Operation IDIocracy: The Mega-Post; Overview, Conclusion, and Where Are They Now?

That’s it. This post will wrap up and ship what is certainly the longest, most complex, and multifaceted project integration I have done to date.

Vantruck in front of the destination of its first serious road trial: McMaster-Carr

It spanned almost two years with the contributing knowledge dating even longer, and arguably across three prototypes. It was in a domain which I had only superficial knowledge of even three years ago. All I had to run on was my built-up adjacent experience in designing and making mechanical doodads and dingles. All the specific information I needed, I had to go find out, research, or just try and see what happened (some times the latter in spite of the two former). I like to believe that in solving the problem in the most bizarre and contorted way possible, that I also contributed to the knowledge base of the 7 people who care very much about a specific model of terrible van.

This is Operation: IDIocracy, the most adventure I have ever gotten out of succumbing to peer pressure.

So what the hell is going on?!

Many moons ago, my 1986 Centurion Ford E-350 “Cruiser III” vantruck was saddled with an analog emissions laden, low compression, post smog Malaise Era Ford 460 big block gas engine, which I believed to be dying the moment it left Lorain, Ohio. It really began dying some time after utterly failing to contribute to my big move down south, and by 2021 it was getting kind of embarrassing with how much it was pretending to be a 2-stroke, belching blue smoke everywhere and acting like it was running on 6 out of 8 cylinders, which it probably was.

I vowed to never put that engine back in if i had to take it out for any reason.

Vantruck at the July 2023 “Caffeine and Octane”, a monthly car show in the Atlanta area that I endearingly call Cars n’ Cocaine or Automobiles and Adderall

From basically day one, onlookers of all stripes have always asked if it was diesel, bro. That got a 7.3, bro? Put a Powerstroke in it, bro. You should Cummins swap it bro. They were right. Something of its magnitude deserved to sound like a paint shaker full of garden stones and smell like the nascent Pennsylvanian oil industry of the 1800s. The towering and menacing, bulky presence (the van cabs are by nature almost 1 foot taller than the F-series truck cabs) demanded the romanticized simulacrum of the commercial backbone of America behind it.

The fully assembled 7.3 IDI installed and ready for closing up

Because let’s be real: To swap to a diesel engine for this thing is at most a side-grade and most likely a downgrade.

Modern diesel is more expensive, has more to go wrong, and the payback period for commercial use has been slowly growing with emissions burdens leading maintenance expenses. Ancient diesel is slow, smoky, loud, and shaky, and much like me, does not like waking up when it’s cold.

I’m not a hot-shot trucker. I’m not even a warm shot anything. There is no reason for me to do all the work to swap it, and it doesn’t do any work in return. It’s purely for my shits and giggles.

Vantruck at a local weekly night meetup some time in August 2023

Luckily, that is where I excel.

I’ve always liked my little niche interests in these personal endeavors. For instance, only a specific type of individual will build a van-shaped go-kart using a large R/C boat motor connected to a cut-up angle grinder, all to be powered by batteries ripped out of a hybrid Ford Fusion and riding on Harbor Freight pink handcart wheels. And then race it with other people who have built similarly silly conglomerates of industrial detritus.

There’s almost too many things I’ve done which are in that vein to list (many of them on the left sidebar) and now my interests are squarely in “How do I make my van more terrible than it always has been?”

Vantruck being suspiciously domestic and useful, buying appliances for the New Robot Trap House, some time in September 2023. Surprisingly, it didn’t break down.

The initial inspiration for IDIocracy came from buying a distant cousin of Vantruck which featured what I called the Dashboard Turbo, because that was the only place you could sensibly install the turbocharger without too much extra pain.

In short, I found this Banks turbo setup patently unacceptable and wondered if there was a better way, and if not a better way, a funnier way. That’s how IDIocracy was born: Creating a problem for myself and then solving it while avoiding the practical, straightforward solution, all while 5 people who have similar problem watch and take notes.

I put them on the bottom instead. When I started IDIocracy, I kind of set out to accomplish two things.

First was straightforward – explore using two smaller turbos in place of a single larger one up above the engine, using the leftover volume the van chassis had between the frame rails. I wanted to keep the top side of the engine bay as clear as possible for maintenance access (the van chassis is notorious for requiring broken arms and elbows to work on) and for future expansion work like intercooling.

