Project GRUMLINER !
1982 Grumman 14' Step Van with 8" top extension - 157" wheelbase P30 Chassis - 350 Chevy - TH400 - 16' Rubber - 660 cubic Feet of space
I just can't stop getting into new projects... As I get older, they sure do seem to get harder !. After spending the last few years attending various tractor shows and swap meets sleeping in the back of my little Astro van, I knew I had to get back into another step van. The traditional motor home never excited me much.... inferior materials, inferior construction, inferior designs all add up to body maintenance nightmares like rotted floors and leaky roofs.
An older Grumman Step Van makes a remarkable "do everything" rig. Sure, some point out that they are terrible on fuel economy and are hard to handle in the wind. What ? ... a similar era motorhome isn't ? Har ! This is my third Grumman van, and it is the same length and wheelbase as my first one. This one is a 1982, and has the 350cu Chevy small block and TH400 transmission. Some might argue that I should have a diesel in it. Well, if I was traveling many thousands of miles per year, perhaps. We've got a 16' Grumman at the shop with the 4BT Cummins in it. Yes, it will get 20mpg. Amazing ! But you CANT STAND THE AMOUNT OF VIBRATION AND NOISE in that thing ! Add to that, if, say, the turbo 'went out'.... it would cost as much as a new 350 small block engine !
On a sad note, many of these fine trucks are being chopped up for the aluminum now, especially those with the 4BT's. People yank the engines for their "rock crawlers" and cut up the body. Rumor is that the body weighs 100lbs per running foot on the low roof models, slightly more for the extended top models like this one. Unlike many other step van body manufacturers, these particular trucks have virtually NO steel in them except the drivers forward floor area. Other manufacturers have sprinkled steel reinforcements here and there in order to eliminate the use of costly extrusions.
The aluminum body was/is near perfect, though I think I caught the frame just in time. This one stood for a year or two and that is generally tough on the frame. I have spent hours underneath with the needle scaler and wire cup brush on the grinder. I used rust converter products on the outside of the main rails (because it turned it black), then simply soaked it all down with Fluid-Film to slow down additional corrosion in the cracks and crevices. I was not "restoring" the undercarriage,,, just saving it.
When it came to my exterior body goals, they were simple. Keep the truck looking "commercial".... but with just enough "bling" added to convey some of the attractions typically added to your average Class 8 truck.
To get it this far, I had to:
Typical mechanical work... brake lines, fuel lines, U-joints, brake work. Basic everyday stuff you'd have to do on a 30 year old rig.
Lower it. I had to pull a bunch of leaf springs and cut the front coils. This truck stood about 3" higher in the front and 5" higher in the back than it is now. The front was simple... Cut one full coil off. The rear has been an ongoing "event". Initially, I took 6 leaves from each side out of the truck. This got close to what I was looking for, but as I added an interior, it settled as I suspected it would. So, I added one leaf back in to bring it back up a touch. The top overload springs ended up with only an inch of clearance to the frame mounts, so in order to stop them from slapping all the time, I flattened them out the old fashioned way with a 20 ton H press and a few hundred wacks with a big hammer on my anvil. It's real close to where I want it to ride right now.... I can just slide under the truck... it probably averages 13" alomng that bottom edge of the body. Sadly, I'm still not carrying a final "load". The truck has a 21 gallon fresh water tank, a 10 gallon hot water system, a 9 gallon porta-potty and a 39 gallon grey waste tank. This will add near 1000lbs if they are full. The truck scaled at 6400lbs empty... I have not scaled it loaded up yet.
I've had the leaf packs out many times already... I'm sure I will deal with them a few more times before I am done. Eventually, I do plan to put the rear on large air bags, but for now, this will do. It currently rides pretty decent, though I need to cut some of the front bump stops off yet.
The upper rear corners had some ugly aluminum vents cut into the body. After tossing around a few nights thinking about attempting to TIG them shut, I switched focus to just putting in some White RV windows and covering them with white perf vinyl to help them blend in. Iwould have preferred no windows, or perhaps windows but not there.... but they are now part of the deal. I'm living with it.
Two 2" holes cut in each side of the middle of the body to allow access to an old propane tank valve became two mid body LED turn signals.
You can see near the roof line on the drivers side that there are three polished aluminum brackets that hold my 17' x 10' "swap meet" style awning. I tend to PLAN on it raining at events.... the awning is always the first thing up and I have a full wrap enclosure when necessary. I usually draw LARGE crowds on rainy days !
There was a large patch on the drivers side ahead of the rear wheels. This was for access to the frame mount propane tank that was no longer there. Rather than fight tig work and painting, I cut in an appropriate sized gargo door and built an aluminum box behind it for jack storage, blocking, jumper cables, water system pump, etc.
Swap out the painted Mirror brackets for stainless ones
Polish the door entry diamond plates
Add new traditonal Alcoa style wheels. Sure... I would LOVE to have enough money to put this thing on 22" wheels and put it in the weeds. That costs serious money... money I dont have !
You can not see from these photo angles, but the roof was without holes... until I had to put some in. I put in a large escape hatch style rear vent, a 16" square vent in the bathroom and I had to put the holding tank vent up there too. That will not be the end of it though. I see the need for a permanent TV antenna and likely a future solar panel or two.
The rear bumper had the kidneys on the sides. I removed it at least temporarily because you just can't get a decent hitch mounted with that big aluminum step hanging out, and I had to pull a trailer. I ran my last 14' truck without a rear bumper and never got hassled, though, I think I am going to go to the DMV for RV plates on this one, and I bet during inspection, they are going to demand I have one. So, I have cut the kidneys off, and made it slide into the receiver hitch. When I need a bumper, I slide it in. When I pull a trailer, I dont need it.
This truck came with the full barn doors. I was not initially in love with them because of the interior plans. My last truck had the 38" wide double doors and I wasn't thrilled with them either because I could not get any tractors inside when I wanted to. My other truck ( I have a 12 foot body Grumman too) has the 54" roll up door and I dislike that too because of the rattles, the air leaks and the lack of headroom. I always DID dream of a ramp door, and I pulled out all the stops to just convert the existing components to work as one. I love it ! It took some engineering... I had to reinforce the door internally. I had to add the garage door style cable drums, shaft and lift system. I used some old garage door parts and it worked out very well. I used the original style handles and internal mechanicals (new ones) for the latch mechanisms. I did make new "pawls" to engage the UHMW strips on each side.
The last thing I added was the extrusion across the top to tie the two old doors together a bit better. Once painted, it should fit in better. The door had been peppered full of holes over the years and will come off next year for a complete paint job. Inside, the whole of the mechanism is enclosed with a wood cabinet/box. Eventually, I will add a gear motor to make open and closing possible via remote control.
When I go to a swap meet now, I can drop the ramp to unload stuff, but I can also prop it up parallel with the ground to be a patio. I made a screen to go into the main opening and will eventually also make a full "extenda-room" to fit which will make for a lot more interior space when used.
One more thing to take care of next year is that the rear lights are all too high. Ya, I put them there... BEFORE I ventured into the ramp door project. I wanted to use the factory hinges, but I do not like that the hinges lay over the top of the outer two tail lights. I hope to rework the entire back to look correct/modern/professional.
Yet to do outside ? Permanent TV antenna, Solar panel(s), Cool seal the roof, Replace side windows with permanent smoke tint glass, Chrome front bumper (two full size chevy van bumpers spliced accordingly) HELLA headlamps, minor clearance lighting additions,
On to the Interior >>>