Operation IDIocracy: Tackling the Inevitable; Vantruck’s Disassembly

I have to do this sooner or later, right?

After the BattleBots 2022 season was all over in October, I took a bit of a slump away from #OperationIDIocracy and also just working on stuff in general for a little while. The warm fall days were soon going to be replaced by cold, moist, and dark winter, my least favorite season by a strong margin. I spent a few weeks just going to meetup and shows, as well as tidying up this here website (the obvious flurry of activity in October – November 2022 is a telltale sign I ran out of other things to do).

In retrospect with all that went down… maybe I should have accelerated the schedule before the winter ugggghhhh kicked in, but at the time, I wanted to avoid the dreaded project car fate of being burnt out by your own project car.

I decided that Thanksgiving weekend of 2022 would be Vantruck’s last hurrah before it’s laid up for its RCOH and mid-lifecycle update. With the engine built and mated to the transmission already and as many parts in house as I knew to order, I had to pull the band-aid off.

Here we go! Bright and early on Black Friday, I started pulling everything out of the bed. The toolbox was unloaded onto some carts, and I also removed the big bathtub (and subsequently sold it – I didn’t like how much water it collected and would rather invest in a spray-in liner). The fuel filler hoses were unscrewed from the fender wells.

After the Glorious Van Butt (oh crap, i never posted about that) comes off and the bed bolts are removed, I rigged up the extra long #OSHACrane arm again for the purpose it was built… all the way back in 2017!

To pull the engine from Snekvan, I turned it into something I called Econospoon, but it worked the same still: Two long ratchet straps were slung over it in an X shape. The arm was made long enough to reach the center of the 8 foot bed from the back.

Then I just lift it upwards with the crane and drive off! I landed it on the previously-built bed dolly with some collected help, and we pushed the bed away.

Vantruck was taken to its somewhat-temporary-ideally-not-final resting place, where it remained until The Big Funny happened. Considering I left it taken it apart for all of December and January like this, with parts scattered everywhere… Yeah, I deserved that.

Really, I was now just going scorched-earth and removing everything in sight. The first thing to come off is the FITech fuel injection gear, which I planned on reselling. This canister is the good ol’ “Fuel Command Center”, which yours truly popped apart and documented a hack for when it was causing problems. It’s been running ever since then, with no problems at all.

I had no system or science to this dissection process. I just removed everything that the tool I was holding in my hand could loosen or unscrew, then grabbed a different tool and started that process again. Needle nose pliers? Sure, those work for hose spring clamps, screws and nuts under 1/4″-20 in size, and vacuum line retainers too!

The thing with these old “analog emissions” engines, as I called it, was the miles of hoses and vacuum lines they all came with because of tightening emissions regulations after the 1970s predating computer-controlled closed loop fuel injection by a hot decade or so. The commonly termed “Malaise Era” was when a lot of these big American engines became encumbered with vacuum-powered thermostats and surge valves and ported one-way turboenculabulators and the like. One of my remarks when I heard the 460 only made ~220 HP in this time was something to the effect of “Never have I heard of so little being done with so much”

Vantruck’s EFI retrofit made almost all of these slowly deteriorating hoses and valves unnecessary…. not that I think any of it was working to begin with. Besides what I removed during the FITech install in 2017, it was all left in place at the time.

One thing I could not wait to get to was a chance to basically start over from scratch on the Ford Spaghetti OEM wiring. Not only that, but Vantruck being an aftermarket-finished vehicle means the Ford Spaghetti got some special meatballs connected to it too, all over the place. The wiring on this thing has always been a disgusting mess, not that the others were better or anything.

In fact, working on the wiring for the many IDI ven has traumatized so much that I vowed to create a near-OEM grade integration for the diesel electrical system. That is an entire side quest to write about, something I began sketching out around this time as the L.E.W.D (Legacy Electrical Wiring Distribution) harness.

I’ve knocked the front off now (ouch, those rust holes on the front right fender sill plate) and am removing the transmission and oil cooler hoses.

I planned on reusing the external transmission cooler, but the 7.3 IDI will have its own oil cooler already, so this part won’t make it back on in the interest of minimizing unnecessary hosiery.

The 460 radiator is big, but not as big as the IDI radiator! The brackets were pretty rust-welded to the sheet metal, and I broke the bond by raising it with a jack. I’m planning to clean up and re-coat or rustproof Bracketry as I need them on the reassembly path later.

The big 460 sits rather low in the chassis. For some reason it was never apparent to me, but I guess I just never looked at it in the disassembled state. I started removing the accessory drives and deeper-buried fluid lines at this point.

I found a funny failure mode when I removed the ignition control module – the entire potting/sealing compound had detached from the module. In one piece. It was literally just sitting there under it. Protecting nothing in particular from the elements. The module underneath clearly showed some corrosion of the casing, and who knows what else.

I’m not sure if this was part of the cause of Vantruck’s slightly funny running and bad attitude when it was raining or wet, but I’m also not saying it wasn’t aliens.

Pretty much everything’s gone from the engine side of things, so I dove under to release the Gear Vendors unit, which I’ll also sell. With the planned 4-speed transmission install, I didn’t see a point in running a “double overdrive” which I’ve heard some people do.

I’ve never actually removed the exhaust pipe from Vantruck before, and didn’t see a way to remove it from the top side, with how the manifold extended under the cabin sheet metal. Well, with enough extensions and swivels, anything is possible from the underside, I suppose!? This is the passenger side, where everything comes really close to the frame rail. The driver side was pleasant in comparison.

One of the very last operations was to release the main engine mount bolts located on the engine cross-member.

With the last hoses removed and transmission linkage released as well, only gravity held the 460 and C6 transmission in.

I had built up around me an enormous pile of Van Paraphernalia. No other way to explain it! I was hoping to sell all of this soon to a single party if I could help it, alongside the engine and transmission. After all, these are all parts from a known running truck.

On the next episode, I’ll demonstrate a rigid pull of the 460 and C6 together, without separating them, from the van chassis….