N.A.R.V. 2.0 - 2008 Chevy Express AWD Project (I'm back)


Well...I'm back. Back to the Chevy platform and back to Expedition Portal.

In 2014 I bought, then built the original NARV (Not A Rape Van) 1.0. A couple of years ago I sold it to move to a new Sprinter 4x4. I built that out, all vanlife style...then sold it. Having a $100k vehicle sitting in my driveway stressed me out...and I missed NARV.

So here we are; NARV 2.0, ANOTHER 2008 Express AWD.

I just took a 1,700 mile test drive, to bring it back from Delaware to Fort Collins, Colorado. It has 103k on it, one-owner, full service records, fully loaded, and fully stock...a rare find now-a-days.

The Plans:
  • Lift - SuspensionMaxx MaxxCam2 Key, Skyjacker BUK2061 blocks, Skyjacker H7003 front shocks, Skyjacker H7017 rear shocks.
  • Wheels/Tires - Still shopping for wheels...I really liked the Black Rhino Warlords on my Sprinter. For rubber, likely 265/70/17 KO2s
  • Full roof rack (custom built likely), lighting, etc.
  • Aluminess Ladder
  • Middle Ground build interior...somewhere between NARV 1.0 and Sully (the Sprinter). Likely more utilitarian than Sully, but more livable/useable than NARV 1.0.
  • Tech - Likely GoalZero setup like Grant from Freedom VanGois doing in his Sprinters. No Solar...turns out I don't really need it.
    • BTW @freshlikesushi - Thanks for advice/help you provided with my Sprinter build...you are an Sprinter Oasis in Florida (I just moved from there)
Things are going to happen fast. Try to keep up. :)

NARV 1.0 Build Thread - https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/n-a-r-v-2008-chevy-express-awd-project.132224/
Sprinter Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/sullyadvantures
NARV 2.0 Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/narv_2.0/


This past weekend I installed the lift. SuspensionMaxx MaxxCam2 Key, Skyjacker BUK2061 blocks, Skyjacker H7003 front shocks, Skyjacker H7017 rear shocks.

All went pretty well, with the only real issues were a stuck/stripped lug and the frozen/rusted torsion key. As for the torsion adjustment screw; I tightened using the torsion bar tool as much as was needed to reinsert the retainer. I screwed the adjustment screw in, until it relieved pressure on the tool.

The measurements below are in order. I measured stock, installed the rear then measured again, then installed the front and measured again.

All in all, I achieved about 3 1/4" in the front and 2" in the back. It looks like my rear bumper measurements were not quite right at the beginning.

FactoryAfter Rear Blocks/ShocksAfter Front Shocks and Torsion Keys
(and matched tire pressure)
Left (driver) Front Fender32 3/4"32 3/8"36"
Right (passenger) Front Fender32 1/2" (tire was low)32 1/4"36"
Left Rear Fender34 5/8"36 3/8"36 1/4"
Right Rear Fender34 1/4"36 1/4"36 1/4"
Front Bumper (metal not plastic)12 3/4"12"16 1/2"
Rear Bumper (not hitch)15 1/2"18"16 7/8"


Frozen Key Advice - You will scour the web and find all kinds of solutions, which basically are heating the key, PB Blaster, and wailing on the end of the torsion bar with a bigger BFH (Big Eff'n Hammer). I disagree. If the key is rusted on, the secret is to simply work on freeing the key of that rust, not trying to get it off. There is some play between the key and bar, so just get a 3-4lb Cross Pein hammer and wail on the key from below until it wiggles a little. Obviously, some PB Blaster and Heat would help, but tread lightly with heat, as heating the torsion bars is a no-no. Anyway, once you get the key somewhat free of the bar, THEN use a metal rod (rebar, socket extension, etc.) and hammer on the back end of the torsion bar to separate the two.
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That looks great! It really levels it up. How bad did it hit your mpg? these NARV already get horrible mpg...
Can't wait to see that the wheels and the KO2s look like on it.

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To Infinity and Beyond!
The best frozen/rusty bolt penetrating fluid is a product you make yourself.

