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Looking for a diesel project

4331 Views 12 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  alexrex20
I've been looking for a good project that I can drive up to Utah in and if needed sleep inside it. Something like a volkswagen van but one that is a little more modern and reliable.

Heres what I'm looking for,

diesel motor
good fuel economy, at least 25mpg
good room inside for bikes and bunks

A mini van or small cargo van would be perfect but I cant really find one in diesel flavor. I have some friends with a trailer they use for racing that got me thinking. It has room for bikes on the left and two bunks on the right but no windows, water, or electric inside and it needs a truck to pull it. Why diesel? I guess I want to do the bio diesel bit or try the WVO system.

Some likely candidates
1987 Chevy Surburban diesel, max 20mpg

Borat Ice Cream truck? hahahahaha
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Vanagon diesel?

Engine reliability is way better than that crappy boxer gasoline engine, since its basically the classic rabbit motor, plus its very accepting of the newer turbo diesel engines.... or a newer gasoline inline 4cyl (Golf, GTi, Jetta, etc) engine since the mounting is all the same. Also, VW diesels are easily convertible to biodiesel.

I have some friends who bought a diesel early 90's Toyota Land Cruiser out of Canada and brought it down. Not sure what they had to do to register it here, tho. They run it on biodiesel.

I've also seen Ford Econoline diesels out there, as well as Chevy and Dodge. Might be harder to find, but they were popular with contractors.
I'm prettty sure the Volkswagen Eurovans were available in TDI form.
you just described a sprinter:

if you're good with the windowless cargo van version, used ones can be had for under $10k.
stay away from the old Chevy diesels. they were non-turbo torque-less pieces of crap that were about as unreliable as an engine could get. they were effectively a gas engine converted to a diesel.

what is your budget? what is the extent of your mechanical/automotive abilities?

for your criteria, i would look for a Ford E350 van with the Power Stroke Diesel. they are capable of 25mpg, but will easily do 20mpg. gut the interior and you have plenty of space for your bikes and bunks.

because they're typically commercial vehicles, you will also be able to find them for very cheap.

not the prettiest vehicle, but they get the job done, have F-seres underpinnings so parts availability won't be an issue if you have a breakdown halfway across the country, in the middle of nowhere. and if you ever decide to pull a trailer behind it, it has plenty of power to get you up those Utah mountains.
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The Sprinter that popoff recommended above is sold in the US as a Dodge Sprinter. they're also a good option, which uses the very reliable Chrysler CRD (common rail diesel).
If you are looking for a project, project. Then go find an early 4cyl dodge/chrysler mini van and swap in a VW diesel engine. The swap is really easy. Go to youtube and search davidsfarm. He has a few how to videos of how to do it. And of course a google search has 1000s of pages of people doing it them selves. And a few places make kits (engine/trans mounts, etc)
throw a 4BT into a Landcruiser :thumbsup:
ford excursions are also cheap these days, and can get 20mpg.

if you're into swaps, a 4BT Land Cruiser is the tits, but i'd prefer a Duramax Suburban :D
Good ideas all around. Hmmm, not sure the sprinter is in the budget. There is a gas vanagon for sale pretty cheap. I really dont want to do an engine swap but I guess that would put me where I want to be. Where could I find a diesel engine for it? Craigslist?

Does anyone have experience with the old 6.2L chevy diesels? Alexrex you seem to have some history with them. I'm not after torque or hp here, but reliability and cheap parts are a must. The diesel suburbans are real common in Texas and there's plenty of spares. I'm not sure how the ford unit is different in reliability.
Id throw a 4bt or a p7100 6bt cummins in a burb.

6.2 while a decent engine for a 1/2 ton truck have no business pushing anything heavy around.

Honestly, for reliabilty and cheap parts a 12v cummins or a 4bt (they share the same parts, just the 4bt has 2 less cylinders) is the olny way to go, the 12v is like the 350 of the gasser world, came in everything, cheap as dirt, and can find parts for it everywhere. And they get great fuel mileage and can be turned up with a screw driver.
a 65 intl scout with a 4bt would be tight, I wonder what kind of mpg I could expect, should be at least 20mpg
if a sprinter is not in the budget, then surely a 65 scout with a 4bt swap is not either - if you want to do it right.

also, the scout doesn't exactly have the space you need to sleep and store bikes.

like bh10 said, the cummins 6bt/4bt is like the SBC350 of the diesel world. but they weigh as much as a compact car and are ginormous dimensionally. instead of swapping one into a toyota or scout or whatever, i recommend just buying a mid/late 90s 12-valve Cummins Dodge 2500, put a sleeper top on the back of it, and call it a day.

the 6.2 diesel Chevy is as unreliable as an engine could possibly get. avoid it at all costs.
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