The Summer of Ven: Even If It Can’t Go, It Needs to At Least Stop

Alright, back to it. It’s now the end of June, it doesn’t get dark until well after 8 PM, and I can work on ven as long as I want. By this point, Murdervan was actually doing quite well for itself, functioning as my local errand workhorse and parts runner, only with minor repairs and improvements. So I decided to throw most of my weight behind Spoolbus to get it up and running in time for the July or August “Not Cars and Not Coffee“, held monthly here.

Here’s where we left off: I was trying to decide whether to buy “old brakes”, the pre-1985 caliper, pad and rotor style, or try to update the front axle to a newer revision. I briefly thought about stealing and swapping Murdervan’s front suspension. In the mean time, I decided to try and remove one of the “Twin I Beam” swingarms because I wanted to do a similar surgery on Vantruck in order to replace the shock absorbers and at least one of the radius arm bushings.

So I dunno, consider this a continued lesson on “Vans are Terrible”. You see, the Econoline is just an oddly packaged F-350 of the same era. The major difference being, everything that is conventionally accessible in a front-hooded truck is………… not very in the van. To remove the front spring retaining bolts and shock absorbers required some very tricky maneuvering of box-end wrenches. You can’t fit a ratchet and socket in here, even.

Some people actually remove the cab mounting nuts and lift up the cab slightly to get more working space. I definitely get this approach, but decided to not take it for the time being as I could see some of the cab mounts were disintegrating, and so was unsure if they’d ever go back together. Either way, the operation was fine once I started, just methodical. Van work is zen work.

After the spring is released, I can then remove the shock absorber. See that box wrench sticking up from the spring seat?! That’s braced against the body and I’m turning the shock absorber rod to loosen the nut.

This is going to be a colossal pain going the other direction.

I also got my first experience removing tie rod ends. It turns out that is what the tool I have owned for almost a decade but never used for a legitimate purpose is for. I’ve used it for everything – chisel, pry bar, to dislodge drill chucks (a similar principle), as a threatening aura, but never to pop ball joints off.

Even with using it, everything was sufficiently seized that I had to heat gun the mating region and marinate it with PB Blaster. It finally gave up with a combination of said pickle fork and beating upwards on the threaded stud (which will require some remedying before reinstallation.

Finally, after all the bushings had been unbolted and all connections made loose, it…. still wouldn’t budge. Just tight fitments and dirt, so I tugged it off with my come-along van yanker. At this time I had no idea they made tree savers (because why would I, I never venture outside). The tree, as of this writing, has healed over.

And off we come. As soon as I finished this operation, I knew that doing this in the field with another shitty Econoline was not something I wanted to deal with. Even with a couple of people helping. So I took the opportunity to study the parts and fitment more for Vantruck – by this point I also learned that it should share the same integrated brake rotor and hub, for instance.

Therefore, I took a pause here to just go ahead and order the pre-85 brake parts and a bunch of other Why Not, It Ships From the Same Warehouse items. I just got everything that was the first in Sort By Price Lowest. You’re not getting any good shit until you prove you need it.

About a week later and I’ve missed the July show, but all the parts have arrived. Along with calipers and pads, I picked up a rebuild set for the existing calipers (just in case…), brake hoses and hardware, new bushings, and one shock absorber.

Just one. One front, on clearance. It’ll get one new shock and that’s all.

The brake rotors unfortunately came from eBay and were delayed. So I had a pile of brake parts and was ready to get to work, but can’t.

And so, this is how Spoolbus ends up with Miku Blue brake calipers.

Frivolous, but satisfying. No, it’s not high-temperature paint. No, it shouldn’t ever need high-temperature caliper paint, because if I get the thing hot enough to start burning off paint, something has already gone wrong. Not everything needs to be track-ready, though I would happily entertain the opportunity.

The next day, after clearcoat (because why not… I found an old can of it, what else is it good for?) the calipers are dried and ready for stuffing.

My brake rotors still hadn’t shown up. So I decided fuck it, burnouts now, fix rotors later. I know how to do a brake job. So in lieu of having new rotors, I just inspected and regreased & retorqued the wheel bearings. Both of the rotor surfaces were scored up, but I had a #Plan for that…

Oh yes, abject terrorism. I learned this from Reddit and decided to try it out. Use a not too aggressive flappy wheel like a 120+ grit, and set the rotor spinning by hand. Now swirl the angle grinder with the flappy wheel around such that it keeps the rotor spinning, and you’ve instantly made a very ratchet Blanchard grinder. Always keep the grinder moving as randomly as you can to prevent creating low spots and ridges. Hit the back side with the same approach by turning the steering all the way to one side for clearance.

Also, never ever do this.

Miku Blue calipers now fully loaded with hardware.

Getting the whole swingarm assembly back on was surprisingly pain free, as it’s easier to apply a lot of force into something with hammers. I had to first mount the radius arm end, loosely put the retaining nut on, then the frame mounting pivot bolt. With the assembly still loose, I was able to just kick the spring back into its seat.

The upper spring retainer and NEW! shock absorber go on now. No, I never took the passenger side apart.

I also went ahead and Bastard Ground the driver side brake rotor. I ordered a new set of wheel bearings, too, and this side got new bearings because I figured the old ones were well-cooked and not too worth saving.

The Miku Calipers are now mounted on both sides.

After filling and bleeding the system, it was time to go for a test. Things checked out with an engine-off stomp test, so I figured all was well…

Yeah, nope. Once the vacuum booster #Contributed, I got one good stop out of it before the master cylinder self-destructed and began vomiting brake fluid from its front seal. So now we’re back to square one, but at least with Miku Blue calipers.

My next mission was to replace the master cylinder, which as you can see here, is a very “Step 1: Remove Van” operation as is everything else.