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Old 03-17-2014, 05:13 PM   #1
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 13
New Guy Questions

Hey Everyone,

I've been reading this site for the better part of a year, planning out a Van. I'm happy to say the time has come to finally start shopping but I have a few questions!

First, my plan is to basically build a modern day weekender type Vanagon on a Ford or Chevy platform. This will be my DD and I'd love 4WD but its not in the budget.

All that said I have two major questions:

(1) How do these vans handle in the snow?
I live in the PNW (Portland) and don't see a lot of snow but surf year round
and encounter bad weather at times in the higher coastal mountain ranges.

(2) I have a little guy and need shoulder belts for his carseat. I plan on putting in a reclining
forward facing bench. Is it possible to put shoulder belts into either make / model?

Thank you for the help!


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Old 03-17-2014, 10:37 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Corvallis, OR
Posts: 5,085
Re: New Guy Questions

My van handles great in the snow. I'm up on Hood nearly every weekend. Tires are everything. Good tires matter more than 4x4.

If you think there is any chance you may spring for 4x4 in the future, you want a Ford for sure. Nobody really converts used Chevy vans, and QuadVan is a few blocks north of downtown Portland.

As for the bench seat.... I don't think you can do a reclining bench with integrated seatbelts. But the outboard seat-belts in the vans are mounted to the walls anyways, so unless you need a center shoulder belt, it's probably not an issue. If you go with Van-Specialites, they can probably even build you a LATCH-equipped bench seat.

2000 E450 dually V10 wagon
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:25 AM   #3
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 13
Re: New Guy Questions

In my other car experiences I totally agree with the tire statement, I had just read so many conflicting reports. Mt Hood will be far worse than my normal driving pattern so thank you for sharing that!

I don't need a center belt and outboard shoulders will be just fine. I forgot about VS and they're only 10 min from my door, guess I know what I'll be doing on my lunch break
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:53 AM   #4
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Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: SE Washington
Posts: 902
Re: New Guy Questions

We have a Ford 2wd with limited slip and good snow tires. Its OK but not as good as my Honda Accord or some past AWD's. We ski Hood and Bachelor plus the local hills over here. We always carry tire chains and have used them for glare ice and deep snow.

Here we are in Utah with street tires. Chains required to get out of parking lot!

2009 E250 RB 5.4L "SilVan"
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Old 03-18-2014, 10:04 AM   #5
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Bay Area, CA by necessity - Sun Valley, ID if I had a choice.
Posts: 55
Re: New Guy Questions

Hello J,

My ideal DD would also be a modern version of a VW Weekender so I will be eagerly following your build and I hope you'll share it with everyone on the forum.

Have you looked at the AWD drive version of the Express/Savana? They aren't super common (at least not in California) but they do pop up on Craigslist every now and then. All AWD GM vans are equipped with the very reliable (in my opinion) GM 5.3 V8.

Just a thought and good luck!

1998 Pleasure Way Excel with serious SMB envy
2014 R-Pod 182G
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Old 03-18-2014, 04:10 PM   #6
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 13
Re: New Guy Questions

Thanks for the feedback dhally! I most likely won't be traveling in anything like that and if I do I'll snag the wife's AWD Element. Very encouraging about the LSD and Snow tires, both of which I've considered.

pjm: I actually had a AWD Chevy for a year and loved it. Unfortunately the recession hit and we had to part ways. The AWD was fantastic but the 12/14 mpg was a little rough as a daily. I plan on getting a 2wd V6 to eek out a little more MPG and am thinking the lower torque / less power will reduce sliding out in slippery conditions. My no means do I expect it to eliminate it though...

Plans got pushed back a little, someone keyed the car I was about to sell (down to the metal) so now it sits at the auto body shop getting fixed. People are amazing sometimes.

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Old 03-22-2014, 01:39 PM   #7
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: The Sunny Southwest, USA
Posts: 426
Re: New Guy Questions

Greetings J and welcome to the forum now that you are no longer _lurking_

Hopeful fast & painless recovery on the keying to metal fiasco. & sorry to hear you had to ditch the chevy AWD. And i agree on the posts on tires. We have mountain-stamped M/S pizza cutters on ours and they do great year round.

As you might have read elsewhere our 2010 chevy (5.3 v8) AWD is my wife's DD to/from work about 10 miles round trip. We are always fully loaded for adventure and typically with full tanks and the two of us weigh in at about 6800 to 6900 lbs at the local scales. We are getting about 14mpg around town and ~16/17 on the open road. For what one gets in return (full comfy bed/bath/kitchenette) we feel it is well worth the few extra bucks. And the safety, as you know, on the typical AWD rig is great in our WET PNW weather. Here on the coast with ~80 inches of annual rainfall we switched over to AWD rigs about 20 years ago (volvo wagons before the chevy van).

Best wishes on your hunt for the van! And Van Specialties is an excellent place/crew!!! If there is a Van 2.0 they will most likely build the interior also.


Greetings from the Sunny Southwest, USA
2017 RAM Promaster Conversion. SOLD: 2010 Chevy Express AWD
Van Build Thread @ SMBForums
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