Cummins Canoe (A Stepvan Story)


Pandemic. Riots. Forest fires. Murder hornets. Economic collapse. Gee willy, things have really hit an all time low. It's worse now than back in 2012 when zombies were out and about and the world was going to end, according to certain calendars. Maybe they were 8 years off.
But that was back when I got a military truck to ride out the apocalypse, which didn't happen, so I was stuck with a really cool expedition vehicle. I have a thread on that mess if ya'll are interested. That's been fun and all, but this pandemic quarantine got me thinking again. Employment hanging like a big unknown, and cost of housing and taxes and such increasing due to the craziness that's happening, maybe it's time to go full-time on the road? Will need something more appropriate. Something to walk around in. Easy to maintain. And won't end up as a giant rust bucket. Why not a step van!

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Studying step vans in their natural habitat. Getting motivation and ideas.

After months of self debating during quarantine with an unknown future, I settled on the specs in a van I was looking for. Diesel, manual transmission with overdrive, driver and passenger doors, rear barn doors, solid metal roof, and not being too ridiculously long where I can't fit into parking lots and such. So after 22 hours of driving, we ended up with a 1993 P30 Grumman 15' with 4BT Cummins engine and NV4500 transmission. Only thing we didn't get that we wanted was a partition wall/door between the cab and storage area in back. She could also use some 4wd, since this 2wd almost got us permanently stuck in the sellers field where it was parked. We'll add that to the list of minor things to do.

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The day of purchase.

Sitting in a field for who knows how long, it was very dirty, had some surface rust on chassis, missing part of the passenger seatbelt, missing an inner fender well, and something was not right with the overdrive gear as it feels like it's just not there like we're in neutral. But it cold started right up and drove well up to almost 60mph. Made the 700 mile drive home on one tank, without overdrive, so that was a huge plus! The possibilities are endless! So many ideas, my mind is racing around in circles, or maybe figure 8's. But before we can get to the cool build stuff, we need to park her, and do a full on cavity search to see exactly what we have and what kind of hole we potentially dug ourselves into. The future is uncertain, and so is this build. After all, this thing was built by the company that made the Apollo Lunar Lander and now makes canoes. Canoes. Cummins powered. Hmmm...

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the Cummins Canoe!
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Expedition Leader
Hope you had ear plugs for your trip. I bought one in Medford OR and drove it to Eureka CA and was about deaf by the time I was done. For the 5th gear problem google Dodge and NV4500 5th gear nut, sounds like that's your issue.


Hope you had ear plugs for your trip. I bought one in Medford OR and drove it to Eureka CA and was about deaf by the time I was done. For the 5th gear problem google Dodge and NV4500 5th gear nut, sounds like that's your issue.

Eh, what? Sorry, couldn't hear you there. But not long into the trip home, my right ear started to bleed. So we went to store and picked up some noise cancelling headphones. Very pleasant like that. Can even listen to music while I drive too! We'll definitely need to remedy the damaging noise factor at some point.

As far as the transmission goes, we'll have to wait until we take that apart to see what's what. I'm familiar with the NV4500 and I too suspect the 5th gear nut. Easy fix, no big deal.


Expedition Leader
Grumman Cummins has a good ring to it...

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Good one. Mine was a Grumman with a 4bt and Turbo 400. I sold it to a gentleman from Las Vegas who drove it home from Eureka CA. He brought ear plugs on my recommendation.


The drive back was grueling without overdrive, but we made it work. Took two days to get it back.

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Stopped at a hotel parking lot, to, umm, sleep in the back of the van.

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The passenger seat was terrible to ride in. The seatbelt worked if you tied both strapped together as the male part of the clicker thingy was missing.

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We went rock climbing while we were in the area picking up the van. The rear area hooks made it very convenient to organize gear!

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But in the end, the van made it back, eventually. Now the true horrors can begin!

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This van used to be owned by some bakery company. Bread slice + bread = bucket of chicken!

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Just look at the clean slate! So many options to do!

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But this thing has been sitting in a field for quite some time. Who knows what we'll uncover in the next few days...


Expedition Leader
They are definitely stealth camping machines. I think adding interior insulation and paneling would help immensely with the noise and vibration.


Oh yes, plan is to to do all that at some point. I think insulating the cab area will get rid of most of the noise? Not sure if it's even possible to eliminate the noise. The engine is right there, wind noise everywhere, and will most likely always drive with both side doors open (that is the coolest thing by the way). Will take lots of time and money to soundproof the cab. But is it even worth it? Any guaruntees it can be effective?


Work has begun. First thing is to clean and strip things.

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Use some compressed air to blow all the dirt and debris out. These angle iron thingings are cute, but super useless, so they gotta go.

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Bimetal corrosion sucks. These bolts and self tapping screw were very stubborn. I ended up just cutting most of them off.

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We'll have to clean up these holes and probably weld them shut later. Don't let me forget to do that.

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Once the metal bracket things were gone, it was time for a good scrubbing.

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Never really took a power washer to the interior of a vehicle before. I've always seen photos and videos of silly people supposedly not knowing how to clean their cars and you seen them power washing the entire interior of their new Landrover or whatever. You know what, I think they were onto something because this was wicked easy!

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Nice and clean! Ready to start making the real mess...
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More cleaning. Boy this thing was dirty!

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Years of grease and crud in on the cab floor.

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Power washer does great on the outside too.

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Looking from a distance, you really couldn't tell how dirty this thing was.

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Once clean, we made our first delivery! Because that's what you do when you own a delivery van...


Ok, so the real work begins. Lets see what we got under this girls skirt...

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These wheels are super safe. They lug safety keepers!

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All jacked up and ready for work.

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One of the exhaust hangers is pretty rusty. That needs to come out and get painted.

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With all this out of the way, it will be easier to do all the other stuff.

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The fuel sending unit crapped out on the way home when we bought the van. Plus it was in the way for other stuff. Unfortunately, both tank straps broke while removing tank.

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Taking the fuel tank out revealed some serious issues! Not looking good. Maybe we should just scrap this thing? Swap the Cummins engine into the Jeep? Get a Sprinter van like everyone else? The future is so uncertain!

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