Spun bearing Dodge Bus w/318

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(Long story, you may want to skip to the end.) For about a year now a buddy of mine has had this 1980 Dodge Van with 318 8cyl engine and 3 speed auto transmission that is chopped and lengthened into a 20 passenger bus. The story behind it is that it belonged to a church his father attended, and after a few years the church wrote it off and gave it to his father, who repaired it and took care of it. It sat in a pasture for 2 years before my buddy asked his father if he could use it for his homeless ministry. So a year ago my buddy received this Bus. Knowing how I like to turn wrenches, most of the time because I have nothing better to do, he called me in. With the knowledge that I have gained from BITOG I have been draining and filling the transmission regularly. A list of items that we have done to the bus are: 1. Replace the fluid in the rear differential. 2. We did a cooler line flush to the transmission, followed by a pan drop, cleaning the pan, add some high temp neodymium magnets. The initial cooler line flush was last year, we did another 2 months ago. 3. While we were at it we added a Magnefine inline filter and an extra cooler to the transmission cooler lines. We have had a small pinhole radiator leak, but have stayed on top of it and it hasn’t been an issue. The REAL issue has been that when my buddy picked it up a year ago, summer of 2009, his father said “Uhh, yeah I have only changed the oil in it ONCE, just keep it topped off.” The thing has 30 years of short trips and sludge built up in it. The thing ran and ran well for what it was. I did 3 oil changes to it in the past year as it only gets driven 2x a week. 1st oil change was right after my buddy got it. It drove significantly better and had more power afterwards. I put in Quaker State 10w30 so that it would flow better and hopefully clean up some deposits. Many short OCI’s were planned, but things don’t always work out the way you plan them to. 2nd a few weeks after the first oil change, the oil came out black as tar. I changed the oil out, again Quaker State 10w30 with a bottle of Auto RX, the filter was changed in December just to make sure it was not totally clogged. This is the oil that has been in there for 6 months. This oil lasted all winter and it ran well. From all the research I have read up on Auto RX works best on an engine that is severely sludged like this old carbureted 318. MY ISSUE. The 3rd oil change was a month ago. It was the first rinse phase of the Auto RX cycle. I used a Fram Extended guard filter, the FL1A size as it has more capacity, for both Junk and Oil than the Mopar brand. Along with Motorcraft 15w40 Powerstroke oil, the Bus has no emissions equipment but a PCV valve that we replaced, and it ran much smoother on the thicker 40 weight oil. I figured that between the 15w40 and the Auto RX, along with the extra holding capacity of the Extended Guard that the Bus would be alright going on a 2 hour trip. 1 Hour there, 1 hour back. I figured that I would change the oil as soon as the bus got back from the trip knowing that there would be a bunch of sludge in that filter. I did not go on this trip, so I do not know how the bus was driven, but according to another friend who was on the bus they were going 70mph-80mph all the way there and back. My Buddy, who owns and drives the bus, was following people in sports cars, and did not tell them to keep the speed down. He did not get directions, and so was following them. Poor Planning Promotes [censored] Poor Performance. It was their time to shine. And on the way home the bus threw a bearing. I’m sure it is a bit of both of our faults. My fault for not anticipating he would try to race a vehicle that is as aerodynamic as a brick while on the rinse phase of Auto RX. His fault for planning so poorly and driving the vehicle in a way it was not meant to perform. (The bus drops into 3rd gear at 40, and you have to really push it to get to 60, I only imagine he hat the gas pedal to the floor for all the way there and back.) I went to the field outside of an acquaintance’s house where they had the bus towed to in order to take a look first hand. I am 99% sure that it is a bearing, it will turnover and start, but the knock is there, and it stalls out at idle due to its terrible terrible timing. My buddy, the owner, wants a new engine. He has already found a 318 online. However, I am concerned that a 318 will not meet the driving conditions he is putting it though. That and I am not so sure it is worth my time anymore. If I was to tackle this job, what should I expect from pulling a Dodge 318 out the front end of a Dodge Van? Also, will changing out the old motor to a new motor overpower the older transmission? My buddy, the owner, is worried about this, but wants the van to run. Questions and comments are welcome.
 
