Polar Bear Update – Oil Pressure and Exhaust

Photoshopped Polar BearThe attached image is a photoshop Nino did that includes a lot of the cosmetic changes I want to make to Polar Bear. The cargo box and solar panel were not in my plans, but Nino just happened to find that particular Sportsmobile Penthouse pop-top at the right angle to do the photoshop.

Polar Bear turned out to be more of a … bear … than I originally expected. Nino and I have been tracking a spreadsheet of changes, both planned and completed. It’s not balancing out like I had hoped.

Right away, I spent $60 to get the oil pressure sender replaced. I now have an oil pressure guage. I am a little concerned that the oil pressure is always high. I wonder if I’m running the wrong grade of oil?

I also spent $475 for exhaust work. I had to add a cat as the vehicle had none and I need to pass Colorado emissions. I also had a new muffler and smaller pipes put on. The mechanic that performed the work said that I should expect a performance gain with an exhaust system that provides the proper back pressure. Regardless, I’m stoked that I can actually hear the radio when I drive now.

Finally, I spent $10 on one of those leather steering wheel covers at Target. I don’t know what it is, but having a fresh pad of leather under my hands when I drive helps me forget about a lot of the other problems I have to solve next.

My rear differential is in bad shape. The seals have just begun to leak and the bearings are shot. I got quotes from two shops to rebuild the rear diff. The consensus is that it could range from $800 to $1800 but will likely fall at about $1200. I’ve been watching Craig’s list for rear axles. I see a lot of Dana 60s pop up and a few with 4:10 gears. Speaking of gears, I originally thought I had 4:11 gears. However, according to the documentation that came with the van, 4:10s were installed in 2005. I have no idea why someone would do this.

The transfer case also has a fair amount of issues. It’s leaking and probably needs to be rebuilt. There are still some oil leaks with the engine. When I picked the van up, nothing was leaking anywhere. This is a big disappointment. I got the van for a good price, but I didn’t know what level of repair costs I was buying into. The repairs are labor intensive rather than the parts being expensive. Thus, if someone had the time and abilities, it wouldn’t cost much to get this van straight. I have no shop, not even a garage. I also have very few tools. I would happily sell this van to someone who could better repair her.

I have the van posted for sale. Meanwhile, I’ll likely continue to make repairs. Recently, another van got my attention. This time the van has a stock 2 wheel drive system. It’s the same body style as Polar Bear, only it has the Sportsmobile pop-top installed. New and installed, these will run you $5500. The inside is partially built out with a goucho bed and some storage. The body appears to be in much better shape than Polar Bear. The engine is a 351 v8 where Polar Bear is a 300 i6. The transmission is a 4 speed while Polar Bear is a 3 speed.

Converting this other van to 4×4 with a brand new professional installation will cost me $11,500 at Boulder Off Road. I can probably count on another $1500 for rims and tires. However, assuming the base van is straight and solid, this would give me a rock solid base van ready for interior conversion. Building the inside is the part of this project I’m most looking forward to. If I follow through, perhaps I should paint the new van white and call it Polar Bear 2.0?

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