Second, try to design the system to install without a lot of intrusive surgery, which seemed to be the case with the old commercially available turbo kits for the van. All of them featured things like drilling holes in the valve covers, cutting and modifying the glow plug wire harness, and so on. Nick Pisca, the pre-eminent Internet Terrible Diesel Van Expert, has a great writeup on these options (And was one of my principal resources on getting schooled on this platform!). I believed at the time I had identified spots where one could hook into existing ports, covers, and feeds, or build them externally instead.

Vantruck at night somewhere in the industrial crotch of west Atlanta, October 2023

I had some other minor goals I wanted to achieve, mostly focused on cleaning up the extremely tight engine bay of the Ford van chassis. For instance, I wanted to change to a single large battery in lieu of the dual battery OEM diesel setup. I wanted to keep the exterior relatively stock looking, avoiding cutting holes for hood stacks or going bosozoku style and hanging turbos and oil coolers everywhere. That’s a look, but not for me.

A front-end shot showing the single large battery conversion and my custom engine bay wiring harness, really the centerpiece of the project.

I’m pretty satisfied that all of these goals were achieved. There were plenty of moments that I was scared that the project had to be closed up as-is or I had to backtrack and start cutting features. I believe I poured every milligram of my project management skills into this.

I had to play a mini-maxing game of not drawing it out too long while juggling a house buying search. Not having a tight group of wrenchy friends, I could only call for help periodically from my largely married/settled down, busy family man coworkers and friends who were for the most part robot nerds and not “car people”. Having done plenty of other exercises in scope limiting and resource management really helped, because I know that project cars often get hung up in burnout purgatory.

Vantruck being…. somewhere… back in July 2023. I’m actually not sure where, besides it being a QuikTrip stop.

Enough poetry and philosophy! Let’s go on a tour of all of the subsystems. I’ll include relevant links to the build posts if they come up, which is where ALL of the really gory details hide.

The Top

Basically the entire driving motivation for Operation IDIocracy to begin with, the most prominent changes over an aftermarket single turbo setup here is the accessibility for service. All the glow plugs and injectors are readily accessible. If I had to loosen the injector line nuts for a full system prime (which I did for the first start), there’s nothing really in the way any more. A clear visual path exists from here to the hoodline.

The topside integration is pretty visually striking in my opinion with the half-assed Miku Blue painted valve covers on a rusty block, welded intake adapter, and contrasting bright orange charge air ducting.

Yes… some people might know that material as “brake duct hose”. When I started planning this, I was trying to source a flexible reinforced hose that could carry the charge air… basically hot air at slightly more than ambient pressure maybe with a few errant oil drops mixed in. This led me to a substance McMaster-Carr calls “High-Temperature Flexible Duct Hose for Fumes”. Up to 500F and 25 PSI? Sign me up!

“Bro why are you using brake duct hose for boost?”


That was what I call an Inverted Johnson Fitting moment, where I didn’t know that the car part is a derivative of the industrial part. Either way, damn straight I’m using brake ducting for boost. I can see why one wouldn’t want to, because this stuff does “inflate” slightly between the ribs, and anything short of a small train could experience it as turbo lag.

Instrumentation living here include the boost gauges, EGT probes, and coolant temperature aftermarket gauge sensor, all running through the small blue wire loom through an OEM bushing hole, then up under the dashboard.

The PCV valve (or CDR in the case of diesel) usually is pointed right into the intake manifold through a rubber bushing, but I made a mount which turns it around and replaces it with a GM CDR valve, part number CV916, that has an outlet fitting. The CDR valve exits into a hose which joins the left turbo at its compressor inlet.

On the bottom of the valve, the OEM standoff tube (long rotted away for everybody by this point) was replaced by a segment of 7/8″ ID fuel/oil hose and a 1-3/8″ ID Nitrile rubber panel bushing. This isn’t a 1000 PSI seal here, just enough to corral oil vapors.

I put together a small electric solenoid valve assembly that I called the “Dongle of Diesel Distribution”, and mounted it on a raised bracket so it was the highest point in the fuel system. This connects to a button on the dashboard that can open or close the solenoid valve, and it lets me do an air purge of most of the fuel system (needed if I change a filter or service something else) without having to push on a Schrader valve under the engine cave, or twist a knob or something.

