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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So after starting down the path of a Duraburb: http://www.dieselplace.com/forum/63...875154-duraburb-planning-budgeting-phase.html
I realized what I really wanted was an expedition style van.
I'll continue to track budget on this build same as I was on the suburban. I sold the Suburban last week, and returned the radiator. So my starting point with the Duramax/Allison package that I have is $7100 invested. To summarize that is with a new water pump, new front and rear main seals, rebuilt turbo with billet wheel, magnaflow downpipe, full EGR removal, PCV reroute, Nicktane filter adapter, LMM torque converter, Transgo Jr. kit installed and transfer case pump rub kit installed. Engine has 156k on it, trans has 88k on it.
I've made a deal on a 2000 Express 3500 Hightop $8500 and a 2006 Express Duramax 3500 159" cutaway (blown engine) $2000 owner is pulling the box off so I'm picking it up this Thursday.
so I'm at $17600 as it sets now.
There's a couple ways to skin this cat but what I hope to do is move the hightop body over to the cutaway frame after I get everything installed and working on it. (and build rear body mounts and shorten it 4"). This will keep me in a functional vehicle and allow the majority of the problem solving to occur on the cutaway.
Front axle will likely be a coil sprung F350 Dana 60 or maybe a Dodge Dana 60.
I'll also likely transfer the entire dash/wiring from the 06 to the 00 to make it more compatible with my engine/trans package.
I'd like to keep the electric shift transfer case but that's something that I'll get to later. Dash cluster solution will also be a challenge...Any input is welcome...even if you want to tell me I'm off my meds..
Anyways, here's some pic's of what I'll be starting with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Standalone controller+ old front clip.
You would have the best front end on a duramax van
That's one way to go, and then just use the data lines to drive some independent/aftermarket monitoring. There's a lot to be said for the earlier system that doesn't live off of CL2 data..
I think my approach is going to be; work on the fabrication first.
Phase 1 will probably be:
1. Pull the cab off the cutaway and get all the measurements for where the new front axle will need to reside and determine what needs to be cut out.
2. Get the blown LBZ/4l80e combo out of there and get the chassis cleaned up.
3. Cut out the engine cross member structure that is in the way.
4. Mock up the new front axle, build mounts for radius arms/track bar and sort out the steering links.
5. Transfer the van specific duramax parts to the new package and install the new LBZ/Ally/NP263 combo
6. Shorten frame from 159" to 155" wb and get drivelines modified and installed.
7. Swap in AAM 11.5 SRW on and remove the DRW Dana80.
8. Install additional body mounts needed for the passenger van.
9. Cab back in place, modified wiring to integrate the two and get it running/driving.
10. After I'm sure I've got a viable fully functional package I'll determine how I want to integrate the 2000 body, I should have a solid understanding of whether or not the older front clip will work(dimensionally).

