Operation IDIocracy: So the Heavy Thing is Done… Now What? Finishing the Fuel System, Transmission Linkage

The one million side quests of Vantruck continues! I definitely faced an artists’ conundrum here these couple of weeks. The fun challenge of stuffing the engine in and the custom engine mount was over. Now I was facing all the drudgery of actually finishing the damn thing. Typical project vehicle stuff, if I am led to believe.

Really, after the city left me and ol’ landy alone, the “pressure” was a little off but I still used it as rage-motivation to crank through all of these tasks, all the while starting preparations for what eventually became buying the New Robot Trap House. So here’s a tour of everything that went down after the fuel tank was mated and the transmission could conceivably one day drive the wheels.

Transmission Shifter Linkage

One of my mistakes with Snekvan was when I sent it off to the methy scrap man, I forgot to take out the transmission shifter linkage and bracket. I probably just forgot, or assumed it was the same as the C6 transmission. Well, this wasn’t the case.

While the C6 bracket from Vantruck did “fit”, the E4OD’s linkage pivot is in a very slightly different place.

Enough to make it very annoying for me to look at, but not enough to affect the functionality. This photo also made it look way worse for some reason because of perspective. The plastic bushings have enough slop in them to be self-aligning, and the linkage itself floats enough that it can accommodate.

The more important piece I was missing from Snekvan was the connecting link between the shifter crank and the transmission. Luckily, this was simple enough to just bash out.

I measured the center distance between the two cranks in the Park position and synthesized a link from two rod end bearings/Heim bearings I had in my random mechanical detritus bucket. The bar in the middle is a 1/2″ regular steel rod from the hardware store that I cut threads into.

The joints are just 1/2″ bolts. This thing is very very simple in principle. The rod ends are not the best long-term choice, because they are not sealed or booted, but they are fine for now. I tightened everything together and managed to accidentally pop Vantruck out of Park while playing with the shifter handle.

Oh, sorry. I mean, after the paint dried. You know…

Fuel System This n’ That

I’m basically replicating the fuel system I put together for Spool Bus a short handful of years ago, with some refinements. It’s modeled off the thing a lot of people do to the IDI van chassis, namely relocating the fuel filter head to the chassis instead of inside the engine cave, and adding an electric lift pump to help with priming and fuel flow. Since I already removed the mechanical diaphragm pump from the engine during the building, I have no choice here!

I started with a generic fuel filter head that was modeled after the OEM type for the F-series. In this application, they bolt onto a bracket which is bolted to the engine. I’ll just be mounting it to the frame instead.

Now with fittings! The large hole is where an OEM fuel heating element sits. I won’t be using that (maybe I should…) so a common thing people do is run a 1/2″ NPT pipe tap through it and seal it with a plug. Outlets that I’m not using were also closed off with 1/2″ and 1/4″ NPT pipe plugs.

I drilled two holes towards the upper part of the frame rail, similar to where Spool Bus had its filter mounted. The filter shown was one I stole off Econocrane when I replaced it after its reboot. It seemed fine, so I decided to start with it for now. The filter is big enough in diameter that I decided to stand the filter head off from the frame (see the two nuts between it and the frame rail) so I can at least get a strap wrench around it or something later.

On the other side, mounted using one pre-existing hole and one drilled hole, sits the new fuel pump. This is a Facet 40313, one of their most powerful ones. Econocrane benefitted from the motorized pump, and Vantruck may some day in the future as well, but for now this will get the job done.

It’s way quieter and less power-hungry than the motorized external fuel pumps too, and I’d almost rather just put two of them side-by-side if needed later.

I created a second “Dongle of Diesel Distribution” using much the same fittings I made the first one with.

This thing will sit over the left valve cover or thereabouts, acting as the highest point in the fuel system. The solenoid valve will let me purge the feed line into the return system to perform burping of the fuel system such as after a filter change or servicing. The bottom-most fitting runs with a short flexible line to the injection pump to minimize the volume of fuel or air sitting around in there.

I modeled up a Fullmetal Diesel Snail to be whipped out of folded 1/8″ steel strips. This was just hand-cut using my heavily re-geared Craftsman bandsaw, which now rips up to 1/4″ steel without much effort.