Finally, the glow plug controller which usually sits at the back of the intake manifold is relocated gently to a bracket that hangs down a little lower over the transmission. No cutting the wiring is needed, just flipping it around.

The Bottom

The fun part lives right next to the oil filter (on the left) and transmission (on the right). The two turbos are secured with custom downpipes from either manifold as well as hung by their output flanges to tie rod mounts coming from above, made from angle and tube steel.

The Turbos

The turbos I used are nothing special. They’re just a pair of MaXpeedingRods (god, even writing that name makes me cringe) generic T3 turbine, T04E compressor housing eBay specials. 0.63 A/R turbine housing with a 74 trim turbine wheel, and 0.5 A/R compressor housing with a 48 trim wheel. Literally the first result that comes up for eBay Beijing Boosty Bois.

While crunching the numbers during the very earliest stages of the project, I found that according to their nominal specifications, they’d be slightly underworked each handling 1/2 of the engine airflow. Under-rating a mysterious Chinese component is part of the magic of getting them to work, and I can’t say they don’t work.

Longevity might be another issue, of course, but this is where the whole If you break the Harbor Freight wrench, you know you use it enough to warrant a real one adage comes in*. Maybe once I burn through these things through no fault of my own (I lost one due to an oil starvation problem – oops) I’ll replace them with something well-regarded.

The Tsingtao Tranny Twisters were clocked (inlet and outlets rotated) to where I needed them and then a custom wastegate actuator bracket made which kept the wastegate cans very close to the compressor body, to conserve precious van chassis volume.

Each Hong Kong Hair Dryer gets a little itchy blanket to protect against natural arena hazards like standing water – cold water hitting the hot turbine housing will more than likely crack it. This also helps the transmission pan and oil filter not melt (but hey, oil pre-heating system anyone?).

*I have nothing against Harbor Freight. Basically all the tools I buy for myself on purpose are Harbor Freight. This is purely a sentiment I’ve seen expressed on the greater carnet which I think these days is without merit as the vast, vast majority of hand tools are made out of soup can steel in China and just oversold to you in varying degrees by legacy megacorps wielding zombie brands that once meant something. Cr-V just means it’s made of recycled Honda CR-Vs.

The Oiling System

The pair of Shanghai Singing Snails are fitted with AN-4 sized oil fittings, which are a genericized part. I used some COTS AN-4 lines to attach them to the oil feed tap location, originally located at the lower left side of the block (the main oil gallery cross-drill plug). Later, after some thought, I moved the oil feed tap to where the oil pressure sensor usually lives:

The oil pressure sensor gets moved off sideways using a tee fitting. The oil feed lines then attach using a NPT to AN-4 tee fitting.

This approach made the oil feed paths symmetric and prevented one from being forced fed by gravity. I discovered that after power-down, the engine’s oil galleries tended to drain through the left turbo, occasionally causing it to flood on startup and shoot out some smoke.

On the bottom, the return pumps are Facet 40185 fuel pumps being pressed into service for which they weren’t designed. These turbos need sump pumps because of how low they’re mounted – lower than the oil pan level, so they cannot naturally drain.

This is one of the point of complications which is a negative on my design, since it adds parts that can fail (and have done so). I chose these Facet solenoid pumps initially because they seemed to offer enough flow and drew very low power compared to a motorized pump.

However, what I found is that they’re very much designed to pump fuel and not the maple syrup that 15W-40 diesel engine oil becomes in winter. These guys can’t keep up until Vantruck fully warms up, which in winter time, could be 20-30 minutes of idling heating up that 1,000 pound block of cast iron. Before that, if I get throttle happy, the turbos will flood and it will blow smoke.

I plan on respinning the sump pump system to use a motorized pump at some point, which offers so much overhead capacity that they should be able to drain regardless of oil viscosity. It’s almost like people sell those big bronze gear pumps as turbo oil pumps for a reason??

The return oil goes to a bulkhead fitting drilled into the injection pump timing gear cover, which is small and removable to do the deed.

