4x4 Van (OT ish)


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A pile of dirt.
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 12, 2014 - 08:41pm PT
Just bought one - will post build pictures as I get to work on it....

Her name is Beluga aka the white whale!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Feb 12, 2014 - 09:14pm PT
Welcome my fellow leisure craft climate warming fuel guzzling camper vanner!

What model, if you please?


A pile of dirt.
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2014 - 09:16pm PT
97 Ford E150, Salem Kroger 4x4, 64k miles 4.6 v8.

Much work to be done - currently removing interior and about to start sorting out electrical for interior.

Bought it a week and a half ago and it's had it maiden yosemite voyage already.


And stoked to be out of the Tacoma and in Beluga :)
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Feb 12, 2014 - 09:17pm PT


Feb 12, 2014 - 11:37pm PT
Nice, don't have a link, but Mister E's work on his rig was damned inspiring. I mean, mobile art kind of inspiring. It's enough to make me not want to take on a project like that myself, no way I could ever measure up. Keep us in the loop with some photos.

Good luck!

Boulder climber
Feb 13, 2014 - 12:07am PT
64k miles
'baby' beluga -- nice score on your part. Our only car is a '90 civic I bought for $600 about 5 years ago. It is approaching 200 k with no signs of letting up.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Feb 13, 2014 - 12:14am PT
Here's my 4x4 gas guzzler. 1997 Chevy Express van, Jayco conversion. Bought it 10 years ago with 37,000 miles, now it's got about 75,000 miles. It weights 8,500 pounds and gets a whopping 11 MPG. If you don't have a crank-out awning, you gotta get one installed.
My 4x4 van
My 4x4 van
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat


Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Feb 13, 2014 - 12:18am PT
and gets a whopping 11 MPG.

But worth every MPG I bet...
Juan Maderita

Trad climber
"OBcean" San Diego, CA
Feb 13, 2014 - 03:47am PT
Congratulations Kev. 4x4 vans are great! I see that you finally pulled the trigger after thinking about vans way back in 2011. I'm on my third Ford 4x4 van. Your 4.6L option should give the best mileage of the gas engines.

Does the Beluga have a leaf spring front suspension? From what I gather, most of Salem Kroger's conversions were leaf sprung, although they did make some with coil springs. I heard that SK went out of business. There's a very knowledgeable and helpful parts guy in Utah. You may need Gordon. office: 385-202-7176, cell: 801-915-1402 pathfinder4x4vans@gmail.com
Most of your conversion parts should be Ford and Dana/Spicer, but getting the correct parts takes some research. Does your van have a front Dana 44 or Dana 60 axle?

There are a few threads here on ST about vans and 4x4 vans. Some good info and several 4x4 van owners. Hit us up for info. If you plan to offroad the Beluga, I can help with info on mods for the dirt.

Trad climber
Feb 13, 2014 - 09:21am PT
Very cool, I have been looking to get a van and seriously considering a 4x4 but have been a bit concerned about the MPG on the longer trips.
Any idea what you are getting yet?

I came across an E350 with a Quigley 4WD conversion. It has the 5.4L engine and the guy claims it gets 14-18 MPG but have a hard time believing that.

Any feedback on the conversions, are they any good?

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Feb 13, 2014 - 11:24am PT
Kev stole this thing.

The rig is in excellent condition.

The envy of our crew.

frank wyman

Mountain climber
Feb 13, 2014 - 11:32am PT
Correct me if I'm wrong, The 4x4 vans we had in oil exploration awhile back always had problems because there was no flex in the body, you know like the area between the cab and the bed of a truck. maybe it was just us oil guys beating the hell out of them...

A pile of dirt.
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2014 - 01:23pm PT
Yup an awning is on the list but there's much to do first.

As far as mileage goes I'm getting 16ish if I stay out of the pedal.
I've been happily surprised with the 4.6's power as well.


Yesterday I actually spoke with Craig who used to be with SK before they went out of business. He's going to give me all the info he can. He has since started whitefeather conversions - converting sprinters to 4x4 (for 20k a pop - wow). I've also spoken with Gordon at Pathfinder vans - super nice and helpful as well. It's got a Dana 44 front end. I will definitely ping you as for info though - thanks!

