
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Old 04-22-2009, 10:51 PM   #8
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Glen, those exhaust manifolds are prone to leaking/cracking. Are you planning to replace with headers, new manifolds, or "it works, don't mess with it"?
Does either engine have an oil cooler?
I would replace all sensors/sending units with new ones, as well as the fuel pump. The gasket on the distributor is a "leak spot", it would be pretty inexpensive to replace it before installation.
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Old 04-23-2009, 06:44 AM   #9
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Terry, I've had Headman headers and Flowmaster 70's on the coach since very early on. I can't imagine why anyone would keep the old cast iron manifolds when exhaust is so important to the breathing of the engine.
Oh, and I do like the big round sound of my easy breathing exhaust system.
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Old 04-23-2009, 10:47 AM   #10
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It sounds like you got it together. The reason I reccomended the thermo clutch for the fan, is it would only be in when hot, or as needed. ( temp to high) The H.P. taken is minimal, but there is some. I dont know which A/C you use while rolling down the road but if you ever get stuck in a hot weather, and a traffic jam, the electric is a good back up to cycle on and off. In the event of your alternator over heating, and possible failure, relieing on the elctric fan is just another draw you may wish you didnt have.

Obviously these are all argueable points, Just throwin out food for thought.

Good luck
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Old 04-23-2009, 09:04 PM   #11
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Mustang, your points are well taken. Everything has a trade off. The more I do to reduce HP drag on the motor the more I load up on the alternator which takes more HP. It's a vicious cycle.
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Old 04-23-2009, 09:52 PM   #12
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Glen,

Just a thought about the cam in the donor 454. I could be wrong but there is a good possibility the cam in the donor 454 won't have the same torque curve as the one currently in your motorhome. Having the right cam makes a huge difference in how these motorhomes perform on the road.

In the 454 engine we're building for our 20' Argosy motorhome I looked at a lot of different cams and settled on a comp cams unit that had a lot of torque in the 1000 to 4000 rpm range. I've also installed an Edelbrock Performer 2 intake along with an Edelbrock Performer carburetor.

Just something to consider. I'd hate for you to get it all done only to find out the cam had the wrong torque curve.

Good luck and keep us posted!

Brad
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Old 04-23-2009, 10:20 PM   #13
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Rivet Edelbrock Gets My Vote Every Time

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Glen,

Just a thought about the cam in the donor 454. I could be wrong but there is a good possibility the cam in the donor 454 won't have the same torque curve as the one currently in your motorhome. Having the right cam makes a huge difference in how these motorhomes perform on the road.

In the 454 engine we're building for our 20' Argosy motorhome I looked at a lot of different cams and settled on a comp cams unit that had a lot of torque in the 1000 to 4000 rpm range. I've also installed an Edelbrock Performer 2 intake along with an Edelbrock Performer carburetor.

Just something to consider. I'd hate for you to get it all done only to find out the cam had the wrong torque curve.

Good luck and keep us posted!

Brad
Brad had good points. I would pick the Edelbrock Performer carburetor over a Holley or even the stock Quadrajet (which I think is one of the finest carbs ever produced) because the standards of production are so much higher. They are (were at the time of my last purchase) based on the Carter AFB and built by Webber USA. Beautiful, precision pieces of work. Easy to tune using metering rods vs./in addition to jets. Using metering jets meant that you could change the tuning without removing anything but a small (very small secured with 1 screw), mount vs. the top of the carb or screws into the float bowls and changing rods.

All of the shafts are in bronze bushings. Long life materials. Another bonus is that "Dissembly does NOT (emphasis theirs) void the warranty."

What more can you ask for?
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Old 04-24-2009, 07:14 AM   #14
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What I'd really like to find is a cam/ carb / intake set up that is low end specific on torque and economical in the 2000-2800 range as this is the operating rpm of my coach.

Remember the 28' Funeral Coach was built without the overhead cabinetry and big water/holding tanks of some of the "campers" of the same length.

The back end is bare and I've even removed a front club seat arrangement.

It's all about economy while cruzin' down the highway.

Low end torque gets you moving without excessive gas pedal mashing and an economical end result in the 2200-2600 range would be the best end result.
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