Besides the aforementioned maple syrup issue, this sump pump system has been relatively dependable. Not long after the road tests started, I had one burn out (sorry for spraying everyone behind me) because as it turns out, attaching them to the transmission bell housing which gets as hot as the engine block, then having it pump even hotter oil, isn’t a good choice. They were both replaced as a precaution, and attached to the frame rail nearby.

The Intake

One of my prouder moments on this project was serendipitous. There wasn’t a good place to put an air intake inside the engine bay, as it would either breathe hot air, get in the way of everything on the top side (as I was trying to avoid), or both. While appraising my single battery conversion (from the OEM dual-battery system), I recognized that I could put a canister air filter under the battery tray next to the headlight. The same volume was available next to the radiator overflow bottle on the driver’s side.

As a result, the intakes are well-hidden by the grille but have full access to cold incoming air. No need for hood scoops (though having one would keep the whole mess cooler too), tractor-style body mounted cans, or the underbody intake of the surrogate test van.

A custom 3D printed duct and mount connects each air filter to the body through a cutout, and then another 3D printed piece converts the duct mount into a circular profile to use a COTS intake slinky duct.

From there, each intake slinky duct runs to the turbos. You can’t really tell anything is going on from the outside unless you’re specifically looking!

The Exhaust

It’s my opinion that straight-piped IDI engines sound like garbage, having witnessed this firsthand with Snekvan and Econocrane alike. I used two AP Exhaust 3806 generic round mufflers, 3 inch inlet and outlet, and 3 inch pipe all downstream of the turbos. These things were way bigger than I thought they’d be – not sure why, when the measurements were clearly on RockAuto. But they were bigger in real life!

The exhaust path was very cobbled together because I decided installing my “vertical Corvette side pipes” was out of scope for the time being. Of this system, only the muffiers and rough positioning of the final turndowns is settled. The turn to cross under the frame is roughly where I’d be turning upwards to join the future exhaust stacks. On the other side, the turbo flange is welded to a section of rigid exhaust pipe which is used as a rear support on each side with hangers. Then it goes to a flexible section, then to the mufflers.

I definitely didn’t do something right on this because it has a tendency to rattle under heavy acceleration making me think initially that the driveshaft was whipping or transmission was slipping. Both pipes also traverse fairly close to the transmission mounting crossmember, which is where I think it’s rattling against I think it has to do with the way I rigid-mounted one end of the muffler. Either way, this is a future patch to push.

I’m currently pleased with the sound. The very large mufflers help amplify the throatiness of a large, low-revving V8, but it’s very quiet (on the back side, anyway, not the clack side which needs 5 layers of Dynamat). I’m not out to make a bro exhaust. After driving the prototypes, I wanted this thing to shut up!

The Suspension

I changed much of the front suspension out to ambulance and RV spec parts to accommodate the much heavier engine and other gear. This picture of the shock absorbers and springs actually shows a nice side view of the entire intake piping setup as well:

The springs were changed to Husky Spring RV860HD backed by Monroe 𝐌 𝐀 𝐆 𝐍 𝐔 𝐌 𝐑𝐕 shocks. Note I have no particular brand loyalty, just that these parts were a combination of “Ships from location already in cart” and “heavy duty/towing and increased handling” categories on RockAuto. I know some people use the Moog CC860 as well.

The steering tie rod was also upgraded to a new-design thicker one with dual adjustable end links (the OEM 1986 one for some reason only let you adjust 1 end link?? Were you supposed to just drive with a crooked steering wheel?) and new sway bar links were installed as well. I did not install a steering damper like some people do – I think this comes into play only if you lift it and put bigger wheels on or if for some reason I’m insane enough to do a 4×4 solid front axle swap. Neither of things are impossible, but not. right. now.

I’ll say that despite the additional 250-300 pounds over the front axle, Vantruck rides level and no longer boats around after hitting a bump. That must mean these things worked… right? I’ve been tempted to put a 1/2″ thick biscuit under the springs to raise the front a hair, but I don’t want to mess up the already horrible Ford steering geometry even more.

The Single Battery Swap

The Ford IDI factory setup used a dual Group 65 battery system. This basically took up 109% of the available underhood space in the van chassis, with one battery on the left and one on the right, connected by a massive 1/0 gauge bridge cable that spanned the engine bay. I believe this was a necessity back then when batteries were shit.

