Stealth Camper

Western Rifle Shooters Association

You do realize that we are in the opening stages of an existential conflict, right?

Western Rifle Shooters Association

: Comments (On Point) