swapping an automatic into my 64 hand-van


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Location : Lynnwood, Wa
Registration date : 2014-08-03

swapping an automatic into my 64 hand-van

Post by njjo on Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:07 pm

This is my first post on this site, i bought a 64 hand-van in MT with 88,000 original miles on it and i love it! i bought it for my wife so that she tote the kids around more easily the only problem is she cannot drive a stick (yes i know she should learn) anyways i want to swap the 3 on the tree out with an as original as possible automatic transmission swap.

my questions:

i have a 230 in it now and plan to keep it, what transmission should i use? TH350, TH400, Powerglide?

do i need to re-gear the reared?

was there a factory automatic gear selector for an automatic in a hand-van?

is there a build thread on this site that i am not seeing of someone else doing the same thing?

ideally i would like to have a transmission with overdrive for a more comfortable and economical ride but for now I'm open to anything.

also i live in the Seattle area if anyone on here has parts they would like to offer up.


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Re: swapping an automatic into my 64 hand-van

Post by Twinpilot001 on Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:23 pm

Yes there was an auto shifter indicator-easiest is finding a TH350 & swap it.th400 is too heavy duty for the 6 engine. Powerglide is good also yet more avail are the TH350's.
Chevy Guru

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Location : Victoria B.C.
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Re: swapping an automatic into my 64 hand-van

Post by m1dadio on Thu Aug 14, 2014 9:15 pm

Welcome to this web site Nick:

The power glide was the stock automatic in the 1st gen.

If your not going to stay stock consider a 200R4. its the same length as your manual 3spd

Find Kookykrispy in Tacoma for parts, He's on this site and


Number of posts : 343
Location : Smell-A, CA
Registration date : 2011-10-11

Re: swapping an automatic into my 64 hand-van

Post by Xelmon on Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:45 am

Like Twin said, there are both auto and manual selectors.

The difference is only in the bottom end of the steering column. Basically it's a notched plate with a spring return and a single arm, instead of 2 arms that the manuals have. After that it's a matter of how you cobble your selector together, it seems like more or less every person has a different approach, and no particular "best build".

Here's mine, and even that isn't that good. Works though! :

Transmission wise the 200R4 should hold up fine, especially if you don't build things up, just shift down into 3rd on long hills and such.

The 200R4 is a locking 4 speed transmissions with an overdrive gear. Makes it much easier to move off of the line with it, and the engine doesn't have to scream when you're on the highway. It is also extremely close to the PG in size, so you can use your current prop-shaft with no problems!

The 700R4 is another option. It is said to be the TH350 with an overdrive, and is meant to be used with lots of weight and power. So, if you plan to throw in a 383 and haul around camping gear routinely - getting close to the GVWR - the 700 is probably a better choice.

One thing the guys have commented is that the 1st gear in the 700 is too short, sitting at 3.06:1, so it barely gets used. You could burn some tires with it though. =D

I also read that 200R4's can be built up to be just as tough, if not tougher than a stock 700's... That takes a fair amount of cash though. pirat

The TH350 has more or less the same ratios as your manual, and is non-locking. If you can't find a 200 or 700, she'll do fine. Plus if you're OK with power/highway speeds, you don't have to change out the RPO.

Re-gearing the rear-end is something you want to look into with an overdrive.

With the 200R4 or 700R4, an RPO 3.55 or 3.73 for 5 lug / 26" dia tires (~195/75R14), and RPO 3.9 or 4.11 for 6 lug / 28" dia tires (~215/75R15) is my guesstimate for good operating range. Take the lower RPO for a few extra MPH, higher RPO for motive power.

As a classic example, the GNX-es had 200R4's with RPO 3.73

If you're still not sold on which RPO to get, from what I recall reading, you want the engine to spin around 2000RPM as that is when oil pressure and oil film is fully developed. You can run this calculator and screw around with your number, 4th for the 200R4 and 700R4 are .67

Number of posts : 1453
Location : Tacoma, WA
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Re: swapping an automatic into my 64 hand-van

Post by kookykrispy on Fri Aug 15, 2014 4:03 pm


We've got an awesome local van club here.  We're called Bustin Loose Early Vans.  Right now, we're mostly 64-70 chevy vans, but wee have a couple econolines and a A100 too.  Our club is loosely based in Tacoma, but we have several members up in the North Seattle area also. We have members as far north as Concrete, and as far south as Olympia.

We welcome anyone in the greater puget sound area!

I've done the 3 speed to auto conversion in two 1st gen chevy vans, and its not hard, but the tricky thing is sourcing the required factory parts for the swap.  The factory did put automatics in these vans, and if you can find a factory auto column, then that is the best way to do the conversion.  

If you can't find the auto column/shifter another idea is run a aftermarket shifter.  You can make a B&M or hurst shifter work with a custom floor console, or even better, lokar makes a suitable floor shifter with a long handle that you might consider.

As far as transmissions, probably the easiest, cheapest and simplest conversion is the Turbo-hydramatic 350.  There are many of these transmissions around, they are excellent transmissions, very common because Chevy used them in literally millions of cars and trucks through the 60's, 70's and 80's. A good used th350 can often be found on craigslist, or if you want to get one rebuilt from a shop, this is probably one of the most inexpensive transmissions to buy.  A short shaft th350 is dimensionally the same length as the stock 3 speed trans + bell housing.  Your diveshaft will fit without having to shorten it, but you will need to swap to a th350 front yoke. These are readily available at the junkyard from any th350 equipped vehicle.

If you have a 3.36 rearend, then you can couple that with tall tires and be highway friendly. I'm running a th350 with the factory 3.36 gears and 27" tall tires, (325/50r15 drag radials) and I cruise at 65 at a comfortable 2700 rpm.

An overdrive such as a 200-4r, is a excellent idea. The 200-4r is an even better upgrade from the already good th350. The 200-4r is dimensionally similar, so it will fit in the van, and again, no driveshaft mods are required. The extra OD gear is really nice to have, and you'll also have a lower 1st gear for better off-the-line performance. The 200-4r is an excellent transmission, but not very common. The swap involves a bit more Rebuilds are usually more expensive too.

Either of these transmissions will require a different transmission mount. There are factory van th350 hangers, but they are quite rare, and don't come up for sale very often. Most guys fabricate a mount/bracket that attaches to each side of the van's frame, or you can purchase a universal mount and modify it for use in the van.

Get in touch with me via PM, I will give you my phone number and we can chat and I would love to meet you and help you with this project.

If you're interested in joining Bustin' Loose van club, we'd love to have you with us.  The overall goal of Bustin' Loose is to network together and help each other work on each other's vans. We have so much fun every time we get together. I regularly host 'tech days' down here at my shop where we get together and all wrench on our vans.  We also attend various eVANts, which is kind of the 'reward' for getting all the vans running and roadworthy! We attend various shows and runs together as a club, and we host an annual campout/van run of our own called the Hootenanny. This years Hootenennay just happened last month over the 4th of July and it was a blast!
Big W

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Re: swapping an automatic into my 64 hand-van

Post by Big W on Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:32 pm

Welcome to VV. You have come to the right place with a lot of great help. Show us a pic when you're able. we love pics here.

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