F-series owners have switched to a single frame-mounted large-format battery or made a larger battery tray. I’ve found out that the van chassis can indeed fit up to a Group 31 size battery, a humongous thing, if the primary (passenger side) battery tray is removed and replaced with one slid a few inches over.

The battery sits on an elevated COTS Group 27/31 tray which conveniently hides the right side air intake underneath:

I redid the power wiring using 2/0 gauge flexible welding cables all around, with real big copper lugs and brass battery clamps.

It doesn’t get too cold in Georgia, but so far this setup has not given me issues on 30-degree days. Vantruck boots right up, sounds extremely unhappy about it for several minutes, and then mellows out some!

The Wiring Harness

To join a 1991 E4OD powertrain with a 1986 carbureted 460 and hydraulic/vacuum C6 truck, I had to invent a ginormous wire bundle that carried the transmission harness to the control module, which also took several other vehicle feedback sensors that I had to bridge across. This resulted in what I call the L.E.W.D – the Legacy Electrical Wiring Distribution harness. It’s the big blue series of wire looms at the beginning.

It took a few weeks of studying factory wiring diagrams and testing individual circuits before I was brave enough to start cutting things up, knowing how much of a catastrophe it would be if I bungled it.

I defined my own connector numbers and pin/circuit numbers and am slowly formalizing it into a document I can refer to when I forget what the hell I did 6 weeks from now.

The final product is something I take pride in as being “Nearly OEM Flavored” instead of the slapdash wiring found in many project cars and engine swaps. The whole assembly features a few 3D printed TPU body bushings/firewall passthroughs and weatherproof connectors throughout. All this is less to flex (though… *bulges self*) than to make sure even I know what to do if something goes wrong, forget anyone else!

Okay, fine. It’s nicely done up except this. The transmission control module just gets bolted to the lid of the A/C blower motor with a set of 3D printed endcap brackets.

Where’s Vantruck Now?

It currently exists at the New Robot Trap house as the same white elephant it’s always been.

My two white elephants some time in December 2023
(Spool Bus is white underneath too, behind the door jambs)
Third also-white elephant is in the hangar.

So far, as of March 2024, the system has been together for a combined ~2500 miles, basically all of it in and around the metro area. I have yet to gather the courage to sail the high seas, and it hasn’t completed the final commissioning sea trial I expect of all members of my meme fleet: a return to the Tail of the Dragon. This was more influenced than anything by my constantly imminent house purchase during the summer – I definitely did not want to tie up resources in cooking some kind of emergency bodge up in the mountains or a tow home.

Vantruck at the local big mall, because it’s a great idea to drive your portable fusion reactor without working air conditioning when it’s sunny and 95 degrees out in August.

I initially kept things to around 10 PSI when the engine was still breaking in, but have since turned it up to 15 PSI. With the engine having been built with Grade 9 equivalent, 180,000 PSI head bolts and more rigid valve springs, I should either be able to run at this forever reliably or get edgy and bring it closer to 20 PSI. It currently wastegates almost immediately if I open the full can of beans, so there is definitely more to give. I’ve yet to bring it to a chassis dyno. But it feels faster! Now that the New Robot Trap Shop has been slowly coalescing, I’ve been braver with it and more willing to push the limits and go hard. Come Spring, I’ll definitely take it on more adventures.

Known Bugs & Unaddressed Issues

Given the accelerated timeline I pushed this project through, it has some aspects that I’d like to go back to revisit or which I knowingly didn’t do “right”. I’m proud to have at least gotten it to a state where it’s driveable and whippable-outable without second thoughts, though. That wasn’t a guarantee in the closing stages at all!

