Herbie's Chevy Astrolander/ZMB Build Thread

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
Nothing so exotic!

So far, I've fitted the 22-687HD springs (the 1750lb rated version of the S10/Bravada/Blazer springs I was running previously - uprated from 1350lbs), and added a riser to the bump stop. However the new HD spring pack is thicker than the OEM spring-mounting clamshell accommodates, so now I'm working on a new U-bolt solution. Stay tuned for deets.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
While I'm waiting for the weekend to arrive, so I can get back to the pick-n-pull for more parts to play with, I can do a quickie update on a few other things:

1) On-Board Air Update

A while back I'd gone through the effort of fabbing up some brackets so I could sling a viair tank under the slider-door sill area. Once I realized how heavy my rig had gotten and started questioning all my life choices, I bagged that part of the project. I DID, however, follow through on mounting a compressor. I have been using a Viair 400p for ~9 years, and found it to be more than adequate for my ~30" tires. A few years back, I'd scored a good deal on a used 400c (the fixed-mount version) at a gear swap. The clean-up to the water-system in September 2020 unlocked easier access to the little cubby in the right-rear corner where the factory scissor jack originally stowed, and I wanted to use that space to mount the compressor. It's out of the dust and moisture, but also out of the way, and if I leave the factory jack cover off, there's more than enough ventilation.

Popping out the little "oddments tray" at the top of the trim panel also gives easy access to the area from above, making it relatively easy to service things, once I'd rerouted the factory harness that normally clips to the outside panel:


As I said, ventilation in that area is pretty good, but I saw that Viair offers a mounting kit that includes a pancake fan to help keep the motor cool. I thought that was a good enough idea to adapt for myself from a surplus 12v PC fan:


Next I needed a little control and mounting panel for my air chuck:


The panel mounts to the edge of my cabinet along that cubby and makes it quick and easy to connect the air line and turn on the system. The fan and relay coil are powered by an unused factory accessory wire in that corner (originally intended as a 20A supply to the trailer wiring harness, I believe). A separate power wire for the relay to the compressor was run from my accessory fuse block.




Since I'm running this system tankless, I'm using a relatively low pressure switch (70on-100off) and I've setup my refill hose with an inline regulator set to the desired tire pressure. This is an idea shamelessly stolen from this thread. I can just clip it on to the tire and let it run. When the tire hits the target pressure, the backpressure from the regulator lets the air line get to 100psi and the compressor shuts off. Move to the next tire, and repeat.
I am THRILLED with how much faster it is to air up at the end of the trail. About half the time spent previously was to unlock the rear cargo box, unpack the portable compressor from the bag, pop the hood and connect the power clips to the battery, etc. etc. etc. Now I can just pop open the rear doors, plug in the air hose and flip the switch, and I'm filling. The auto-shut-off also means I can spend that fill time walking around and looking for problems, instead of watching the gauge.
 
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Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
2) Awning Bracket Upgrade

This one should have been pretty minor, but it turned out to be a surprising amount of work.

Ever since I harvested parts from the 1995 LuLu Island/GTRV back on page 3, (11 years ago.... sheesh), I'd been running the pair of "custom" awning brackets that had been fitted to that van. These were nothing more than a pair of 1/8" bits of steel plate bent into an "L" with the lower limb curved slightly to fit the contour of the van's roof:


On the donor van, these were literally just screwed to the van's roof with sheet-metal screws and covered in silicone. As a minor concession to safety, I fabbed some threaded backing plates to at least spread the load a bit.
These brackets mostly worked, and when I switched to an ARB awning in 2016, I was able to re-drill the brackets to just about get the awning high enough for the "bag" to clear the van's slider door. Things were also tight when opening/closing the passenger door if the awning was tilted downward at all, but I was at the top of the brackets.

Unfortunately, the "back rail" of the ARB mounting scheme is significantly less rigid over a long span versus the original hard-case "Norseman" awning, and so over the next few years it had sagged in the middle, and the outer cover of the ARB would occasionally catch in the slider. An upgrade was needed.

Step 1 was to fab new, taller brackets. I started with plenty of length to spare, and bent these using a combination of a makeshift bending jig and the bench-vise-and-hammer-and-swearing method. After getting things in-place I mocked up a straight edge and trimmed them to a height that solved my woes and also gave me a little margin for the future:



Since these brackets have to sneak out "under" the bulb seal of the pop-top, they need to be as flat as possible, and cannot have any reinforcement to the "L" shape. As a concession to this detail, I made the new brackets a bit wider. More importantly, since sagging over the middle was the original issue, I added a third bracket for the span (and additional backing plates). Please admire the three differently-shaped-curved-Ells and appreciate what a pain in the ass these were. :D



Because of the contours of the roof, the backing plates were most easily made in strips to fit each roof segment. These were then given a strip of 3M VHB tape and pulled into place with some temporary studs. Once the tape had secured, I could re-fit the headliner without worrying about the plates dropping out of position.


Finally, after the brackets were painted, I cut some rubber sheet gaskets and bolted them down:


Then it was just a matter of fitting new hardware into the ARB mounting track and getting 12 wobbly screws to line up with 12 holes and the awning was mounted:


Now everything hangs straight and has adequate clearance for both the slider and passenger door, no matter what angle the awning is deployed to.
 

