That's great - glad to hear it! Thanks for the reply - your thread was the one that led me to give it a whirl... with the rod knocking I really didn't have much to lose compared to the $1800 used / $3500 rebuilt installed quotes.
Not to be a total idiot... but it's been a while. How do you slide out the old rod bearings? I "think" all that's holding it in place is the oil surface-to-surface tension (bearing to con rod)... can I tap it out with a flat punch to start it rolling around the inside of the rod? (By tapping on the end edge of the bearing - like installing a rear main seal.) First rod journal looks great w/ no grooves but bearing has 'dry start' look to bearings. (Just got van out of shop for intake gasket & oil change...
No knocking before they 'fixed' it.)
Edit: I'll add this - there were a LOT of metallic particles in the oil. Based on the first bearing (closest to oil pump)and comparing the condition to the crappy Hayne's manual pictures, I'm thinking the guys who repaired my leaking intake gasket didn't put oil back in before they fired it back up. They also told me they'd put in some Lucas Oil Treatment to "quiet the lifter down". (Asked them to take care of lifter while intake was off for gasket repair... their idea of 'fixing' it was to mask the noise.)
For anyone reading this thread you can easily remove the pan on the 5.7L 3500 Express van as well for this job. I didn't have to remove starter, exhaust or transmission/flexplate dust cover (although I did remove dust cover for more room).