Polar Bear Progress Report

It’s been over 9 months since I last blogged about Polar Bear’s status. A lot can happen in 9 months. I’ve invested a fair amount of blood, sweat, and tears.

I laid down new flooring. Currently I have bed liner coating against the metal, a foam later next, wood on top of the foam, and finally a vinyl mat on top. Ultimately, I’ll lay carpet in key areas. This is the single biggest improvement in sound dampening yet.

For a while, I installed a roof top tent on the roof rack. The rack was a huge project, but cost me less than $150.

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Rebuilding The Bear

Almost 3 months ago, I posted that I was gutting Polar Bear. The saga continues, and much has come to pass. I ripped out the flooring, headliner, seats and dash. I cleaned, painted, and started rebuilding. I’ve started migrating from brown to gray. I even added a rotating seat mount for the passenger. The new seat and a giant bean bag turned out to be rather useful.

On the outside, I’ve added a roof rack, rear ladder, and spare tire cover. Mechanically, I’ve had the transmission replaced, transfer case and front drive shaft rebuilt, a/c leaks fixed, rear brakes fixed, and other odds and ends. I attempted to have a leaky front windshield fixed and am still fighting that battle. Inside, I’ve installed a new stereo system. I fabricated a few doors panels to mount speakers on. I am replacing lights with leds. I also got some really neat new seat covers. (more…)

Polar Bear Soon To Be Gutted

Since my last Polar Bear post (think I might start them all this way) , I haven’t spent much time or money on Polar Bear. I did have an adventure with the radiator blowing up. I wanted to replace it myself but time did not work to my advantage and I had to pay a shop. Otherwise, I’ve just been using Polar Bear as my daily driver. The most significant adventure I took PB on was a trip to Steamboat with Nino for a wedding and some boarding. On the way, we spotted another local 4×4 Ford van along side the road. They waved and I honked as we splashed by. Since then, I spotted the same van perched on top of Loveland pass. If I see them again, I’ll have to stop and say hello.

During the drive, we collected a lot of ice on the van. As the road muck spalshed up on Polar Bear and started to drain off, it froze into interesting patterns. The most interesting, by far, was the sea urchin like spikes on the center caps. I’ve never seen anything like it before and it drew a fair amount of attention when we would stop for gas or coffee along the way.

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Polar Bear Spotted Roaming The Colorado Mountains

Polar Bear in Colorado
Since my last post, I’ve put new tires and fender flares on Polar Bear. I started off with the notion of getting simple black steel rims. I ended up with teflon rims. They were nearly twice as expensive, but it’s something I really just wanted to splurge on. I’ve never purchased rims before, I wanted to get the most out of it.

The new tires are 32″ BFG A/Ts. From the performance of the van, I thought the 33″ tires must have been too large as it was moving rather sluggish. Turns out, that’s just the engine. I probably could go up to 35″ wheels with similar performance. They might be a bit better for offroading as well.

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Spare Tire Rack Mounted

Tire SwingAfter spending piles of money on paint and a rear diff rebuilt, I finally got a chance to re-install the spare tire mount. Before reinstalling, I ground the whole thing down a bit and put about 5 coats of black spray paint on it. I also hung the tire itself, for the first time. The bolts for the tire aren’t going to work very well. They’re a bit too long and fairly rusted out. I suppose I could soak them in WD-40 and cut them down to size. However, a couple of new bolts from the hardware store shouldn’t be terribly expensive. It would also be nice to get a threading that matches the lugnuts so I can have spare lugnuts on the rack.

The tire prevents the door from swinging open as far as it used to. Still, the door opens past 90 degrees so I think I’m alright. I noticed the inside of the spare rim has a ring of rust. I might hit it with a wire brush and then gloss a little paint over it. Next week I should be getting new rubber and rims. Eventually, I might see about getting a spare that matches the size of the new tires (32″). I’m not going to worry about that for a while.

There’s a pile of exterior mods left. The list looks something like: window tint, rock sliders, bumpers, wire mesh behind the grill, roof basket, new antenna, and a ladder. ┬áMost everything else will be interior. There are still some drive train and engine repairs I want to make. However, since most of those are not particularly critical, I’ll be postponing them for a little while.

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.

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Introducing Polar Bear

Polar Bear and I in Utah On October 24th, I purchased a van from a fella in South Lake Tahoe. Nino and I named her “Polar Bear”. The idea is to turn this van into a camper. To be honest, I’m not 100% confident that this is the van I want to build from. I want to have a mechanic look her over and get a better idea of what I’m working with. Here’s what I know so far:

The Van

  • 1987 Ford e250 3rd generation Econoline van, regular body
  • 33″ x 12.5″ inch tires, 8 lug 16″ rims
  • What looks like a 6 to 8 inch suspension lift (maybe more?)
  • Ford 4th generation 300cu Straight 6 EFI engine.
  • 4×4 with Warn locking hubs, p205 transfer case, and 4:11 gears
  • 1 ton rear axle (Dana 60 posi) and 3/4 ton front axle (Dana 44)
  • 3 speed C-6 automatic transmission with a shift kit installed
  • Class 3 rear receiver attached to the stock bumper
  • Dual gas tanks (about 40 gallons total I believe)

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