  • The turbo oil bilge pumps need to be moved to the ACC/RUN circuit. It was easy to hook into the START/RUN power feeder behind the instrument panel, but the downside is that I have to key-on to bilge the turbos out after getting somewhere. This resulted in some failed glow plugs as they were cycled way more often. Putting this circuit on ACC/RUN means I can run the oil pump without powering all of the engine circuitry, and would also facilitate…
  • Timer relay installation for the turbo oil bulge pump. I’d like to fully automate the bilge process, and have bought one of those turbo timer relays but haven’t cracked the dashboard open again. Right now, I just key off, back on, count to 15 seconds or so, then off again.
  • The E4OD brake light switch sense circuit might be incorrectly wired. I’ve been getting conflicted information on what the proper behavior of the E4OD in diesel tune is supposed to do, and I suspect I may have attached the brake light switch sense to the wrong side of the switch. I believe this is messing with how the transmission control module is handling torque converter lockup. That said….
  • The E4OD is really holding this thing back. I knowingly put a transmission that could possibly have over 170,000 miles straight in. It’s more likely that it’s been replaced at some point, but still… high 5 figure mileage on it is plausible and 80s automatic transmissions aren’t known for lasting too long. The shift pattern goes something like 1 – 1.5??? – 2 – 3 – 4????, and the shift point speeds change depending on if it’s cloudy that day or if I had Pizza Rolls for breakfast.
  • The exhaust rattles like crazy at low speeds and high throttle. Yeah, whatever, it was banged together in an afternoon. It seems to smack itself on the transmission crossmember periodically, so launching hard is actually kind of embarrassing as a hollow metallic rattle overcomes everything else. Now that I know where things need to go, I can properly weld up a new one. I’m not going to do it, though, before finishing the dual stacks.
  • The PCV system needs to be reworked. It emits blow-by and oil fume from somewhere near the “tuna can” PCV valve. This isn’t in significant enough quantities to matter so much, but it’s noticeable at night when it looks like it’s smoking from under the hood, through the grille. I’ll have to take this system apart again and see where I might have not sealed something right or connected the arm bone to the spleen bone.
  • I really have to reinstall or remake the cupholder console. I have a bad habit of buying large fountain drinks and then realizing there is literally nowhere to put the cup.

This is probably the last I’ll write about this thing for a minute or two because man am I tired of looking at it. Operation IDIocracy and its adjuncts have occupied my time for much of the last two years give or take. I think for this year I’ll just focus on taking it to events and on trips, and spare with the major changes except the bugfixes previously mentioned. It was a great and fun and some times very stressful adventure that exercised almost all of my current slate of skills. And it’s even cost substantially less than one BattleBots season!

In wrenching on my own finances for the New Robot Trap House, something I’ve been trying to lean more into is enjoying what I have instead of always collecting new things. It’s not like I have run out of things to work on – Spool Bus has never let me down and yet I’ve basically ignored it since 2021, and there’s ALWAYS something going on with Mikuvan. Not to mention the likely dozens of robots I can spawn just from my massive trove of parts alone. I think Vantruck was my last “capital project” for a while yet – something that involves a massive project management and scoping effort, 4 to 5 figures of expenses, and hundreds of me-hours to push through. It’s time to just shit out some beetleweights.

Operation IDIocracy: The Home Stretch! Single Battery Riser, Intake Path Machinations, and Turbo Piping Highlights

We’re getting awfully, awfully close to closing everything up here. Only a couple of annoying side quests remained after the Battle of the 73rd Brown Wire. One of them was where do I place the air intakes going into the turbos, which has actually been bugging me since the whole project started.

Snekvan’s temporary experiment nature meant that the underbody intakes were “kind of okay” as long as I avoided driving through deep puddles. For Vantruck that wouldn’t be acceptable at all. But where do I put the intake then!? The commercial solutions of yesteryear all had their air filters and intake boxes on top of the engine itself, or in the case of Spool Bus with its Banks-style system, it ran through a very long winding hose towards the front.

While I could have had plenty of space to put air filters on top of the block as well, then I’d have to run hoses down to the turbos, then back up. That seemed pointless, and having stuff up top would also defeat the purpose of leaving it open for service and maintenance access.

I came up with other creative ideas, going as far as to entertain side-mount air filter canisters for tractors (because actual air cleaner cans for semi trucks are far too large).

The Combination Battery Tray and Air Filter Housing

But one day while looking over the battery tray to modify it for my single battery conversion, I had a bright idea. Can you see it in the photo?

That’s right, Vantruck’s convenient fender apron rust hole, that it’s had forever, suddenly seemed like a great place to run an intake hose. This would put an air cleaner element right up front, just inside of the headlights on both sides, with the hosiery running down from this fender region and underneath to the turbos.