Half transmission fluid and half Acetone in a mixture in a Chemical rated spray bottle.

According to the Machinist's Association testing of all commercially available products this mixture was TWICE AS GOOD at Kroil which was #2. PB Blaster was #4!

Used this mixture for years. Spray it on, let it sit to do the work and remove the rusty nut/bolt.

Here is a reference to that article:

Machinist's Workshop magazine actually tested penetrants for break out torque on rusted nuts.
Significant results!

They are below:

April 2007 "Machinist's Workshop" Magazine comparison test.

They arranged a subjective test of all the popular penetrants with the control being the torque
required to remove the nut from a "scientifically rusted" environment.

Penetrating oil ..... Average load

None ...................... 516 pounds
WD-40 ................... 238 pounds
PB Blaster .............. 214 pounds
Liquid Wrench ........ 127 pounds
Kano Kroil .............. 106 pounds
ATF-Acetone mix.......53 pounds

The ATF-Acetone mix was a "home brew" mix of 50 - 50 automatic transmission fluid and acetone.

Note the home brew" was better than any commercial product in this one particular test.
Our local machinist group mixed up a batch and we all now use it with equally good results.

Note also that "Liquid Wrench" is about as good as "Kroil" for about 20% of the price.

Something to consider!
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That looks great! It really levels it up. How bad did it hit your mpg? these NARV already get horrible mpg...
Can't wait to see that the wheels and the KO2s look like on it.
I honestly do not know yet, as I've not been able to get tags yet because DMV closed due to Coronavirus. I suspect it will be the same as I got on NARV 1.0; in the 13-14mpg range.



Wheels and tires installed. Everything fits perfectly, no rubbing and no trimming required.

Wheels - Black Rhino Warlords 17x9, +12 offset
Tires - 265/70/17 BFG KO2 (Load rating E, 10 ply)
Lift Details: SuspensionMaxx MaxxCam2 Key, Skyjacker BUK2061 2" blocks, Skyjacker H7003 front shocks, Skyjacker H7017 rear shocks.

Here are the final lift numbers after lift and tires. All measurements are the fender opening.
FactoryAfter Lift and Wheels/Tires
Front Driver32 3/4"37"
Front Passenger32 1/2"37 1/4"
Back Driver34 5/8" (with 1/4 tank)37" (with full tank)
Pack Passenger34 1/4"37 5/8"


Front Wheel Turning clearance

Side Clearances
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New member
I asked you on Insta today. Is your lift kit for Silverado trucks? Can’t find any parts for Express at the skyjacker hp. I‘m from germany, here it’s a little bit difficult to find a lift kit for my 2008 AWD. Can get a complete set including shock absorbers from Rough Country for ~350$. It’s for Sierra/Silverado trucks.


Next up Alumniness Ladder installation.

Overall a pretty easy installation. It requires that you drill two holes in the gutter, and three in the lower body, near the pinch welds. Addtionally, the (3) brackets from Aluminess are not drilled except for the two holes in the lower bracket.

It takes some playing around to get it just right. In fact, the first time I mounted it, the ladder actually was "twisted" slightly top to bottom. After a few days, I decided I couldn't stand seeing that imperfection in my mirror and I had to redrill the holes in the lower bracket to straighten things out. Now it is perfect.

Overall impression: Very sturdy, very light, and made very well. It would be nice if it followed the rear contour of the van more, but overall I'm satisfied for the price.




At the same time as the ladder, I began work on other projects...

First up, cutting holes to accommodate flush mounted pod lights in front and back bumpers.

Very easy to do. Measure, Measure, Jigsaw, File, Fit, File, Fit, File, Fit, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.


Next Up...Removing the bumpers and preparing them to be dropped of for sandblasting and bedlinering.

To get the plastic off of the bumpers without destroying the clips, the basically had to be COMPLETELY taken apart.


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And then....

Rattle Can Bedliner on the grill, to match the other ABS plastic. I decided to make the Chevy Emblem, the same color as the Black Rhino Warlord wheels. To be somewhat subdued.