V8 Astro Project Journal

A view of the modded ZZ3.

The engine waiting to go in.

Making the crowd happy!

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Journal entries are listed from newest to oldest

September 2001:

Notice - This is the original ZZ3 Astro project journal page. For entries after August 2001, please see the new TPIZZ3 Astro Project Journal!

August 2001:

WOW!! It has been almost a year since I've made an entry to this journal.. reason? I've just been driving the Astro as my daily driver.. I have really not turned a wrench on it since the previous entry.. well, except for the AC system which has been a problem due to a poor quality rebuilt "Factory Air" compressor. Things are changing.. The TPI 350 I bought over the winter is now going together and will replace the ZZ3. I'm also beginning body work and finally replacing that stupid cracked windshield.

October 2000:

STILL driving the Astro as my daily driver.. only running vehicle for almost two years straight. I'm getting the better part of 5 mpg and I think it's time to start moving on. My experience with the Astro has really sold me on the design and I'm in the market for a 98 or 99 Astro. Yes I have long term plans for a V8 conversion on it! The current plan is to try to shoe-horn a LS1 into it.. but we're talking a couple of years down the road. Meanwhile, I've recently had to replace the battery, battery cable and altenator on the ZZ3Astro. The AC Compressor I bought in July is making a lot of racket, but worse still, the clutch won't engage without revving the engine up. Stay away from Pep Boy's AC Compressors!!! I also replaced the front oil seal in the timing cover. Everything else running good. Still loving the attention I get when I drive by people with this rumbling BEAST!

July 2000:

I replaced the AC compressor and drier filter.. The fitting on my AC lines was buggered and ruined the new drier filter fittings.. several hundred dollars and a heater line shutoff valve, I am sitting in the coldest AC ever known to the Astro world! I used that new Freeze-12 coolant.. WOW!

February 2000:

Y2K - we're still alive!? Too bad my 10 bolt rear didn't survive. Everything was going well and all of a sudden - BLAM! Check out this page for info. I repaired it with a used 3.08 rear for $75 and some cussing. Have a slight vibration in the driveshaft now but oh well.

December 1999:

Several problems have developed:

Transmission is toast - great video shots though!
More accessory bracket flex/cracking.
Need new rear tires (my fault!)

And now for the good news: I'm making good money right now resolving Y2K issues on various networks/computers.. look for some new mods in January 2000!

November 1999:

It's been one year since I began the project!
Replaced shift-shaft seal on TH-350
Outran a modded 95-96 SVT Cobra
Still trying to get to the track
Replaced rear left wheel cylinder (brakes)

October 1999:

Working on the new website mostly
Van running good
Got pulled over for street racing! (outran a 99 Cougar)

September 1999:

Excellent improvement on bottom end with the 3000 rpm stall!
Installed a TH-350 transmission and 10" converter
Removed 700R4 Transmission
Time to give back my borrowed 700R4 :-(

August 1999:

Ignition Problem solved.. was bad plug wires
No problems after 2500 mile OKC trip!
Finished 2500 mile trip to OKC web pages

July 1999:

We traveled 2432.3 miles and burned 246.48 gallons of fuel!
Returned without a single problem! What a blast!
Astro ran mid 14's @ 95.9 MPH on a 2.59 60 foot at Norman, OK
Headed out for OKC trip on July 19, 1999
Made the Astro Dual Exhaust page
Limo-tinted all windows except windshield
Replaced AC blower motor
Repaired TCI starter's brushes
Installed Spicer U-Joints

June 1999:

Best G-Tech 1/4 mile run: 14.46 @ 101.9
Best G-Tech 0-60 mph 5.9 seconds
I bought a G-Tech!
Bought some new tires and misc parts

May 1999:

Very busy this month - no mods
Hit a tree with passenger side - long story! Minor damage

See below for information prior to May 1999!

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The following entries are from my original Journal pages:

April 19, 1999,  Just worked on my first attempts at Real Player G2 sound file creation.  Several clips of the Astro's exhaust sound can be found by clicking here.  Quite a few light to light races.. highlight being the 97 Ram Air Firebird that I outran about two van lengths on a green light race through the top of second!  Now I know for sure I will run a better time at the track due to the Flowmasters!!

April 10, 1999,  Removed the $14 mufflers.. installed 2.5" 3-chamber Flowmasters!  What a difference in sound AND performance.. much more low end torque and the top end just as strong.  I now have people following me home to check out the van!  I expect at least .1 .2 sec gain on my 60 foot times with this change alone.

March 28, 1999,  Went to the track in Holt Fl with the Astro.   Look for a new page coming up with video clips HERE.  Ran 9.311 @ 78.41 MPH with a 2.241 60 time.  I need those gears!