1. Please thank you friend for doing his homeless ministry work. 2. Than you for helping him keep his van on the road. 3. We need pictures of that vus! or is it a ban? 4. You friend needs to keep the speed down on that old kludge before he hurts or kills someone. 5. Driven reasonably, a 318 should be adequate. Look at how long that old horribly abused no oil change 318 engine lasted.
 
A 1980 318 V-8 pulling a 20-foot bus has to working pretty darn hard - they're what, 130hp? Your friend is an idiot for pushing an old vehicle this hard. All the work you've helped him do, and he does this? Shows a severe lack of respect of your 'buddies' part, and I'd tell him to go fly a kite and be done with it. Reset. If he's a good enough buddy that you still want to help him, I personally wouldn't waste my time with replacing the engine with a 318, unless it's severely hopped-up. I'd be looking at what would be involved with a 400 or 440 swap.
 
I can't see how you're at fault one bit. If he has the money to spend on an engine, I agree with the 360 swap. Small-block to small-block will be a lot less headache for you (if you help) than going to a big block. Has he checked how much rebuilding the 318 would cost? My grandfather had an old Dodge straight truck with the 318 and a 55 mph governor. Sounds like your buddy could use something like that when he gets his van running again, to avoid lawsuits from the survivors of those he ministered to.
 
Forget trying a big-block swap- it involves fenderwell massaging in a post-1977 B-series van, plus a different transmission, plus all different accessories and mounts, plus different engine mounts (possibly requiring welding in new mounts). Its just not worth it. A smallblock is plenty- heck, they put 318s in single-axle dump trucks and 72-passenger busses. The 318 is one of those engines that you can pretty much work flat-out WOT all day every day its whole life and not break it, provided it has sufficient cooling (the one that died was due to abuse and autoRX breaking stuff loose and starving a bearing, not due to being overworked). You're not looking for it to be a speedster, just reliable. A new/used 318 is just the recipe for that kind of thing. When it was stretched to 20 feet, a good idea would have been to put in a higher ratio rear end to help the 318 out but I'll bet it wasn't done. Going to a 3.55 or even 4.10 rear end gear would let the engine wind and get the weight moving, just be aware that top speed would be limited. But then it SHOULD be limited- he really shouldn't be running over 60-65 mph in a vehicle like that even if the whole thing was brand new, so its not (or shouldn't be) an issue. Yes, the smallblock will be "working hard" so make sure the cooling system is adequate. Auxiliary oil and transmission fluid coolers are recommended and necessary, respectively. A 360 would be another swap option, just be aware that even though its "the same" block, it takes a different oil pan due to the main bearing size difference, and also the left motor mount is different although the chassis mount location is the same- just get the motor mount and oil pan WITH the donor engine. You also have to have the transmission flex plate and/or torque convertor externally re-balanced to work with a 360 (the 360 is an externally balanced engine, the 318 is fully internally balanced). If I had a vehicle like that, I wouldn't bother with the hassle of converting to a 360 either. Whether you go 318 or 360, a mid-80s to 1989 vintage carbureted roller-cammed engine (from a D-series pickup, Ramcharger, a Gran Fury, or a Diplomat) would be the best bang for the buck. And they are REALLY common in junkyards- people have been giving away running 318s when they do engine upgrades for years, although because it is so common several companies are now building stroker kits aimed at the 318 to turn it into a cheap dragstrip burner... so prices will rise again. As for the transmission being the new weak link- there's no way to know for sure. How has it been working? Is the fluid clean? Was it clean when you first changed it? All the short trips and lack of fluid changes won't hurt a transmission like it will an engine, so it may be in perfectly good condition.
 
Originally Posted By: 440Magnum
A 360 would be another swap option, just be aware that even though its "the same" block, it takes a different oil pan due to the main bearing size difference, and also the left motor mount is different although the chassis mount location is the same- just get the motor mount and oil pan WITH the donor engine. You also have to have the transmission flex plate and/or torque convertor externally re-balanced to work with a 360 (the 360 is an externally balanced engine, the 318 is fully internally balanced). If I had a vehicle like that, I wouldn't bother with the hassle of converting to a 360 either.
Just what I was gonna type.
 
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