Thread: Herbie's Chevy Astrolander/ZMB Build Thread

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    San Diego, CA

    Default Herbie's Chevy Astrolander/ZMB Build Thread

    Well, after more than a year of lurking, reading, and even some spending, its about time I got a build thread going for my little project.

    This project really got kicked off early in 2009 while my wife and I were expecting our first child. A friend was telling the story of his nieces and nephews who, at five to ten years of age, had decided that "camping sucks" and that they would rather be home with their X-Boxes, etc. Determined not to have my little girl fall into this trap, I immediately knew I needed to start getting her out camping sooner, rather than later.

    Now I used to do a lot of backpacking, but my wife is a city-girl, through and through. It quickly became apparent that city-wife + young baby was not a combination for backpacking, but I've never been much of a fan of improved-campground camping either. Once you've been alone on a bluff somewhere at dawn, sleeping near noisy neighbors in a campground loses its appeal. Somewhere along that line was when I stumbled into the Expedition Portal, and I've been researching and planning ever since.

    Things really kicked into high gear in September when I settled on the Chevy Astro and picked up our van in Tucson for the holiday weekend drive back to San Diego.

    I've joked about it for a while now, but the plan at time really was to just blatantly copy T.Low's excellent "Astrolander" van as much as possible. I have no shame, and I'm leaning heavily on the experience of others for almost everything in this project, "standing on the shoulders of giants", as they say.

    The used car dealer didn't have "AWD" stickers to distinguish from 4x4, but I thought it was appropriate signage, based on what I was planning!

    The planned buildup, in broad strokes:

    * Sportsmobile "50"/Classic VW Westfalia Weekender layout
    * 4" Overland Vans Lift
    * Rock-rails/Side steps (in deference to ingress/egress concerns for the wife)
    * NP231C transfer case swap, Convert AWD to 4x4, including 2.7:1 low range
    * Light "Camperize" on interior - Furnace, House Batteries, Fridge, but no cooker or cabinets - trying to keep as Daily Driver functional as possible.

    Details of many of these steps (and others) to follow.

    Lastly, I should explain the "ZMB" reference. Anyone who's met me knows I have a serious affinity for Zombies. I love Zombie movies, Zombies as a cultural meme, and mostly Zombies as the perfect metaphor for many of the things that are wrong in people's lives. Ask me for my long diatribe on the subject sometime, its a riot. At any rate, since many people abbreviate their SportsMobile as SMB, and I'm building something similar, my wife starting referring to it as the ZombieMobile, or ZMB. In my head I started creating a little fictional backstory for the vehicle, a well-used tool in the ongoing war against Zombie infestation - Van #1 of a fleet of vehicles belonging to a company specializing in Integrated Undead Pest Management and General Zombie Abatement. So here it is, the Mobile Zombie Abatement Unit, or simply the ZMB.

    Follow along to see how I got from above, to below:
    Last edited by Herbie; 06-11-2014 at 06:27 PM. Reason: Added newer pics
    "My minivan is cooler than your bro-truck"
    2003 Chevrolet Astrolander 4WD Van - DIY GTRV PopTop, 4" Lift

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