Chevy Kodiak

GlobalMonkey

Adventurer
My girlfriend and I are planning trip around the world (or at least big part of it) and as a part of the planning is of course search for the right vehicle. One thing we know for sure, which ever truck we go with, we will have a real full size camper (we call it the box) installed (similar to Actionmobil or Unicat). One of the choices available here in the US is a CHEVROLET KODIAK CREW CAB 4x4 with DURAMAX DIESEL and ALLISON TRANSMISSION. We really don't know much about this truck, so it would be nice to hear opinion and ideas of other members on this forum,
Thanx, Tomas
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
Hi, Tomas,

I did a lot of study on these trucks and they offer many advantages. The Chevrolet Kodiak (and GMC Topkick; they are the same) are available in multiple cab configurations, cab-to-axle distances and weight ratings and, most important, they are available with reasonably-priced 4WD. There is a shortcoming compared to the ideal in that the bumper-to-back-of-cab measurement will be several feet longer than a cabover truck. However, the only cabover 4WD truck street-legal in the U.S. is the Fuso FG, so if you don't want one of those, you will have a substantial nose to the front of your truck.

There's a lot more I could tell you, but the most important thing to do is to start looking through the C/K 4500-5500 Body Builders Guide you can find in .pdf form at:

http://www.gmupfitter.com/publicat/2008_BB/08-09_C45-55_v060408_D1.pdf

This has plan drawings showing all the dimensions for all the models available and will be of great use as you plan your camper.

And if you have any more questions, just be sure to ask.

Good luck--Mike
 

GlobalMonkey

Adventurer
Hi Mike,
we did look into the Mitsubishi Fuso and test drove it. I like the FUSO and it can be serviced probably anywhere in the world. But here in the US FUSO does not offer a crew cab 4x4 and the Kodiak does. And also the Kodiak with 330 HP and 620 lb.-ft. of torque seems to be a better choice. We talked to a dealer earlier today and a sticker (before any discounts) on 2009 Chevrolet Kodiak 4500 4x4 Crew Cab is $45K. That is not bad knowing that GM always has some discounts and special offers.
Thanx for the .pdf and the good word Mike, Tomas
 

truck mechanic

Adventurer
check into injector problems. they had huge problems with those a few years back to the point gm uped the warrenty to 200k. they might have fixed the problem but i would not want to get stuck out of the country somewhere if they have never seen one.
Paul
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
As a long time Chevrolet fan and owner ...

I would warn that parts/service for any US spec vehicle, even Toyota, etc., are a challenge outside the US/Canada. I have owned US vehicles overseas for about 20 years, but I did almost all of my own work and had a large stock of parts.

Sooo, you may want to consider buying your ultimate overland in South Africa or Europe where more "universal" vehicles are more readily available.
(See www.polycomposit.com for a slick camper based on a Toyota pickup. [N.B. The site seems to be down - the owner was planning to travel to Libya, so he may have gotten sloppy about his website.] You are already aware of Azalai.)

That said, if you take a shop manual and have a source in the US who can DHL you the odd part, you could be fine. Engine internals are rarely a problem in the first 100,000 miles. You would need to think about tires, shocks, and filters and, of course, the computer part that fails. (Of course, the good news is that, if you have the right reader, the truck may be able to tell you what's wrong.)

Don't neglect that special tool that pulls the front axle, or whatever. The only real problems I ever had were:

-- A failed spindle bearing because I had not lubed the bearing, and,
-- An ignition module that simply died.

Not bad for twenty odd years.

Remember, 4x4 is rarely necessary - the big problem is endless miles of washboard and pot holes which shake everything to pieces. Most US 4x4's are aimed at the short, sharp shock of the Rubicon, not at the thousands of miles of sand and vibration that is overlanding.

So, if you a true Chevy man and handy with a wrench, go for it. If you take your truck to the dealer, you may want to consider buying overseas.

