Newbie Van Build - 1997 E150 - MG Radius Setup

Redemption Road

New member
Hey all,
I am digging into my MG conversion van build this fall/winter. I have my 97 E150 that I have had and used since bought in 1999. Has been a great rig for all things camping, traveling, dunes, lake. It does however lack one thing, inclement weather and off road ability. Figured I post up with progress, questions and hopefully get some answers and a little guidance when I get that 'deer in the headlights' look. Currently have the old front end stripped out and ready to start fitting up new hardware. I will pull everything back out and paint/finish before final assembly.

I know, I know why an E150? Mainly, because I have it, its been paid for forever. Worth very little sold but worth a bunch kept. So I figured I would add some mobility and keep on trucking.

Current plan, in progress and future plans...(subject to changes of course)
MG radius arm kit -have
Red head steering gear - have
2005 front/rear axles, 3.73 (stock ratio was 3.55) - have
Moog 880s springs - planned
planned is rear shackle flip (add/adjust spring pack as needed to get level) - planned
2017 F450 front bumper (free to me) may go bigger, ARB, Aluminess - planned

That's where I'm at, I'll post up progress for those interested and please feel free to say, 'you should do this', or 'hey I have (insert part here) if you need and want to buy'.
 

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Redemption Road

New member
Day 3 (of actual work) Disclaimer....'day'=4hrs minimum of garage time, minus cursing, bleeding and tool hunt of course.

Day 1 was clearing a work space and getting the project up on stands.
Day 2 was yarding out old front end.
Day 3 trial/test fitting of brackets to see where I'm at, whats needed for hardware...etc. Fits well!

For those of you have that undertaken this journey, do you cut out/grind the old independent suspension anchors on the cross member? Seems like leaving them there would maintain strength. I know some of the cross member is going to get trimmed out so that may make that decision when I get to that point.

Passenger side has a remote vacuum canister/reservoir, that needed removed but can go back in the same location. Out of the (6) horizontal mounting holes for each bracket, only one will need drilled new for each side. Pretty happy about that.

Found a great deal on a set of F250SD stock wheels/tires with 50% plus tread life ($140 for all). Will be good to have for now before deciding on an upgrade.

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Redemption Road

New member
Good progress this week, very satisfied. Still needing some missing hardware and to get things torqued to spec. I'm a big fan of test fit, tweak, simmer, tweak and then torque.

I wondered about the 880s, CC880s and others because of the 5.4L. I have the CC880s so we will see. Might be an auction in my future.

The rear axle I bought needed some love, this is definitely a 'lipstick/pig' scenario. The seller showed this nice truck, front all smashed, but selling off part and pieces. My interpretation was I buy, they yank it out and send it along to me. The reality, likely totaled in 2013'ish, vultures picked it clean, axle sat in a salt water puddle for 7 years...then sold to me. Rust scars under the removed perches we rotted, like rotted through! Some buzz box work and grinding set it right but needed some work for sure. Also got a little heavy handed in perch removal but scars doctored up. All other ancillary components we not removed but basically rusted to death. So after buying all new everything, minus the axle itself, the good deal turned into a normal deal, but I get all new everything minus the internals basically.

For anyone buying an axle or anything else for that matter, always ask for a picture of the actual part being sold. Would have saved me some grief.

The U-bolt kit I purchased was for some serious leak pack or lift blocks. Came with 2" blocks, I tossed them on until the front is done and I see what I need for leveling. Added some pipe spacers to at-least get it snugged up and centered. (Ran out of thread) Sits pretty good right now, no shackle flip and skinny OEM leaf pack. Gonna let that simmer for now until front has weight on it. The spring set is original since '97, looking at SD for an upgrade with slightly more load capacity. New would be a 4+1 2250# rather than the original 2+1 1625#.

Managed to get the front axle located and set in place as well. Again, all bracketing is snugged but not torqued for any tweaks or adjusting needs. I used Zone off-road radius arms rather than the suggested stock arms so was interested to see where the axle centered up, looks good. Also was really interested to see just how much front member needed to be trimmed out. That is the next task scheduled as time permits.

QUESTION: What is the best measure point to center up relocated perches?

I think I have the axle centered to within 1/16 (1/32 on either side) but have some tire rubbing on the R.R. The rub is on the super extra long U-bolts extending way up, but those will be cut down or replaced eventually, so maybe no big deal. I pulled measurements from face of lower leaf spring to face of hub (where wheel mounts).

Much to do but taking shape....

(I have basically posted the same thread content here and at SMB, call it a test drive, but really liking the multi photo add at EP)


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Redemption Road

New member
Well, the easy stuff is done now. Front springs and mounts set in place. Sitting much higher than I thought. Definitely need to check into rear springs/shackle flip. The Zone arms appear to give plenty of castor even with the cam spacers set toward the rear.


The stock E150 spring isolators looked to be much better quality than the MOOG ones I purchased, they are formed and fit the spring quite well, used the stock instead.

Next up, Trackbar and mount! Sitting loosey goosey right now but get a good idea of height and what needs done to level out. Then trimming that cross member (cut out the old IFS mount just so it could see how it sits)



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Redemption Road

New member
Thanks Raul!

