First off, despite the fact that I don't have an actual Sportsmobile, I wanted to say thanks to all of the folks on the forum. A learned a lot here in the 6-8 months I did research before actually choosing a van.
Ok, now, the actual van...as it says in the subject...'17 Express Passenger 3500 extended with the 6.0L gasser. That's probably a rather unusual combination for an adventure van and, tbh, that's why I'm planning on posting details here; the next person who goes this route will hopefully have a little bit easier time.
First, let me explain why I ended up where I did despite the popularity (and availability!) of, say an E-350 7.3L. My requirements were:
- Needed to have a power train capable of towing a 6500lb travel trailer without stressing the platform. This disqualified the Transit and Sprinter early on.
- Needed to have enough size that I could have both first row passenger seats and room for a motorcycle "garage" in the back.
- A preference against diesel so I can avoid having to know/find/become a diesel mechanic.
I was already familiar with this platform due to having built an Express 1500 w/ 5.3L gasser.
Cons for the platform:
- Virtually zero availability for high rear doors which would make access to the moto garage easier.
- Not a lot of after-market availability for bubble tops for standing in the moto garage (Fiberne may be applicable here).
- Very limited after-market availability of adventure kit relative to, say, the E-series, Sprinter, and even the Transit.
- That OEM open diff...oh, man, that OEM open diff. They aren't lying when they say you'll get stuck in wet grass.
Ok, mods so far:
Just one but its an important one: just had West Coast Differentials in Rancho Cordova, CA install an Eaton TruTrac and it has made a world of difference. Pre-install I was getting stuck on wet pine needles and a minimal amount of dirt/mud when trying to even exit the lane. Even with crap OEM tires its now a non-issue once the rear is locked.
The diff situation on the 3500 is, as many of you already know, chaotic. There are a number of rear-ends which appear to have been used in the 3500 and even if you have what appears to be a GM 14-bolt 9.5" its possible that the internals are not what they appear and, at least according to everyone I've asked, that would mean complete lack of after-market support for a replacement diff. I was careful when I purchased mine and verified it was a GM 14bolt before the purchase (picture attached to help others validate that's what they have installed). There's also a GM OEM "locker" option (G80) for this vehicle but its a a clutch-based LSD. I went with the Eaton helical LSD on the idea of better performance + less maintenance required.
That's it for now..I'm removing rear seats, carpet, etc this weekend as a start for the moto garage.
More coming soon...