Rocke Kinneard's 1990 v8 Astro cargo shorty.

The story of my Astro van starts back in 1995. I was racing cross country dirt bikes at the time and going to the different races with my brother in his old for pick-up. We would usually camp over night and race the next day. I remember the night when it rained all night and I got completely soaked in my tent. A good friend of mine at the time emerged from the back of his Astro van in the morning, had a nice stretch and asked if it had rained the night before? That was it. I was done with pickups and I wanted a van. I had not decided what type of van I wanted but after considerable research into durability, drive ability, towing capacity, and fuel economy The Astro/Safari was the only way to go.

I actually looked for my cargo for 6 months during the winter of 1995 and 1996. I finally found my 1990 shorty with 150,000km on it. It had been used as a plumbers work van so it had quite a bit of small body damage. The van appeared to be in good running condition and all systems checked out well. I was happy that the van was not white as that is what most cargo vans tend to be. I shelled out $6,000.00 for the van and it was all mine. Now I was only 22 years old at the time so I didn't want to be driving a beat up van as this was to be my daily driver. Once purchased the van went straight to my cousins body shop for a complete paint job. It was then that my best friend suggested I have the grill painted to match the body. This would be the first modification to the van. (if I only knew where it would lead)

Once I got the van back with its new paint I put on some chrome steel wheels and new tires. I installed a complete security system including adding power locks. The new stereo went in with 2 10” subs mounted into the rear doors and 4 5 ¼”. That was all the van needed to start its life of hauling bikes to races all over the southern parts of B.C. I will say that because I use the van for camping it has seen more dirt roads than most any SUV you will find. This van has been amazing and always ran well with no problems. The van remained my daily driver until 2004 when I was given a company truck to drive for work.

In 2004 after the van was retired from daily driver status I decided that doing the v8 swap I had read so much about on the internet would be a good idea. The van had 310,000km on it at the time and was still running well but getting a little tired. I found a donor motor from a 1991 full size jimmy complete with the computer and all the wiring. I had the motor sent to a good machine shop that specializes in building race motors. They bored it .030 over and re-built the heads. I had a computer friendly roller cam and lifters installed. In my area we have to pass an emissions test once a year so I wanted to make sure the van would easily do this without any hassle. I also had the motor balanced and roller rockers installed.


The swap.

As you can see in the pictures I decided to go with the Hedman headers that are recommended by Racecraft conversions. They fit well and help to free up some flow from the restrictive stock heads. I also used the engine mounts supplied by Racecraft. I took the transmission to a local shop and had it rebuilt with all the heavy duty parts and corvette servos. I had a v8 torque converter installed and the tranny was ready to go. The shop said that even though the transmission had 310,000km on it that it could have done at least 100,000 more.(behind the v6)

Once I bolted the tranny to the engine the whole unit slid right into place. I will say that this is the easiest engine swap ever. I have put engines into vehicles that were stock replacements and they didn't fit as well as the 5.7 into the Astro. The swap schedule went like this. Saturday we removed the engine and tranny 10 hours including beer. Monday the transmission went into the shop. I got the transmission back on Wed and took it home. Decided to bolt it up Wed night and do a little test fit. 15 min later the whole thing was in! I spent Thursday night (3hours) working on putting things back together. I had Friday off and finished after about 8 hours. Now we were not in a hurry so you techs could shave a lot of time off of this. I'm just saying what it took the average back yard mechanic. I put the stock v8 chip into my computer and the van fired right up. I set the timing and it has run great ever since! The van went to the exhaust shop on Saturday and I got it back Saturday night. A total of 1 week to complete the v8 swap.

I had a custom y pipe made into a 3” collector. A 3” high flow cat runs into a 60 series flowmaster muffler and it all exits through a stock Chevy “SS” tail pipe in the stock location.

According to the shop that built the engine it should make about 295hp at 5000rpm and 410lbs torque at around 2000rpm. I have used a Passport performance meter to do some ¼ mile runs. With the 3.42 gears and some serious wheel spin the best I could do on a farm road was a 14.9sec run. I will say that the van is a blast to drive and it never gets left behind at a traffic light.

The van has a little over 330,000km on the odo now and will continue to be used to transport my dirt bikes for a few more years. I just had it re-painted (for the 2 nd time) and replaced all of the front end components. Every time I go to buy parts for this van it reminds me why I keep it as the parts are always cheap and on the shelf at my local supplier.


Mod list.

5.7 V8 .030 over with flat top pistons and molly rings, roller lifters, roller rockers, headers, 3” custom exhaust, TBI stage 2 chip, 2” TBI spacer.

Painted grill and head light doors to body color. New paint is only 2 months old.

Tinted turn signals and tail lights.

Front captain chairs from a 1995 Astro.

Polly bushings on the sway bar and all new ball joints, tie rods, drag link, and idlers. (drives better than new)

Custom 18” wheels with Kumo tires. Finally this thing hooks up! (need to go and re-do my ¼ mile times)

Class 3 hitch.

Power locks

Heavy duty rad and aux transmission cooler.


Pioneer deck with Mp3 ect,

Rockford Fosgate punch 40amp driving 2 Punch 10” subs

Rockford Fosgate 4 channel amp driving Pioneer 6” separates in the front doors and 2 x 5 ¼” in stock dash locations. Also 2 x 5 ¼” in rear doors.



Future mods.

3.73 posi diff. I have this in my shop awaiting install.

Clip in bench seat. I have the seat and the floor pockets. I just need to cut the holes in the floor and install the pockets.

Lowering?? I fight with this idea all the time. Because I drive the van on dirt roads all the time I don't think it will make any sense to lower it. I love the look of lowered vans and I think mine would look fantastic lowered. I guess the fact that this van has to work to stay around means that it will stay at stock height for a while longer.