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August 3, 2009

My 1983 Chevrolet Eldorado Conversion Van

By Jim Brennan


While a large number of cars are showcased within the CarDomain community, along with a few choice pickup trucks, the full size van seems to be ignored. I just happen to own one of these ignored behemoths, so I thought it was time to show you the Danger Van, otherwise known as my 1983 Chevy Eldorado Camper.

Continue reading after the jump!

I bought this truck in May of 1997 for all of $5,250, from a Camper Dealer that took it on consignment. It seems that the previous owner was actually afraid of driving it, and no wonder. When I took it for a test drive, the engine seemed to die when trying to accelerate for a standing start, which was fixable. But the most dramatic problem with the truck was the braking system, as it pulled to the right every time you applied the brakes. Oh, and it needed an exhaust system.

Taking these things into account, I realized that this was a very unique vehicle, perfect for towing my boat, or a race car. It had a little over 73,000 miles on it, and the 350 cid Chevy Engine, and Turbohydramatic 400 were almost bullet proof. If that wasn’t unique enough, the original owner installed an Air Ride suspension, by taking out the leaf springs, and installing an air compressor, with twin airbags so that the truck would ride smoother. In my mind, it doesn’t help with the ride, only makes maintenance more complicated. Anyway, I bought the camper, and had all the little problems taken care of one by one. A New 4BBL Carburetor took care of the hesitation, a complete brake job with New Front Pads and Rotors, and New Rear Brake Shoes, and Drums, along with a complete bleed of the system took care of the darting, and a complete new exhaust system from Midas was installed.

The inside of the unit is exactly the same as I bought it, sort of a retro mod vibe to it. Yes, those are velvet Captains Chairs, and the upholstery for the Dinette, and sofa is a multicolor velour. That sofa flips it’s rear section, and coupled with the folding dinette, creates a King Sized bed for two. The truck also came with a three way refrigerator (110V, 12V, and Gas) 2 Burner Stove, Sink, roof mounted A/C, and a Bathroom/Shower Combo. One of the things that really caught my eye when considering it was the integrated trailer hitch with the rear step. I could open the rear door, and back right up to the trailer without any help whatsoever. Great for backing the boat into a boat launch as well.

It is now getting on in age, as this is a 1983 Model, with only about 88,000 miles on it. The one thing that is happening is the rust issues. Since the pod from the cab back is largely fiberglass, it’s the cab that is rusting, with the passenger-side “A” pillar that is almost disintegrated. This is basically a Chevy Van, so I was thinking of removing the windshield, and replacing the entire “A” pillar with one found at a junk yard. What do you guys think? There is also rust issues on the upper part of the windshield, and the doors are starting to show rust. Oh, and there seems to be a leak in the main cabin as it’s musty after it rains.

However, for the past 12 years, I have done practically nothing special to keep this on the road, besides doing oil changes, and routine maintenance like belts, hoses, coolant flushes and tires. It’s able to perform all it’s tasks well, and I was thinking about entering it in the Babe Rally next year. So, I’m asking the CarDomain Community, what should I do to save this unique, and rare beast? Should I take care of the rust issues, and keep it somewhat stock, or should I go whole hog, and after fixing the issues, do a custom paint job, upgrade the engine, and make it a radical beast? I look forward to hearing all of your ideas.


Sep 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Jim… What a Nice trailer Beast you have, Here in Mexico the people who take cares of that kind of work (Wind Shield & Right Pillar) makes good artesanal work on that, may be removing the wind shield, clean of rust everything, weld some steel reinforce element and then with epoxy paste makes the perfect shape, a little paint job and… Thats it, you have a non-expensive and waterproof work done. you now… Made in Mexico, hahaha.
any way, cut-off all the scrap metal an replace for one piece on good shape from junkyard seems good but expensive idea, most if you are in the US. I own a Chevy Van 30 (Diesel) Motorhome that you can see here on my garage. Congratulations and keep going. LIKE A ROCK!!!

Jun 22, 2010 at 6:28 am

Beautiful job. Loved this conversion story. We featured you on our blog, Van Fever. Thanks for sharing your story!

Aug 10, 2009 at 10:33 am

I love it, but don’t hit the brakes too hard the windshield will fall out!

Aug 4, 2009 at 1:06 am

It really is becoming of a “resonance thing”

Aug 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm

If the rig’s worth keeping (I think it is), I’d remove the windshield, grind out the rust and have the A pillar cut from a similar van, swapped out and welded in. Would definitely have to get the rest of the rust lower, but that *might* be just sheetmetal work.

Aug 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Jim, should’ve kept on top of that a-pillar rot. Wouldn’t have ended up like that.
Aside from that this thing looks wonderful for its age, and the design of it, I think stood the test of time pretty well. The interior looks awesome for roadtrips, very comfortable.
I just wouldn’t wanna feed the thing.

Aug 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

what in hell is that. i’d fix it for the appearance and details. the cab will never be normal, its a resonance thing. you may be better off with leafs put back in and overdo the cabs oem standard thinking of the back end owning it. Weld weld away… maybe a windshield from something else. ingenuity…

Aug 3, 2009 at 7:08 am

It’s completely custom,,whats not to love?!

Aug 3, 2009 at 5:03 am

well one thing is for sure. Your gonna have alot more rust to repair than just the a pillar. It obviously leaks inside, so check your floor and firewall. If I were you I would use the upcoming winter to go all out with the rust repair and clean out every cursed little spec of orange from that van. Then upgrade it to your liking and try and keep it on the road and rust free for as long as possible. It certainly has potential.

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