Finished Fullmetal Diesel Snail. I actually don’t own a sheet metal brake or multi-tool, but have gotten quite creative with vise grips, clamps, and lever arms.

Editor’s Note: A reasonably-sized combo sheet metal implement is high on my list of New Robot Trap House tools, as are more tubing fabrication tools.

The new Dongle of Diesel Distribution is now mounted and connected.

On the other end, I’ve hooked the sump up as well. All feed hoses are 3/8″ low-pressure petroleum-rated hose, and return is 5/16″.

I made these little miniature snap-in brackets in order to keep the lines roughly parallel. They feature a mounting hole if I choose to zip it to something, which I did:

The fuel line enters the engine via the transmission cutout and is secured to the body roughly underneath here.

Fuel Filler Hose Shenanigans

One of the annoying but necessary to tackle issues is the fuel filler neck. On Vantruck, it’s been rotting out and leaking ever since I got the thing. It was also apparently a bodge job by Centurion to get the van fuel tank fitment to route to the Ford dually fender fuel doors. Fill hoses are usually bespoke OEM-only parts that are fit to a specific vehicle model. So I had to now somehow replicate this using the parts I pulled from everyone, and what I can synthesize from generic COTS parts.

The first step was knocking all of the old hoses off the metal necks, and this was an exercise. They were so old and stiff it was basically like bending plastic. There was no way I was going to re-use any of these hoses.

So I ordered some generic 2″ fuel hose elbows (not coolant/heater hose. Don’t swap these two, because the rubber used is different despite both being nondescript black boingy tubes) and found one that gave me roughly the exit angle I needed from the tank.

While the angle was close enough to bend slightly, the length wasn’t sufficient.

To bridge the gap, I cut a chunk out of a second hose I had. I then made an extension/coupling nipple using a chunk of the old metal fill pipe and a tubing bead roller I bought around this time in anticipation of making more intake parts:

Basically, I was pricing out how many couplers I might need for the intake and decided it was far better to invest in one of these so I could make as many big hose couplers I wanted out of crappy used exhaust pipe instead of cute shiny aluminum tubing. Its first real use was making this fuel fill hose coupler!

All hooked up! This should be enough to remind me… right?

Next up: The big final boss battle I had signed myself up for. While all of this was going on, I was studying the blade and designing up the L.E.W.D: Legacy Electrical Wiring Distribution.

This will be an attempt to make a near-OEM quality integration of the custom wiring I needed to make to interface the E4OD to a pre-ECU chassis, because I don’t tolerate spaghetti “iDk eLeCtRicItY” wiring.

Operation IDIocracy: So the Heavy Thing is Done… Now What? Driveshaft Fitment and 38 Gallon Fuel Tank Mounting

With the IDIot finally having landed in Vantruck, the project has passed what I called “Peak Entropy” – when it’s the most taken apart and dysfunctional. To be fair, Vantruck is plenty dysfunctional still, but at least the two largest planetary masses have collided and combined.

Every other part from here on is a small and annoying piecemeal activity or side quest in comparison, and it’s what these last couple of posts about IDIocracy will cover.

Making a Mix and Match Driveshaft

For some reason, I found myself owning several van driveshafts. There’s Vantruck’s original two-piece, which was partially re-used when I had my vanstylist install the Gear Vendors overdrive a few years ago. There’s the one I salvaged off Snekvan, for a conventional 138 inch wheelbase van. Then there was also one I plucked from a junkyard van. I figured between all of these, there was at least one I could actually use on Vantruck in lieu of having another one manufactured.

I dragged these out so I could start making measurements and seeing what spline and what U-joint fit where.

I made many scientific drawings and measurements such as this one. Vantruck has two center hanger bearing supports – one from Centurion when they extended the frame (closer one to the transmission) and one added by my van salon when the Gear Vendors overdrive was installed. I collected dimensions from the transmission to the hanger bearing supports, then from there to the differential.

To my amazement, I could combine the …uhh, foreshaft that came off Vantruck (A) with the back half of Snekvan’s OEM driveshaft (B). The E4OD output spline adapter (C) could be mounted on the foreshaft (A) if I bought a Dana “converter” U-joint since the cups were different sizes and spans.

