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Old 01-15-2020, 08:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
DarkSideofWill
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: VA
Posts: 47
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Will's Bug Out Rig: Duramax Van

Not sure if license plate should read:
DMAX VAN
or
FRECNDY
or
BUG OUT
or the new entry
BOOGALU
-with a nod to black-face Ralphie

Here it is getting on the trailer in Tucson:



In my dad's driveway in VA:



It didn't want to start coming off the trailer, but I found it has an immobilizer that was somehow activated during transport. I figured out how to deactivate it, although I haven't removed it yet. Once it would start, I turned it around to start getting work done on it.



BEEEEEEEFFFFFFFFCCCCCCAAAAAAAAAAKKKKKKKKEEEEEE!



Here's the bulkhead. The rig came with two fire extinguishers, a hose reel, a small exhaust pipe going through the floor and a fuel tank. I guess whatever line of business it was formerly used in required an engine driven air compressor, hence the fuel, exhaust and 12V wiring everywhere.





Only the plastic parts are smashed



Here's where the compressor was in the auction photos



After some work, I got my seat range of motion back.



That thing is rather heavy (the bulkhead more than the cat, but the cat's kinda chunky too)



The van is a 2006 Express 3500 Extended Diesel with sliding door. Add all those up and it becomes a unicorn.
2006 was the first year for the Duramax in the GMT610 platform (Chevy Express & GMC Savana vans)
All calendar 2007 production was required to have the DPF, which hurts fuel economy. Since *RANGE* is the primary defining characteristic of a bug-out rig, I had to have a pre-DPF rig. This narrowed my selection to 2006 Diesel production only.
Within the set of 2006 diesel van production, a 3500 Extended van is on the rare side, but not unicorn status.
However, when you add the sliding door into the list of requirements, that specific configuration does become a bit of a unicorn.

Platform stats:
Wheelbase: 155" (135" is standard length)
OAL: 244"
GVW: 9600
Empty weight: TBD
GCW: 17000 without load distributing hitch, 18000 with.
Max trailer weight: 10,000

Frankly, I don't understand why people would pick the hinged side doors over the sliding door. The hinged side doors don't open far enough to have the full width of the body opening available to ingress/egress, as well as requiring a good bit of real estate to the side of the vehicle in order to use them. The sliding door is much better in both regards. On the current model configurator on the Chevy website, the sliding door is only about a $200 option. I don't understand why it's not WAY more common.

Following the van's basic configuration being a unicorn, this particular van is:
-Low mileage at 137k, while most diesel work vans are in the 250k range by the time they hit eBay
-Straight; most work vans get external hasps to lock the doors with a padlock and the bodies get beat up over time from being treated like work trucks. This rig has only one dent, and that's on the left front fender, which has no impact on the function of the doors or weatherstripping.
-Rust free, having spent its working life in AZ

The only option it's missing that I really wish it had is cruise control.

Plans:
-Empty it: As noted, I already pulled out the bulkhead. The shelving will follow. The current shelving prevents laying 4x8 plywood or drywall flat. I'll end up with shelves that will allow 4x8 payloads. Basically, I'll rip everything out and start over.

-Fuel and Spare tires: Remember the primary characteristic of a bug out rig is RANGE. The full body vans are available in 135 and 155 inch wheel base options and all have 30 gallon tanks inside the frame rails, with the spare under the body behind the rear axle. The cutaway chassis have 159 and 17x" wheelbase options. Those chassis also have an optional 55 gallon tank that fit behind the rear axle. So in this van I'll remove the spare and mounting hardware and install the 55 gallon tank where the spare was. I have multiple options to carry a spare, of which the current front runner is dual spares carried internally. Yeah, I'm aware I could carry six spares on the roof, but that's kind of attention-getting.

-Hitch: I'm surprised it didn't come with a hitch, but whoever ordered it was definitely trying to keep it cheap while still fulfilling some must have requirements similar to mine. E-Trailer has a Class V hitch for it... I'll snag that before too long.

-"Crew Van": This is similar to GM's current "5 passenger seating" option for work vans. GM's option requires full body glass and a full interior, thus turning a work van into a passenger van with some seats left out. That's not quite what I want. I want the first bench seat and body glass installed in the forward section of the cargo area. I want to keep the rear section of the cargo area paneled. That means that I can install a seat and a windowed sliding door to be 2/3 of the way there. I'll have to consult with body shops to figure out how hard installing the forward bank of windows in a panel body would be. There are 5 vertical structural members there. Members 2 & 4 need to be replaced with shorter ones and window sill structure installed, in addition to cutting holes for the windows and then doing sheet metal work to profile those edges to accept GM's windows.

As mentioned, I'll swap the panel door for a windowed door. I also want to change the color to green. Green vehicles get the fewest tickets. Green is also the color that's the best compromise between urban and rural camouflage on the east coast. Green was also the LOWEST production of any color GM painted a van. I've found a green windowed sliding door, but it's a full day road trip distance away. I don't trust a junk yard to ship it, so I'm thinking I'll drive out there, swap the doors and leave my current door there.

I'll also snag any other serviceable green body parts they have. The more green I can bolt on, the less green I have to pay a body shop to change over from white.

-Other: Fuel economy tune, maybe a couple of Titan transfer tanks, shelving that doesn't interfere with 4'x8' cargo, front and rear high current electrical sockets for winches or jumper cables, engine driven air compressor (bolts on to Duramax!)... and other stuff as I see fit.

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Old 01-15-2020, 08:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
DarkSideofWill
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: VA
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Cross-posted from another forum, which is why it sounds like I'm trying to teach my grandmother how to suck eggs.