WOODY2

Adventurer
While I'm waiting for the weekend to arrive, so I can get back to the pick-n-pull for more parts to play with, I can do a quickie update on a few other things:

1) On-Board Air Update

A while back I'd gone through the effort of fabbing up some brackets so I could sling a viair tank under the slider-door sill area. Once I realized how heavy my rig had gotten and started questioning all my life choices, I bagged that part of the project. I DID, however, follow through on mounting a compressor. I have been using a Viair 400p for ~9 years, and found it to be more than adequate for my ~30" tires. A few years back, I'd scored a good deal on a used 400c (the fixed-mount version) at a gear swap. The clean-up to the water-system in September 2020 unlocked easier access to the little cubby in the right-rear corner where the factory scissor jack originally stowed, and I wanted to use that space to mount the compressor. It's out of the dust and moisture, but also out of the way, and if I leave the factory jack cover off, there's more than enough ventilation.

Popping out the little "oddments tray" at the top of the trim panel also gives easy access to the area from above, making it relatively easy to service things, once I'd rerouted the factory harness that normally clips to the outside panel:


As I said, ventilation in that area is pretty good, but I saw that Viair offers a mounting kit that includes a pancake fan to help keep the motor cool. I thought that was a good enough idea to adapt for myself from a surplus 12v PC fan:


Next I needed a little control and mounting panel for my air chuck:


The panel mounts to the edge of my cabinet along that cubby and makes it quick and easy to connect the air line and turn on the system. The fan and relay coil are powered by an unused factory accessory wire in that corner (originally intended as a 20A supply to the trailer wiring harness, I believe). A separate power wire for the relay to the compressor was run from my accessory fuse block.




Since I'm running this system tankless, I'm using a relatively low pressure switch (70on-100off) and I've setup my refill hose with an inline regulator set to the desired tire pressure. I can just clip it on to the tire and let it run. When the tire hits the target pressure, the backpressure from the regulator lets the air line get to 100psi and the compressor shuts off. Move to the next tire, and repeat.
I am THRILLED with how much faster it is to air up at the end of the trail. About half the time spent previously was to unlock the rear cargo box, unpack the portable compressor from the bag, pop the hood and connect the power clips to the battery, etc. etc. etc. Now I can just pop open the rear doors, plug in the air hose and flip the switch, and I'm filling. The auto-shut-off also means I can spend that fill time walking around and looking for problems, instead of watching the gauge.
Rock solid mod, Kudos for watching your weight. Seems as though many don't.
 

WOODY2

Adventurer
2) Awning Bracket Upgrade

This one should have been pretty minor, but it turned out to be a surprising amount of work.

Ever since I harvested parts from the 1995 LuLu Island/GTRV back on page 3, (11 years ago.... sheesh), I'd been running the pair of "custom" awning brackets that had been fitted to that van. These were nothing more than a pair of 1/8" bits of steel plate bent into an "L" with the lower limb curved slightly to fit the contour of the van's roof:


On the donor van, these were literally just screwed to the van's roof with sheet-metal screws and covered in silicone. As a minor concession to safety, I fabbed some threaded backing plates to at least spread the load a bit.
These brackets mostly worked, and when I switched to an ARB awning in 2016, I was able to re-drill the brackets to just about get the awning high enough for the "bag" to clear the van's slider door. Things were also tight when opening/closing the passenger door if the awning was tilted downward at all, but I was at the top of the brackets.

Unfortunately, the "back rail" of the ARB mounting scheme is significantly less rigid over a long span versus the original hard-case "Norseman" awning, and so over the next few years it had sagged in the middle, and the outer cover of the ARB would occasionally catch in the slider. An upgrade was needed.

Step 1 was to fab new, taller brackets. I started with plenty of length to spare, and bent these using a combination of a makeshift bending jig and the bench-vise-and-hammer-and-swearing method. After getting things in-place I mocked up a straight edge and trimmed them to a height that solved my woes and also gave me a little margin for the future:



Since these brackets have to sneak out "under" the bulb seal of the pop-top, they need to be as flat as possible, and cannot have any reinforcement to the "L" shape. As a concession to this detail, I made the new brackets a bit wider. More importantly, since sagging over the middle was the original issue, I added a third bracket for the span (and additional backing plates). Please admire the three differently-shaped-curved-Ells and appreciate what a pain in the ass these were. :D



Because of the contours of the roof, the backing plates were most easily made in strips to fit each roof segment. These were then given a strip of 3M VHB tape and pulled into place with some temporary studs. Once the tape had secured, I could re-fit the headliner without worrying about the plates dropping out of position.


Finally, after the brackets were painted, I cut some rubber sheet gaskets and bolted them down:


Then it was just a matter of fitting new hardware into the ARB mounting track and getting 12 wobbly screws to line up with 12 holes and the awning was mounted:


Now everything hangs straight and has adequate clearance for both the slider and passenger door, no matter what angle the awning is deployed to.
It's truly the 'small' details that are setting your build apart. Bending those compound mounts is amazing and as long as you still have all your fingers intact you're ahead.
 
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