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Full Sized Vans

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  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    Sorry, Ernest, but the SLE package limits the choice to cloth seats. Whatever... y'know, we could always replace the cloth with aftermarket *leather* - now how many cattle would it take to cover 12 seats? $$$$!!!! LOL!
  • ernesternest Posts: 30
    Midasgold, Now you're talking! But I'd be afraid that with twelve seats I'd get Mad Cow disease. Seriously though, I was kinda hoping that there would be a leather option on the Express/Savana. Of course there isn't. Prior to deciding to go with an Express, I was considering a Suburban in which case I was going to get the leather option. But I decided against the Suburban because it was too small for my needs. After discussing vans so much, I am getting excited about placing my order for a 2000. I am curious to know if they will be using the new Vortec engines that are being used in the 1999 trucks. I heard Suburbans are going to the new engines; but, I've heard nothing about vans. Either way, they are solid and proven engines.
  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    I've heard that the new pickup truck engines will not make it into the van line for a few years yet. Eventually the vans will start to use the new chassis and engines that are currently limited to the pickups.

    I don't know that this is true. Just something a knowledgeable salesman (a friend; he wasn't trying to sell me anything) said.
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    Well, one thing's for sure: if this is the exact same 5.7L Vortec that was used in the pre-'99 pickups, they sure did an impressive job of stuffing it all under that eensy-weensy hood on the van!

    It's hilarious! The hood prop is only about 6 inches long (well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little) - that's all that's needed to hold up the stubby hood. Inside, all you see are the plastic fluid reservoirs, which conceal the engine underneath and behind. All the fluid dipsticks and reservoir caps are neatly lined up right up front, which is handy. I pulled out the engine oil stick... and pulled... and pulled... and pulled... My Gawd! It must be 6 feet long!!! LOL! Not so easy to snake it all back in, let me tell you!

    I was also wondering if the new 5.3 will find its way into the van. If it's dimensions are appreciably smaller than the 5.7's, I'm sure the extra room would be very welcome!
  • ernesternest Posts: 30
    Midasgold, What you describe about your van is pretty typical of most full-size vans. My present Dodge van has the same short hood, and long dip stick. When I change the plugs, wires, dist.cap etc., it must be done from the inside with the engine housing removed. Once you remove the cover, however, the engine is very accessible. This came in handy one day when I developed a bad miss and stalling and had to replace the plugs and wires and it was raining. I was able to work inside the van and avoid getting extremely damp.

    C13, You are probably right about the engines. I was told that the chance of them making it in the same year as the Suburban (2000) was slim, but there is a chance. Afterall, there is no benefit to GM producing two separate lines of engines. I think the Ford Mustang got their new 4.6 liter V8 about a year after it was introduced on the full size cars. I guess I'll just have to take my chances.

    I did hear mixed stories about the chassis, however. One was that the van was the first to employ the new techniques when they made a radical body change a couple of years ago. Then the truchs changed, followed by the Suburban (2000); but maybe I was being told something that the person thought I wanted to hear.
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    I usually don't bother to correct typos, but I can't live with myself for committing the egregious sin of typing "it's dimensions" with an apostrophe. That should have been "its dimensions."
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    Well, I think the chassis change in the '96 GM vans was a much more radical change than what they're now doing with the pickups and 'burbans. The old van was unibody. The Dodge is the only remaining unibody full-sized van now.
  • ernesternest Posts: 30
    Midasgold,
    Are you sure about the Dodge being unibody? My 86 Dodge van has a frame from my view while performing oil changes. This would mean the Dodge went from frame to unibody, while GM went from unibody to frame??? Maybe GM felt they could make this move and still maintain structural rigidity, etc. by the use of "hydroforming". What's your guess? Usually, manufacturers don't move this radically in opposing directions.
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    Here's a quote from Dodge's website:

    "Dodge Ram Passenger Wagons are built with stronger and lighter Unibody construction, instead of a body-on-frame design."

