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Old 10-26-2017, 08:42 AM   #1
Aberdare
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1963 GMC Step-Van 7

OK, after doing a wee bit of lurking, this seems to be the spot to start a post about my latest project. It is a "Shorty", 7-ft floor with a 65" height which calculates to 211 cu.ft. of cargo space. The Vehicle is presently in pretty rough condition with a seized engine, and in dire need of some new wheel bearings after sitting in a farmer's field for 15 years. The engine is a 230 cu.in. L6 and it has a 4 spd manual gearbox. Both rear brakes are seized, which made loading and unloading from the trailer a little difficult... but after being unloaded - Surprise! The left rear wheel decided to turn on its own, leaving only the right rear brake needing some extra work to free it up.

So, Stage-1, is to make it into a rolling chassis. The 1st step will be to have the body lifted off the frame, then completely stripped down to have everything properly inspected and remove 50 years of crap, corruption, dirt & grime before being sand-blasted. I have already made an appointment for January 2018 to have the bare frame powder coated after NDT (Non-Destructive Testing) to find any stress cracks and have them corrected before the chassis is reassembled. While everything is stripped down, all bushings, bolts, rivets and other hardware will be replaced as required. While disassembled... the engine, transmission and differential in addition to the driveshaft and clutch will all be inspected and evaluated for serviceability and made pretty again too.

I estimate Stage-1 to take up a large chunk of my project's budget, but the finished chassis will be comparable to when the vehicle was NEW.

Stage-2 will be dedicated solely to the body with a complete disassembly of the entire body and a rebuild / re-manufacture of all structural components. All of the original exterior and interior panels will be saved (if the can be) and replacements sourced as required. The exterior will be a simple process of welding all the panels back together, one piece at a time, directly onto the chassis. Once completed, the BARE body will be lifted off and delivered to the body shop for finishing and paint, along with the doors.

Stage-3 will be dedicated to finishing and refurbishment. Sound proofing materials will be added as required along with all new rubber products to reseal all the doors and windows. I will also be adding an insulation foam between the interior and exterior panels to help keep this puppy from being an icebox in the winter and an oven during the summer. I will also be hand fabricating a completely new electrical system with NEW terminals and connectors in addition to all new / reproduction / replacement lighting equipment. The front sliding doors and the rear cargo doors will also be getting the same refurbishment / rebuild treatment as the body. The heater will have a companion A/C system upgrade, as well as the wiper / washers will be installed prior to the interior panels being re-installed.

I will be adding a full custom interior along with an auxiliary HVAC system. I have an associate who is looking forward to being part of this portion of the build and will be custom fabricating a wrap around "L-Shaped" rear bench complete with seat belts, in addition to a full 7.1 surround sound system.

I have already prepared an initial budget of $15,000 CAD for the entire build. Stay Tuned as I make regular updates as things progress and I welcome everyone to chime in at anytime to offer advice, suggestions and/or their comments.

THIS IS GOING TO BE ALOT OF FUN!
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Old 10-26-2017, 08:58 AM   #2
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Nice project!
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Old 10-26-2017, 09:06 AM   #3
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

What you have there is known as a ValuVan, the GMC equivalent to a Chevy StepVan. I know StepVan is a generic term since GM has the best ideas and use of names, but you might want to get used to calling what you own what it actually is

I'm into the total tear down and build back up restoration, but it sounds like you are making expensive plans for much possibly unnecessary work and expense before turning a nut and $15k sounds really shy of what I think all that will cost. Why do you think the wheel bearings are bad from sitting? They are a sealed units living inside a wad of grease. Grease seals out moisture better than about anything and sitting doesn't wear things out. That's just the first thing that caught my eye. You seem to have all the emphasis on cosmetics and skipped right over the mechanics, yet worried about bad wheel bearings from sitting 15 years.

