I'm not sure who first coined the term "Van That Can" but my friends and I have always used it to describe lifted, 4x4 vans, Sportsmobiles, etc. I have always loved them but somehow they never quite fit my needs until recently. I spend a lot of time in the local deserts and down in Baja with my prerunner (or "the girlfriend" as the wife calls it ), so in the past I needed a tow vehicle capable of towing it around but that would also be used for family trips down to Baja, as well as chasing and supporting off road races. For the last several years I have had a 2004 Silverado 2500HD Crew Cab 4x4 diesel short bed with a shell, and I have been pretty happy with it. It tows great, has a great ride for such a heavy vehicle, and has been very reliable.
However, after our last San Felipe trip, with the wife, 2 kids, and our 2 dogs (60lb Vizsla and 70lb German Shorthaired Pointer) in the cab and the shell completely stuffed with crap, my wife and I started looking into how we can get some more room. Picture stopping at a military checkpoint and trying to control 130lbs of crazy Eastern European psycho dogs who are barking at Mexicans with guns and jumping all over 2 kids who are trying to unwind themselves from the 17 electrical cables that they are plugged into, and you get the idea. Plus, our GSP farts when he gets nervous, and he gets nervous a lot in the car. This does not make for an exceptionally enjoyable drive…….
So I started searching for a solution- I have been on ExPo for several years but never really paid much attention to the van forum. When I bought the Silverado several years ago I had briefly looked into vans but UJoint was not around (or at least I wasn't aware of it) and it seemed like all of the other conversion companies were only touching new vans. Luckily for me, I took another look and after reading all of the other build threads on here I was sold. Vans have the size, towing capacity, and with UJoint a good quality 4x4 conversion that I feel comfortable taking anywhere.
So after a 2 month search, I found a local 2000 E350 V10 EB Passenger van with only 52K miles, and I was able to pick it up for $5,500. It was used as a maintenance vehicle for a local Burger King chain, and it came with a Tommy Gate lift gate in the rear as well as a metal partition wall installed just behind the third row of seats. Other than being a little dirty and having a few broken interior panels, it is in remarkably good shape. The first order of business was to get rid of the cheap aluminum side steps and the partition wall, and start cleaning it out. I spent about 6 hours today removing all of the panels on the passenger side, cleaning them up, finding out what needs to be fixed, etc. The Tommy Gate is listed on Craigslist for $500, but I just want to get it out of there so I can finish cleaning up the interior.
My Silverado is sold and being picked up on Friday, so I will be ordering the works from UJoint next week. Since it will be doing some towing I am going to go with the 4" kit. I have these wheels on order:
Here are a few pics of the van- I will update this thread as parts start coming in. I am going to do the conversion in 2 parts- I want the front axle in by Oct 6 for our next San Felipe trip, and then do the xfer case etc before the Baja 1000 in November. Should be fun