    I was under the impression that the Dodges were always unibody, and haven't yet made a really radical change to their vans the way Ford did in '92 and GM did in '96. Dodge's van is still basically the same (except for cosmetic and other tweaks) as it's been since the early 70's. You may notice that they still don't have flush-mounted windows, while Ford and GM now do.
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    ...Tell me about your rear wheel-well humps. You know: those rounded, carpeted protrusions on either side of the passenger compartment, under which the rear wheels reside.

    On ours, both the right and left "humps" have depressions in them, like big dents. Are they supposed to be there, or did somebody stomp on them and sort of "crush" them, leaving depressions behind?

    I just want to know of other vans have them, too - or if we should have our dealer take a look.

    Thanks!
  • darlene2darlene2 Posts: 1
    I have a 1991 ford conversion van with 123,000 miles, how much is it worth?
  • ernesternest Posts: 30
    Darlene,
    A lot depends on the condition and how it looks. If it looks real good in and out and the miles were probably a lot of long distance drives, my guess would be about $2-3K. Suggest going to an NADA guide (Conversion guides are harder to find) and look up a Ford factory passenger van. The value should be comparable.
  • wcubwcub Posts: 1
    Does anyone have any experiences with full size Dodge cargo and/or conersion van brakes? I have a '95 cargo and a '96 conversion, and both vans developed warped front brake rotors after just a few thousand miles. The only remedy the dealer offered was to turn the rotors. This has been done twice on the '95 with 41,000 miles and now the '96, with 16,000 miles and rotors turned once, needs it again.
  • Our 97 jeep had the same problem, low milesand the rotors warped. Chrysler, like others uses a stamped/cast rotor to save weight. The problem is it does not hold up well. Go to your local discount car parts place and buy a pair of solid cast rotors, they will probably be from China. They cost about $28 and you can istall them with new pads yurself in a coupel hours. Godd luck
  • emaleemale Posts: 1,380
    anyone wanna venture a guess as to why no one has developed a full size van with dual sliding side doors? it seems like a big market that is yet unexplored.
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    My guess is that, because the full-size van market is so small compared with the minivan market, there's not enough demand/competition for FSVs to have the kind of amenities that MVs have. This applies not only to driver's-side sliders, but to cupholders, rear-seat foldability/stowability, seat upholstery, power sliding doors, etc. Our new GMC Savana is wonderful, but it's one Plain-Jane vehicle.

    It's kind of odd when you think about it... When you consider the popularity of family-friendly, feature-laden minivans, and the even greater popularity of the-bigger-the-better SUVs... you would think that a full-sized van would be the ULTIMATE HYBRID, wouldn't you? I mean, it hauls mobs of people AND towers over even the biggest SUV (I can look down at Suburban passengers' laps)... but it's sort of a neglected vehicle segment - ya know what I mean?

    Of course, conversion vans are fairly popular, and (in addition to cargo/work vans) are the mainstay of the FSV market. Perhaps the Big 3 resist gussying up their factory passenger vans because that would eat into the conversion market.
  • stolbertstolbert Posts: 2
    I would think it would be handy to have dual sliding doors on large vans too, especially on a cargo van. I talked to a man in the car repair business and he said that it woud be expensive to add the 2nd door on a truck framed vehicle which is what a large van is. He told me that on a car frame, which most mini-vans are, it is much less expensive to add the 2nd door. Have you noticed that the Chevy Astro only has 1 sliding door and it has a truck frame. I hope this helps.
  • emaleemale Posts: 1,380
    when i think about it, the main reason is that no manufacturer wants to plunk down the denaro to develop said vehicle. i'm sure it could be done with todays technology and computer modeling. i still think a full size van with dual sliders would be highly desirable.
  • arielariel Posts: 12
    I agree that dual sliding doors are a great idea -wish I had them on my van.