Those are the exact springs I had selected, so pulled the the trigger on them. Glad to know they worked well and rode good. After 22 years guess its time, but man, shipping sure drains the pockets. Van has always ridden low with the boat hooked up and gear loaded so this will surely help out.

Control arms are Zone Off Road, #F1601. With stock arms being about $100 a pop I thought these were a good buy. Re-seller (not Zone) advertised as a 'kit' for $198 and they showed two arms in the ad. In all honesty I thought they were just slightly upgraded arms to replace the OEM arms. Nope! Only one showed up, kit was bushing and bolts. Learned that Zone sells for slightly higher but in pairs, so $400'ish. Once I saw that I knew I got duped and part because I didn't really know. I called the re-seller and told them they ought to show clearly it is 1 arm, 2 required for a set. Got a minimal discount for me being a DA so I grabbed another one. Lesson learned.

I have no comparison to the recommended stock Ford arms but these seem to have plenty of caster and sit a bit forward, no complaints.
 

Raul

Adventurer
LOL. I am fighting the same issue with the same arms. Before placing the order chat and ask for confirmation these were 2 arms. Sure enough only one showed up. So far they are pushing the can down the road, but their web site still describe it as a kit and two arms.
 

Redemption Road

New member
Minor progress, slow and steady.

Ran into an issue with having acquired a rear axle form an Excursion rather than an F250/350. Some minor differences, calipers, rotors and width. All are capable of being dealt with but opted to acquire an F250 axle as I have purchased all the brake hardware already and not wanting a franken van where I need to keep a bigger list of what parts for what, and lastly, the Excursion axle was a dog from the get-go. Hoping I can sell it to someone building a project jeep or something. We'll see...

-All brackets torqued to specs (whats the secret to torquing the driver side arm bolts to axle, there is zero room to get a socket/torque wrench on it)
-Started steering linkage
-New rear leafs installed, raised about 1" to 1.5" (about the difference in spring pack height really) still needing about 2" and without the blocks 3", so looks like shackle flip will be on order soon. (Look almost level in pics, its not)


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Also, starting to question my choice in radius arms. I really thought the Zone arms were just beefier stock spec arms. The front axle sits a bit forward visually and the CC880s springs don't sit center with the wheel. They do look squared up, just behind center. As a newbie I have no idea of how far is too far and where the limits are. The arms come with a cam plate that can bet set front or back, basically a 2.5" lift (back) or 6" lift (front), but that is from a stock position on an F series and not a custom E series setup, so pondering and hoping to get some feedback. I have mine set back and still have plenty of caster and while I don't mind the forward axle position I do wonder about spring location relative to everything else.

From Zone specs: Designed as a direct replacement for the factory stamped stamped steel arms, these HD radius arms not only add strength, but allow for more caster correction by integrating a lower cam slot and offset washer to dial in caster for 2.5-6" of lift.

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Redemption Road

New member
Darned work has kept me away from project for better part of the last 3 weeks, but, without that pesky job I wouldn't have a project in the first place.

Managed to receive the second rear axle, perches cut off and relocated and 'tack welded' for now (pretty sure I'll be moving slightly to set pinion angle later but need to move it in and out of garage as the Oregon 1st winter is approaching and I have 'other' projects that need to come back inside from the rain) . So much happier with this second axle purchase!
Spent a few 'half' days wrapping up loose ends on front. Fox shocks mounted, new calipers, rotors, pads and brake lines re-routed. Need yet to secure the OEM line brackets but looks like a good routing, safe from damage.

Still need to get the steering linkage done and haven't ordered new steering box just yet. Will need the new box to accept new pitman arm. Planning to enlarge OEM arm enough to have temporary linkage and move it in and out of garage. (Really need more shop space!) Not a fan of temporary work. Pleased with progress with limited time. More empty parts boxes then filled ones....that is good!


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Redemption Road

New member
So yeah, stage 1 of the build is complete and I am able to get it outside and get a sense of 1)how it sits 2) how it looks 3)how it feels. I like it all!

Drained the donor front and rear oils, both were exceptionally clean. Changed oils in both with fresh.
Changed out rear axle pinion from flange to u-Joint style, U-joint style was a bit shorter and it allowed me to bolt up the OE E150 driveshaft with a 13 to 14 series U-joint adapter.
Reamed out OE pitman to 7deg'ish so steering (temporary) is available.

So after getting it outside, taking a walk around, looking at it from close to far, I have the following to-do/want items....

Swap out the 31s for 35s (the 31s with wheels were $140 and considered temporary for now)
Front and rear bumper changes (rear with tire carrier)
Fuel tank, man I struggle with this one. Don't want to give up the 5gal to keep the midship and the large rear tanks are very expensive.
Still need to do transmission work to bolt up transfer (once I get transfer) May opt for compatible rebuilt trans to avoid doing the work. I've had enough of transmissions lately. (Rebuilding another 4L60E for something else currently)
I have 3" blocks under the rear, definitely want the shackle flip instead of blocks. (I have only tack welded perches because I know changes are coming, so not driving, gently moving from here to there only)

QUESTIONS:
Does the exhaust for the 5.4 need re-routed? May help me choose fuel tank options.

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