It is best to have a thorough plan. But there is a certain element of see as you go involved with a sensible restoration/build. You just don't know what you're getting into till you get there. Surprises can be good or bad. I'm not discouraging you at all, just advising to be flexible with your plan as needed.
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Old 10-26-2017, 01:55 PM   #4
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Quote:
Originally Posted by Warrens69GMC View Post
Nice project!
Thank You... this was indeed a lucky find, as I don't think I've seen one this old locally for a very long time. It would seem that the majority of these little gems just didn't survive after their fleet service life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by special-K View Post
What you have there is known as a Value Van, the GMC equivalent to a Chevy Step Van. I know Step Van is a generic term since GM has the best ideas and use of names, but you might want to get used to calling what you own what it actually is

I'm into the total tear down and build back up restoration, but it sounds like you are making expensive plans for much possibly unnecessary work and expense before turning a nut and $15k sounds really shy of what I think all that will cost. Why do you think the wheel bearings are bad from sitting? They are a sealed units living inside a wad of grease. Grease seals out moisture better than about anything and sitting doesn't wear things out. That's just the first thing that caught my eye. You seem to have all the emphasis on cosmetics and skipped right over the mechanics, yet worried about bad wheel bearings from sitting 15 years.

It is best to have a thorough plan. But there is a certain element of see as you go involved with a sensible restoration/build. You just don't know what you're getting into till you get there. Surprises can be good or bad. I'm not discouraging you at all, just advising to be flexible with your plan as needed.
I have to agree that being flexible with a restoration plan is logical... not my 1st rodeo. While grease seals out moisture, having bare spindles when I 1st viewed it, and also not having ANY bearings on the right front... just a good plan to install NEW bearings to make it properly roll would, in my opinion, be a good place to start so it can at least be moved in and out of the workshop.

Nope, didn't skip over the mechanics... but with only 82,333mi on the odometer, if the engine turns after having my own special blend of penetrating oil with ATF and a few other additives sit in the cylinders for a few weeks... then all it will get after is a fresh set of seals & gaskets after a complete exterior shampoo... same goes for the transmission & differential... if it's not broken, why fix it?

Anyway, back to bending wrenches for a living and order some parts.

Abe
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Old 10-28-2017, 08:18 PM   #5
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

OK GM Guru's! If anyone feels up to the task, let's decipher some numbers!

The Vin Tag on my little beastie is still MIA, so if anyone has any ideas for other possible locations where it should, could, would, maybe... hiding, feel free to chime in and offer me some advice where else to look.

From the above picture of the Speedometer, the odometer shows 82,333 miles... so it COULD be a very real possibility that this is still the original engine. If this is the case, then it could assist in verifying something better than an educated guess for the model year. Engine Casting Number is 3850817, with casting markings further to the rear being 6 and D-29. The hyphen is half hidden by the dipstick tube. The Engine Serial Number is 066113645. The engine is painted a "bluish-green" colour. Please do remember that this is a Canadian Built "Shorty" - Meaning; built in Oshawa, Ontario... and the GVW rating for this vehicle is 4800 lbs so GVW - "A".

I do appreciate the time and effort put in by other members with some very extensive listings pertaining to casting numbers and date codes... but with this being a Canadian Built Vehicle, not everything is an exacting match, Hence the request for some assistance.

Thank You in Advance for sharing your Experience and Knowledge.

Abe
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Last edited by Aberdare; 10-29-2017 at 10:08 AM. Reason: added GVW
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Old 11-01-2017, 06:29 AM   #6
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

WEll, Latest Update... the engine casting date code deciphers to 29 April 1966, so it is fairly reasonable to conclude my Project is a 1966. I am having a hard paper vehicle registrations search conducted by an army buddy who joined the RCMP. It's going to take some time since he's doing this in his spare time, but he has access to archives that I can only access via FOIP (Freedom of Information Act).

So, I'm one step closer to finding out the original VIN, but at least I have a partial now... 6P91375600001A. Based upon this, if anyone has any Canadian GMC Production Numbers for 1966, that can help narrow down the sequential number, that would be a big help.

I've been inspecting the Van in the hopes of finding a partial VIN... but so far, no luck. Maybe it will be revealed when the body comes off the frame.

Abe
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Old 12-05-2017, 11:31 AM   #7
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Looking forward to keeping up with your progress, Abe! Try checking on the firewall under your steering column for a VIN tab. That's where mine is located on my Grumman bodied P10 chassis.

