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Old 08-06-2020, 09:34 PM   #211
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Location: Riverside, CA
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The mod list for this van, at least for now, is pretty simple. I've been concentrating on wiring and suspension these past weeks. I pulled the dash apart to add a Pioneer Apple Carplay compatible stereo. While apart I added some USB outlets in the dash, wired for driving lights and the trailer controller. And I installed the trip camera I pulled out of the Ford before I sold it.

While running all the wires under the carpet front to rear I added some extras for future use, plus a feed over behind the drivers seat for the Engel fridge. Plus I added a 110V feed outlet to the back bumper so I can run a trickle charger to the house battery, and a 110V feed to the fridge. With the wires all run I still need to build a small cabinet to place the chest style fridge on, add my 100W Solar panel on the roof, and figure out where I'm going to store the deep cycle battery.

On the exterior I replaced the headlights and taillights. The headlights are exact copies, just not all yellowed and dingy. They don't make stock style taillights for these vans. The aftermarket style lights are not my favorite, but they are cheap. I'll run them until I find some decent stock ones.

Added LED floods to the back bumper, wired into the reverse light circuit. I had these on my E350 and loved the illumination while backing up. Added a backup camera. The second one I've purchased with a Sony lens. Those Sony lens cameras have excellent clarity.

Purchased a 2" front, 1-1/2" rear lift kit. The actual coil spring puck is about 1" in height, for a 2" lift. I fought getting them installed. No matter how far I compressed the spring, I needed one more hand to get the spring back into its seat. My nephew dropped by and I pressed him into service. Went pretty quickly after that. With the 1" puck in place the shocks just reached their mounting spot. They bolt on under the a-arm normally. If I had bolted my new Bilstein shocks on like that, they would have been destroyed pretty quick as there was absolutely no down travel with the shock in place. At first I was thinking I could get a shock extender for the top of the shock to lengthen it, but after some studying, I realized I could bolt the shock in on top of the a-arm and get the 1" of travel back I lost with the puck.

The rear was lifted using a 1-1/2" lifting block. The kit I bought came with round u-bolts like the Ford would use. But the Express uses square u-bolts. This kit was marketed expressly for the Express, so I don't know what they were thinking. I didn't realize they were wrong until I moved to the back after installing the front spacers. After a quick search, I found an online vendor, Stengel Brothers, that sells the u-bolts in the length of your choice. Meanwhile the van had to set in a butt down position for a week.

With the little bigger than stock alloys, and the modest lift, these are subtle changes that most won't even realize I've done. But I know, and I like the way it drives, handles and looks. After driving the extended Ford with the hightop, this van feels very nimble.

I'm trying to not do so much that I greatly impact fuel economy. On the Ford, every mod I did dropped mileage 1 mpg here and 2 mpg there. I got 17 MPG in this stock and hope to stay close to that when not towing. Have a 200 mile round trip planned this weekend so we'll see where we're at mileage wise.
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Tim Potts

2012 Chevrolet Express 3500 6.0
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Old 08-06-2020, 10:07 PM   #212
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Location: Eugene, Oregon
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Love it! I have similar lights in my back bumper that I still need to wire up.
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 08-07-2020, 06:56 AM   #213
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Nice, looks great.
2008 GMC 3500 Quigley Weldtec 4x4 Savana SMB
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Old 08-14-2020, 05:31 PM   #214
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I had been reading good things about the added stability of putting a rear sway bar on these vans. I ordered the appropriate Helwig unit. When it arrived the box was nearly destroyed, barely clinging to the sway bar. Gaping holes everywhere. I was fixin' to get a mad-on thinking about the hardware being scattered across America as it was in transit. Fortunately, they glued a small box inside the large box to securely hold the hardware. Crisis averted. Took me about an hour fifteen to unbox, gather tools, drill holes in frame and install the sway bar. Wow. What a difference. Where the van used to rock back and forth turning a corner and driving through the drainage depressions in the pavement, now it stays flat and controlled.

Thinking back on how violent it rocked in the old E350 hightop in those situations, I messaged the new owner with a recommendation to get one too. Haven't driven it far with the sway bar yet, but I expect good results everywhere. If I was going offroad I may not want a sway bar, but this van will be mainly used as a tow pig / highway cruiser.

I had an extra 100W Renogy solar panel so I wrapped the edges in carbon fiber look vinyl and mounted it on the roof. I had ordered a Renogy Wanderer controller for another project so I installed that too. One deep cycle battery later and the Engel fridge now has permanent power.

I picked up a continuous duty 150A Relay to tie the van and house batteries together when traveling. I've done it this way in the E350 and in my old Vanagon before that with good results.

I also have a couple of USB outlets to put by the rear seats. Hopefully I can get that and a small cabinet for the Engel to set on built this Saturday morning.

The list is getting very short for now.
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Tim Potts

2012 Chevrolet Express 3500 6.0
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Old 08-20-2020, 09:08 AM   #215
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I've been using Hellwig front and rear sway bars since 2008 or so---they're a must have addition for me these days. I'm now driving a 2005 E350 EB with raised hard roof and used the models made for "short wheel base motor homes" which are quite a bit thicker and naturally heavier. Weighing just about 8,500 # I can't even think of running without them. E-rated tires of course along with Bilstein shocks similarly rated for SWBMH's.

For the 2WD set they're a very wise upgrade or addition to a van without the rear sway bar.
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Old 05-13-2024, 09:29 AM   #216
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Originally Posted by shadetreevanman View Post
Thanks for the kind words. Ironically I tend to be economical on words in person and more willing to explain when online. Weird, I know.

Casey told me the day you’re meeting up and I should be able to make it. Looking forward to seeing your project.

I plan on taking my top as far as I can with my limited talent. We may be begging you to sell us a top before it’s done, but let’s wait and see.

I was out on the driveway this evening building some more of the fiberglass structure to replace the tall door openings. I used some FRP as a backer to lay the fiberglass shaped as I needed it. I’ll flip the top over and glass the back side too.

The two spots on the rooftop were through and through long gouges. I glassed them in for integrity, now need to finish them off for aesthetics. Starting to feel like I’m getting somewhere with this top.

I have a top like yours with the tall rear door cutout. It is on my worn out, rusted 2008 e350, and I will be transferring it over to my 2009 E350 V10 with low miles, and standard height rear doors.
My top is one layer of fiberglass, and has a steel roll cage under it (not attached to fiberglass). I plan to also transfer the steel cage, since it provides solid mounting points for interior finishing and cabinets.

Fiberglass and a repaint is more than I want to do. So I am considering using PVC boards to fill that gap. The most difficult parts will be the little flare that is about 2" above the bottom seal, and of course the bottom contact portion as well. My thoughts are to use a single piece of PVC for the part above the flare, mounted on the interior. Then use a separate narrow strip of 3/4" PVC board to fill-in the flared section under that, which I could shape with a router and fine tune by hand to fit into the flare.
DO you think that might be a significantly easier and faster route than fiberglassing it in, or more tedious and difficult? I do have some, although very little, experience with 2 part epoxy and fiberglass, but have never covered such a large area that needs to at least look presentable.

White PVC filler would avoid the need for paint, sanding and body filler that the fiberglass will absolutely need.
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