Marooned in Paradise - Another Express AWD

#1
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.

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#2
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.
 
#3
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.
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#4
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.
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#5
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.

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Choff

Adventurer
#8
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
 

86cj

Explorer
#9
Great find for sure, you won't see many like it........:bike_rider:

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.
 
#10
"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.
 
#11
Many parts stores rent the torsion key tool.
Not in my city. I did find a few places willing to sell me the tool for $180. I also found a guy on the Deisel Place forum that had one in Calgary that would lend it for beer. He was on the other side of town so I passed for now.

I borrowed a Ball Joint Press from Auto Value that did the trick, after wrecking a couple of c-clamps.

The BJ Press worked fine, but the torsion bar is fused to the key at one end and fused tot he mount at the other end. I'll spray it with PB Blaster for a couple of weeks and if that doesn't work I'll try heat.

Does anyone have any idea what the piece of metal next to the BJ press is for? It is a flat tube like affair that goes through the frame. Looks like a channel for wires of hoses or something.

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#12
Now Marooned in Merritt BC

Going for a long shot here.

My wife and her friend are on the last few days of their BC Hot Springs Tour and our van broke down just outside of Merritt BC.

My wife said something made a `pop`sound and then started rattling like crazy. She pulled over and called for a tow truck. It still moves apparently.

It is currently sitting at Frank`s Mechanical in Merritt waiting for him to open in the morning.

Does anyone know of an inherent drive train problem that would cause this?

Does anyone in or near Merritt know of Frank's Mechanical? Is he any good?
 
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#14
Going for a long shot here.

My wife and her friend are on the last few days of their BC Hot Springs Tour and our van broke down just outside of Merritt BC.

My wife said something made a `pop`sound and then started rattling like crazy. She pulled over and called for a tow truck. It still moves apparently.

It is currently sitting at Frank`s Mechanical in Merritt waiting for him to open in the morning.

Does anyone know of an inherent drive train problem that would cause this?

Does anyone in or near Merritt know of Frank's Mechanical? Is he any good?
It's all good now.
A local mechanic diagnosed a bad u-joint and replaced it.
 
#15
Well, I still can't get the keys off.
They are frozen to the bar. I have soaked them in my ATF/Acetone solution all summer.
I have beaten them silly, as much as you can where they are located.
I even tried heating one with my MAPP gas.
I read on another forum that you can remove the cross member/bracket with the keys and bars as a unit so you can beat them even harder with an even bigger hammer.
I guess that will be my next move.

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