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Thread: Newbie to motor homes has a few questions...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Newbie to motor homes has a few questions...

    I recently inherited a 1986 Fleetwood Southwind motor home that was
    built on a 1985 Chev P30 motor home chassis. It has a 454 engine
    with a 4bbl carburetor and a 4L80E automatic overdrive transmission...

    It was parked in early 2015 with carburetor and differential
    problems and used as a backyard spare bedroom and kitchen.

    The owner's smoking caught up with him, he passed away from lung
    cancer, I ended up being given the motor home. It hadn't been
    started since 2015. I had it towed to my friends property, and
    it's now parked there. Swapping the rear end with a salvage yard
    replacement and a rebuilt carburetor fixed those issues.

    My day job is as a two-way radio tech (i.e. an electronics tech).
    I have 30 years of self-taught knowledge of automotive repair.
    For a while I helped a desert racing team with their radios and
    the wiring of the race cars. A number of the race cars had MSD
    systems installed in them, and I was impressed - enough to
    install a 6A into a friends 1981 Suburban (454) that frequently
    was used to tow a 20-24 foot trailer.
    It ended up getting an #8680 adjustable timing control under the
    dash a few months after the 6A was installed.

    In my case all I want is just good solid RV performance... and
    to not have to touch the ignition system again as engine access
    in the Southwind is a major pain in the posterior.

    To me it looks like all I'm going to need is a Digital 6 or a
    6A or similar. A crank sensor would seem to be overkill.

    I don't know if the 1985/86 454 had a pointless ignition?
    If it has points do you have a conversion kit?

    If possible I'd appreciate a wiring diagram of how to put
    whatever unit you suggest into the 1986/87 Chev 454 ignition
    wiring harness. What changes are required? Would a harness
    kit be needed?

    I may add the #8680 adjustable timing control later on.
    Is there a later design, perhaps an automagic adjustable
    timing control? One that automatically ramps up the timing
    until it pings and then backs it off?
    I would probably have to add a knock sensor...I doubt if
    they existed in 1985/86...

    Will your transmission controller talk to the 4L80E
    that I have? What benefit would I receive for installing

    Your comments are welcome... including answering any
    questions I should have asked.

    Last edited by MikeM; 05-15-2018 at 10:01 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2018


    Does it have an adjustable HEI style distributor?

    What's controlling the "e" transmission, now ?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2018


    > Does it have an adjustable HEI style distributor?
    Yes, if that was Chevrolet 454 stock in 1985 / 1986.
    I've added that to my "things to check on the next
    trip to the motor home storage lot" list.

    > What's controlling the "e" transmission, now ?
    The engine, transmission and underhood area is dead stock
    except for a electric fuel pump.
    There is no switch or anything labeled "Overdrive", just the
    gearshift on the side of the steering column - I was told it
    should have 7 positions, P, R, N, OD, D, 2, 1 but it only
    has six - OD is missing.
    On my next trip to the lot I'll look for a cable coming out
    of the side of the transmission and follow it.
    Last edited by MikeM; 05-16-2018 at 11:42 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2018


    >> Does it have an adjustable HEI style distributor?
    Yes, it does. I popped the distributor cap and it has the standard pointless magnetic pickup.

    >> What's controlling the "e" transmission, now ?
    Haven't got that far yet.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2018


    When you take the distributors cap off. Can you rotate the rotor back and forth. Or does it not move at all when you try to rotate it?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2018


    I will check that and get back to you on my next visit to where it is.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2018


    Sorry about the delay in responding, real life got in the way.

    Yes, the rotor moves back and forth...

    The distributor also has a black electronic module inside
    (can't tell if it's 4 pins or 5 pins - yet), a condenser
    inside, and a vacuum advance unit on the outside.
    Last edited by MikeM; 06-08-2018 at 11:14 AM.

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