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

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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piston slap an lsx ftw christmas wish revoked

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: Shutterstock user Zelfit]

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.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Woody in FL Woody in FL on Dec 18, 2017

    Sorry I'm late to the party everybody. Just got done with the week-long flu and a round trip from one end of Florida to the other. You guys really are the best with all your concern about my family's safety. Lately I've been looking into the crash ratings on the Astro Vans and they are absolutely deplorable. I don't want to go the FWD route because all my friends have already done that and lost. The NV 3500 Vans look very promising but they're a little big for the little lady to be driving. One of my best friend has a conversion van on a savannah platform. To its defense it may be a lemon but the thing just does not run. Going to have to break down and become a two car family. Now for the next Piston Slap, Odyssey vs. Sienna.

    • Salguod Salguod on Dec 18, 2017

      Both are solid choices, the Sienna is probably a smidge more reliable, the Odyssey a smidge more enjoyable to drive. What are your towing needs? The GM Lambdas can be had with 8 seats & a 5,200 towing capacity. Of course, with 8 on board that's reduced by the weight of the 7 passengers. You must get one with the factory tow package, however, to get that rating. The early ones were not so great on the reliability front, however. I believe that the Durango can be configured to tow 7,500 lbs, but I'm not certain if it can be had in an 8 passenger configuration. I think the 3rd row is 2 passengers. Beyond that, there's the tried & true Tahoe & Suburban. Given your needs, this is probably the right choice, frankly.

  • Woody in FL Woody in FL on Dec 18, 2017

    Realistically >16ft boat, borrowed pop-up, cargo trailer for when I inevitably help someone move. I only need seats full+towing capacity at the same time maybe 5 times a year. I did not know the new FWD's could actually tow though, something to look into.

    • Salguod Salguod on Dec 18, 2017

      A minivan might do for you. I think most minivans are about 3,500, properly equipped. For my '99 Odyssey that meant adding a transmission cooler and using a weight distributing hitch (Reese makes one, the 350 mini, that works with light weight trailers like a pop up.) The popup is probably your worse case. Assuming the additional 7 are kids and average 100lbs each, you've got 2,800 lbs of trailer & gear to play with. Doable if your trailer is small-ish. The thing about camping is not only are you toting your clothes, you've got all your food and drink, pots & pans, camp chairs, bedding, maybe bikes, firewood, etc. It adds up pretty fast. My Odyssey did OK pulling our large-ish popup with all of our gear. The popup's tag said it weighed 1700lbs, but older models listed the base weight only, no options. The spare, the LP tank, the awning, the fridge, etc. all added to that. Given that and 7 days worth of gear, I assumed that we added about 800lbs of stuff. Then add the 4 passengers and the dog and I'd guess we were at ~3,000 lbs. or so It did fine. Honestly, a GMC Acadia (pre-2017) or Chevy Traverse might be better. We traded our Odyssey on an 8 passenger 2010 Saturn Outlook (same platform) and we filled it with 8 people more than once. If equipped with the factory tow package they are rated to tow 5,200. The Outlook towed much better than the Odyssey did. Don't go too old, the early ones weren't too reliable. Check the stats at truedelta.com.

  • Art_Vandelay I wish. Love the 70 series
  • Pco65752756 Why is this not on the High Mile Cars List?
  • SCE to AUX "But we can all go pound sand in North America, unfortunately"In reality, that would be about 1000 people who can go pound sand, which is why this isn't coming to North America.
  • MaintenanceCosts You could probably make this thing satisfy US emissions standards, although it wouldn't right now, but there is no way on God's green earth you could make it satisfy US safety standards.
  • MrIcky Haven't these been out for a while? Is the news just that Japan gets them now too?