As always - YMMV.
 

haven

Expedition Leader
Sorta like the GMC Topkick shown in the "transformers" movie?

ironhide-1-1.jpg


Monroe makes replicas of this movie vehicle. You'd have to replace the
tires, though. The ones on the movie truck lack the cargo capacity for
a big camper.

http://www.monroetruck.com/GM/index.html

Chip Haven
 
IMHO too much length used up in the hood and crewcab. In order to have a decent (16') length camper the truck would have to be massively long.
Have you looked at the running gear on the Kodiak 4500? I believe it has just a Dana 60 front axle and a pickup sized transfer case. Is that going to enough to reliable carry the truck with a heavy camper for many thousands of remote miles? I think one thing to be gleaned from this forum is how weight adds up on true expedition trucks. Roughly speaking, my bare chassis weighed 50%, the empty camper 25% and everything else (winches, bullbar, generator, fuel, water, tools, parts, spare tires, recovery gear, living supplies, food) 25%. In other words the weight doubled from the bare chassis.
A more or less "world truck" sold by GM that appeals to me more: the forward control T series, in 7500 or 8500, perhaps with a 4WD conversion by Tulsa Truck. It is built in Brazil for GM and is totally forward control, so a 16' camper would give only about 24' total length. It has the 7.8L Isuzu/Duramax engine, up to 300hp/860ft-lb. Available 6 spd Allison 3500 or 10 spd 8LL Roadranger. With 4WD and something like 395/85R20 singles it would be pretty skookum.

Charlie
 
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mhiscox

Expedition Leader
Tomas,

You are getting great input on this from people who know exactly what they are talking about.

The point about the length of the vehicle that would derive from any conventional cab truck is spot on, and pretty much the reason I don't have my composite cabin mounted on anything yet. Especially with the crew cab, you'll have a pretty long truck even with a cabin of modest length.

And for the world traveler, having a North American-specific truck will be a problem. The EarthRoamer stuck in Mongolia with engine problems for, what, six months?, is a good example of what can happen. There's a lot to be said for computerless trucks if you have to have them fixed by the village mechanic or fix it yourself. On the other hand, it's gotten to where you have to get a pretty well-used truck to get something whose engine can be dealt with by general mechanics.

As all the knowledgeable experts point out to us, every expedition vehicle will be a compromise, and I think the Kodiak/TopKick compete reasonably for the price. You can get a crew cab. You can get many cab-to-axle measurements. You can get the gross vehicle weight rating up to 21,500 pounds (and if that's enough, there's no commercial driving license required like there would be on larger trucks over 26K GVWR). The Duramax diesel is widely regarded as a "good" engine. You can spec the truck with pretty substantial components. The flat back of the cab will make it much easier to do the cab-to-cabin passthrough. And, perhaps most important, the cost is quite reasonable for a new truck with 4x4.

Darrin Fink's Fuso FM-based trucks are--like the GM W-series trucks Charlie mentioned--a useful example of how to get a big cabover chassis. But with the conversion to 4WD, there's at least $75K in those trucks. That's $30K more than the quote you got, and those aren't crew cabs. And the kinda-cabover Unimog U500 could be a fine starting point and comes in 26K and 33K GVWRs, but they'd be about that much used and trickier to build on.

I guess my main point is that a better expedition chassis is probably available if cost is not an object and you don't need a true crew cab. But if the crew cab is important and you don't want to spend $80K for the alternatives from International or Freightliner, the GM C/K trucks are worth considering. The resulting truck will be waaay long, have mediocre ground clearance and won't be the best for getting repaired outside North America. But it will be plenty powerful, will ride better than a cabover truck, should hold up well if spec'd correctly, should be straightforward to build on and, above all, represents something of a bargain compared to other new medium-duty 4WD alternatives.

It may well be worth looking for a good used camper, but if you would like to buy something new, I think you should continue to keep the Kodiak/Topkick on your list of things to consider.
 

Jeep

Supporting Sponsor: Overland Explorer Expedition V
charlieaarons said:
IMHO too much length used up in the hood and crewcab. In order to have a decent (16') length camper the truck would have to be massively long.
Have you looked at the running gear on the Kodiak 4500? I believe it has just a Dana 60 front axle and a pickup sized transfer case. Is that going to enough to reliable carry the truck with a heavy camper for many thousands of remote miles? I think one thing to be gleaned from this forum is how weight adds up on true expedition trucks. Roughly speaking, my bare chassis weighed 50%, the empty camper 25% and everything else (winches, bullbar, generator, fuel, water, tools, parts, spare tires, recovery gear, living supplies, food) 25%. In other words the weight doubled from the bare chassis.
A more or less "world truck" sold by GM that appeals to me more: the forward control T series, in 7500 or 8500, perhaps with a 4WD conversion by Tulsa Truck. It is built in Brazil for GM and is totally forward control, so a 16' camper would give only about 24' total length. It has the 7.8L Isuzu/Duramax engine, up to 300hp/860ft-lb. Available 6 spd Allison 3500 or 10 spd 8LL Roadranger. With 4WD and something like 395/85R20 singles it would be pretty skookum.

