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Old 04-08-2013, 12:16 PM   #1
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Location: Austin, Texas
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2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

Our SMB build has recently started here in Austin, Texas. My wife and I live here in Austin so we have the luxury of visiting Sportsmobile quiet often.

The information on this website has been great and has helped us immensely during our planning process. I don't plan on being too verbose in my reports, but feel free to ask questions and I will answer as best I can.

I'm mainly creating this thread to hopefully give back and provide some info for other considering the Chevy Express platform (which is not generally discussed as much here). Apparently SMB Texas has two other Express builds lined up right behind us though.

Chevy Factory Options:
  • 2013 Chevy Express 2500
    6.0L Gas
    2x4
    Convenience Package
    Tow Package
    Keyless Entry
    Remote Start
    Backup Camera (Rear view mirror)
    Aux fuel pickup
    Dark Tinted Glass on side and rear cargo doors
    Swing out windows on side and rear cargo doors
    Power Drivers Seat
    Locking Rear Differential

We are not converting to 4x4, but we did get the factory rear locking differential. We don't plan on traveling any roads/trails that require 4x4. The locking differential was a relatively cheap option when we ordered the van so why not.

SMB Options:
  • RB-50 (Standard Package includes propane, water, inverter, house battery, refrigerator, etc)
    (The list below is all the stuff we added or removed from the standard RB-50 equipment)
    Delete propane system and propane cooktop
    Delete rear passenger side RB-50 overhead cabinet
    Two Awning windows (Two windows come standard, this is just my window type selection)
    Powered Penthouse top with Bed (Adding 4" to standard penthouse bed length)
    Danhard AC
    Microwave
    Swivel passenger seat
    Underfloor storage with locking door
    Yakima Roof rack 119"
    Aluminess Tire Carrier
    Londeck Flooring
    Battery Monitor
    Wired for Solar (No solar controller, just wiring)
    Stainless electrical inlet
    External outlet
    A few extra inside power outlets (110 and 12)
    All LED lighting
    Privacy sliding curtain (behind drivers seat)
    Adding removable Shelves in rear hanging closet
    Cabinet in place of RB-50 slide out pantry
    Airline aluminum tracks on back passenger and back drivers walls for hanging items
    Penthouse top protective tape

We are upgrading from an Aliner hard sided popup camper. We've learned a few things about what we wanted in the SMB from our experience with the Aliner. We have a propane stove in the Aliner that we used once or twice when we initially got the camper. After that we preferred using a portable cooktop outside the camper or the microwave. We don't have a heater in the popup. We've been using a portable electric heater when we have hookups or just bundle up in our down sleeping bags when we don't. We have been in below freezing weather (nothing extreme) and it has been working for us. This was our main reason for deleting the propane system and not getting a built in heater.

SMB just started the convertion so here are a few picture in stock form, and a couple from the very beginnings of the conversion.

Upgrading from an Aliner:



Stock:







Penthouse roof hole and flooring started:



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Old 04-08-2013, 02:06 PM   #2
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Re: 2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

So no water system, cab heat, or inverter? No opinion, just curious. I guess if there isn't a spare aux battery you plan on just using the starting battery system?
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Old 04-08-2013, 02:26 PM   #3
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Re: 2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

Ahh, I can see how what I wrote is confusing. The RB-50 package includes a ton of standard options including propane, water, inverter, day/night shades, etc. Rather than type out all the standard features I just put RB-50 and listed everything I removed/added to the standard RB-50 package. I'll add a note to the original post to try and clarify that.

Thanks for posting that Dave. By all means, please speak up if you see some idiotic choice I have made in our build. Now is the time to correct those mistakes before it is too late.
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Old 04-08-2013, 03:22 PM   #4
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Re: 2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

I'll be watching your build progress with excitement. Our's will be starting in a week or two as current projects finish at the Indiana location. We opted for a 2013 Ford E-350 Extended with a custom layout similar to the EB-48 standard plan but with a marine toilet and some other layout changes.
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Old 04-09-2013, 12:19 AM   #5
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Re: 2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

I'm in for progress and pics! This should be an exciting build!
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Old 04-09-2013, 07:45 AM   #6
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Re: 2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

I can see how many systems are just extra added utilities that may not be worth the cash to install. I realize each person has what they want and need and why builds differ so much. But there is also resale value to think about. I can see how coming from a backpacking background can sway what you want for the build. Who need a heater when you're used to sleeping in a tent in sub zero temps. I use my sink once in a blue moon and was something I could have lived without. I also am one who packs potable water.

My only suggestion is if you do delete these items would be to talk with SMB about the possibility of being able to add these items down the road if you change your mind. I didn't want a propane stove but later decided otherwise. When I did the build I told SMB that I might want a stove in the future and had the countertop built so it could be installed down the road. As long as it doesn't sway the design you really want and add too much cost you might consider how expensive it would be to add things at a later date. If for any reason you do want to sell down the road it might make selling the van a bit easier. For instance if you use the space for a heater as storage perhaps SMB could add it later rather than doing a huge rebuild to get it done. I should also say if there is something you really want, build it the way you want. Nothing worse than having something you hate in your design that could have been avoided. Just a thought.
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Old 04-09-2013, 01:27 PM   #7
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Re: 2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

Very good points Dave. Definitely factors that should be considered.

I do not believe that we have made any modifications that would prevent SMB from installing the propane system, stove, and furnace at a later time. I know the interior spot where the furnace goes in an RB-50 is just going to be empty storage space in our build. I think the only change under the cooktop location is a taller drawer in our build, so I think adding the stove top later would mean we need a new drawer. The only part I am not sure about is the pieces like the propane tank that need to go on the under body. I'll have to talk with SMB when I go by this week to double check that it is possible to add these options later.

I've have spent some time researching alternative heating options. I've looked into portable catalytic heaters, tent heaters, propex heaters, etc that can be used if we end up needing/wanting heat down the road. They all have their pros and cons vs the built in SMB furnace.
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Old 04-09-2013, 09:18 PM   #8
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Re: 2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

Dropped by SMB today. Some of the pics are a little blurry because I didn't have my real camera, just used my phone.

They have the pop top ready to install just waiting for the motor.
They have the awning windows installed.
The floor plywood is now attached. They have the londeck on site.
Most of the wall insulation is in. They still need to pack insulation around the newly installed windows and will apparently push some into all the nooks and crannies in the support beams.
They have the aluminus tire carrier on site.



















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Old 04-09-2013, 10:04 PM   #9
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Re: 2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

Some cool pics. I've never seen a top set like that on a bench.
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Old 04-09-2013, 10:51 PM   #10
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2013 Chevy Express SMB RB-50 Build

Thanks for photos. It is interesting to see how they build the top upside down. Have seen that type of insulation before but cannot remember the name. Is it mineral wool? If I remember correctly it is pretty good stuff from both sound and thermal perspectives.
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