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Old 10-21-2011, 01:24 PM   #1
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Default Power to weight ratios?

I posted this under Vans/Motors. I'm moving it to General for increased exposure (and ridicule?).
I've got the '02 Chev 3500 Express van with the 350CID V8 (5.7L?). No idea how much HP or torque it has, but the fuel economy is pretty good. No matter what the rated power output is, it is a heavy vehicle with the extra equipment Roadtrek added when they converted it. I think it weighs in at around 8500 lbs. tanks empty.
I was wondering how to get more power from it, or as a second option, was there a larger factory engine/transmission available in that year, that would fit under the hood, with minimum additional mods to the engine compartment, and drivetrain (I'd expect possibly a shorter driveshaft) if I decided to change out the existing engine for a larger one? I'm prepared to sacrifice fuel economy for increased power.
Who or where could I go to follow up on this idea? GM dealer? Custom engine shop?
I think I'd like more power, or a more powerful engine, for driving up hills in the mountains.
Thoughts, suggestions, recommendations?
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Old 10-22-2011, 04:07 AM   #2
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

Mike - I'm not sure about engine options for '02 RT's. If you check Roadtrek.com, you can download your 2002 owners manual. If I am reading it right, the 170 and 190 models were on a Dodge chassis and the 200 was on a Chev. chassis. It says Chev. is 255 HP/330 ft.lbs. Please check it to make sure I'm right.

This is kind of comparing apples and oranges but my '08 190P has the 6.0L engine. It is a few hundred pounds heavier than yours so the power to weight ratio might be close to the same. Like you, I was concerned about maintaining speed on mountain roads but I've found it's never been an issue even with full tanks. I've not been in the Rocky's but traveling the eastern mountains has been easy going.

I have a friend with a '94 RT with a 318 engine. He says it is underpowered but he has managed to put 220,000 miles on it so I guess it can't be all that bad. Good luck and happy trails.
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Old 10-22-2011, 04:58 AM   #3
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

There were 2 190 models my year, 4 models in total. There was a 170 and a 190 on a Dodge chassis, and a 190 and a 200 on a Chev chassis. I have since looked at the brochure for 2002 which has more technical specs than the owner's manual. The 200 had an optional 8.1L SFI V8 but my 190 didn't. I'm wondering if that engine might be able to be fitted into the 190 3500 extended van chassis. I'll probably run this by my GM dealership and see if it's possible, and it's feasible money wise. I'm sure it would solve my power issue.
Anyone on here have any experience with the Chevy 8.1L V8? Powerful? Fuel economy?
I agree about eastern mountains. Generally speaking I've not had too much trouble in them, once in a while it lugs up a grade greater than 6-7% rate of climb.
The western mountains are a different animal. You learn defensive hill climbing very quickly, how to flip the 4 ways on and move right, how not to get trapped behind an even slower moving truck, also struggling up hill, or at least to keep an eye on your water temperature gauge if you do get trapped. How to spot those grades in advance that will cause you grief. It's fun, really (not!). The down hills can be just as exciting, particularly if your brakes weren't serviced before you head out.
At least that's been my experience. Others might have different experiences or opinions.
We still enjoy traveling, but we tend to gravitate west, so it's something I'd like to resolve, if possible. We like our van, it's a great way to see the continent, except for this one little bugaboo. If we were Florida bound every trip it wouldn't be an issue. If it can't be resolved, we've discussed selling up to someone who doesn't like mountains, and look for another means of travel to our preferred vacation spots. Perhaps another van with a better PtoW ratio, or maybe something other than a B?
Anyway, sorry for the monologue. Thanks for the thoughts.
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Old 10-22-2011, 01:40 PM   #4
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

Mike

I'm anxious to get to the western mountains and when we were looking for a van, we looked for larger engines for the reasons you mention. While looking, we drove an RT 200 with the 454 4ngine (I think that's the 8.1L you mention) and it certanly has lots of get-e-up. It's a huge engine block but might fit. Seems like it would be an expensive switch especially if the trans and/or differential has to be switched out to match to new engine. Good luck.