March 17, 1999,  Heck yeah!  Not only do I still have a working 700r4 and new tires,  but now I have cold AC too!  Have raced several more cars..  a couple of Mustangs,  one modified (3.55, full exhaust & headers) and even a limited edition Indy 500 Turbo Trans Am!  I finally lost a race - to a 95 Z-28 with exhaust,  3.73's and air box mods.  Then again,  I left it in drive and it shifted from 2-3 at 4500 rpm,  but it was the best running car I've raced so far and it still might have won.  Oh well!   Planning to install the 3.73s & posi today or tomorrow!

March 9, 1999,  Fifth day on the new 700R4 and all I can say is...... WOW!  It's holding up and shifting strong.  Definately spins hard on the 1-2 shift when on the gas.  I ended up with a B&M 12" converter (part of the loaner) and I knew it would be too tight.. planning to order a 10" non-lockup some time this month with at least 2200 (ACTUAL) rpm stall.  No problems with the tranny.. installed a cheap set of Futura 235/60-15's on the rear over the weekend.  I had tried to make it up to Power House 1/8 drag strip but something was going wrong with one of the rear tires (may pop?) and I went straight to the only tire place open on Sunday - - Pep Boys!   Anyway,  the wheel hop problem went away and traction is much much better.   Maybe I'll make it to the track next weekend.

March 4, 1999,  Installed the 'built' 700R4 with a lack of confidence in it.. I don't trust 700R4's after prior experiences,  but hey!  This one is a loaner so I can't lose!  If I break it,  I pay $250 and I'm off the hook.  No break,  no cost!  If it holds up for a while, I'll send the Astro's stock 700R4 to the same guy and have him build it.  If not,  definately going to Art Carr or the like.

March 3, 1999,  Transmission is ready to go in!  Drive 120 miles up the interstate in the Astro to pick it up.. Man it rides excellent on the roughest part of I-10.  I like this van more every time I drive it.  We cruised around 85 MPH for about 20 miles - no problems of any sort.

February 27,  1999,  Today I decided it was time to fix the ailing brakes on the Astro.   The rotors were not warped but they appeared very over-used..  A visit to the parts store endowed me with a brand new set of rotors & brake pads.  Also repacked the front wheel bearings.  Now this thing actually stops!

February 20,  1999,  Still driving without second gear!  I'm going to be getting free use of a 700R4 from the same guy who let me use his 383/8-71 engine combo in the camaro.  Can't wait for the tranny to get done!  Also picked up a rear end today from an S10.. can't use the housing but I'm going to use the brand new GM 3.73 gears and new GM posi (locker) unit in the Astro's stock rear end..  Hoping this setup will hold up for a while until I can get a 9" built for it later this year.  Need posi -- having a serious wheel-hop problem.

February 8,  1999,  I've been driving the Astro now for over a week and things have been very exciting!  Even though I'm running the stock transmission,  I've been very impressed with the driveability of the van.  It is smooth and it's extremely quiet considering there's a 400 hp V8 sitting right behind the engine cover.  It's been a busy week!  I have done some mild street racing throughout the week,  nothing serious from a dead stop until I get my converter.  I've raced a couple of 3rd gen firebirds,  a 91ish GT,  96 Chevy P/U with 5.7 vortech and several other rides.. Also raced a low 9 (1/8 mile) second firebird in first gear only and I pulled on him just enough to be elated!  Meanwhile,  I destroyed second gear in the stock 700R4 yesterday after discovering I was only getting 2/3 throttle due to a 'rigged' throttle linkage.. I fixed the problem and on the first 1 - 2 shift,   second gear went away instantly!  It will spin the tires at any speed in first gear now!  I have a million stories of pulling up to somewhere and people looking at me with this lost stare... they don't understand how I got a V8 in an Astro!  If they only knew how simple it was!  

February 2, 1999,  Began driving the van today as a replacement to my Eclipse.  Destroyed the brand new altenator during a high rpm run in second gear.  It was under warranty and this time I made sure the internal cooling fan was metal instead of plastic.  

February 1, 1999,  Today the exhaust system was installed!!  Too bad it's not as quiet as I had hoped,  but it's not bad.  Inside the van it's as quiet as I had hoped,  but for the mustanger sitting in traffic next to me,  he won't have much trouble guessing there's a V8 in there.   This evening,  I drove the van and really got into the gas pedal... Weak link #1 found!  Improperly secured, perfect condition stock radiator becomes mangled, useless mass of aluminum and plastic.  $180 later,  I was back on the road -- but with a severly damaged ego (and wallet).  Immediately installed custom steel brackets to secure radiator on BOTH sides.