This exercise reminded me once more that I really hate U-joints and the procedures needed to press them in and out. Especially when they’re gross and rusty from being under a truck for who knows how long. I rented a U-joint press for this purpose to minimize my pain compared to when I did it for Mikuvan and made shit up on the spot.

The shaft lengths matched up well enough, but I had to slightly change where the hanger bearing support was. It was close enough to just make a bracket for instead of cutting the support off and moving it. I made this support using a leftover chunk of steel channel that I’d picked up for Boxcar. It was cut in half, milled down, and had appropriate holes drilled.

I drilled mounting holes into the existing hanger bearing support and bolted the bracket in.

Sorry, I lied. You know exactly what I did instead. I’m not sorry.

Anyways…. now I bolted the hanger bearing support bracket in, after the paint dried. Everything lined up great! Installing the driveshaft was simple since the slip yoke’s spline could extend enough that I just bolted it up on both ends and then lifted it upwards. I also took this opportunity to clean up and coat the otherwise pretty rusty steel channel that formed the hanger bearing support.

Fuel Tank Mounting

Modifying the fuel pump bracket and gauge sensor was easy enough, but actually mounting this thing was a different question entirely. It’s too large to fit in the rear cavity of the frame (something something Not A Direct Fit For Vans…), so I’d have to cut the existing straps off and remake them.

Here’s what it looks like when I lifted it into place at first – It got stuck here and wouldn’t go up further! The plan was to cut that forward cross-member (on the left) off and make newer, longer straps across the top, and then weld it back into place.

I positioned the tank where I thought it would work well and marked the location to make measurements. This is almost right up against the rear differential, making me question if I had to drop the tank if I ever wanted to service the differential or something.

The bracket was drawn up in Inventor sketches enough for me to make the measurements. The new cross-member is made from 1.5″ angle steel, the same as what came off. Two 1/4″ thick tabs will attach the new custom straps on the bottom, and the straps across the top are 1/8″ thick mild steel strips.

I blasted these together quickly with Limewelder. Easy enough here in the garage, where I ran 240V from the breaker panel without telling my landlord, so I could have welding power.

Outside, though, was going to be a different question. I’d have to run Limewelder on 120V through an extension cord and I doubted it could push enough power to properly penetrate into sections of 1/4″ thick steel. It will probably be enough, but it won’t be pretty.

This is what the setup ended up looking like. I set up The Sun™ as a work light running off an inverter powered by Coronavan, since it does draw a pretty healthy amount of power. I wanted as much available for the welder as possible. After doing some tacking tests, I decided okay, this was going to be bad.

In the middle of winter, running on 120V through an extension cord. The welds would need to be preheated for several minutes with a heat gun or torch first.

Preheating the work zone to 200-something degrees with the heat gun made for some satisfactory results, though. In retrospect, I could have rented a generator-welder. This is certainly their use case!

I guess the ultimate test is standing on it and jumping up and down a bunch of times.

To make the bottom strap, I pulled a trick out that I hadn’t used in a very long time. I used a stiff mechanic’s wire, I think 18 gauge stainless steel or whatever they sell for hanging brake rotors and stuff. I attached one end to the new mounting ear and pulled the wire around the bottom of the tank, forming it as I went, ending where I think the OEM strap hangers will be.

Then I released the wire from the mounting ear, trimmed it, and recorded the approximate lengths and angles of each segment. I promise there is a small, rigid wire that’s been bent to a J-ish shape in that picture. It’s just well camouflaged!

The sketch was flattened out to obtain a length. Little 1″ cuts of angle steel will interface with the strap hangers.

A little action with my bench vise, hammer, and cheater bar later, and these 1″ wide steel straps have been formed.

With the help of the Code Enforcement Strike Team that weekend, we lifted the tank into position and mounted the straps. The fit is pretty spot on!

Because I have all of these brackets modeled and dimensions recorded, I’ll publish them here once the project summary page is made. Now we know how to stuff the 38-gallon F-series tank onto the van chassis! But not Directly.

This is the state of Vantruck after that weekend in February ’23.

Make no mistake, it’s far from complete here, but will fool an inattentive city worker. The bed and bumper were mounted loosely, for if we had to jump back in to do something. Nothing was hooked up yet. From here, work on the subsystems and remaining parts was very lightweight in comparison, just involved a lot of rolling around on the ground.