    I have a 1990 Dodge Ram Wagon (passenger van) and love it. We need to buy a second vehicle that can carry 7 or 8 people, and will probably get another new full sized van. I don't know which one to get. The problem is this - It is almost impossible to find reviews of FSVs. I read Edmund's reviews, and the few others I could find, but there doesn't seem to be a clear consensus about which passenger van is best - Ford Econoline, Dodge Ram, or Chevy Express/GMC Savana. I've also read this conference, and come to the conclusion that most van owners here don't have a Dodge. The Dodge is the one that I've been least able to find information and opinions about. Does anyone have any advice about or experience with the latest model year (1999) vans (Ford, Chevy/GMC, and Dodge)?
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    Well, our '99 GMC Savana 2500 12-passenger is already 2 months old now. Any questions?
  • arielariel Posts: 12
    midasgold,

    How difficult is it to remove the rearmost bench seat?

    We have a 1990 Dodge B150 (109" wheelbase, 187" long), the smallest FSV to be had. What is the steering/handling like on a longer FSV like yours?
    I've not been able to test drive many passenger vans because dealers don't keep them in stock, just conversion vans (I know that they are basically the same van - one starts as a cargo van and the other is factory finished - but still, I'd like to test the passenger versions). In fact, I've only driven one - a used 1995 Dodge 2500 (the next size bigger than mine, and, in fact, the size I'm looking for). However, I know that the Dodge van was redesigned in '98, so driving a '95 is not very helpful in making a decision.

    The 2 conversion vans I drove were identical Fords with horrible after market driver's seats. It was so soft and cushiony my neck hurt and with no side support so that when I turned corners, my body would go in the opposite direction. I'm sure this affected my perception of the vans' handling. The reason we drove 2 is that the first one had a strong continuous vibration that came through the floor and the seats. The second van had messed up air conditioning - cold air in the front, warm air in the back. Driving two brand new Ford vans, each with a different problem, pretty much made me decide not to get a Ford.

    As far as driving a Chevy/GMC, the dealership we went to had a conversion, but the battery was completely dead because someone left the tv on all day. It wouldn't even take a jump it was so dead. So, no test drive. Guess we'll have to try again some other day. Anyway, the Express/Savana is in the size range we're looking for.

    Are there any real differences between the Express and the Savana?

    I've read (here and elsewhere) that Fords and GMs have body on frame construction, and that Dodges have unibody construction. What does "unibody" mean, anyway?

    How much power does your van have? Does it have good pick-up (acceleration), especially on hills?

    Thanks in advance to anyone with helpful answers.
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    (Is that "ariel" as in "lion of G-d?") ;-)

    > How difficult is it to remove the rearmost
    > bench seat?

    Well, first you need to disconnect the shoulder belt by inserting something into a little hole in the buckle to release it (my husband always has a bobby pin handy ;-)). Then, in the floor underneath the seat there are these two carpet flaps; lift them up to reveal the locking pins. The locking pins are rotated and pulled out to release the seat (the seat has places to keep the locking pins when not in use). Then the seat needs to be muscled out the back of the van. The rearmost one is the hardest because it's full-width. We found out the hard way that if you're not careful, you risk ripping the padding underneath the carpet, or scratching the plastic trim on the floor just in front of the rear doors. My husband says it isn't too difficult (he can do it single-handedly) - but let me put it this way: a Honda Odyssey-type "magic seat" would certainly be welcome. The seat makes a lovely sofa for our garage, though... if we take 'em *all* out they make a nice seating arrangement - all it needs is a coffee table. :-)

    > We have a 1990 Dodge B150 (109" wheelbase, 187"
    > long), the smallest FSV to be had.

    Oh, that must be the cute stubby-looking one. ;-)

    > What is the steering/handling like on a longer
    > FSV like yours?

    We have the "short" (Ha!) wheelbase version - 135". The front end handles amazingly easily, thanks to the fairly tight turning radius and the very shortness of the vehicle's nose - really swings around nicely. What takes a little practice is keeping the *back* end from being dragged over curbs on right turns (or, G-d forbid, hitting signposts or telephone poles) - just start your turn a bit later than you might expect in most other vehicles, and keep an eye on your right side mirror. Your Dodge van has a similarly stubby front end, so you should be used to that, but watch that back end!

    > I've not been able to test drive many passenger
    > vans because dealers don't keep them in stock,

    Yup - been there, done that...

