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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I'm looking at purchasing a van to convert into a home base for an extended road trip to different backpacking destinations, so I'll be doing a significant amount of driving through the mountains. I've come across a 1986 G20 van with the 6.2L for a pretty reasonable price($3,500.00 for anyone curious.) The 6.2L seems like an attractive option due to it's fuel economy, but it seems the main complaint is how gutless the engine is. My budget for a van is around 5-6k, so the only comparative vehicles i'm finding from a price standpoint are 1990 gas conversion vans, or early 2000 cargo vans with 200k+ miles. My question is, how will this engine handle the mountains compared to the gas engines in 1990s vans? Also...I don't have any experience working on cars, but would like to learn, would this be a good engine to learn on?
 

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I’ve always had good success with the 6.2 diesel.Myself personally I think it’s one of the best engines ever produced.What you can do is find a 4153 or 4554 heavy duty emission injection pump and that’ll certainly wake it up.The van might have the 4554 pump currently as the 4153 is from the early 80’s.You really won’t know unless you take a mirror and have a look at the identification tag on the current injection pump.
 
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Welcome to DieselPlace
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For the most part, they're pretty darn reliable engines. Id totally run one. Is it going to be slow? Yes. In the mountains are you going slow? Yes. Ive run mine up to some pretty wild places! Got awesome mileage doing it.

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Is it a good engine to start learning how to turn wrenches? Yes it is.

Is it a good choice for you and your application at this time? Probably not.

Performance-wise it's fine for your application, similar to a stock 350, but with MUCH better mileage.

However, if you run into a problem out there you can't just have it towed to the nearest repair shop and expect them to be able to fix it. Most often they can't, and even if they can you'll have to wait for parts, if you can find them quickly.

Along those same lines you might also reconsider the van. It's been my experience that repair shops today do not like working on old vans. A number of shops in my area turned me away when I brought my 94 Ford E-150 conversion van.

For your application a Suburban-type vehicle with a 350 with the back seat removed would serve you quite well. And that is also a good engine to start learning to turn wrenches.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So I'm looking at purchasing a van to convert into a home base for an extended road trip to different backpacking destinations, so I'll be doing a significant amount of driving through the mountains. I've come across a 1986 G20 van with the 6.2L for a pretty reasonable price($3,500.00 for anyone curious.) The 6.2L seems like an attractive option due to it's fuel economy, but it seems the main complaint is how gutless the engine is. My budget for a van is around 5-6k, so the only comparative vehicles i'm finding from a price standpoint are 1990 gas conversion vans, or early 2000 cargo vans with 200k+ miles. My question is, how will this engine handle the mountains compared to the gas engines in 1990s vans? Also...I don't have any experience working on cars, but would like to learn, would this be a good engine to learn on?
Anything I should look for in particular? The van I'm looking at had roughly 90k miles. Odometer could have turned over, but the interior is immaculate shape including the driver seat and the acceleration pedal doesn't look like it's seen a whole lot of wear. They supposedly have service records so I should be able to verify that way. I performed a cold start and it sputtered out at first, had to press the acceleration pedal to keep it going the 2nd attempt, but after that it idled fine. There was a bit of white smoke for 10-15 seconds, but after that there was none. If produces a good bit of black smoke when you lay on the acceleration pedal. The van was last registered in 2018, but has been sitting since when the owners husband died. He was supposedly a mechanic who maintained it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Is it a good engine to start learning how to turn wrenches? Yes it is.

Is it a good choice for you and your application at this time? Probably not.

Performance-wise it's fine for your application, similar to a stock 350, but with MUCH better mileage.

However, if you run into a problem out there you can't just have it towed to the nearest repair shop and expect them to be able to fix it. Most often they can't, and even if they can you'll have to wait for parts, if you can find them quickly.

Along those same lines you might also reconsider the van. It's been my experience that repair shops today do not like working on old vans. A number of shops in my area turned me away when I brought my 94 Ford E-150 conversion van.

For your application a Suburban-type vehicle with a 350 with the back seat removed would serve you quite well. And that is also a good engine to start learning to turn wrenches.

Good luck!
My plan was to spend some money getting the engine in tip top shape before taking the trip and carrying with me a repair kit of the most common items to fail, but...any major repairs would definitely be a problem. I've been looking at older sprinter vans, but they're usually around 10k with 200-300k miles. The van with the 6.2l I'm looking at is only 3K, so I could spend 2 grand restoring the engine, and still only be in at half the cost of a sprinter. I'd really like something bigger than a suburban, but maybe Im too concerned about the amenities and "van life." Something I'll have to think about and figure out what I actually need.
 

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I hear what you're saying about used car prices of late, but very often the cheaper vehicle winds up being the most expensive.

This is the kind of thing you need for your application.

1985 Ford E-Series Van XL | eBay

Meets your space requirements, and everything from the engine to the brakes to the fuel system, transmission, everything easily available off the shelf anywhere in the country.

I really hate trying to talk you out of a 6.2 because it's a hoot, but it's really not the kind of thing you want to have to rely on in the bush if you're not handy.

There's a reason it's cheap.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I hear what you're saying about used car prices of late, but very often the cheaper vehicle winds up being the most expensive.

This is the kind of thing you need for your application.

1985 Ford E-Series Van XL | eBay

Meets your space requirements, and everything from the engine to the brakes to the fuel system, transmission, everything easily available off the shelf anywhere in the country.

I really hate trying to talk you out of a 6.2 because it's a hoot, but it's really not the kind of thing you want to have to rely on in the bush if you're not handy.

There's a reason it's cheap.
..all that may be true...but I want an old Diesel van so I can feel distinguished! I kid, I kid. I appreciate your advice. That makes a lot of sense, I was simply considering that diesel engines are "more durable" and not dealing with the ramifications of what happens when things DO go wrong. Which they inevitably will with a 30 year old van.
 

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I wouldn't be too worried about running a 6.2 out into the woods if it was me. They're fairly reliable and in my experience rarely straight up fail. They more fail gradually. The slight rough start is typical to me of 6.2 trucks. Sometimes it can mean a bad glow plug, sometimes worn injectors, sometimes worn injection pump. But at 90k miles I would figure it's glow plugs or maybe time for injectors, IP should be just fine. Injectors are like 200 bucks, glow plugs about 60. So both cheap if desired. If it's clean I would be inclined to go that way. If nothing else, shouldnt be hard to resell if you dont like it.
 
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Definitely nothing wrong with the 6.2.There’s a reason the US army had them in service.GM could have made them a little more robust but of course they always take the cheap way out.Sure they can fail just like any other production engine out there manufactured today but in all honestly I think they are very dependable engines.I’d drive any distance with one of those.
 
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