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 > Towing with GM 1 ton extended passenger van (Savana/Express)

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Grit dog

Black Diamond, WA

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Posted: 07/30/19 10:36am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A 15 passenger van has a lot of tail to wag compared to a pickup for towing duty.
Just a consideration, but not a deal breaker? Never towed with a long tail van but it’s probably not much different than a truck with a long hitch extension?
Otherwise , I think you’re thinking right. Low miles like new, LOTS of extra room, low cost, low depreciation.
Best part is the trip to AK! I’d do it in a Hyundai if I had to, just to go!


"Yes Sir, Oct 10 1888, Those poor school children froze to death in their tracks. They did not even find them until Spring. Especially hard hit were the ones who had to trek uphill to school both ways, with no shoes." -Bert A.

Grit dog

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Posted: 07/30/19 10:37am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Plus if you buy it right, it may not even cost “a few thousand” in depreciation. Unless you plan on putting on a bunch of miles. Just 10k or so for the trip will be virtually unnoticeable.

CJM1973

Trenton, MI

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Posted: 07/30/19 02:33pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Grit dog wrote:

CJM1973 wrote:

Dadoffourgirls wrote:

CJM1973 wrote:

Bionic Man wrote:

Not trying to talk you out of your plan, but 145k miles really shouldn’t be a huge concern, especially if you have maintained the truck.


If my plan didn't involve upgrading trucks in 1.5 years and if my children didn't grow like weeds, I think I wouldn't even consider it. But the lack of space behind the front seats is a concern for a 14,000 mile trip over 2 months. I think the storage capacity with the rear 2 rows removed (it's a 2-3-3-3-4 config) is the biggest plus. Will be able to bring a few more things with us and keep it all out of the elements.


Just be aware that you will then find yourself hauling the Scouts, 4-H, band, drama, kids etc with this vehicle. It will make a great, one-day road trip vehicle to Grand Rapids. 5 couples can go, and you need only one designated driver.


That's what I'm afraid of....the DW and I being the designated driver all the time.


That’s easily cured. Just be the first one in the group to get snot slingin drunk and whip out the keys and yell “who want to go do some donuts in the parking lot!!”
You’ll be absolved of that duty then....
(That’s what I do anyway. Works most of the time!)


Sounds like my younger days! lol

CJM1973

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Posted: 07/30/19 02:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Grit dog wrote:

Plus if you buy it right, it may not even cost “a few thousand” in depreciation. Unless you plan on putting on a bunch of miles. Just 10k or so for the trip will be virtually unnoticeable.


That's what I was thinking. An alternative to this van was a NV3500 but I can't find them under $30K without high miles. We're looking at about 14K miles total for that trip as we originate from the midwest.

ktosv

Grand Rapids, MI

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Posted: 07/30/19 08:22pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Grit dog wrote:

Never towed with a long tail van but it’s probably not much different than a truck with a long hitch extension?


If you are talking about the rear overhang, it’s pretty much exactly the same between the 12 passenger (regular wheelbase) and 15 passenger (long wheelbase). All of the extra length goes into the wheelbase.

The Express/Savana will actually ride better loaded than not, that is my experience. The shock upgrade is a must. I also put Belsteins on our van and it rode much better loaded and not. If we weren’t going to be towing for extended times I would deflate the tires a considerable amount. I think I would reduce the rear from 80 to 50 PSI or less.

We towed a 7200# gvwr 32’ trailer and the van did great. I don’t think I ever used anything less than 4th gear in the Northern Michigan Hills (Cadillac, Gaylord), so even in the mountains you should have plenty of gears to choose from. There was times the van was actually content towing in 6th gear, which was impressive considering my 2004 3/4 ton Suburban with the 3.73 couldn’t hold speed in 4th. Kind of proves that the 3.42 may actually be the right gear in the van.


Kevin and my...
Wife and six kids
2017 Suburban (5.3L/6A/3.08)
6x12 Enclosed Utility

Sold...2011 Express 3500 (6.0L/6A/3.42)
Sold...2010 Passport Ultra Lite 2910

CJM1973

Trenton, MI

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Posted: 07/30/19 08:51pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

ktosv wrote:

Grit dog wrote:

Never towed with a long tail van but it’s probably not much different than a truck with a long hitch extension?


If you are talking about the rear overhang, it’s pretty much exactly the same between the 12 passenger (regular wheelbase) and 15 passenger (long wheelbase). All of the extra length goes into the wheelbase.

The Express/Savana will actually ride better loaded than not, that is my experience. The shock upgrade is a must. I also put Belsteins on our van and it rode much better loaded and not. If we weren’t going to be towing for extended times I would deflate the tires a considerable amount. I think I would reduce the rear from 80 to 50 PSI or less.