    > just conversion vans (I know that they are
    > basically the same van - one starts as a cargo
    > van and the other is factory finished - but
    > still, I'd like to test the passenger
    >versions).

    Well, guess what? We ordered our van without ever even test-driving one. Are we brave or what? ;-)

    > In fact, I've only driven one - a used 1995
    > Dodge 2500 (the next size bigger than mine,
    > and, in fact, the size I'm looking for).
    > However, I know that the Dodge van was
    > redesigned in '98,

    Yes, but to my knowledge it was not nearly as extensive a redesign as Ford did in '92 and GM did in '96 - especially GM.

    > As far as driving a Chevy/GMC, the dealership
    > we went to had a conversion, but the battery
    > was completely dead So, no test drive.

    Bummer. :-(

    > Anyway, the Express/Savana is in the size range
    > we're looking for.

    So you're not interested in the long-wheelbase version. That thing's HUGE!!! Study the vans you see on the road and notice how GM is the only make that puts longer *wheelbases* on its longer vans. The others leave the wheelbase the same, but extend the overhang in the back - it looks especially exaggerated on the longest Dodge (isn't Dodge the only one with 3 lengths?)

    > Are there any real differences between the
    > Express and the Savana?

    Nope, they both come off of the same Wentzville, Missouri, assembly line. Only the grilles are different. There are also slight price differences (for some reason GMC commands the higher price), and the option packages are slightly different (for example, I think the 1SD package on the Chevy includes the leather-wrapped steering wheel, while on the GMC it doesn't). Check Edmunds, etc. to make sure.

    > I've read (here and elsewhere) that Fords and
    > GMs have body on frame construction, and that
    > Dodges have unibody construction.

    That's correct. The pre-96 GMs were unibody, but GM switched to body-on-frame with the redesign.

    > What does "unibody" mean, anyway?

    Not sure, but it seems to be de rigeur in cars nowadays. Body-on-frame is supposed to make trucks more stiff and rugged, and therefore able to handle heavier loads.

    > How much power does your van have? Does it
    > have good pick-up (acceleration), especially
    > on hills?

    Yes, our 5.7L engine seems to have plenty of power. We haven't driven it fully loaded yet, but we're taking it cross-country in August, with 8 people (2 adults & 6 kids) and lotsa stuff. Shall we stop and visit you in CO (it's right on our way) and let you take it for a test drive? (I took a peek at your profile.) :-)
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    > i still think a full size van with dual sliders
    > would be highly desirable.

    Sorry for being such a wet blanket, but I disagree.

    Let's face it: hardly anybody buys these vans, *especially* the factory-finished passenger ones, anymore. And within *this* miniscule segment, most of these are sold for airport shuttle services, church/senior use, and the like - so there's little demand for more than spartanly-equipped vans.

    Large families (the definition of which has been shrinking considerably over the years) are becoming increasingly rare. Minivans and SUVs have provided practical and "cool" (in respective order) alternatives to FSVs ever since the first Caravans and Voyagers rolled off the assembly line in '84, and leather-clad 'Speditions and 'Burbans (and 'Gators and Ethcalades) became all the rage in the early-to-mid 90's.

    Follow the money. What's next? The Ford Excursion: its outside dimensions rival those of FSVs, but it's an SUV so it's cool. Still, it only seats 9 people, so those of us with *really* big families still have to be satisified with having only one side door, killer removable-bench (not "magic") seats, and only 1 cupholder for every 6 passengers. What's that you say? You want more amenities? Get a conversion van! Whaddya mean conversion vans only seat 7 people? Sorry...