Best of luck on your project! Can't wait to see how it turns out!
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Old 12-12-2017, 06:01 AM   #8
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

well, I scored a set of 4 slightly used LT255-70R16 GoodYear tires for $100 and a set of 16 x 6.5 - 6 Bolt Steel Rims from a '95 Tahoe for $50... so the Van will have new ground grabs for only $150 total. Not bad for a little bit of grind time on Kijiji.
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Old 12-12-2017, 05:51 PM   #9
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

OK, Tuesday 12 December 2017, I took a personal day at the shop and put new wheel bearings into the front end, and gave it a quick inspection. The front end will require a complete rebuild with ball joins, tie rods, control arm bushings... the whole nine yards. So once it has been towed into the work shop, the real work can begin. I made a list and ordered all the parts, including all the brake parts... to the tune of $700, for pretty much everything - excluding the steering box. The original steering box is still in perfect condition, so when it comes out (after disassembly) all it is getting is a thorough steam cleaning of the exterior casing, a fresh coat of paint and new oil - then back in.

The front control arms will be stripped and blasted, along with the front coil springs, then they will all be off to be powder coated. (Pictures to follow once it is in the workshop).

All for now, Abe
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:38 PM   #10
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Alright, as I get all the preparations underway to have my little beastie towed into the workshop during the holiday period, I have made some purchases... which include a 2nd chassis assembly that the engine and transmission will be hoisted onto, and I scored a complete front end from a 1966 C10! Also, a dual axle trailer kit for the body to sit on while the chassis is being restored... Kijiji can hide some real bargains if you're willing to do a little digging.

ok, so Stage 1 will be underway with lifting off the body, and also removing the engine and transmission. The engine will be fitted onto the 2nd chassis, then tucked away to be worked on later. The trailer will have the body dropped onto it, then shuttled back outside under a tarp. The chassis will be completely stripped down in preparation to be sent out to be dipped, then powder coated. Of course there will be a deluge of pictures to post and also use as a reference to refit brake lines, fuel line and the rear electrical, in addition to restoring/rebuilding the front & rear suspensions.

The Electrical System will be getting a complete re-wire as, in my opinion, 50 year old wiring is best used only as a template to fabricate a new harness. So, the harness to the rear will include proper gauged & colour code insulated wire, fabricated from nothing but 25 meter spools... and also include a proper Trailer Towing Package for 7-Pin RV Standard.

Further to the electrical system, will be an upgrade to a 120 amp alternator, with provisions for an electric trailer brake controller and an auxiliary 12 Volt System... and to keep things legal for my jurisdiction - upgrade the exterior lighting to include side markers and clearance lamps as well, with (just for convenience) interior lamps as well. So all the provisions will be made to the main harness in preparation for the lighting requirements.

Quick question for everyone out there... does anyone have any relevant information on a 120 amp alternator upgrade?

More to follow on this (with pictures), once this beastie is in the workshop.
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Old 12-20-2017, 07:54 PM   #11
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Well, Preparations made... Wednesday, 20 December 2017... the first time the van has seen the inside of a workshop since its fleet service days. Even with a stuck brake on the left side, a 2007 Volvo XC90 AWD was more than capable of towing it from outside and into the workshop, with nothing but a tow chain.

Once inside, it was quickly propped up onto a hoist to have the rear wheels removed. Here it is, ready to begin the real work and prepare it to become a rolling chassis that can be easily shuttled in and out of the workshop with only a little man-power.
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Old 12-20-2017, 08:14 PM   #12
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Wednesday 20 December 2017, 3:30 pm.

With 5 out of 6 wheel studs broken off, it took some heat with an oxy-acetelyne torch to give the rims some friendly persuasion to let go from the rear hubs, then a few gentle "WHACKS" with a 5lb maul to end up on the floor after being stationary for 15 years in a Farmer's Field. The brake drums took a little more persuasion with a cutting torch, before they let go and surrendered.

With the rear brake assemblies stripped off, the only actual brake that is now left, is the parking brake on the rear of the transmission. I installed new wheel studs and lug nuts to mount the rims back on, so the van can now be easily moved.

