Chevy/GMC Vans Over Ford Vans


I've been toyin' with the idea of moving from my truck to a van for more camp use. I would like a SMB, but I want to do something on a budget so I'm looking at getting a van to use as is (daily driver) for a while, and then in time maybe add a Penthouse bed or an interior. Maybe. We already have a travel trailer so at this time I don't need the camper interior. Also, I like the idea of having a 8,12 or 15 passenger capacity for family time and then removing the seats as needed for solo camp time.

My question is that I notice that Ford E series tend to be the go to van of choice for this. Sportsmobile for example doesn't list the Chevy/GMC vans as an option any more. I believe I could get a penthouse installed in a Chevy/GMC if I brought one to them, but it doesn't appear on their list of vehicles any more. Is there a reason to stay away from the Chevy/GMC vans? They don't appear to have a 4x4 option (UJoint Offroad Maybe?), but can be had with a Locking Rear Diff which would probably cover my needs.

I believe the Chevy/GMC vans vary in wheelbase depending on the body length, but the Fords do not. Is that a concern?

Also, the Chevy/GMC vans are still available in Diesel. I'm not convinced that I'd get one, but I'm curious why there is not much mention of them. It's good to know that it's an option at least.

Any thoughts would be appreciated as I'm still trying to determine the pros/cons of each. Thanks!



Expedition Leader
For the 4x4 conversion, E-series vans are the choice due to their drivetrain layout. It is offset, to the right, allowing for the easy install of a t-case and front driveshaft. Boulder Offroad seems to be the only real choice for Chevy AWD lifts. They only offer 4x4 conversions thru '95. No Chevy diesel 4x4 conversions out there that I have seen.

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The GM chassis is harder to convert for a few reasons, thats why you don't see many. The frame is narrow up front, then gets really wide after the engine. the coil buckets are under the frame and part of it, so you need a spring under suspension or a ton of lift to clear the buckets (not enough room for the differential)

Ford has guaranteed the E series thru the 2015 model year for the van as we know it and the cab/chassis thru 2019.


Thanks for the replies! That was exactly the info that I was missing and helps a ton. I'm not sure that I will need 4x4, but I want to get a vehicle that it could be added to in the future if possible.

Chris-If I'm looking at a new E350 Wagon EB, is there anything that I should steer clear of that would be an issue in the future for a 4x4 conversion?


The Astro has flexability, some of the other Chevys not so much, or at least much more challenging to make the changes. The Astros you can def get a pop top installed through ColoradoCamperVan, he is a member here and there are write ups of his work for a variety of different vehicles. The Astros can be lifted, converted to 4x4 with minimal work, and ok mpg for a van, but you dont get the great big full size van space you would with an E-Series.

I dont know jack about ford or chevy diesels, but if you plan on heading south of the US then keep in mind there are different qualities of diesel, and the stuff down south can ruin newer models of vehicles, I believe new Sprinters need to be converted for the dirtier diesel, for example.

Boulder Offroad seems to be the only real choice for Chevy AWD lifts
This is Astro specific, but Overlandvans provides parts for a lift if you will install it yourself, which is fairly easy in an Astro.
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Weekend warrior anarchist
Another thing to consider is that GM offers a 1/2t awd van from the factory. With a transfer case swap you can have true 4wd (under 1k if you do it yourself)
If you don't need an extended wheelbase, 3/4 or 1 ton hauling capacity or super gnarly off-road capability then the awd GM vans are a hard package to beat. 3" of lift is rather easy with them and boulder off-road does offer a 6" kit, though it's not cheap.

For serious off-roading or towing I thing the fords are the way to go.


New member
Sounds like you are looking for the same thing I was. I wanted a passenger van for my daily driver/kid hualer, but be able to remove the benches for when the girlfriend and I just want to do a quick camping trip. And since I'm not a Ford fan so I picked up a Chevy Express 3500 extended. I wanted the extended wheel base for towing my boat and travel trailer when needed. For now I installed a Boulder off road 6" 2wd lift and I'm going to install a locker soon. Most of my camping will be in the desert and Baja for off road a few years when the van is not my daily driver I'll probably convert to 4x4 with Boulder's kit.


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Randy and his crew at advanced 4x4 in Salt Lake did my 2007 Express 2500 Duramax almost three years back and basically no issues. I don't play hard off road with the van, mainly use the 4x4 when in snow up in Idaho. They do about 20:1 in favor of Ford over Chevy/GMC. They have also converted motor homes and some interesting Vans headed for the antarctic and middle east.



We did some research on ford and Chevy for 2wd conversions. For us, it came down to powertrain choice. The Chevy 4.8 liter was too small and the 6 liter too big and hungry. The ford 5.4 seems just right.

Other things we noticed about the chervy
- the side walls looked easier to install a diy interior
- the OEM interior finishes seemed lower quality
- there was more cab room, but exterior dimensions were corresponding bigger too