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Old 01-15-2020, 08:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
DarkSideofWill
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: VA
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LOL!
So after re-spotting it to load the removed bulkhead into the back to transport to a junk yard, the ignition lock BROKE and I couldn't shut it off. I had to take the lower cover panel off the dash and shroud off the steering column to be able to access the ignition switch electrical connector and unplug it.

The lock cylinder and housing are both available from the aftermarket as well as GM. The multi-function switch that covers turn signals, hazards, wipers, washers and cruise control is also available aftermarket, although we can't tell from the parts catalog which GM part number has cruise.

However, thanks to MattyB for the help, it looks like all I'll have to do to have cruise control is just install the right multi-function switch. Sweeeeeet! The body-side cruise switch connector is right there, ziptied to the side of the steering column.

The lock housings and multi-function switches are specific to the vans and are NOT shared with trucks... at least per RockAuto

The shifter mechanism *IS* shared with trucks, as well as being available in the aftermarket from Dorman. There's nothing wrong with my shifter, but "while I'm in there" I might as well install one that's compatible with an Allison... you know... just in case. The shifters that are available are for the 4 speed transmissions and it's become hard to look something up in GM's system without a VIN, so I'll have to do some more research on that.

Here it is in mid-thrash:



My dad did the reassembly. He says the cruise works with the new switch. That's pretty sweet... only thing we had to do was swap the switch out.
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Old 01-15-2020, 09:56 PM   #4 (permalink)
turboawd
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Nice. What is your plan for the van? Work? Pleasure? What is bug out?
Mind saying what that cost you?
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2006 chevy express 3500 duramax, long wheel base, 4" dp and exhaust, bully dog tuner, heavy foot, and stock trans. lol
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Old 01-16-2020, 02:00 AM   #5 (permalink)
artementy
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Sliding door is nice. People with big wheels don't like it because it hits and can't open all the way.
New fenders are $38. Green would be cool.
55 gallon OEM tank is surely nice, but it is enormous in size and it won't fit, not even close. Been there done that and I have pictures. 40 gallon Ford Excursion tank fits but is very tall and hangs too low. I installed a 30 gal aft rear axle tank from an old Ford van, with a transfer pump, and it takes all available space and sits just perfect.
No Allison possible (reasonably), leave stock shifter.
Yes cruise control only needs the turn signal stalk changed!
eBay has full lock kits for vans, that will have matching ignition lock cylinder and all door lock cylinders.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg green1.jpg (119.2 KB, 4 views)
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2016 Savana 3500 Diesel
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Old 01-16-2020, 11:26 AM   #6 (permalink)
LCAC_Man
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artementy View Post
No Allison possible (reasonably), leave stock shifter.
.
truth..
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1976 FMC2900r LBZ/Allison Photo Album
2000 Express 15 Pass. HighTop
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Old 01-17-2020, 01:11 PM   #7 (permalink)
DarkSideofWill
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: VA
Posts: 47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turboawd View Post
Nice. What is your plan for the van? Work? Pleasure? What is bug out?
Mind saying what that cost you?
It's for personal use.
"Bug Out" is a prepper term meaning "has what I need to GTFO and not look back".
It'll tow my track car trailer when I get one.

It was $7300 on fleaBay... plus a moderate fiasco with the fly-by-night auto transport industry to get it to VA. It was within the range of normal for diesel vans and a great price for being EXACTLY what I wanted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by artementy View Post
Sliding door is nice. People with big wheels don't like it because it hits and can't open all the way.
New fenders are $38. Green would be cool.
55 gallon OEM tank is surely nice, but it is enormous in size and it won't fit, not even close. Been there done that and I have pictures. 40 gallon Ford Excursion tank fits but is very tall and hangs too low. I installed a 30 gal aft rear axle tank from an old Ford van, with a transfer pump, and it takes all available space and sits just perfect.
No Allison possible (reasonably), leave stock shifter.
Yes cruise control only needs the turn signal stalk changed!
eBay has full lock kits for vans, that will have matching ignition lock cylinder and all door lock cylinders.
I'll keep that in mind regarding the sliding door and big rear tires.

I can't get green fenders for $38, although new parts are always fun. In 2021 GM will have been making these vehicles with almost no sheet metal changes for 25 years. That's just incredible.

I was wondering about the size of the tank... I'm not above custom, but it's always easier to buy something that's already made. Do you have a build thread with pics of your attempt to get the 55 gallon tank installed? Do you know what year your 30 gallon Ford van tank came from?

What's the problem with the Allison install? Hits the floor? Won't work with the transmission crossmember?

I bought a lock cylinder kit that I can code however I need to. I also got the key code from the local dealership, so I don't have any issues getting the right key. The sliding door lock has been messed with, but I figured I'd wait to get the windowed green door installed before I spent any time on that.
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Old 01-17-2020, 01:14 PM   #8 (permalink)
DarkSideofWill
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: VA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artementy View Post
Yes cruise control only needs the turn signal stalk changed!
Supposedly most of a car mfg's profit comes from options... GM's incremental cost on installing cruise control on the assembly line is like $10, yet they charge >$200 for it on the options sheet.
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Old 01-18-2020, 10:20 AM   #9 (permalink)
LCAC_Man
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Oceanside, CA
Posts: 811
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkSideofWill View Post



What's the problem with the Allison install? Hits the floor? Won't work with the transmission crossmember?

yes to both of those and those are the (only) two easy problems to solve...don't go down this path.
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1976 FMC2900r LBZ/Allison Photo Album
2000 Express 15 Pass. HighTop
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Old 01-27-2020, 09:49 PM   #10 (permalink)
DarkSideofWill
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: VA
Posts: 47
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Are there cargo tie-downs or cargo tie-down kits readily available? I can of course just grab some boat cleats or similar and install with self-drilling screws, but if there's a neater and more thoroughly thought out way to do it, I'd rather go with that.

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