More to follow on this as things progress.
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Old 12-21-2017, 11:43 AM   #13
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Looking good!
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Old 12-21-2017, 02:20 PM   #14
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

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Looking good!
Thanks Corte... one step at a time.

Next up is the really DIRTY job of removing 50 years (including the 15 years it sat in a farmer's field) of absolute filth from the inside, and the "Modifications" from when someone tried (and failed) to covert it into a small camper.

Once the obligatory "Clean-up" is accomplished, I will be removing the engine covers and flooring panels in preparation to remove the engine & transmission. Maybe this week-end, I'll splurge and buy myself an engine stand from Princess Auto.

After finding this lurking under the cabinets, it was time to wear a mask and gloves... and shuttle the Van outside next to the BFI bin. Anyone want to send over their cat?

** Pictures **
Abe
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Old 12-21-2017, 08:03 PM   #15
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

The Van Cleaned up pretty good, but there is a lot of rot. Dismantling the body is not going to be an easy task if the rest of the body is as difficult to remove fasteners as it was for the engine cowls... But not bad for 5 hours labour to get this far...

Cowls Off, and more to remove to have the engine and transmission ready to be hoisted out... It all takes time.

Abe
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Old 12-22-2017, 09:34 AM   #16
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Looks a lot better without all that trash in there!
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Old 12-22-2017, 06:38 PM   #17
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Well Folks ~** UPDATE **~ and I got a $3500.00 Christmas Present!

The Engine and Transmission still need to be unbolted from the mounts, before it gets hoisted out, but "Why the Heck Not?" seemed to be the rule of thumb today, with it being the last work-day before Christmas. With the spark plugs out, and sitting since the 3rd week of October... I gave the engine a turn by hand.

~*Merry Christmas, Baby!*~

No Need to do an engine rebuild! I dropped in a charged battery, fitted on the very old yet still serviceable battery cables, connected my remote start button, and the dammed starter WORKED! And after a quick compression test BONUS! All the Cylinders chimed in at 170-180psi on the gauge. All that's left now is to install a set of points and condenser (As it had no spark even when I HOT-WIRED it), along with new plugs, cap, rotor & wires... AFTER the outside gets a shampoo, steam cleaning and re-paint. I may even spin a new oil filter on and dump the sump. Just during all that extended cranking time, the engine managed to pump up the oil pressure to 35psi.

So, the estimated $3500.00 I budgeted for a rebuild, can now be more wisely spent elsewhere.

Just finished a PARLEZ with the gent who will be doing the paint when the time comes... Going to go with a two-tone Black/Pearl paint scheme to resemble an old "Paddy-Wagon" -- His Daughter wants to do a Graphic for the sides - ARRESTED DELIVERY. It should be interesting to see what her devious mind can dream up for the graphic... but that is for later.

Merry Christmas!
Abe
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Last edited by Aberdare; 12-22-2017 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 12-24-2017, 10:30 PM   #18
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Well, my Painter's daughter came through with an excellent Christmas Present. A graphic to have put on the upper half of each side. I've been in contact with a local company that can custom cut the logo onto very thin vinyl as a glue on decal.

This is one talented young lady... check it out!

Abe
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Old 12-25-2017, 12:01 AM   #19
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aberdare View Post
Well Folks ~** UPDATE **~ and I got a $3500.00 Christmas Present!

The Engine and Transmission still need to be unbolted from the mounts, before it gets hoisted out, but "Why the Heck Not?" seemed to be the rule of thumb today, with it being the last work-day before Christmas. With the spark plugs out, and sitting since the 3rd week of October... I gave the engine a turn by hand.

~*Merry Christmas, Baby!*~

No Need to do an engine rebuild! I dropped in a charged battery, fitted on the very old yet still serviceable battery cables, connected my remote start button, and the dammed starter WORKED! And after a quick compression test BONUS! All the Cylinders chimed in at 170-180psi on the gauge. All that's left now is to install a set of points and condenser (As it had no spark even when I HOT-WIRED it), along with new plugs, cap, rotor & wires... AFTER the outside gets a shampoo, steam cleaning and re-paint. I may even spin a new oil filter on and dump the sump. Just during all that extended cranking time, the engine managed to pump up the oil pressure to 35psi.