Frank - I suspect the oil guys might have beat the crap out of them - In all my research I haven't heard of the frame issue you speak of.
Juan Maderita

Trad climber
"OBcean" San Diego, CA
Feb 13, 2014 - 11:56pm PT
I'm curious about the problems due to lack of flex in the body. Recently found a small crack in the sheetmetal on the side of my van which I suspect is due to the lack of flex in the extended body E350 "Super Van."
Were they developing cracks in the body, glass popping out, or what?

Climber Dave,
Are you asking specifically about Quigley 4x4 conversions?
They seem to do a quality job and use all new parts. They used coil springs on the front axle. Some advantages to that and some disadvantages. I prefer leaf sprung, but then I like to tinker with the spring rate and height. Quigley has been around a long time, and in recent decades has probably converted far more vans than all of the other companies combined.

There were problems with the older style control arms which were solved when they fabricated stronger arms. Many owners complain of steering/handling problems. Those problems seem to be related to worn ball joints (trunnions on the Dana 60 axle) and other end joints (tie rod, drag link, pitman arm). Can't blame that on Quigley. It's a maintenance issue. Expect that big tires and offroading wears the joints. I'm guessing that 75K to 100K miles is a reasonable service life for the joints before replacement. The van's higher center of gravity, and certainly roof racks, magnify any slop in the steering. Sometimes that results in the dreaded "death wobble." That freaks some owners out enough to sell their van or truck; it should be simply a stern warning that maintenance is due.

I'm also having a hard time believing 14-18 mpg with a 5.4L. Maybe with factory size "pizza cutter" street tires, tall gears (ring & pinion), no roof rack, and following a little old lady (downhill of course). If it ain't no city van, and you add 33" tires, have a 3.73 or lower axle ratio (higher numerically), suspension lift, roof rack, and a thousand pounds of steel bumpers, tools and gear, then I'd say a more realistic number to hope for is 12 mpg.

The lighter Dana 44 is okay if it isn't abused. High speed over bumps through the desert could trash it, particularly without a truss added. I've got a D44 in my E350. I like to think that the 4" to 5" of downward travel in the springs protects it somewhat, as does trying to avoid hitting the bumps hard enough to bottom out the suspension. Many 4x4 vans have little more than an inch of downward travel before hitting the bump stops.
You might check the rear suspension. Probably factory leaf springs with 4" to 6" lift blocks and longer U-bolts. (IMHO, you want steel blocks, not aluminum.) The rear springs will droop a surprising distance. Lift the rear bumper or frame until the rear tires start to lift from the ground. Chances are that the shocks will reach their limit of travel before the springs do. That will destroy the shocks offroad as they get hammered by the weight of the axle as the frame/body bounces upward. Installing limit straps will solve that.

Let's hear what mods you are planning! I'm sure we all have suggestions for how to spend your money :)

Trad climber
Feb 14, 2014 - 12:30am PT
Good things to say about Quigley and their vans.
I have a 2002 e350 with the 7.3 diesel.
Just found some hairline cracks on my lower control arms. Called them up and found the exact replacement parts. Plus they're the newer stronger arms. Very helpful people there.
Love my van

Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
Feb 14, 2014 - 12:42am PT
Our '03 E-250 2WD
5.4 liter gasoline
17 mpg hwy
A constant and fun project.

I recently installed Air Bag suspension. I only wish I'd done it sooner. Super nice highway glide and height adjustable for off-road.
I'm installing the Eaton Positraction soon to give us a true 2x4 rear differential.

This a fine website for nice interior ideas:


Credit: pud

Credit: pud

Credit: pud

Credit: pud
Juan Maderita

Trad climber
"OBcean" San Diego, CA
Feb 14, 2014 - 05:02am PT
I'm installing the Eaton Positraction soon to give us a true 2x4 rear differential.

You might want to hold up on that purchase and installation. Give it some more research first. Posi-traction, aka: LSD (limited slip differential) will NOT give true 4x2 drive (two-wheel drive) to your rear axle. The "posi" will bias the torque, to a degree, toward the tire with the most traction.

