1995 B190 that ended up being a total restoration and a 4x4 build

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Tbrasse
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Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 2021 1:07 pm
B190 Year: 1995
Location: Charlotte, NC

1995 B190 that ended up being a total restoration and a 4x4 build

Post by Tbrasse »

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I bought a 1995 B190 from a wonderful lady in Alabama. It has something like 175K on it. Unfortunately, it needed work and she let it sit for something like 4 years. The skylight and the windows leaked during that time, ruining the headliner, mattress, and rotting some wood. We got it to run, barely. There were stuck valves and low compression, so I winched it on to a trailer and dragged it back to Charlotte. I was hoping for a light restoration, getting it reliable and letting my mom cruise around in it and me to use it occasionally. I had already done a restoration on my 1999 Airstream 25, so I know the systems and love the brand.
After a lot of assessment and soul searching, it made little sense to try and revive the top end of an engine that had sat for this long. The cost for a new long block was not that much more. The transmission needed a service and had the same mileage, so how reliable would that be after sitting? May as well do that too.
The suspension was all original and shot. New springs in the back and shocks all around, a rear sway bar and steering stabilizer equaled a big chunk of what the U-joint 4x4 kit would cost. (see where this is going?)
So, off we go to the races. I tried to talk Chris at U-joint into doing mine, but he is out of the E350 4x4 conversion business on our generation of vans. I found a hardcore 4x4 fab shop near me to do the conversion with Chris's support and parts. I found a local source for axles that are completely rebuilt with the highest quality components (Yukon gears, E-locker in the front, Tru trac in the back), etc.
I ordered new everything that attached to the motor, all accessories, new radiator (looked original), new fuel pump, etc. You name it, I am replacing it. Once you get this far, you replace everything that may fail was my theory.

Interior- been ordering a few things, like the maxxair to replace the leaking, damaged factory roof vent. I also put an order in for the mattress pieces, as there is a big lead on those. I ordered the missing toilet but have been hoping the fridge and a/c can come back to life when I dig into it. The couch was missing, but I have sourced one, I just need to recover it.

Electrical - solar, I put it on my 25 foot trailer, but no generator on it, so wiring was simpler. I am not sure what panels, how much, what controller, etc yet. I have done some searching, there is some good information, but I will need help. I ordered the 200 amp alternator, I want to keep the generator, I need a better charger/inverter setup at some point, but it may need to wait for budget reasons. If there are any experts out there looking to consult, I am game for a conversation. I will likely just put the panels on the roof at this stage, with a simple controller to the existing house battery. What are the best panels that fit? 300 watts would be a nice number to hit.

Exterior- excellent shape. I am going to fix the little dings and peel off the blue stripes. I love the look of some that have removed all of the blue, but again, we will see what budget remains when I am finished with the drivetrain rebuild and making it functional again.

I am looking forward to sharing more pictures and details as it comes back together. I appreciate the forum assistance. I have been very busy searching and researching things here.
Tom
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skater
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Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 1:00 am
B190 Year: 1991
WBCCI: 13270
Location: Annapolis, MD

Re: 1995 B190 that ended up being a total restoration and a 4x4 build

Post by skater »

Looking forward to seeing more!

The generator isn't really a factor for the solar. The generator connects to a transfer switch that is electrically before the 120 volt breaker panel (i.e., the shore power cord and generator both feed into the transfer switch, then a single wire runs from it to the panel).
1991 Airstream B190 - bought, 2005; sold, 2011; bought 2017
1995 Airstream Excella 30' trailer

WBCCI #13270, Washington, DC Unit
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con5
Weekend Camper
Posts: 48
Joined: Thu Aug 20, 2020 8:30 pm
B190 Year: 1998
Location: Fort Worth, TX

Re: 1995 B190 that ended up being a total restoration and a 4x4 build

Post by con5 »

Hey good luck with the restoration. I’m sure you will find lots of help and inspiration here and on the B190 Facebook Nation group.
Tbrasse
Newbie
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Aug 06, 2021 1:07 pm
B190 Year: 1995
Location: Charlotte, NC

Re: 1995 B190 that ended up being a total restoration and a 4x4 build

Post by Tbrasse »

So an update with costs for those wondering (I have been asked this a few times and do not mind sharing)-

Axles are done and back home. HEAVY even after I stripped off everything I could. I went with a Dana 60 from an 03 F250 in the front with an E-locker and 4.56 gears and a 2006 F250 Sterling 10.5 with a trutrac in the back. Both 100% rebuilt and as like new as possible. To save some money I am painting them myself and installing lines and brakes. I ordered new everything to start fresh, including lines. I got a performance brake kit for the front for added stopping power for the 35-inch tires I ordered. With brakes, I will have about $7,300 in the axles and brakes.