Suddenly it all made sense. To use a generic round filter, though, meant I had to raise the battery tray here several inches. Not a problem because I was having to remove it anyways to put a larger one on, but it might mean the battery comes awfully close to touching the hood from underheath. Only some fitment tests will tell!

I bought a set of spot weld cutters a while ago which came in handy for releasing the spot welds holding the battery tray on. That I had to do this at all was an annoyance. So far as I can tell, Spool Bus had bolt-in battery trays which I could have removed with some sockets. It seems like Ferd switched to a welded type at some point. Hell, the bolt holes were still even in the stamping.

The spot welds were not hard to find, even with the battery tray having rusted significantly. There’s two on each corner of the tray by where it meets the risers.

I bought this “OOOH WE PUT PLUS AND MINUS SIGN SHAPED DRAIN HOMES IN IT TO TELL YOU IT’S ELECTRICITY-THEMED” battery tray for Group 27 and 31 batteries. Interestingly enough, some of the slots lined up with the spot welds I drilled out.

The rise height I needed to use my generic 4″ OD x 7″ height cylindrical air filters was approximately 3 inches. That was basically the battery tray sitting right on top of it, such that if I had to remove the filter for cleaning or service, I’d have to remove the tray first. The lower constraint was having access to the screw to tighten or loosen the hose clamp retaining it on the future airbox/duct design I had to bake. Not a big deal, I decided, since I had made this riser design to be easily unbolted.

The riser is just made from pieces of 3 inch x 1 inch rectangular steel tube… incidentally, also purchased for Susquehanna Boxcar. The large holes allow a socket in to tighten bolts holding the risers to the original brackets, and the form-tapped holes towards the centerline are what fasten the tray to the risers.

Here’s how that looks. I’m using one set of holes in the stamped lower area of the tray, and one set of holes I drilled on the raised edge. This was necessary to position the battery itself for clearance to other things, so I couldn’t use the full set of stamped lower holes.

The bolt heads on the inner set would sit on the battery case directly. To prevent this, I’m just placing the battery on a 1/4″ or 3/8″ thick piece of something, like a plastic plate.

This is where the air filter will sit in general (it’ll actually be raised up a little, such that the neck fitting is visible). I now had to design a duct adapter of some sort that can let me securely fasten it while attaching it to intake piping at the bottom.

I pretty much just took some bounding dimensions of the bodywork in the area and made a big shell. The mount will be two pieces: An upper portion I’ll drop from the top that sits against the inside of the fenders and internal sheet metal, then a lower portion that attaches to it and fastens to the sheet metal from the outside.

A simple snap fit will join them, in lieu of having to drill a matching bolt pattern through the sheet and parts.

I prototyped the duct adapter/filter mount in some colorful PLA I had left over. A later revision before I made it out of “real” materials added a flange to the pink lower piece so I could arbitrary secure it to the fender aprons using some sheet metal screws.

This is the fitment as seen from the front. I cut out the little crossing sheet metal section that formerly divided this hole into two holes. Now it’s a singular large hole for BIGGER AIR.

When I liked the final geometry, I popped into the print farm at the lab and ran these parts using some Microcenter Special carbon fiber filled nylon I bought for the purpose. These towers were too tall for the Markforged Mark Twos, unfortunately (and honestly, I didn’t really want to waste Onyx money on these things…)

The setup gets duplicated on the driver’s side in almost the same place. The filter will sit between the windshield washer bottle and the headlights. There’s an access hole here as well, which I used as the basis for cutting an expanded hole around it following some OEM stamping lines.

This new trapezoidal cutout exposes the entire filter as well. To change it I can just reach in here with a stubby screwdriver after removing the grille.

The Combination Intake Pipe and Bump-stop

If the air filter placement was funny, the intake hose routing is going to enter the realm of the absurd. See, if I didn’t want to figure out how to route it up inside the wheelwells (which are going to be very tight given the van steering geometry.

The next best place is simply mounting them through the suspension swingarms.

I used a length of silicone intake piping (for high rebound and resilience properties!) mounted with couplers on the end, made using my new tubing bead roller. The piping sits high enough that I think if the suspension compresses to the point, I have more to worry about than a small intake restriction.

A length of flexible duct brings the air filter housing to the Combination Intake Pipe and Bump Stop. Behind that, a length of similar duct connects to the turbos.

