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Old 03-09-2019, 12:41 PM   #1
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 10
GU: my '17 Express Passenger 3500 extended w 6.0L

Hey, folks.

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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Needed to have enough size that I could have both first row passenger seats and room for a motorcycle "garage" in the back.
  3. 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:

  1. Virtually zero availability for high rear doors which would make access to the moto garage easier.
  2. Not a lot of after-market availability for bubble tops for standing in the moto garage (Fiberne may be applicable here).
  3. Very limited after-market availability of adventure kit relative to, say, the E-series, Sprinter, and even the Transit.
  4. 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...
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Old 03-09-2019, 05:21 PM   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Posts: 1,027
Congrats and happy to see another Express with some activity here. Excited to follow your progress.

2015 Chevy Express 3500 Duramax
w/ Quigley 4x4 & Agile Fox shocks
Sold 2005 E350 Chateau
Quigley with Agile RIP, 6.0 PSD
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Old 03-10-2019, 07:57 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: TN
Posts: 9,340

I love the Chevy 6.0l. I had one in a truck. I've been told they will go about a half million miles with basically one part needing to be replaced, an oil pump around 300k or so. This comes from a guy who had several in his delivery fleet.


2010 Chevy AWD home build
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Old 03-17-2019, 08:33 AM   #4
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Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: FL and VA
Posts: 1,411
Congrats. Looking forward to watching what you do. I have the G80 axle on my van.
2008 GMC 3500 Quigley Weldtec 4x4 Savana SMB
2006 BMW HP2 Enduro-Sold
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:54 AM   #5
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Orinda,CA
Posts: 8
Any update on this? I am riveted and have very similar plans.
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:06 PM   #6
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Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 10
Howdy. I haven't posted as I've not done a heck of a lot f to the van I felt was noteworthy other than the LSD.

I stripped out all of the passenger seats and carpet other than the first row with the rear now dedicated to motorcycles and RV equipment. Removed the plastics from the walls and plan to put up some custom boarding but haven't gotten around to it just yet. Headlines and rear AC are still in place. We fab'ed a divider out of Lexan and a Tractor Supply cattle gate. It works great and mounts to the rear seat rails. I did this as protection from flying motorcycles for my kid who sits in the only remaining row of passenger seats.

The LSD is due for greasing (every 40k miles) now and its has been totally problem free and I now have no concerns about getting stuck anywhere I normally go though I don't go gnarly places by the standards of this board.

I've installed pusher bars (for deer mostly) -- that was an adventure and required breaking out "the persuader" -- and I run BFG Bajas for tires. They do just fine but are super squirrely for the first couple hundred miles until they scrub in.

Van is acting as 50% RV tow vehicle and 50% motorcycle transport right now. Dirt bikes and couple of non-adventure (and thus low -- clearance) street bikes.

I've kinda put a hold on any further expensive mods as I'm expecting Chevy to announce something about a refreshed Express in the next year or two. I know they are going to be putting the 6.6(?)L gasser in vans. If they do a euro box with a big gasser or medium-sized gasser with some sort of electric assist/hybrid then I'll probably sell this van and roll into the euro box a year or two after they release the refresh.

That's about it for now really.

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