Piston Slap: An LSX-FTW Christmas Wish, Revoked?

Sajeev Mehta

Woody writes:

Hi Sanjeev,

My wife complains that I don’t even notice when she doesn’t shave her legs; yet every time I say something about it, she complains at me about how she has no time because of kids, school, dinner, etc. Help a guy out. (You’re on your own with that, son! — SM)

No, really. Hi Sajeev — I’ll start out with the problem. I have an 2001 Astro van. As much as I love my cult classic, my Chevy box is starting to get tired. I need 8 seats (yes, I have been busy) and the ability to tow.

Before everybody suggests I go grab a Suburban or Tahoe (no sliding door), I’d like to pose a hypothetical. As only van drivers can understand, I like my current vehicle. With tax returns right around the corner (seven dependents … $$$), I’d like to get your opinion on some frivolous spending. The 4.3-liter Vortec V6 is not a bad motor. With a little effort I can strap a turbo on it and perform the various tuning tweaks needed to get it running tip top (timing change, higher PSI injectors).

Or, I could shoehorn a 5.3-liter in there. It will match up with the existing 4L60e (that will probably blow up under the added stress — SM) transmission, has great stock horsepower and torque, and you can pick one up at the junkyard with the computer for $310 ($275 for the motor + $35 for the ECM at LKQ in Central Florida) I know the the price of labor will probably cost more than either one of these kits. I am a fairly competent shadetree, which might help offset some of the cost. You have to be to keep one of these things going this long.


Sajeev answers:

I admire your loyalty to the Astro; as a Ford man I have a huge soft spot for the Aerostar, especially the two-tone brown unit eventually converted into The Bigfoot Shuttle.

But times are a-changing: now we know the Astro was made for people who hate their left leg, with possibly even more footwell intrusion than my beloved Aerostar. I can’t believe I’m letting rational thought take over what should clearly be LSX-FTW Astro, as there’s a proud history of V8 swaps for this machine. And they look like soooo much fun.

But, once more, we are talkin’ about a father and his kids here.

I almost never recommend an SUV (but that doesn’t stop anyone from wanting them), so do us a solid and get a newer minivan for around $5,000.  Like a 10-year old Ford Freestar/Mercury Whatever, Chrysler van, or any GM U-body for that price. Sure, they are car-based and don’t let you be a macho Daddy doing gnarly burnouts while hauling around your kids, but why risk life and limb (literally) when you can get a far superior design for not much extra cash?

Your “frivolous spending” on a tired van of questionable safety is a rather bad idea. Time to start shopping for a safer sleigh, perhaps doing an LS4-swap instead with next year’s tax return? Now that’s an EXCELLENT IDEA! 

Best and brightest?

[Image: stanceiseverything.com]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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