Watch this E350 Ford van get hacked down for a pickup chassis swap
Swapping an engine into a classic vehicle can eliminate the hassle of finding obsolete parts. It also add lots more power and fun to the equation—but what about swapping the whole chassis, drivetrain and all? That process can be a bit more involved. However, a newer chassis swap can also bring improved handling, a better ride, and the increased capability that comes with decades of innovation.
The added hassle is worth it for Solomon Lunger and Simmy Mindick, who plan on swapping the drivetrain and chassis from a 1999 Ford E350 van into a classic Ford pickup. They’re chronicling the build in a series of videos, and the first one went up at the end of January.
Solomon Lunger hosts a YouTube channel called Ford Era that focuses on Ford F-series pickups, particularly on the first seven generations that run from 1948–86 in the United States and until 1987 in Latin America. Lunger’s favorites are the two-wheel-drive 1960–63 “unibody” F100 and F250s. Despite riding on a traditional ladder frame, these models are referred to as “unibodies” because the bedsides are integrated into the cabs, leaving no gap between the two. The clean look sets these vehicles apart from just about every other pickup on the road. Lunger’s affinity for these trucks was passed on to Mindick, an auto repair technician who shares a shop with Lunger.
The van, which was purchased for around $3000, ran and drove well and had a solid chassis. What wasn’t so great was the extensive rust in the body. Mindick had initially wanted a van to convert into a do-it-all camping vehicle, but once he saw the extent of the rust, he knew the conversion wasn’t gonna happen. Still, he saw potential in the chassis and bought the van knowing that it could be put to good use. He used it as a daily driver for about eight months; apparently, that’s how long it took for Lunger to convince Mindick they should drop a classic Ford pickup body on top of the van’s chassis. Mindick sourced his own unibody for the project, a well-worn example he purchased for $4500.
Mindick’s unibody makes a brief appearance in the pair’s latest video, in which they make quick work of chopping off the van’s body and sending the unneeded sheetmetal to the scrap heap.
The van is powered by Ford’s venerable 7.3-liter turbodiesel. Easy to work on thanks to its simple injection pump, and with fewer electronics to worry about compared to a modern common rail diesel, the old turbodiesel is a workhorse but not a powerhouse. The engine makes up for its meager power in durability and longevity, though. This thing could run forever.
Lunger and Mindick have already made quite a lot of progress on the build. Most of the footage in the first video in this series was filmed last summer. Now that they’ve got plenty of film, new videos will come out every Wednesday highlighting a different aspect of the conversion process. Over the next five months or so, the build videos will catalog disassembling the unibody, shortening the donor chassis by more than two feet, and getting the pickup moving with diesel power.
The pickup is actually much further ahead by now, given that the project began last summer, but it’s still not done. Future plans for the chassis-swapped van, dubbed “Captain America,” include custom fiberglass dualie fenders molded from a set of unibody quarter-panels. This will be a tow vehicle, so it’s keeping the E350’s heavy-duty rear axle. Mindick is thinking that a lift and some 37-inch tires would be appropriate.
If you were curious, like we were, about the strange Ford SUV shown in the background of this video, it’s a B100 from Argentina. You can watch it in motion here.
We’ll be following along with this build, as we’re sure many of you will be. Has this chassis swap got your gears turning about potential projects of your own?