Old School or New School?

The first thing you have to decide is carbureted or fuel injected, and believe me, the electronics issues are the squirreliest issues you will run into and the only thing I had real problems with.

Myself, I
love Carbs, there is nothing like hearing the roar of those secondaries kick in on a 4 Barrel when you put your foot to the firewall. I also like simplicity, I've had enough with computers with my wife's vehicles and my newer vans. I Have never been stranded with a mechanical problem with any of my vans that were carbed that I could not repair right there but have been roadsided twice with weird puter issues."They" say with fuel injection you get better winter starts, I debate this, I'm from Upstate NY, a place that wins snowfall contests, where mere cars dissapear under snow banks leaving only vans , snowplows and telephone poles sticking up,and all my carbed vans have always started.

Of course I'm anal retentive when it comes to filters and tuneups so maybe it's just me. Fuel injection gets slightly better mileage but when you are basically pushing a big box through the air the differrence is intangible, plus , if you're looking for good mileage a van is not the way to go to begin with.

If you are set on fuel injection you need read no further unless you would like to read just for the heck of it because I went Old School, I have no advice on installing a fuel injected V-8 but I will refer you to a couple of fine places that
do have good advice.

Choosing the Van

The newer the Van, the more electronics you will have, plus more expense, more grief.and frustration. I bought the newest van my bucks would buy, Mistake one.

Astros came with 4 cylinders in the early years( absolute crap and thankfully rare) and then V-6s, both carbed and fuel injected. If you buy an older Astro I advise buying one that came with a V-6. The 700r4 4 speed auto trannies in the 85-86 models were prone to problems, and should be avoided, plus most of the tranny rebuild and mod kits are for 87's and newer , another point to consider.

87-91 are good years to shoot for, the only real differences in the way Astros looked from start of production until the 2nd Gens came out in 95 were doghouses and dashes but the drivetrains and electronics changed
a lot.

By staying within these years you will have the advantages of a 4 speed auto, the 700r4 ,and avoid dealing with the newer 4 speed autos, the 4l60es and 4l80es, because contrary to what
anyone may tell you they will not work without either the original computer and related sensors to run them or very expensive aftermarket control systems. ( More on that later) They will not shift, the torque convertors will not lock, the trannies default to 1st,2nd, and reverse. .No third or 4th.Period . Someone gave me bad advice on this and it cost me over 2 grand to solve,and I was too far in to go another way.Am I pissed off? Just try to imagine how much.lol.

Earlier Astros also used cable driven speedos, later models used vehicle speed sensors,(VSS) a sensor ( basically a rotor spinning in an electric winding) in the tailshaft sending a modulated signal to the speedo head. Might be a fine idea, but sadly, if your early model Astro has a cable driven speedo in the dash your later model tranny will not run it and vica versa. You can get around this, but again, a lot of money to solve a problem best avoided to begin with.

You can do it, sorta, but we're not covering that here

You can use a 700R4 transmission in a late model 4l60/80e equipped Astro using a TV cable and torque convertor lockup kit but as noted above you will lose your electronic speedometer and will have to use another speedo, find a mechanical to VSS adapter, really expensive and I haven't found one yet that will convert the pulses the Astro produces. ( or you could just calculate your speed with a tach, been there, done that.lol).

I plan on going with the 700r4 eventually as I hate being dependent on the TCI computer to shift my tranny but I have so much invested in the TCI tranny puter and periphials its not happening until next year. I am not covering going that way until I actually do it myself and post the facts on how to do it,like I said earlier in the saga, I'm only posting what I
know will work because I've made it work, myself, not what I've heard will work..

You Have a Van, Now,You Need an Engine

Ah, now we come to decisions again, I've heard of people stuffing a big block in an Astro but we won't deal with that here,we will go with the standard Astro fave, the 350 V-8, . If you are getting a used engine I advise getting a 87 to 95.Why those years when 30 odd years of Chevy V-8's will fit? More on that in the next topic.

305s are 350s with smaller heads and softer cams,reason enough to go with a 350 if you can.They mount the same and use the same accessories so either will do but the savings in gas between the two are nigh on invisible and I have had less problems with 350s.

I had to choose between new and used, I had a used 350 but wanted it freshly rebuilt,I saw no sense putting a tired V-8 engine in to replace a perfectly good V-6. After pricing out the machine shop services, boring, magnafluxing, head work, etc and getting my parts list together I realized I was rapidly approaching the cost of a new engine but still would have to do all the work putting the damn thing together.So, I went new, I chose the Mr Goodwrench 350 4 Bolt GM Part #10067353, about 1500 bucks, just a little cheaper then what my 350 rebuild was going to cost and I got a new block and a warranty to boot!

Two of Murphy's Laws came into effect here:
If it looks too good to be true it probably is .


If things seem to be going well you have obviously overlooked something. Next: We cover Why.

Next: Serpentine or Individual Belts and Why Your Year of Engine WILL Matter

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