I found a guy with a couch that is exactly the same size as the original B190 model, but the vinyl on it was..... Not my style. I have picked fabric and dropped it off here locally for installation. quoted $500 total and I paid $60 for the couch. Luckily the pervious owner had recently recovered both front seats and they are very nice.

New mattresses- custom ordered from a place here in NC called Custom Mattress Factory $800 shipped.

Engine and transmission - ordered factory rebuilt of both, but obviously the trans is now a 4x4 version. budget $3k each and another $2k in all of the other "stuff" that I would need a page to list. I replaced everything you can possibly replace so it will be as much "new" as possible. I went name brand on parts wherever possible as I am looking for reliability. Why anyone would buy new stuff and stick back on an idler with 100k+ on it or an alternator, a/c compressor, etc with that many miles is puzzling. I even replaced the fuel injectors.

The U-joint conversion and especially the springs are the long wait item. It'll be mid to late October possibly before the come in. That is my main delay in moving forward. That was just over $7k as a kit for all I needed.

Wheels and tires - budget $3k (you need 5 obviously). I just went with what Chris recommended (brand and size)

Bumpers - apparently the front bumper will rub after conversion with 35-inch tires. I found this out late. I was either going to cut it and grind it (ghetto) or have one made. I wanted aluminum for weight, I am not a great welder and do not have enough time to fuddle my way through that. In addition, the rear tire mount will not accomodate a big wheel/tire and the stock one was messing up my door. UGH. I did not factor this in, but it really is a must if you are converting. I ordered front and rear bumpers from U-joint. I like the look of the Aluminess ones a little better, but Chris at U-joint is awesome and they are a little cheaper. Spec'd out $5,300 more gone. As a bonus- you need to lose the ladder on the back door when you do this. I had to find the only decent option I could find and it was an Aluminess ladder for the drivers side- $550 and a 3 month backorder later....

Windows- all my glass is good and thanks to this site, I ordered all the supplies from Parkin $300 and Amazon $65 to rip them all out and rebuild them entirely.

Cummins sells a kit for the Onan generator you can service it totally. It included everything and was $60 and arrived in two days! I bought new locks (Admiral 1-inch door locks from ebay) for $25 and will drill them out when I get the rig back here to the house.

If you are keeping score, that is $32k+ so far.... That is no labor to install the kit, engine, trans, etc. I have a contract with the 4x4 shop here for that work. Add another $8K for that and another $1k for misc crap (fluids and stuff). $41k - yes really. No this did not include what I paid for the van (which needed literally everything).

Still had not done anything about solar or the inverter/charger. That is one of my last big purchases, but I think I will do that when I am finished with the rest and I can really spend some time measuring and noodling. I like the idea of one of those Victron all in one units, but I am not electrically skilled enough to make it do what I want it to do. Still may just upgrade the inverter like I did on my 25RB Safari and just keep it simple, but I do want some 110v when off grid without generator as an option. Just not sure how bad I want that yet and I will spend beyond van value at some point.

This budget so far does not include anything different on the body of the van. I definitely want to remove the 90's blue, but not sure what scheme to go with. I like the grey/black scheme, but still unsure. Running boards or not, etc, etc. Cheaper if I do some of that work, but money will be spent there and no idea yet what that will be.

Now we wait, which sucks. I still have some parts trickling in over the next week or so, but until springs and kit arrive, I am at a standstill. Will I have it finished this year? Who knows, but starting to doubt it.

I'll add some pics when I have some worth taking. It has really just been planning and buying so far. I can get a pick of the finished axles once I paint them and the couch when it comes home next week I guess.

Moral of this story, if you see a 4x4 build done right and it is $50k or $60k, buy it. Ignore the idiots with the "its a 25 year old van" or "you are crazy" comments to folks asking $50K+ for these kinds of rigs. Save yourself a ton of work and time and just buy one that is done (if done right). Even the break in procedure for the axles and engine/trans will take some careful steps and time and then a round of fluid changes and inspections/tightening. It is a big undertaking. I'll bet I have $45-$50k in this conversion/renovation when I am done and there will be a lot who will not get why. I cannot wait to hit the Outer banks for a night of camping with it and to let my mom hit the road in it. That is one of the main reasons I am doing this. She always wanted to hit the road and visit family and explore in a small camper. I figured build a reliable rig for her from a used sprinter camper, but man the prices!! For less money, I'll have a like new, much more capable adventure van.

PS- the search feature here is stupid helpful....
micabarry
Weekend Camper
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2014 1:44 pm
B190 Year: 1991
WBCCI: 0

Re: 1995 B190 that ended up being a total restoration and a 4x4 build

Post by micabarry »

This is a fun read and if I ever do a conversion this is what I would want to do. It is expensive but you are going to have a piece of art when you are done, one that is likely to appreciate in value. Congratulations for taking this on! I hope your mother is prepared to handle all the people wanting to buy it, see it, ask questions about it.
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