So, the estimated $3500.00 I budgeted for a rebuild, can now be more wisely spent elsewhere.

Just finished a PARLEZ with the gent who will be doing the paint when the time comes... Going to go with a two-tone Black/Pearl paint scheme to resemble an old "Paddy-Wagon" -- His Daughter wants to do a Graphic for the sides - ARRESTED DELIVERY. It should be interesting to see what her devious mind can dream up for the graphic... but that is for later.

Merry Christmas!
Abe
Cool project.
Keep in mind that if you are running the original engine and carb, your valve seats are going to get battered in from the no-lead gasoline and your carb seals are not going to like the ethanol in the fuel.
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Old 12-25-2017, 12:26 AM   #20
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

I'm watching this build. Cool
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Old 12-25-2017, 12:27 PM   #21
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

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Cool project.
Keep in mind that if you are running the original engine and carb, your valve seats are going to get battered in from the no-lead gasoline and your carb seals are not going to like the ethanol in the fuel.
Already ahead of you on that... I will upgrade the carb with a rebuild kit. Here in Canada Ethanol blended fuel is not a bad thing. Instead, I will be using Aviation Fuel - AvGas 100/130 with a Sodium Phosphate additive to replace the now banned Tetraethyl (Lead). The occasional tank of 92 octane Premium Grade Fuel wont be a bad thing either. Using the 87 octane regular is just going to cause too much pinging and knocking no matter how the carb is adjusted.
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I'm watching this build. Cool
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Old 12-29-2017, 06:23 PM   #22
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Well now, it's slow going with all the rusted hardware, but I've managed. Got the inner pocket door panels removed to expose the upper sliding door rails. Still have lots to do before removing the roof and side panels. This thing is a tank... the roof is bolted to the sides, front and rear headers with 5/16 bolts every 8-10 inches apart... I may lose count taking them all off. Also, going to need to remove the inner roof panels before I can even THINK about removing the first bolt holding the roof on.
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Old 01-03-2018, 10:08 PM   #23
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Cool project, Where did you find it? Thanks for the nice words on my build page. I'm looking for something else to build myself but more late 30's stuff. Are you in the Winnipeg area? I have been out of the forces since 2002 but i'm still working at 17Wing. Hope to see your project on the road soon.
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Old 01-03-2018, 11:46 PM   #24
JML55
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aberdare View Post
WEll, Latest Update... the engine casting date code deciphers to 29 April 1966, so it is fairly reasonable to conclude my Project is a 1966. I am having a hard paper vehicle registrations search conducted by an army buddy who joined the RCMP. It's going to take some time since he's doing this in his spare time, but he has access to archives that I can only access via FOIP (Freedom of Information Act).

So, I'm one step closer to finding out the original VIN, but at least I have a partial now... 6P91375600001A. Based upon this, if anyone has any Canadian GMC Production Numbers for 1966, that can help narrow down the sequential number, that would be a big help.

I've been inspecting the Van in the hopes of finding a partial VIN... but so far, no luck. Maybe it will be revealed when the body comes off the frame.

Abe
Here's what I have on serial number decoding, my book only goes to 1964 by it's should be pretty well the same
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Old 01-06-2018, 08:34 PM   #25
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Re: 1963 GMC Step-Van 7

Hey Jean-Marc!

Yes, I'm in Winnipeg... Last time I was @ 17 Wing was to process some health forms after I moved back to Winnipeg.

I found this little gem languishing in a farmer's field near Lundar... and he may have a project hiding in his field with your name on it. Just got back from picking up a 6x10 tandem axle trailer from Lorette and a 1968 GMC Truck frame from Morris. Going to use the trailer to hoist the body onto, and the chassis for the Engine and Trans while I strip down the Van's frame so I can send it out for tanking, NDT, then Powder Coating. Once I get the frame back, I'll be building the chassis... got to have a good foundation or it won't drive properly after.

We should keep in touch... know anyone with an 8 foot metal brake to do some bending?
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