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Old 11-15-2019, 09:25 AM   #1
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Express 3500 diesel with awd components?

Hi, I'm a complete noob to all this an have some questions, so please bear with me. I'm looking to build a camper van that can pull my 30ft boat. Ive been looking at the express 3500 with the Duramax. Only thing It doesn't have is 4x4. I know they have some really nice and really expensive conversions out there. My question is will the awd components from the 1500 bolt on to the 3500 frame? I'm not looking to go off road. Just don't want to slip on wet and slimey boat ramps.
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Old 11-15-2019, 10:50 AM   #2
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No. Different transmission (4/6L80 in the 3500 vs the 4/6L60 in the 1500), and the AWD clutch packs are very light duty. This first time you get wheel slip on the boat ramp, you'd probably burn up the clutches pulling that much weight. And the 1500-series front A-arms and knuckles are lighter too. They won't hold up to the ~4,400 pounds you got on your front axle.
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Old 11-15-2019, 11:57 AM   #3
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I'd recommend checking out Weldtec Designs. They have a torsion bar independent front end option that is the probably going to be the best and most cost effective option. I think they will ship a kit for you to install locally, but don't quote me on that. Worth an inquiry.
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Old 11-15-2019, 04:18 PM   #4
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Good info. I would get the transfer case that works with 4/6L80. From what I have read the front diff on the awd is full time diff. Would the transfer case line up on the same side as the awd front diff? Could I beef up the A-arms and springs? The weldtec stuff is really nice. But damn it's expensive.
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Old 11-15-2019, 04:51 PM   #5
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I really don't think you're going to want to go the AWD route for the reasons Carringb indicated. It won't hold up. That transfer case and maybe even the front diff can wear quickly from what I understand even if its used to tow heavy and often by the 5.3 gas motor.


Not that it will likely matter much in terms of fitment should you push on, but you probably have the 6l90 depending on the year of your van. It think the changes are only internal between the 80 and 90.


Another potentially less expensive route than the Weldtec stuff is a solid axle conversion. Or, do their suspension lift then add the transfer case and torsion bar brackets etc. at $ allows. Make sure the van you buy has the G80 locker and you can probably get by until you can convert it to 4x4.
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Old 11-15-2019, 06:56 PM   #6
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Good to know about the G80 locker. I think I'm mis speaking a bit. I'm not really looking for AWD. I was wondering if I could use the awd stuff with a normal transfer case that I can shift on and off. Not running the front diff full time. Just at the ramp if the rear wheels slip.
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Old 11-15-2019, 11:03 PM   #7
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Ah I see. I guess I’m unsure why you want to pursue the AWD van drive train, why not just source HD truck parts? They are going to be more robust, and I’m unsure but probably more common and this most likely less expensive. My van for example uses truck torsion bars, drive shafts, transfer car, and front diff. The main custom parts and the lower control arms and the brackets for attaching. Seems you’d need custom work done for those anyway.

I’m no expert though so do t let me discourage you. I’d love to see you pull something off with a Duramax van. For what it’s worth, I did find out that Hummer H2s are decent for providing some of the needed parts.
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Old 11-16-2019, 04:59 AM   #8
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I think you should just go 4x4 if you are starting with a 2wd van. I'd never use a 1500 for a camper or 1500 components.

I believe the lower control arms are also off GM trucks. The spindle/knuckle is custom and so is the subframe to hold the differential and I believe lower control arms. The upper control arms are stock van and so are the brakes. Hubs are also GM units.

What does the boat and trailer weigh? My 3500 6.0 is rated to tow 7k and has a GCWR of 14k. Don't know if the Duramax has a higher tow rating.
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Old 11-16-2019, 11:31 AM   #9
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When I was researching 2006 Chevy express has tow capacity of 10k. My boat fully loaded comes in around 9k. But I would say most days it's less than that. It looks like I will be going with a solid axel setup. Was just curious if there was that big a difference in the components. I know I'm 2003 they made a one off awd 2500 express. But finding these components would be near impossible.
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Old 11-16-2019, 11:55 AM   #10
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Sounds like a good choice. Boulder Offroad does solid axle conversionsjust as a reference. Post up some picks of your van and progress. Always good to see some GM van activity around these parts.
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