Going this route will take a little longer but will keep the hightop van functional until I'm sure I know WTF I'm doing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
I'm not dead set on the electric shift 263, I have it now so that's what I'll start with, if I have to make a change so be it, the push button shifting is damn nice though..
I got the 06 Cutaway home yesterday and got a pretty good look at it, they definitely jammed 10gal of $hit in a 5gal bucket, a 1.5-2" body lift would buy a tremendous amount of working space.
Also after looking at the 159"wb cutaway frame I think I'm just going to shift the rear axle 4" forward (probably just have new main leaves with offset pin holes made), there is plenty of room in the frame arch and I'm going to be lifting it some anyways so that isn't much of a factor. Then I'll just cut off the excess frame in the back.
I think until I actually get a front axle located under it I won't know exactly how that's going to go. It looks like the coil spring buckets on the frame and the Ford Super 60 coil perches are damn near a match for width, if I could use both and just have custom coils made I'd be happy with that, figuring out radius arm location/attachment is an unknown at this point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The cutaway frame is a C-channel whereas the 135/155" wheelbases van frames are fully boxed...
Yes, they increase the height of the frame rail and material thickness on the cutaway to get the strength needed. I don't think there's any real strength concerns with either. The difference in shape is something that I'll need to watch out for, I fly up to Portland on Tuesday to pick up the Hightop, when I get it home I'll map out any of the underbody interferences.
I have a back up plan of using the front portion of the cutaway frame and the rear portion of the high top frame as well; they are all spliced together at the same place underneath the cab when built at the factory. It's a lot of cutting/grinding so I'd prefer not to go this route.
Actually I'd probably just try and source a bare passenger van frame rather than that route to better control the project..
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Got home with the Hightop yesterday, logged about 1700miles, got to say the 5.7(L31) is a trooper of an engine...it was over 100dg for 6-7hrs straight on Friday in Central Cal and we had the A/C kicking ,it never even hinted at getting hot. Got a rock solid 15mpgs combined for the hole trip which is saying something because we hit all the falls out on the river gorge in Portland, then Crater Lake, then of course the Grapevine coming home so there was plenty of grade climbing going on..
Everything on this van works and it was a shockingly comfortable ride (not common for an unloaded 3500). I was worried that the wind from big trucks would be an issue with the large hightop profile but I never experienced a bit of that...so far...so good..
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
After looking it over more closely the biggest obstacle is going to be the much larger engine cover/opening in the duramax cutaway than the Hightop. The body lift I have planned helps, but, it still needs to be larger than it is...there is no easy way to do that, removing and transferring that section of floor over to the hightop and using the larger cover may be the only way to achieve it.
Frame can be shortened (to achieve 155" wb) and the fuel tank will have to be moved forward 8" to get the fill in the right position.
The old style front clip just won't work period, absolutely no room for the lager cooling stack..
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Just figuring that out now...Thanks for the confirmation.
If the body lift doesn't solve it; I'll probably just count on transferring that section of floor/firewall over to the hightop then just use the larger cover... that's why I bought a donor (I guess..)
Just found this post...trying to get in contact with this guy to see if he got past it..
New guy with van addiction - Duramax Diesels Forum
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
So I pulled the engine cover off my cutaway donor to see just how much room I could gain with a small body lift and if I could run a smaller opening/cover setup. Looks like with very little effort I could gain 4" at the rear. Sides are tighter but I think 1.5" is achievable.
On the frame/chassis I decided that modifying the frame from the cutaway was going to be too much work so I found an 06 rolling chassis that I'm going to pick up in about a week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
So what is the cutaway actually donating at this point? Just the front end and wiring/dash?
Rear Axle (Dana 80)
Entire Fuel System including tank
Larger Master cylinder and have a spare hydroboost
Towing mirrors
All the van specific duramax engine bolt ons (intake/turbo tubes, dipsticks, intake box, brackets, etc...) which is hard stuff to find.
A spare brand new turbo
Core support cooling stack (it has a brand new radiator)
Front clip(with wiring harness and bumper
probably the engine access floor and firewall opening for the engine cover.
Throttle pedal
Steering column
Wiring/dash
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But really what it does is allow me to use the cutaway cab to produce a running version of the final chassis, I'll be able to solve all the problems on that vehicle before I have to lay a hand on the hightop. That has a lot of value to me.
The cutaway frame will be scrap... and in the end the cutaway cab will be also, and that is a bit of a waste that I hadn't(totally) planned but I can live with it.
On the positive I'll have the entire rolling chassis from the hightop including full engine and transmission to sell of and recoup some expense.
I can sell off doors, front brakes, injectors, and whatever other leftovers there are...it's not a perfect system but it should be workable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 · (Edited)
Picked up a (local)low mileage AAM 9.25" front axle(2004 3500 Ram donor) assembly today (came with the front driveshaft as well) for $750. I think it's going to be the best fit (of the available coil spring fronts that are out there). It uses the same speed sensors so the ABS will play nice with it. The coil spring spread is 42" which is about as close to a match as there is (in stock form).
I'll have to modify/fab link and track bar mounts.
Other than a quick clean up it doesn't need much, the brake rotors and pads are even in good shape.
Project total is $18350 now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Looking Good.
You should drive around with just the Cab and Chassis SAS'ed for science.
exactly what I have planned(will probably be quick as hell with just a cab on it!)...I'll make all the mistakes on that set up then move the hightop over when I know it all works.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 · (Edited)
Made the run out to Phoenix to pick up the 06 155"wb rolling chassis. 86k mile Arizona van so its really clean. Still has all the ABS plumbing and wire harness installed.
I'll get to work on mating the AAM 9.25 to it in a couple weeks.
If anyone out there has a half ton rig that they've been dreaming of upping to the 3/4ton I'll be able to help you out, all the suspension/steering related stuff on this will be removed(minus the nice leak free steering box which I need..
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 · (Edited)
Grabbed some dimensions today:
Coil spring bucket width is 41" on center.
AAM 9.25" Front axle coil mounts 42 1/4" on center (should work great with the 41" bucket width)
Rear leaf springs (passenger and cargo) 50 3/8" on center
Rear leaf springs (cutaway) 47 7/8" on center
Rear leaf springs 2500hd Pickup 11.5" AAM 49 3/8" on center.
Looks like no matter what I'll be cutting spring perches and welding on new. I'd keep the 14bolt that's in the hightop now except that it's drum brakes..

Fuel tank on the new chassis is 31 gallon and on the cutaway it's 33gal and different shape, but, the opening for the pickup/sending unit is identical and the depth of the tanks is the same so it looks like that will be a direct swap.
I'll need to pull the fuel cooler/pump and filter assy from the cutaway and probably mount it where the evap canister is on the new 155" chassis.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Had a little time to work on it this weekend so I fired up the plasma torch and made some room for the AAM 9.25" axle.
I got rid of anything that was related to the control arm suspension.
I had briefly considered working with the stock dodge link arms but I think I'm just going to built a heavy duty adjustable radius arm set up and go with a longer lower arm.
I had the stock ram springs installed I may still use them (or a version of them) but they are just a bit too large in o.d. and would probably rub on the frame when compressed (larger diameter at the bottom than the top) if I shift the upper bucket center out .5" on each side it would be fine and that might be what I do. I am going to research smaller o.d springs.
As it sets in the pictures it is at desired ride height (6" lift as compared to my current hightop van).
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
I made some progress this past week, I'll post up some more pics this coming weekend.
I pulled the cab loose on the cutaway van so that I could get to all the van specific duramax stuff (and got most of that swapped on to my new engine) and I also got a start on the front radius arms for the new chassis. Also got the front inner fender structure cut off the cutaway.
 
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