Econoline Body R&R?

Econoline Body R&R Questions
I have a 1978, 351W, 4 speed stick [3 speed Overdrive] Long Wheel Base E-150, Cargo Van with a sliding door. Apparently this drive train was available by order only.
Has anyone else seen one like this? [If this was a garden variety 351W, C6, I would not bother, but this is the only 4 speed econoline van I have ever seen, and is just unkillable.]
To repair a half a million miles of body damage... [including recently being hit by a suburban] I am arranging for a body shop to install a used body on my 78's frame and am looking for someone to answer the "been there done that" questions.
While I have been told by the ford dealer that the sheet metal is the same from 76 - 91. Is there any differences in the sheet metal that make a particular year a pain?
It seems that I can find 6 cylinder standard transmission vans, or dual fuel tanks, but not both. Am I correct that a dual tank, automatic van body would easier to install, than a standard van, with one tank?
What are the most rust resistant years? [I know that 76-78 are very prone to rust and corrosion, but which had the best galvanic treatment]
I've helped do the pickup cab swap. but then four men can lift a cab easily. Is there any one out there who has done a van body swap [regardless of make]? If so, can you tell me the various pitfalls, that you ran into and how you lifted the body? [floor hoist lifting the body, vs dropping the frame, with the body suspended]
Many Thanks David
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On Mon, 25 Jun 2007 10:18:48 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@fastmail.fm wrote:

I don't qualify under the "BT, DT, body swap on a van" criteria, but I've swung a wrench or three in my life...
Is there a lot of rust damage, or is this all age related wear and collision damage? If it isn't rusting much now, I would suggest you buy a matching year family and wheelbase donor body (same slide or swing door layout, etc.) for pieces, tear your existing van down to the fairly bare chassis and repair/rebuild what you've got.
Section out all the bad spots on the body and make it whole, using repair panels if the donor van is rusty there too. Coat it thoroughly with zinc cold-galvanize primer inside and underneath and paint & undercoat it - that's where the factory skimps, they dunk it once in primer, one thin coat of paint on the inside and bottom, and they think they're all done. Once the body is finished you start on the suspension and drivetrain.
A full body swap or other major mods can be a gold plated pain in the ass and you can't think of all the pitfalls ahead of time. And if you get it 80% done and get stuck, you're going to end up scrapping the whole mess, or selling it at scrap prices to someone who can finish it.
This is the same advice I give when people want to pull out an automatic and put in a stick (or vice versa), or pull out a gasoline engine and put in a Diesel (or vice versa) - Sure you /can/ do it, but /should/ you do it? And when you get done, can you get a title and tags for it? Sell what you've got and buy something that's a lot closer to your ideal.
One big bugaboo with a full body swap: The VIN is stamped and/or tagged in several places on the body as well as the chassis. You can swap over all the numbers and file evidence of having bought the donor van body with your state DMV, but that's a pain.
And there is always visible evidence you did so, which may raise a lot of uncomfortable questions if a cop sees it and gets suspicious about the ownership of these parts. You can clear yourself of course, but it takes time and effort and you have to retain all that paperwork proof forever. And if the cop impounds the vehicle you have your life interrupted for a few days, and the towing fees and impound costs...
The nylon bushings, heim joints and other 'soft parts' in the shift linkage were taken from the corporate parts bins, and can be ordered - it's just a matter of figuring out the part numbers.
And the front firewall is totally different - the pedal box with the clutch master and the brake master is all different, you'll need to do a lot of work on an automatic firewall to fit the right pedals and the clutch master.
--<< Bruce >>--
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