January 30, 1999 at 1:00 pm,  I drove the V8 Astro outside to make a few test runs!  I instantly experienced carb problems (the BG carb has been sitting for several months),  so a carb change was in order.  We had a 750 vac sec Holley laying around,  so I installed that and then discovered that when I tried to save $5 and used an old fuel line & filter,  I screwed up!  Removed the needle/seat valves and cleaned out the garbage,  cussed,  put them back in and cussed some more!  Next,  I bled the front brakes and discovered that something has gone wrong with either the vacuum booster or master cylinder.  I show 10-12 inches of vacuum, but running the engine makes no difference in the feel of the brake pedal.  Oh well,  more money to spend.  Damnit!  Next,  I modified a set of cat's attached to some 3" collectors (we use them as mufflers on the engine test stand).  I had to cut about 20 inches out of the pipe and then welded the two remaining pieces together.  This will be my temporary exhaust system until next week when I get the true duals ran all the way to the stock location behind the right rear tire.  Finally, I installed the engine cover inside the cab - BOY! What a difference in sound,  heat and fumes!  Even with the loud temporary exhaust arrangement,  it's a very acceptable level with the windows up.  Drove the van around the block several times.  It needs a converter and a better gear out back because it takes forever to hit 4000 rpm where my engine really kicks in.  Once you get the rpm up,  it feels really strong.  I think I'm going to like this thing!  Also finished putting the grill and AC condensor/etc back on today.

January 29, 1999 at 12:30 am,  I made the first V8 powered movement of the van.  I'm still running open headers so I stayed inside the shop.  I backed up to the front and attemted a few powerbrakes and launches.  The stock converter was a bit tight for my setup and trans (soon to be upgraded) probably needs a fluid change,  but I was very impressed with the traction.  I don't have a G80 option code,  but it left two black marks on the shop floor - - after MUCH finessing of the throttle and brakes.  All it really wanted to do was push the van forward.  Tonight I will be working on bleeding the brakes,  extending the throttle, detent and cruise control cables,  as well as putting a return spring on the carb!  

January 28, 1999,  I installed the radiator,  waterpump, transmission cooling lines.. bolted up the torque converter,  dropped the fuel tank and removed the fuel injection pump,  installed the driveshaft and installed the bellhousing bolts that had been left out during the engine install.  Also installed a mechanical fuel pump and ran 3/8 tubing from pump to the tank feed located about half way back to the tank.    This was the first day I was able to start the engine in the van and allow it to run for a while.  It's looking good!

January 27, 1999,  I installed the remaining bolts on the accessory bracket (a couple of holes in the bracket needed to be elongated). Installed the TCI starter and plugged in the remaining harness wires.  I also primed the carb with fuel and ran the engine for about 30 seconds.  Man,  this thing really torques the van over when you rev it!  It's a much different feeling when you're sitting high above the engine than when sitting behind it as in my Camaro.

January 23,  1999,  I plugged the wiring harness in to all sensors/etc and energized the whole system.  All gauges look good,  the distributor feed is hot and I'm a happy camper.  I would test fire the engine,  but I need to install my TCI starter and didn't feel like dealing with it today.  

January 22, 1999,  The engine is in and the body is back on the front sub-frame!  

January 15-21, 1999,  Worked on the van when I had time.. removing the parts I could get to before putting it on the lift.  Finally put it on the lift on the 20th and did the engine swap over the next two days.  I can't wait to drive this thing!!

January 11, 1999,  Towed the van up to my friend's shop today.  I'll get started on the engine swap in a few days!

The following information is from my original page for Haulin' AssTro.

December 2, 1998

The real pictures are online!  Yes, by the miracle of modern technology,  you too can see the actual van as it appears (for now)..  check here for the pics.   Today I ordered the bearings & gaskets to get my ZZ3 back together.   I think I sold my small 144 B&M blower today which will help fund the headers/exhaust for the astro as well as get a roll cage in the camaro!

November 25, 1998

I have installed some of my stereo equipment and fixed a few minor problems, oiled all hinges and latches and cleaned up some of the interior.  Carpet looks pretty shot,  so I will probably just order a new one.

November 23, 1998

Today was the day! I purchased a 1987 Astro CL with plenty of options.  It needs one new fender,  a windshield,  a rear seat and the 4.3 L engine has a rod knock.  The van is extremely straight and low miles (for an Astro) at 135k.  Most of the options seem to work,  including the factory AM/FM, Cass stereo system.  As I write this update,  I'm waiting for the flatbed to deliver the van to my driveway where I can begin checking all parts out.  Pictures coming soon.  I anticipate having the ZZ3 installed within two weeks.

November 14, 1998

I've decided I want to buy an 85-90 model Astro minivan and install my ZZ3 Crate motor into it!

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