I'm anxious to experience the western mountains. The 6 - 8 degree grades in VA or western NC have not been a problem. I'll down-shift every once in a while for both uphill and down but as you say, it's a whole new ballgame when you go west. Maybe we'll get there next summer.
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Old 10-22-2011, 02:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

Jim,
Thanks for the anecdotal opinion. Very useful. I'm hoping the motor mounts and driveshaft length will be the only issues, although the Roadtrek brochure mentioned the 8.1L came with a locking differential so that might mean a complete drivetrain replacement, possibly including the rear axle.
Probably not worth it, but there's no harm in asking.
Might be cheaper than a new van. I'll have to "weigh" my options.
You won't be disappointed with the western mountains. The drive through the Glenwood Canyon portion of I-70 is incredible. You'll be impressed by the roadway engineering, even if you know nothing about it.
Out there, there are plenty of grades greater than 7% (although you usually only get warned about the downhills) so it can be a challenging drive. We think it's worth it, even with our current vehicle, and visit the west often.
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Old 10-22-2011, 02:56 PM   #6
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

IIRC the Express van was changed in 2003 and the 7.4 litre was dropped as an option. I have heard that when they did the change they made the engine compartment and doghouse smaller, so an 7.4 into a 2003 and up probably is a no go.

It could be done into your 2002, however. The best thing to do is to find a donor van at the junkyard or repairables dealer and swap out the entire drivetrain. You might run into some issues with the Roadtrek parts being in the way, but I don't think it would be major.
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Old 10-22-2011, 09:44 PM   #7
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

Thanks Booster. I had hoped since the chassis for the 200 had the 8.1 as an optional engine, it might also
fit in the Express van chassis' engine compartment. The doghouse (cowl?) in the cockpit under our dash is large and reminiscent of the rear access cowl in my '79 E150. It's roomy.
I'll run it all by my GM guys next week. It can't hurt to inquire.
They're nuts, like me, so it might be a go even if it won't be cheap or easy (please hold the comments about my personal levels of integrity, thanks )
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Old 10-24-2011, 07:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

Keep us posted on the progress and idea options.

The standard 350 has many power improvements that can be applied to it. If you go this route, you will want to modify it for increased torque, not necessarily horsepower. Longer crank can get you more torque and more C.I.D.. Ask for the friction-reducing coatings on the new parts, to reduce heat of operation. There are other things too, if you go that route.
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Old 10-24-2011, 07:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

I'd love to find a crated 496 or 454, as either would do the trick. If I went the rebuild/re-engineer route, I'd try to get the most wear resistant parts, as longevity is as important as performance long term, when spending money on this sort of thing. I would treat it like any other investment. It would also be a bonus to find that it's not as expensive as I already expect it to be.
TY, for the suggestions. It's all good as far as I'm concerned.
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Old 11-01-2011, 08:55 PM   #10
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Default Re: Power to weight ratios?

UPDATE: Got a reply back from GM Canada and they basically passed the buck to the local dealer.
He finally got back to me and suggested upping the size of the motor brings with it a host of other
issues, none of which are minor. According to him, almost every related system and control either
mechanical or electronic would have to be changed too. So he suggested trying a performance engine place that simply reprograms the OBD or control module to squeeze 30 more HP out of the engines,
which probably isn't worth the trouble. I doubt 30 HP will make any noticeable difference in hill climbing ability.
So I'm searching for a real tearer down, and rebuilder of engines. Someone who knows what things might actually help this little V8 do more.
Any one ever taken their car to a performance shop nearby?
That '65 Coronet 440 must need an occasional visit to the torque clinic?
I used to know a guy who bought a slightly later model GTX with the Super Commando 440.
Probably one of the fastest cars I've ever been in.
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