We towed a 7200# gvwr 32’ trailer and the van did great. I don’t think I ever used anything less than 4th gear in the Northern Michigan Hills (Cadillac, Gaylord), so even in the mountains you should have plenty of gears to choose from. There was times the van was actually content towing in 6th gear, which was impressive considering my 2004 3/4 ton Suburban with the 3.73 couldn’t hold speed in 4th. Kind of proves that the 3.42 may actually be the right gear in the van.


Good to know. Thanks for your input. From what ive read, the 6th speed tranny helped tremendously over the previous 4 speed. Thas why these vehicles can get away with the higher gearing.

The shock thing will be the first mod I do. I've read a dozen different accounts on the benefit of the upgrade. Do you know which Bilstein shock you used? 5100?

As far as the rear overhang, the wheelbase does increase by some 20 inches with GMs extended length vans. Ford's older E350s extended the rear cargo but left the axles in the same spot as the shorter 12 passenger vans. Read about instability issues when loaded up on the tail.

blt2ski

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Posted: 07/30/19 11:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

IF I could have gotten a 4wd 3500 extended van, I would have over a crew cab for my family of 6. I towed to the local mountains and used my TT as a ski hut more than I did in the summer months. So 4wd was a must to get thru the upwards of 3-5' of snow it snowed a few times over a weekend, getting stuck at pass as it was closed due to avalanche danger etc......
FOr what you are doing, a G80 rig is as dang near as equal as an open diff 4wd! There are a few things about 4wd that make it nicer, but having had multiple rwd G80 rigs, dang near unstoppable in there own right.
I drive a work 9500gvwr vans with 14' boxes, bassically a 15 passenger version. I have a transit now, a Sprinter before. I'd take the sprinter with 5 years and 180+K miles over this POS transit I have now. The shorter wb makes it ride worst IMHO. Put a load in the back, you have many lbs taken off the FA, vs the longer WB of the sprinter was better. I think you will find a GM will ride much like the sprinter did from my standpoint. I would suggest one, but feel the 6.0/6 sp will be a better power/drivetrain than the 200/400 6 cyl diesel in the Sprinter. If you were towing a smaller trailer, say 6-8000 lbs, then yes, but it would be slower than the GM van.

Marty


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blt2ski

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Posted: 07/30/19 11:29pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The above point about the older Burb and newer van, the van has a 6sp trans, with a 4.1 in low gear, the Burb had 4.1 in axel, BUT, had a 2.48 in trans. Wider spacing in the gears, and a few less HP and torque. That said, the 3.42 geared van is probably a better gearing setup with the 6 sp! than the 4.10 geared 4 sp auto overall.

Marty

CJM1973

Trenton, MI

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Posted: 07/31/19 12:19am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

blt2ski wrote:

IF I could have gotten a 4wd 3500 extended van, I would have over a crew cab for my family of 6. I towed to the local mountains and used my TT as a ski hut more than I did in the summer months. So 4wd was a must to get thru the upwards of 3-5' of snow it snowed a few times over a weekend, getting stuck at pass as it was closed due to avalanche danger etc......
FOr what you are doing, a G80 rig is as dang near as equal as an open diff 4wd! There are a few things about 4wd that make it nicer, but having had multiple rwd G80 rigs, dang near unstoppable in there own right.
I drive a work 9500gvwr vans with 14' boxes, bassically a 15 passenger version. I have a transit now, a Sprinter before. I'd take the sprinter with 5 years and 180+K miles over this POS transit I have now. The shorter wb makes it ride worst IMHO. Put a load in the back, you have many lbs taken off the FA, vs the longer WB of the sprinter was better. I think you will find a GM will ride much like the sprinter did from my standpoint. I would suggest one, but feel the 6.0/6 sp will be a better power/drivetrain than the 200/400 6 cyl diesel in the Sprinter. If you were towing a smaller trailer, say 6-8000 lbs, then yes, but it would be slower than the GM van.

Marty


That's good to hear about the G80 locker. I've had several tell me that it's a must if driving off the asphalt onto wet soggy turf or mud. Not that we'll be offroading on the van but I can see a scenario enroute to Alaska that we turn off the pavement and boondock on soil. A night rain could mush up the earth a bit and put a damper on the day with an open diff axle.

I think these vans are hidden gems if practicality is the main objective.

Dadoffourgirls

China, MI USA

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Posted: 07/31/19 05:51am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

CJM1973 wrote:



I think these vans are hidden gems if practicality is the main objective.


Absolutely for their price. Getting 15 mpg towing a small enclosed Uhaul trailer with 14 people to Florida makes for a much cheaper cost per person. And not one complained.

I ran a 10' extension cord from the 110 outlet in the dash with a multi-plug with USB. They all had enough power for their devices.


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2017 Express Ext 3500 (Code named "BIGGER ED" by daughters)
2011 Jayco Jayflight G2 32BHDS

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