If you want full traction to both sides of the rear axle (true 2WD), there are a few ways:
1. Locking differential, full-time. example: Eaton Corporation "Detroit Locker" The original, tried and true. Holds up to high horsepower and racing. The negatives: chirps tires a little on corners, occasional annoying loud clunks under 10 mph such as parking lots, torque steer when getting on or off the gas. Feels like it wants to change lanes, but you get used to it eventually and coordinate the right foot to the hands on the steering wheel. The newer Detroit "Soft Locker" has partially resolved some of the undesirable characteristics. A good choice if the vehicle sees a high percentage of off-highway use.

2. Locking differential, selectable/part-time. examples: Eaton "E-Locker" electromagnetic actuated with the push of a button. ARB "Air Locker" pneumatic actuated with onboard air compressor. Best of having an open diff on the highway and a true locker on the dirt,mud,snow.

3. "Lunch box" locker, example: Power-Trax "Lock-Right", Detroit "E-Z Locker"; Don't do it! They are not strong enough for a rear axle. When it grenades, it will cost $1,000+ to rebuild your axle. Note that I said "when", not "if." The $400-$500 you save initially will end up costing you money.

4. Spool. Full time solid axle. Racing purposes only.

5. "Lincoln locker", full-time due to welding the spider gears (with a Lincoln arc welder, hence the nickname). Works like a spool and won't let the outside wheel ratchet faster around corners. Results in annoying tire chirping. Fine if you are on dirt 95% of the time.

Your van likely has a Ford 9.75" rear axle. Probably a 3.73 gear ratio. Check on that. Not sure about applications; there weren't many options for that axle a few years ago. My recommendation is an Eaton "ELocker" if it is available. Very tough and reliable. All of the advantages of the open diff on the highway and cornering. Push a button (typically on/under the dash) and you have a locking diff. I have an ELocker in my Jeep Wrangler mated with a Ford 8.8" axle. It reliably spins paddle tires behind 260+ HP in the dunes. It's near the upper end of pricing, and well worth the extra money.

Second best on my list is the ARB "Air Locker." It requires an onboard air compressor. The compressor adds a couple hundred dollars and installation time, making it the most expensive locker. The compressor can be used to fill tires, and an air coupling can be added fore and aft on your rig. The downside is that the nylon air tube can be damaged or leak. My E350 4x4 has an ARB in the rear. A heavy duty air line kit goes in this weekend to replace the leaking nylon line. Wore out an ARB compressor. Replacement cost is $200 if I recall, but it was easy to rebuild with a $70 kit.

There are some newer lockers on the market, incl. Yukon and Ox. The Ox has a cable actuator. Can't vouch for any of them. Beware of marketing hype. Maybe research on the forums from people who love to abuse their off road toys.

If you still insist on getting positraction (LSD) installed in your van, at least check out the Eaton Detroit "Trutrac." It's the real deal and withstands off road abuse. It is gear driven. Meaning no clutch packs which wear out, become ineffective, and need rebuilding. The Eaton "Posi" has a clutch pack and is made for street.


Hope this helps. Btw, I like your van setup. Very functional!

Trad climber
Feb 14, 2014 - 09:56am PT
I found this guy's website very helpful.


I'm up in the air on buying a ford or a sprinter. I like the gas mileage of the Sprinter but like the idea of a 4x4 capabilities.

Other than having the penthouse installed, I think I could do all the other interior installs.

Yes, a gas guzzler, but not an everyday car either. I don't think a Prius has the same capability of carry my kids, toys, on some long hauls with the ease of setting up at night.

Cool post. Would love to see more pictures
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Feb 14, 2014 - 10:03am PT
Dana 44 parts are a helluva lot easier to come by than Dana 60. My e350 is a cyborg (like all 4wd conversions)... and its got a front end that was used for, get this... 6 frickin months (before they switched to the 44s apparently, in the F250s of the late 90s).

Be advise... there are Quigley fakes out there. If you call them for help they will ask you for the VIN number and validate if they actually worked on your van.

Extremely helpful people at Quigley, I could concur.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Feb 14, 2014 - 10:06am PT
The joys of a project aside, I advise do not let conversion get in the way of USING your van!


Use comes first, for me. It will never be perfect or finished, so its always perfect and finished :D

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