    But, you wanna know something? Coolness has a price. We FSV-ers aren't stupid: don't tell the automakers, but we can buy *TWO* FSVs for the price of one fancy-schmancy SUV (and carry 3x as many people). When the manufacturers decide to create that ULTIMATE HYBRID to which I referred in an earlier post (i.e. dress up an FSV the way they dress up minivans and SUVs), then our wallets are in trouble. ;-)
  • arielariel Posts: 12
    BTW, SUVs do have some safety advantages over FSVs, namely more headrests and shoulder belts, and a lower center of gravity. Also, as midasgold mentioned, SUVs do have more cupholders and other amenities.
  • arielariel Posts: 12
    I found out what unibody means: A post on Cartalk's Cafe Dartre bulletin board explained it.
    If you look there, it is in a thread on FSVs on page 3 as of Sat. afternoon, probably will be on page 4 by tonight. Basically, the frame is welded, not bolted, to the body. It is supposed to be lighter, stiffer, cheaper, and noisier.
  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    That's not quite right. I'm not surprised. What The Two Stooges don't know about cars could fill a 20 gig hard drive.

    There are two basic theories to automotive chassis design. Two of the most common names for them are 'perimeter frame' and 'unibody'.

    A perimeter frame is a heavy, sturdy frame that is separate from the body. The body is made separately and attatched to the frame, whether by welding or bolts.

    A unibody (or unit-body or 'monocoque') is a structure whose body *is* the frame; that is, the body panels are fully stressed, load-bearing members. There is no separate frame to support the body. Even the engine and the stationary glass (not windows that open and close) are stressed members.

    Actually, there usually is a subframe to support the engine and trans, and the I believe that the Mercedes MB 320 actually consists of a unibody with a complete, separate perimeter frame; total redundancy. The purpose, presumeably, is to provide massive strength.

    The unibody is not inherently noisier or cheaper. It depends on how the vehicle's built. It was, as you say, introduced to save weight while providing improved rigidity. It was also discovered to absorb damage in the event of a collision, sacrificing sheet metal, but (depending on the impact) often offering superior protection to the occupants.

    Perimeter frame vehicles, on the other hand, often look better after a crash, but the occupants may not.
  • arielariel Posts: 12
    C13, thanks for the explanation. I should have mentioned that the poster (the person doing the posting - maybe it should be spelled postor?) on the Cartalk bulletin board was a civilian.

    midasgold, I reread some of the previous posts here and saw some comments/questions concerning noise in the Savana. How noisy is yours?

    General question: My '90 Dodge B150 has a sliding side door, but I am considering dual doors in my new van. I am also considering dual rear doors instead of the single door I have now.
    Anybody have an opinion?

    We checked out a new Dodge Ram 3500 on a dealer's lot a couple of weeks ago (didn't test drive it because we're not even considering getting a van that big), and the sliding side door was very lightweight. It felt flimsy and cheap. My van's side door is hefty and feels solid. What are the sliding doors on other makes/models like?

    A couple of months ago when I had the rear door open to load the stroller, a strong wind hit it so hard that the metal bar that keeps the door from opening too wide snapped. The door, which used to open 90 degrees, now opens 180 degrees. Someday, maybe I'll get it fixed...
  • rogerf2rogerf2 Posts: 5
    I have owned 3 vans (all Chevys) with both slider and swing out side doors. As far as I am concerned, the slider is the only way to go. The swing out doors are always in the way, whether you are in a campsite or a supermarket parking lot. Before you can go anywhere, at least when both hands are full, you have to shut one or both doors. The slider doesn't leave quite as big an opening, but that is a small price to pay.
  • midasgoldmidasgold Posts: 65
    Yes, you're certainly welcome to e-mail me - just click on my name above to get my profile, then click on my address there.

    > where does the extra length on the Savana come
    > from? Is it partially or completely in the
    > front (which I doubt, since you said it has a
    > stubby front end),

    I think that, before the Dodge's most recent redesign, its nose was even shorter than the (current) GM's (the Ford has the most prominent snout of the 3, IMHO). But I recall reading that Dodge extended the engine forward a bit to give it more interior room (esp. legroom for the driver and front passenger). Since I haven't been inside a Dodge, I have no basis for comparison with our Savana.

    > or is there more interior space (likely)?

    If I'm not mistaken, GM has the most interior space of the three.

    > Are the bench seats in the Savana farther apart
    > than the Ram,

    I dunno, but I'll be happy to go out and measure it if you'd like...

    > or is there more cargo space in back? When
    > your third bench is in, is there any room
    > behind it, or is it right up against the back
    > door (as in the Ram)?

    There's about 2 feet of interior length remaining behind the 4th-row bench - plenty of room for stuff, we've discovered. If you get an 8-passenger (or get a 12 and take out the last bench to make it 8), you'll have loads of space back there. (In the extended-length 15-passenger van, the 5th-row bench *does* sit right up against the back door - so an additional 20 in. in exterior length doesn't add 24 in. to the interior... maybe you can use that to calculate how far apart the benches are; maybe not. Check out Chevy's and GMC's websites and you'll see what I mean.)

    > Do you normally drive it as a 12 seater,
    > presumably to separate the kids, or as an 8
    > seater?

    We leave all the seats in. We've been debating whether or not to take out the last bench to make more cargo room for our x-country trip, and we've decided to leave it in. That way, the kids can sit 2 per row (at opposite sides) and not be in one-another's faces. The vacant center spaces in the seats will hold whatever stuff remains after we pack the rear cargo area to the gills - pillows and blankets and soft stuff like that should be perfect there.

    > SUVs do have some safety advantages over FSVs,
    > namely more headrests

    The benches in the GM vans *had* headrests in '97, but they were removed starting in '98. Can't figure out why - probably to save production cost or to increase visibility through the rear windows. I wish they'd left them and allowed *us* the option of removing them.

    > and shoulder belts,

    You mean center shoulder belts in the bench seats? I didn't know SUVs had that. Our Savana's bench seats have shoulder belts in the outside positions (2 per bench, that is).

    > midasgold, I reread some of the previous posts
    > here and saw some comments/questions concerning
    > noise in the Savana. How noisy is yours?

    Doesn't bother us at all - we can hear the stereo fine. Heck it *is* a truck, after all - but, really, it's plenty quiet for our needs. Sometimes the compressor fan comes on when we first start the engine - it's pretty loud! But it shuts off after just a few minutes, so it's really no big deal. The owner's manual says that that occurrence is normal.

    > General question: My '90 Dodge B150 has a
    > sliding side door, but I am considering dual
    > doors in my new van.

    Besides the reasons I mentioned above for getting a slider, there's one more thing that sort of tipped the scales for us. When the redesign of the GM van first came out, a big deal was made out of pointing out that the rear doors have hidden hinges, giving it a clean look and protecting the hinges from rust, presumably. Meanwhile, protruding hinges on the swing-out side doors continue to be used! The slider doesn't have protruding hinges (but it does have a big black track in the side, if that bothers you). Mini-vans tend to have a hidden track or at least have the track the same color as the van; however, in the GMC Savana/Chevy Express, the track is always black.

    > I am also considering dual rear doors instead
    > of the single door I have now. Anybody have an
    > opinion?

    That single rear door is unique to Dodge, which makes it pretty cool, I think. But I guess it's kinda like deciding between a side x side refrigerator vs. a top/bottom freezer model - you need to be sure there's enough space for the door(s) to swing out. One *major* advantage to Dodge's single door is rear visibility - it eliminates that center pillar.

    > We checked out a new Dodge Ram 3500 and
    > the sliding side door was very lightweight. It
    > felt flimsy and cheap. My van's side door is
    > hefty and feels solid. What are the sliding
    > doors on other makes/models like?

    Ours seems solid enough.

    > The door, which used to open 90 degrees, now
    > opens 180 degrees. Someday, maybe I'll get it
    > fixed...

    The GM's rear doors are *designed* to open 180 degrees - and they do! :-)
  • arielariel Posts: 12
    Midasgold, when I mentioned shoulder belts in SUVs, I meant compared to the Dodge Ram. As far as I know, SUVs, like all passenger vehicles, have outboard shoulder belts and center lap belts. The Dodge Ram, on the other hand, has shoulder belts for the front passengers and for the outboard seats behind the driver. The outboard seats on the right, behind the front passenger, have lap belts, as do the center seats.
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