Chevy Impala SS Forum banner

Options to AWD/4WD a B-Body Wagon

6551 Views 95 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  wagonmayne
This is totally serious. There's been musings about this on this forum in the past, and I remember reading about at least one frame swap that was done. I've got 3 (4?) B-body wagons in my driveway, most in reasonable shape. I'd love to convert one of them to AWD or 4WD to use as a winter warrior. So what would be viable options to achieve that goal?

Things I've considered:

- find an Astro/Safari AWD subframe and weld it in place of the front section of the B-body frame

- find a pickup/SUV frame with a similar wheelbase and re-body it

- buy a Dodge Magnum instead

The first option seems like it would retain a reasonable ride height, whereas the second one seems like it would require a significant lift. I would prefer to retain a stock-ish ride height with stock-sized wheels and tires, even if there's a change in wheel stud circle diameter involved.

The 3rd option is boring, but probably the most cost-effective.

Are there any other options I'm not thinking of?
  • Like
Reactions: 1
1 - 20 of 96 Posts
Yeah... but not really. I'm not looking for the lifted look. I'm looking more for the factory look
well, yeah... I did say "weld a subframe in place of the front section of the B-body frame"
Huh... I've got Audi quattro subframes, transmissions and engines in every corner of my shop. Now you've got me pondering a TDI/quattro B-body wagon 🤣

edit: of course getting the diff ratios to match up would likely be impossible
Actually I have an 01E here with a 4.11 final drive (37/9). There's a 37/9 gearset available for GM 8.5" rear ends
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Just for fun, I ran some numbers of an 01E 6-speed with 4.11 final drive that I have here using standard 28" tires in a B-body wagon:

1st gear would essentially be a granny with 15.4:1 multiplication. Excellent for mild off-roading or plowing through deep snow.

2nd gear would be extremely normal for accelerating from a dead stop with 8.4:1 multiplication.

6th gear would cruise at [email protected] (which is basically what my home-built allroad TDI currently cruises at)

So that all sounds pretty darn sweet... I wonder if I can make that work somehow. I even have a spare TDI wire harness and ECU.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
That's really cool, and it looks clean, too
You still gotta get all the other components to fit, though. Fenders, bumper, radiator support, etc, etc...
As far as the engine placement with a TDI audi, the entire powertrain weighs only 420 or so pounds, including fully assembled engine and 6 speed transmission. Even with the engine being ahead of the axle, that's still a puny amount of weight compared to an iron small block and 4L60[E].
How would you get the Audi computer to talk to the GM computer?
Don't need to. A TDI can live all on its own with its ECU and wire harness, especially with a manual transmission. All one would need to do is turn the speedometer pulse at the transmission into something the dash can interpret. Translators are easy to make for that.

The ECU in my '91 OCC and '93 RMW don't do much of anything except run ther respective engines. They don't even run the transmissions, those old 4L60 boxes are fully manual with the exception of TCC lockup
As far as the powertrain functioning, yes. But I 'd still need holes in the crossmember to accommodate the front axle shafts, proper uprights with a splined hub and the same steering geometry, relocated coil springs and shocks, and about 2" more space in front of the front axle to fit the engine
I've refinished a suburban frame from scratch before. There's zero similarity there. Especially under the body.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
🤣 It's easy to forget what cars are made of
B-cars (sedans & wagons) & SHORT-wheelbase GMT SUVs are both within hairs of 115.9"-116.0".
Nonetheless, using the SUV frame with (either the sedan or the) wagon body is not quite so straightforward.
Truth... the frame contours the body very closely, and the floor pan sits deep in the frame. I can't imagine a truck frame maintaining that at all. I solved the issue by buying a 1999 K1500 Suburban and dropping it a couple inches. Almost the same overall length, AWD/4X4, and much safer towing. It's a perfect working vehicle to complement my cruising/road trip Roadmaster
These just don't look like cars anymore...

you can't put a body intended for a perimeter frame onto a ladder frame and expect good results. At that point you've lost all the car benefits (ease of entry, better ride and handling) and the SUV benefits (more cargo space) and gathered the drawbacks of each into one eye-catching vehicle.

To each his own, but over the last few years of B-body wagon ownership, I've found that full time AWD is overrated and RWD is just fine 99% of the time. The only time I need AWD or 4x4 is in winter (like right now), and the Roadmasters are sleeping right now anyways to avoid the salted/brined roads
  • Like
Reactions: 2
I live in Vermont, I'm very familiar with crappy road conditions. I use my 96 Roadmaster as my main daily driver. Once they start salting the roads, my Roadmasters and Custom Cruiser hibernate until the last of the salt gets washed away by rain the following Spring. That could be anytime in April or May. During that time, the Suburban with an AutoTrack transfer case becomes my daily driver. But when there's no salting going on, there's literally no need for AWD around here, ever.
Why go to all the trouble of a frame swap? Couldn't you just get the transfer case off an awd astrovan? They used a 4L60e...
And where do you suggest running the front axles? Or attaching the front differential?
it's idiotic that it doesn't say anywhere in that text that it's just a render and not an actual thing.

I have an Ur-allroad. I prefer my Roadmaster
No Urus, Ur-allroad. "Ur" refers to "original" in German. As in, an original C5 allroad, as opposed to one of the later fake A4 allroads
Which one is faster in the snow?
My Suburban 🤣 The allroad weighs almost as much as a Roadmaster. It's surprisingly not agile despite appearances. Especially with the limited space for proper tires. And it ain't rugged, everything breaks on those damn things. On the Suburban, I can fit 235/85R16 winter LTs that don't even blink at the deepest of snow. Those things dig in like knives. 70+mph through winter storms is a breeze
1 - 20 of 96 Posts