Charlie

The front axle is a variation of a Dana 80 and not really up to the task, the transfer case is a NVG 273 that was originally designed as a mated unit and is standard equipment on GM,Ford,Dodge 3/4 and 1 ton trucks. The transfer case has an input yoke mated to it and some light duty bracketry to make it into a remote mount unit, it is very light duty for the application. The rear axle is the Dana 135, a sheep in wolfs clothing, small carrier, riveted ring gear, horribly weak axle housing, the only thing about the 135 is it "looks" big. We repair these components and trucks at our shop all the time, many service companies have tried to make these trucks work in the Alberta oilfield environment and most have migrated to the small Freightliner or Peterbilt trucks which are holding up far better than the GM.

I think our oilfield could be compared somewhat to expedition driving to a degree but it usually consists of 6-12 hours of highway driving and 10-20 KM of varying degrees of bad road conditions. The trucks that operate farther north may only get an hour of highway time and almost all gravel/dirt/mud/ice roads for the rest of the day so it's a pretty good test industry for trucks. We kill F-550's regularily and the Topkick looked like a real attempt to beat Ford out of the market but turned out to be the same truck that drove a little nicer and got better fuel economy. I used this statement before and it seems to stand up time and time again (the F-650+ and early Cat powered Topkicks exempt) but "why buy a truck from a car manufacturer?" I'd stick to a Cat/Cummins engine, Alison/Fuller trans, and step up a size in the chassis department and you will do just fine.
 

btggraphix

Observer
It can be done....

While I wouldn't argue the infinitely more experienced voices on this forum, I would say there are some perfectly good reasons for trying to go the route you are suggesting.

While I was not the one who built the rig I own, I do know something of its history and it might be a basis for some insight.

Here's a couple of links relating to Brad's tour of Central and South America:

http://www.truckcampermagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=110&Itemid=34

http://www.lancecampers.com/livingthelancelife/bradchrist.html

Basically, he considered a few types of rigs, but wanted to set something up fast, and relatively cheaply. Converting a 2WD T or W series GMC or F650 would be 20K or more, so he was thinking F550 or GMC4500/5500. Anyway, he spoke to Ford mechanics about spare parts he should bring if he bought an F550 (this was pre-6.4) and it was pages and pages.....when he spoke to GM mechanics, they said some fuel and oil filters and fuses. He didn't even take a spare tire/wheel, just a patch kit (that seems insane, but nonetheless he did it.)

They put 32,000 miles in the course of a one-year trip and had basically no issues at all.

Many of the overlanders (e.g. Dana Hackney) seem to often state that the vast majority of the roads travelled do not require a serious off-road rig....in many cases it is better to do those total backroad exploring in other vehicles and/or with local drivers. YOu see pictures of stock American trucks with stock truck campers on them. You even see pictures of 2WD motorhomes out there 'doing it.' It can be done.

I cannot really comment on relative strengths of axles and transfer cases as I don't have enough experience with that stuff. But I can comment on a few things.

I would agree that a small cab (cabover) with no rear seats would provide the most room leftover for a cabin. However, the cab of a Kodiak/TopKick in the regular cab arrangement is pretty short...shorter than a regular cab pickup I believe and provides awesome views of the street. When I drive a traditional pickup now I can't get over how long the hood is, and how big the blind spot is in front of the bumper. At this point, we were not ready to give up the extended or crew cab (our first choice would have been an extended cab) so in the Kodiak we like the crew cab. It is giant....bigger than a Megacab Dodge inside....but from bumper to rear of cab it is right about the same length as a crew Cab Ford. If you need a big cab, this is a pretty nice option. Note the Eco-Roamer rig that not only has the crew cab, but he extended it furthur to add room for jump seats and computer stations. If you need that cab-room the trade-off may be worth it to you. Our 9 foot flatbed was cut down to a little over 8 feet, to match the standard Ford bed length, which consequently matches the floor of the Lance perfectly with not an inch to spare, and the frame ends (which stick out almost a foot) do not interfere with the Lance as it is far enough below the deck height.

Brad (the guy who setup my rig) drove it from Maryland to Panama and then shipped from there to Lima, Peru from my understanding. If you were going to use it much in the US on interstates and the like, it is nice to be able to set the cruise at 70MPH or more, and be able to cruise comfortably that way. If it is all 3rd world driving.....this may not matter.

