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Old 02-23-2008, 07:50 PM   #1
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Wagon vs Vans your opinions wanted!

My 2nd child we'll be here anyday and I've started looking for a bigger car. I intend to keep the saturn as an in town car and a daily driver. We want something with seating for 6 or more. I love wagons and like vans. My wife likes more room. The new vehicle will be a daily driver eventually(as we intend to have more children) so it needs to get respectable mileage. So far I've shopped the used market in my area and its slim pickens. Here are my current ideas. Current budget is $6000

1)1994-96 buick roadmaster wagon, t56 6 speed swapped. (yes I've researched it) I like this idea because, its capable of 25+mpg, I think I can hit 28mpg travelling. I'm like V8s the car is stock with an lt1 260hp. There also different , the wood paneling is a little gaudy but I could live with it. You can still find them 1 owner with low mileage, some as little as 25k.

2)A minivan preferably a sienna. Honda's are out, someone else can deal with there time bomb transmissions. Fords and Dodges are out, too old and problematic. I like the quest, sienna, gm vans. I think the only advantage the minivans have is a slightly better in town mileage. I've driven many chevy astro vans I like them but the mileage is not that great.

3)2wd suburban 1994ish, cummins 105hp 4bt swap, nv4500 or nv5600 trans, 3.08-3.42 gears. This would be a great combo, mileage would easily hit 25+mpg, I think 30mpg would be possible with the right turbo and minor aero mods. The downsides to this would be some pretty serious fab and wiring work. The 4bt is antique tractor simple and plenty durable, only 3 wires to hook up to start it(fuel control, starter power,starter solenoid). The b-series cummins is a rude, crude, and unapologetic. It will burn near anything(including gas, not very long, don't ask me how I know). I think this would be the most permenant solution however its the most far fetched.

what are your ideas?
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:57 PM   #2
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As long as you're doing a trans swap on the wagon, why not put in a 4.3L?
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Old 02-24-2008, 11:09 AM   #3
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Because with the V8 the car would at least not be boring. If I wanted a 4.3 I could get an astro van.
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Old 02-24-2008, 11:09 AM   #4
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wagon. agreed that the 4.3 will move the wagon just fine but you've got a perfectly good engine in it and the 4.3 won't get much different mileage. 6-speed manual is just sweet, even in a wagon.

van: chevy vans suck. maybe the astro doesn't but the FWD minivans are crap. import vans: sure.

suburban w/ diesel: that's cool too... tossup between this and the 6-speed wagon
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Old 02-24-2008, 06:05 PM   #5
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I really like the Astro/Safari. We've abused them with trailers. Strong package. 20+MPG, but I've never personally had an opportunity to own one. Always needed something bigger.
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Old 02-24-2008, 08:31 PM   #6
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If you can find a Malibu Maxx (2004-2007) they are FANTASTIC. Everything a minivan does except slightly smaller headroom, but MUCH better mileage. Have to search hard, but they are incredible.

Can get 35+ MPG hwy without breaking a sweat. Can do 40 with a little coaxing. My wife has one and it is just AMAZING. Sliding rear seats, fold down, gets better mileage than ANY minivan or SUV, holds a LOT, has child safety seat anchors, you name it, this car has it!

May be a little higher priced than you want but it is the best soccer mom (or dad) car I have seen.

1/2" SHORTER than the regular Malibu although it has GOBS more interior room and cargo room. Basically a Malibu "wagon" and it is wonderful. COMFORTABLE on trips too. I drive her car all the time and really love it.
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Old 02-25-2008, 08:25 AM   #7
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Go with the roadmaster and the T56, except drop in a 3.8L V6 turbo Buick engine with the lean-cruise chip. I've heard of guys getting 27 mpg in 11 second Grand Nationals with an auto overdrive. With a T56 and a smaller quicker spooling turbo good for maybe 300-350 hp, I don't see why you couldn't get 30 mpg if you tuned it. If you put in something like the Moates system the tuning ability of the ECM coding is almost limitless. Wideband O2 conversions are common. Get to have your cake and eat it too!

IIRC the Roadmaster has a Cd of .35 and the Grand National is around Cd of .41.

Another option would be to use a Series II 3800 Buick V6 (same engine, just newer) out of a 1990's Camaro and install an STS remote mount turbo system on it. That might get a little above your target cost though. . .

Links:
Series II V6 F-body: http://media.firebirdv6.com/unsunghero.html
Moates: http://www.moates.net/
STS: http://www.ststurbo.com/
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:05 AM   #8
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Since finding out about the 4BTs I keep thinking I'd like to try one in a Roadmaster or similar. Buick V6 always seems like a good bet in larger vehicles too. I would also be interested to see what could be done with a '92 to '95 GM U-platform minivan with a 3800 and 4 speed auto, there's people claiming 24-25 mpg in them. Might be fairly easy to get over 30.

I almost hesitate to suggest it, but the Aztec might be worth a look, that wacky styling really seems to work for highway mpg, the dropped roofline at the back I guess. Actually they don't look very bad these days against new avalanches and escalades etc. Funny thing is they seem to hold value well, so hard to get one "cheap".
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Old 02-25-2008, 11:48 AM   #9
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I would say that the Suburban will likely get closer to 30 day to day. Back when I lived in NJ, my old boss bought one to replace his well used Trooper. According to him, with no mods he was getting 25MPG, not too far behind my little Sidekick (which was obviously annoying).

As to GM front wheel drive vans, the good news is they aren't crap... usually. Unfortunately even though I own one of the good ones, I will admit that there are a lot of problems out there, some are great, some are horrid, most are somewhere in the middle.
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Old 02-25-2008, 11:55 AM   #10
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Back in the '80s GM used to advertise the diesel Suburbans as getting 30mpg highway, and that's the big 6.2L diesel, not the breadtruck motor.
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