Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beater Project Acquisition: Cream Machine


Anyone can be that creepy guy in a van, but how often is it an over-boosted manual trans turbo van?

I've always been fascinated by the YouTube videos of first gen Chrysler minivans at the drag strip embarrassing cars that really should be faster than a mommy-wagon. This despite the fact that minivans generally represent a lot of what has gone wrong with the automotive world. Large stylish cars of the 70s and before have been replaced by the utilitarian boxes of minivans, SUVs, and now "cross-overs." Who wants to be seen driving a mediocre beige box? How is this vehicle in anyway fun to drive? The minivan is an automotive cliché that says "I've relinquished my manhood, I have kids now."

Well I don't have kids, but I do enjoy embarrassing Camaros at stop lights. I imagine humiliation is best served by the PTA bumper sticker on the back of a minivan. Chrysler put the necessary tools into the first gen minivans, namely turbo power connected to a manual transmission. My newly acquired project has only the later, so turbo power will come from another mill. I've actually known this short wheel base 1986 van for a few years. My friend Luke "Action" Keller drove it around with the front end smashed in for a few years. In keeping with the creepy guy in a van tradition, it earned the nick-name Cream Machine. Luke sold it to David Kahn fixed the damage with parts from a facelifted 1987 van. From a few feet away, it doesn't look too shabby. Definitely up to my depressed standards. The interior is in similar condition except for the missing headliner. In such condition the previous owner drove this beater until the fire.

But it was a SMALL fire. Something went amiss with the fuel supply to the Holley 2 barrel carburetor and the engine compartment became host to a thermal event. The flames quickly succumbed to a fire extinguisher but the damage was done. Now, the throttle blade is stuck at WOT by the melted plastic around it. Now that it was a non-running beater, the land lord demanded it be removed. To this point, I hadn't purchased a vehicle site unseen (for about 2 years) by text message. Turns out, its really easy. After a few minutes I was a hundred dollars poorer and arrangements for a flat tow were made.

So now its mine. After some craigslist searching I've sourced a 2.5 turbo block with new internals and a cylinder head. I also found a turbo van wiring harness during my last junk yard trip. Without any research or real knowledge, my goal is 400hp on E-85. Of course, I don't really have money for another project so we'll see how far I get with another $1000.

Hat tip to Luke "Action" Keller for the flat tow, and David Kahn for parting with the Cream Machine.

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