Build/question thread: 1997 Ford e-350 7.3

Hey there,

So I thought I’d drop in and say hi and post some pictures of the van my wife and I just got. We call her Donna and the long term goal will be a 4wd camper that we can use for skiing

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The van has 293,000 miles and doesn’t seem to smoke at all. Runs strong. That said, I had an oil/coolant leak from the oil cooler, so I fixed that. For my first job on this van, it came apart and went back together pretty smoothly.91FD7AEB-8A63-4565-8CC2-50712681B267.jpeg
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When I started the van back up after oil cooler fix, I noticed more coolant dripping, but this time I think it’s from the water pump area. Parts are on the way but in the meantime, I got the radiator removed and loosened the water pump bolts. Gonna do serpentine belt, pulleys, hoses, and thermostat when I’m in there as well. Also gonna clean the engine up because the leaky oil cooler made a bit of a mess. Does anyone have a recommendation for a decent thermostat housing for a 1997 e350? Riff raff doesn’t make one.
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Next project is to get the bodywork done. There’s a dent in the top where the rear doors latch. After that I’ll rebuild the turbo and we’ll be building out the camper!

Excited to hear thoughts or opinions on how I should proceed! We’re still really debating which 4wd system we’ll go with.
 
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DCDfs

New member
Spend your time ensuring that its reliable before fully building out the interior. Its no spring chicken, I would replace all rubber lines as they don't age well (coolant, trans, hpop lines). Trans cooler upgrade is a good idea, as well as electric fuel conversion. It can get pricey, but you will have a million mile machine when maintained properly. If the rear axle isn't a lsd, I would consider installing one (depending on what axle it is / if you plan on keeping it after the 4wd)
-insulate the hell out of it.
-aux 12v diesel heaters are nice (can plumb into main fuel tank)
-Engine work is not fun on these, replace anything that is questionable when you're already in there.
-Tire chains will get you through the ski season, re-evaluate if 4wd is really needed after that.
 
Spend your time ensuring that its reliable before fully building out the interior. Its no spring chicken, I would replace all rubber lines as they don't age well (coolant, trans, hpop lines). Trans cooler upgrade is a good idea, as well as electric fuel conversion. It can get pricey, but you will have a million mile machine when maintained properly. If the rear axle isn't a lsd, I would consider installing one (depending on what axle it is / if you plan on keeping it after the 4wd)
-insulate the hell out of it.
-aux 12v diesel heaters are nice (can plumb into main fuel tank)
-Engine work is not fun on these, replace anything that is questionable when you're already in there.
-Tire chains will get you through the ski season, re-evaluate if 4wd is really needed after that.
Appreciate the insight! The hoses and trans cooler are on my list as soon as this fan blade finally arrives and I can finish the water pump. I figured the $30 junkyard oem fan blade is worth not dealing with the hassle of removing the old fan clutch from the old water pump.

I don’t plan to keep the axle after 4wd but we’ll see. We’re not really in a hurry for 4wd but would like to get it done before 2030, so we can go on a real adventure.

Being originally from Wisconsin, I’m used to dealing with rusted and seized bolts. I’ve found none of that on this van thus far, so I haven’t been frustrated by working on it yet. I can’t imagine pulling the engine is any fun, but hopefully we won’t be doing that this year…
 
Waterpump, hoses, fan clutch, pulleys, tensioner, and belt all changed! Between all this stuff and the oil cooler, I haven’t even had to Jack the van up yet. I actually quite like working on this van when compared to many vehicles!C73FE84A-A723-4354-BCDE-1B51B97340A9.jpegNext up is inline filter before the fuel pump, EBPV delete, and turbo rebuild. After that, Trans cooler and dealing with the a/c that currently doesn’t work.

Starting to kind of think about the interior, or at least a place to sleep. I’ve wanted to pull the old wood floor to make sure no rust is underneath since I got the van. Today was the day I started. Thanks to previous owners for epoxying over screw heads to ensure the 3/4 ply would never be removed.Haven’t found any rust yet!
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Was also able to “fix” the dent in the roof, so now the doors all close perfectly. Stoked. On the search for Steelies for snow tires. Ski season is almost here!
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
While things are torn open, I’d consider replacing the fuel filter. It’ll be easier to access now while it’s open.

I’d also closely inspect the fuel bowl for leaks. If in doubt replace the O-rings… DieselORings.com had them for about $6.

Be sure the Shrader valve on the out side of the bowl is tight. They’ll make a huge mess if they come out… and before you know it you’ll loose 1/2 a tank of fuel.
 
While things are torn open, I’d consider replacing the fuel filter. It’ll be easier to access now while it’s open.

I’d also closely inspect the fuel bowl for leaks. If in doubt replace the O-rings… DieselORings.com had them for about $6.

Be sure the Shrader valve on the out side of the bowl is tight. They’ll make a huge mess if they come out… and before you know it you’ll loose 1/2 a tank of fuel.
Definitely doing the fuel bowl orings. My dumb self did not do the fuel filter, but I just added it to the list.
 
Got the new header panel:789F3555-920D-43A5-AEBF-A4D6084457F7.jpeg
Now our headlights aim where they should! Much better than the old one:
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The interior floor is also ready to be repainted:

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Tuesday I’m going to properly flush the coolant system one more time.
 
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