Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast

Thread: Marooned in Paradise - Another Express AWD

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Calgary
    Posts
    121

    Default Marooned in Paradise - Another Express AWD

    Hi.
    I've been on this forum for a while now, first looking at vans before I bought, and now looking at vans before I build.

    I was originally looking for an early 2000's Express with a 6.5TD to convert to 4x4. I really like the 6.5TD. All the problems with it, and there are only a few, have easy and cheap fixes. It gets awesome MPG and has ample power for light towing. Bonus points for being able to burn veggie oil in it.

    Eventually I learned of the AWD Express and talked myself down to the 5.3 gasser. There is lots of work and fabrication needed to convert an IFS chev van to a solid axle ford front end, and I like to keep things relatively stock anyway so it made good sense. All accounts say it is one of the more miserly gas consumers and also can haul the 5-6000 pounds that I occasionally pull. I like the Chev IFS and for the off-road I will be doing with it, I'm not worried about the puny 7.25 front end. I'll probably never miss the low range of a 3 speed transfer case.

    What I ended up with is a 2007 passenger van, lightly used and hardly abused with 186,000 km on the clock. That's 115,000 'merican miles for those of you that don't do cipherin' so well. It has barn doors, on both sides, most options except leather, and the G80 rear end. Very minimal rust, great tires, JVC audio and nav unit with blue tooth and remote start. It came from another province, and the provincial vehicle inspection required me to change the rear parking brake shoe, replace the front pinion seal and replace the high pressure power steering line. I thought I got off quite lightly.

    We bought the van to replace my '98 'burb with the 6.5TD. I loved it but my wife refuses to tent camp any more and the 'burb was too cramped to camp out of. The AWD drive was a good compromise to act as camper, occasional tow vehicle and light off-roader. We like camping in the back country. First thing we did was ditch the two rear seats and I built a temporary bed platform. I also had a couple of 100Ah AGMs so I got a 3000 watt inverter and hooked that up. I did not hook it to the alternator so before we head out for weekend I charge them up with a battery charger.

    We've had it for a year now have used it at least a dozen times for camping. It's gonna work out fine with a few mods.

    I'm not one for naming vehicles but my wife calls it Ruby.

    20150501_100704.jpg20150501_125100.jpg20150501_125228.jpg
    1978 FJ45 Rubicon Rated
    2007 Express 1500 AWD

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Calgary
    Posts
    121
    I wasn't particularly looking for a passenger van, and I didn't even realize DS rear doors were an option.

    But we dig the all the windows and cut reflectex to cover the windows at night and when the sun is too bright. It works fine and we will glue some black felt to the outside of the reflectex to give the van a stealthier look when they are installed. In a year or two we will take trips down to Mexico with it. My wife even mentioned that she'd like to go to Alaska. She's a keeper alright. II'd love to show Death valley as well. Future plans are:

    Add 2-3" lift
    Take out carpet and seat track and put in an insulated wood floor
    Swivel passenger seat
    Insulate walls and doors and custom wood side panels
    Permanent bed platform with batteries/invertor underneath as well as other storage and slide out the back kitchen
    Vanagon pop-top
    Simple cabinets behind the driver seat
    Winch behind front bumper/maybe custom winch bumper
    Slide-out (RV style) where DS rear doors are

    So I have my work cut out for me. I have some skills, and lots of tools/equipment, and more importantly, friends with madd skilz that work for trade or beer.
    1978 FJ45 Rubicon Rated
    2007 Express 1500 AWD

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Calgary
    Posts
    121
    A month or so ago I ordered a Ruff Country 2 1/2" Siverado lift kit and scored a set of junk yard leaf springs from a '99 K2500 Suburban.

    I put the springs in last weekend but am having trouble with the torsion bar keys, so just cranked them all the way up for now.

    Before body height, front and rear, and the 3 leaf stock 1500 Express leaf next to the 5 leaf 2500 suburban spring.
    IMG_2897.jpgIMG_2902.jpgIMG_2904.jpg
    1978 FJ45 Rubicon Rated
    2007 Express 1500 AWD

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Calgary
    Posts
    121
    After body height rear and front and the whole look.

    I like it, but I will keep working on getting the new torsion bar keys in place. That should get me another 1" of lift in the front I reckon. I need to find a clamp that will hold the keys in place while I remove the adjusting bolt. The proper tool cost over $100. Before the lift I could barely slide under the van. I think every truck should be off the ground enough to slide under it without jacking it up, and I will take all the clearance I can get. The heavier springs will also make it easy to load my Honda CT90 on a hitch style motor bike carrier without bottoming out on the bump stops.
    IMG_2916.jpgIMG_2920.jpgIMG_2922.jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images
    1978 FJ45 Rubicon Rated
    2007 Express 1500 AWD

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Calgary
    Posts
    121
    I had it up to the ski hill last October. It did better in that 10" of snow than my buddy's Nissan Frontier 4x4. If you look real close you will see about 5 deer further up the slope behind the van.

    And we went camping in February in the near back country. We were on mostly hard pack snow 4x4 trails but we didn't even spin a tire. Even on the hills. I'm definitely liking it.

    IMG_2626.jpgIMG_2842.jpg
    1978 FJ45 Rubicon Rated
    2007 Express 1500 AWD

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Indiana
    Posts
    37
    Many parts stores rent the torsion key tool.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Bay City Michigan US
    Posts
    480
    [QUOTE=45Kevin;2063099] "Before the lift I could barely slide under the van".

    There's only two understandable reasons for this: either the wife cooking is too good; or your enjoying beer while thinking!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Oshkosh,Wisconsin
    Posts
    190
    AWD vans go through some snow alright!!!
    Living up in Wisconsin we love our AWD Van and use it for traveling a lot.
    I had it up at deer camp and with 2 other guys and small trailer, we are off the fire lane a bit and we went through about a foot of snow!!! with no problem.
    Weight and good tires help a lot.
    You living up north even further than we are will love the stability of AWD in a van.
    I have had our van for 8 years, and have logged more than 100,000 since bought second hand, its a 2005 fully loaded conversion, and we camp in it also.
    Enjoy yours!!
    Choff

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    635
    Great find for sure, you won't see many like it........

    I like your drivers side slide out idea some B+ vans use one out the back, good place to look for ideas. I would put the mechanicals all there so you never have to climb in to service anything even a porta potty or cassette toilet. It is also a good place to shower since you don't want a wet spot on the side you live on, anything needed at a gas stop would be real handy (seconds count at a travel plaza). I made sure not to block the rear side window so when in heavy traffic visibility is still the best I have had. I have thought about making the reflectix black but wondered if would still be reflective? It would look better, even though the dark windows tone it down a bit so I am curious.



    Not to big not to small just getting it done, another AWD Van doing what's asked of it.
    13' GMC AWD Van
    04' UNLIMITED 33's
    86CJ project org. owners

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Calgary
    Posts
    121
    [QUOTE=dar395;2063408]
    Quote Originally Posted by 45Kevin View Post
    "Before the lift I could barely slide under the van".

    There's only two understandable reasons for this: either the wife cooking is too good; or your enjoying beer while thinking!
    I don't exactly have 6-pack abs, but I do have a flat stomach. The van just sat very low.

    That's probably why I got almost 4" of lift with the new springs. I was expecting less than 3 from reading other accounts on this forum.
    1978 FJ45 Rubicon Rated
    2007 Express 1500 AWD

Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •