Excited to join the Express AWD van fam!
Thanks a bunch to everyone who's shared knowledge and high-quality information. I super stoked to have just picked up a 2003 Express AWD (185k mi) with an Explorer Conversion package from a motorcycle mechanic/racer/engineer in MI. It's got the dual-side barn doors, heated seats, and all the extra bells and whistles (or at least, the 03 version of bells and whistles). Also, I got a lucky bonus, it has a G80 LSD!
The seller added a set of Timbren bump stops in the rear, upgraded the tires to 265/75r16 BFG K02's (@80% tread life) with a size matched spare. I got an extra set of rims and tires. Transfer case and tire rods were both recently replaced.
I had a pre-purchase inspection done, and the mechanic was amazed at the limited amount of rust for a car of it's age from IN and MI. He said someone took very, good care of it, and gave me a clean bill of health on codes, drivetrain, and engine. I'll still have it brought my mechanic for a fluid/fill and check-over.
There are a few warts: A couple rips/smudges/smootze/squeaks here and there. The front suspension is probably due for a refresh, as it rides pretty rough over bumps or I need to air down the tires . There are a few interior lights out, and the radio system is gremlin plagued. All the blower's/louvres for the heat are strong and functional, but the A/C is out. Thankfully, it's winter and I can wait to have the A/C replaced in the spring.
My first set of tasks is getting an underbody rust inhibitor coating, chasing down and quieting shakes/squeaks on the interior that are pretty obnoxious. Then I'll install a lift and will replace the shocks. Depending on how difficult/impractical it is, I'd like to cut off the fiberglass underskirting, running boards, and bumper fascia. Getting rid of that stuff would claw back a couple inches of ground clearance.
My intentions with this rig, are to keep it simple. I have batteries, diesel heater, refrigerator, etc from a previous build of an 03 Sprinter 158" High Roof. I'll use those things so I can basecamp out of ski parking lots for the rest of the season. I still have the Sprinter, but I've been waiting on a new engine for way too long. My former daily driver (07 Honda Accord Hybrid: 270k mi. Held together literally with duct tape and zip ties) is at the far end of it's best days. I'll accept 60% of the liveability from this rig that I built into the Sprinter, for 90% fewer mechanical headaches, and when mechanicals happen, even a far north Maine mechanic will know exactly what to do and have parts in stock.
A few questions:
1. Has anyone done the work to remove the fiberglass underskirting, running boards, faux-bumper, etc? What did you have to do? Was the van two-toned as a result?
2. For the lift kit, I'm planning to just go with the BOR kit. Is there any feedback/opinions of the Fox vs Bilstein and additional helper springs vs none?
3. Swivel Mounts: This van has really fancy seats with a huge bundle of wires powering tilt, swivel, heat, lumbar support, etc. Has anyone installed a swivel seat and been able to keep these functions? Also, the driver's seat has about an inch of play between braking and accelerating which is disconcerting. Is there a a way to eliminate that motion?