Chevy Van Project Update Fall 2010

I rarely write anything on this blog anymore since it get’s very few visitors. I guess there just isn’t much interest in my hobbies and travels outside of my mom and a few friends. One thing that does get a fair amount of inquiries is my 1977 Chevy Custom Van project. After years of looking for the right old van to make a 70s custom out of I finally found one in the spring of 2009. Since then I have been slowly fixing it up as time allows. It is really difficult to find time and a lot of things take longer because this is my first real project car. I thought I would post an update of some of the changes in the last year. Even though I have a lot more to do I wouldn’t have made it this far without the use of my friend Brian’s awesome garage. I am so grateful for the use of it.

Here is how it looks at the end of Summer 2010.

chrome front bumper

From the outside you can see a lot of the changes. The most dramatic change comes from lowering the front suspension 3.5″ using drop spindles and lowering springs. They don’t make parts specifically to lower full size Chevy vans but the Full Size Truck parts match up.  I still need to decide on the rear suspension. Right now I have a nice raked look. I plan to lower the back about 2″. This will retain a bit of the rake and allow the tires to fill the fender wells. Speaking of tires the front tires scrape over bumps with this setup. I need to change up the tire size and or the wheel offset to correct this.

Front Spoiler Install and Chrome Bumper Search

spoiler installed
The difference is pretty dramatic. The front always looked way too high to me. Part of this is due to sagging rear leaf springs and some is related to the 235/60/15 tires which are I think 2 inches lower than stock. Another difference you can see in this pic is the painted front bumper I had on the van for over a year. It took forever to find a decent chrome bumper but it makes a big difference. This pic also shows the chin spoiler I bought from a fellow van fanatic I met online. From the rivet holes I found everywhere around the van I am pretty sure it had a full 70s style flare kit at one time. I prefer just the chin spoiler since I am lowering the van.

Power Window and Lock Adventure



Another project that took a surprisingly long time was the install of power windows and locks. These were not an option on these vans until 1978 but I figured it would be easy enough to mod the doors. I found a 1988 donor van and got the regulators, motors, solenoids, wiring and switches. To do it right you need to remove the doors and dashboard. After quite a bit of trial and error I have a setup that looks factory.

Later I installed an alarm system and DEI window module. The windows roll up automatically when I arm the alarm and I can roll the windows up and down using the remote. I still have an extra channel on the alarm for further automation. I also found a tilt steering column and swapped that out and replaced the steering wheel. I’ll have to post on that later.

Paint touch-ups.

The body of the van was in decent shape when I bought it thanks to years in the Nevada desert. The paint is a several year old single stage Macco looking job. I plan to have it painted professionally but it is tough to spend $4000 to paint a $1000 truck. Even if vans get popular again that is money I wont see again. I have been able to make it pretty presentable by rubbing it out and touching up a few spots. The problem areas are the rocker panels and the roof. The rockers had a fair amount of chips from the wide Cragar mags it had on it. I planned to have someone paint the roof and I bought a replacement sunroof but I haven’t got around to that. I might wait and have it all done at once.

Around this point I also got rid of the rusty Cragar mags and bolted on a set of GM truck rallies. The fronts are 7″ wide and the rears are 8″. I think they look good until I figure out what I truly want. I will probably go to a 17 “or 18” chrome wheel eventually.

Interior tear down and insulation

The interior still needs a lot of work but I managed to make it serviceable for the time being. I am sort of waiting until I get the paint job done. So far I tore out the old stuff, cleaned up and painted the dash and doghouse cover and installed some insulation and plywood sub floor. At first I just put in the foil thermal insulation stuff but found it did nothing for sound insulation. Later I put in some “home depot dynamat” as well as the “jute” stuff that I got from my 96 Dodge Van. Finally I can hear the stereo over the dual flowmasters. I put in some so-so buckets from craigslist. I would really like some 70s captains chairs but have not found the right ones. I am not into the big lazy boy style ones from the 80s-90s so these will have to work for now.

It is hard to put a years worth of mods in one post. I did a bunch of little things; new HEI distributor, new starter, tuneup, etc. I also started wiring for a dual battery setup and camper amenities similar to the Dodge van I drove across country. So far it is a fun project and am looking forward to getting more done.

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10 responses so far, want to say something?

  1. 70s Van Magazine Scans-Panel Paintjobs | The Strife of Brian says:

    […] am in the process of picking out a paint scheme for the custom van project. Today I got out my 1970s van magazine collection for some inspiration. I am mostly drawn to […]

  2. Andrew says:

    Fantastic job, I am very interested in how you lowered the van and what parts you used! Please send me any details if you don’t mind. Thanks

  3. Brian says:


    I used these spindles:

    And these springs:

    My combo dropped the front 3.5″. I need to get different tires or rims in the front because I have some rubbing.

    The install was pretty easy considering I am not much of a mechanic and was not using air tools. My van is from out west too and not rusty. If you dont have air tools you’ll probably want a breaker bar of some sort. It took me a couple nights after work. Make sure you follow precautions to make sure a spring doesn’t go flying when you take out the spindles.

  4. Bryce says:

    I like your website. I happened to stumble on it on a search for parts for 70s vans.
    Your 77 is looking great, nice color, condition and stance.

    I also have a ’77, but it’s not nearly as solid as this one. Definately a good find for only $1000. Keep at it, nice progress so far.

  5. Jim says:

    Nice job on your van, really clean and simple we have the same taste. I just picked up a 1977 last night that I have some plans for also. I paid $2200 but it has factory air and a 400 cid motor which makes a little more rare, but considering the gas is over $4 a gallon don’t plan on taking this thing on any cross country adventures.
    Appreciate the information on the lowering components as well. Keep up the good work, keep the post coming. thanks Jim

  6. greg hopp says:

    love your van , what did u use for rear leafs? thanks greg

  7. Brian says:

    I bought new springs from JC Whitney and had them dearched locally. I think I ended up lowering the rear about 2″. For more than that a flip kit may be the way to go.

  8. Mario says:

    Looks good, might b doing the same to mine

  9. joris says:

    how did you remove the dashboard, you have any tips or links how to do it ?

    looking good your van !!!

  10. stephen says:

    Great info I’ve got a 79 lwb with the 5.7 been looking for lowering parts for days till I found this

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