The silicone pipes are retained by these clamp mounts that I designed. The mounts are drilled into the engine cross-member and tightly snap onto the pipe outer diameter.

This was a simple straight run on the passenger side, but the driver’s side needed some more thought. First, I planned to inject the PCV valve exhaust here. Because the turbo sat slightly offset with respect to where the CIP/BS was going to run, it was easy enough to design up an elbow coupler with a small secondary N I P P L E for the PCV hose.

A quick PLA test print for fitment. I made a geometry revision, then busted it out using the same carbon fiber filled nylon.

On the front end, I made another 60 degree elbow to bring the intake ducting away from the swing of the steering gearbox first.

And this is what the final configuration looks like! The driver’s side duct swings farther out because of the aforementioned clearance to the steering gearbox and link.

Overall, I was super thrilled about how stealthy and integrated the intakes ended up being. You can’t tell from the outside that anything’s been changed about Vantruck at all. There’s no pipes sticking out from the hood or a scoop or anything (though…. I’m not opposed to a hood scoop even though it doesn’t take air from there, it would still afford more cooling airflow and could let me position an intercooler up front as well)

Hmm. Vantruck turned into a sleeper build, for extremely broad definitions of “sleeper”. Maybe it’s just asleep.

Some highlights from the rest of the hosiery

I’m not going to deep-dive on the fabrication of the new turbo pipes and whatnot, because they largely followed the pattern of Snekvan. Here’s just some select photos showing what whacky things I did on this front.

The intake adapter this time wasn’t 3D printed. It was fun to do before, and it didn’t not work, but I think for longevity and peace of mind I’ll stick with a metal one.

The top of the IDI intake event horizon is 5 inches in diameter, so I just crafted a dual intake adapter from a chunk of 5″ pipe I had, probably from some Overhaul thing that never materialized. The Schedule 40 pipe is ridiculously overkill, but it fit!

To this chunk of pipe I added two 2″ pipe stumps with rolled beads for fastening the charge air hose to, as well as a few weld-on 1/8″ NPT fittings I had. The lid was a bandsaw-cut circle of 1/8″ thick steel welded to the pipe. I chucked it in tinylathe and cleaned the edges up post-welding so it looked round and intentional.

And… of course, you know what happened next.

For the turbo downpipes, I went ahead and bought some tight-radius mandrel bends. The thing is, nobody really makes plain steel mandrel bent elbows like this…. because why would you? I ended up again with a half-stainless and half-cheese steel exhaust. I really don’t like how the 309 wire you use to join mild steel to stainless steel handles on my welder. But it is what it is!

One of the innovations this time was the Egg Flange:

This is to make the extra tight turn on the passenger side downpipe, the thing I made last time using a machined piece of actual pipe elbow. I think this is only slightly less terroristic.

To generate the Egg Flange, I basically redrew what the mandrel-bend stainless steel elbow looked like and then sectioned it using a plane that was almost touching one leg of it tangentially. This is the virtual equivalent of sticking it in my bandsaw sideways (see the saw marks where I put it just a little too sideways on the left). I then copied that egg-shaped cross section and made a flange plate from it.

The Egg Flanges were sent out to be made along with some regular T3-to-2.25 inch flanges. These are 3/8″ steel from SendCutSend, lover of BattleBot builders.

Here’s the completed turbo pipe assemblies now. Excuse the welding – like I said, I went for dirty and penetrative rather than carefully TIG welded. It was not hard to blow holes through the metal because I only had 0.035 wire and supplies for Limewelder. 0.025″ wire and nozzles would have made for a better time. The ball flanges were made from the same Walker 61725 stumps welded to the mandrel-bent tubing, then to my flanges.

Check this photo of the fully reassembled engine, ready for the first test fire!

Operation IDIocracy achieved first light-off in late April after these harrowing last few weeks of work. This wasn’t too difficult, since each of the components had already been tested separately or in blocks. For now, Vantruck could at least get out of its own way if needed, such as if I found a New Robot Trap House much sooner than anticipated. There were a lot of unaddressed issues and bugs that I decided to leave for later. The month of May saw some of these bug patches and changes, which I’ll touch upon the roundup post next!