What else? Charlie is right, it has a Dana 60 front end (in 06 they went to a 8000lb rating, mine is just 7K and weighs out about 6500 fully loaded) and the rear is an S110 (13,500lb rating; I weigh out at up to 12K+.) So I do not have a lot of 'extra' axle capacity.....no doubt. The newer Duramax versions will require ULSD and may not be suitable for international travel yet...that started in what, 07 model year I think?

If I were buying new, I would get a 5500, not a 4500. Essentially everything is the same, except rear springs...but it does give you 2K more rating on the GVWR.

We love our rig, but no question, it is not as capable off-road as you or others might prefer but it can be used as a chassis successfully.

My own plan is to build a custom box camper to replace our Lance 1191, but make it removable similar to a truck camper. That is an important feature for us. That would then allow us to later consider changing chassis over to something that IS more heavy duty and/or off-road capable such as a T7500 or an International 7300. Or just keep using the Kodiak chassis we have if we end up without complaints. I would like to move it over to super singles and better springs/suspension, as well as a torsion-free chassis mount for the cabin, but those thing would raise the deck enough that I will not do it until AFTER building a custom box that is not so tall. I am already 13'2" and will not raise another inch if I can avoid it!

Here's a few shots of my rig....

This one shows a size comparison with a 1-ton Ford, with a shorter camper...his is a 9'9" I think whereas mine is 11'9"
2d0l8gx.jpg


Plenty of GCVWR for towing:
1hrtx5.jpg


Using our dirt bike/flatbed trailer for a deck:
2mmd1qe.jpg


Not too bad an approach and departure angle....I've certainly seen worse..
2mzjp1i.jpg


Hope this helps!
BT

PS: As much as I would love to have a rig I could drive to the top of Taylor Pass and camp for a week, I have to face reality that we actually use our camper much more often simply at the end of USFS roads and explore the tough stuff via dirt bikes. For us, this is a much more feasible and successful way to explore the "world" around us....
 

toyrunner95

Explorer
There are many other trucks available in the US and abroad that might be better platforms. The other question is, Do you need something that big?

Personally i would go with the freightliner that the MRAP is based off of if you want something big. If the military can use it to drive over land mines, then the civilian version cant be that bed.

I like the small compact idea better because shipping will be easier, parts more readily available, and knowledge of the vehilce will be easier to come by.
 

btggraphix

Observer
toyrunner95 said:
There are many other trucks available in the US and abroad that might be better platforms. The other question is, Do you need something that big?

Personally i would go with the freightliner that the MRAP is based off of if you want something big. If the military can use it to drive over land mines, then the civilian version cant be that bed.

I like the small compact idea better because shipping will be easier, parts more readily available, and knowledge of the vehilce will be easier to come by.

I thought that the Freightliner is as wide as the Kodiak and won't fit in a container either. It certainly is much shorter, but also provides very little size in the way of platform for a camper.....

Jeep's comment "I used this statement before and it seems to stand up time and time again (the F-650+ and early Cat powered Topkicks exempt) but "why buy a truck from a car manufacturer?" I'd stick to a Cat/Cummins engine, Alison/Fuller trans, and step up a size in the chassis department and you will do just fine." is probably spot-on, but in terms of buying new (if that is a considertion) the cost is also in another league. On a shoe-string budget and wanting to go new, a Kodiak might be a decent choice.

If willing to go used, then a used 4x4 "bigger" truck might be a better choice than a new Kodiak. I searched a little online and found a used 4x4 7300 International for something like $75K. That's still a lot of dough though, for many of us. Truth be told, I paid $65K for the Kodiak/Lance combination already rolling and set up. I could have found the individual pieces cheaper (especially once the market plunged on truck prices last summer) but having a ready-made solution with low mileage that fit our needs well was a big draw.
 

toyrunner95

Explorer
btggraphix said:
I thought that the Freightliner is as wide as the Kodiak and won't fit in a container either. It certainly is much shorter, but also provides very little size in the way of platform for a camper.....


I was figuring he was dead set on a super giamungous truck. And you are right, its just as big as the kodiak, it might even be bigger. I havent done any research into them as a camper but i have seen quite a few different configurations of them around here. maybe an octomog type camper instead of a slide in bed camper.
 

GlobalMonkey

Adventurer
You all got my head spinning, so much information, so helpful. We do not need a gigantic truck, just looking for something to carry a camper with decent livable space and motorcycle, able to carry the weight. Thank you all for the input, got a busy couple of days, Tomas
 

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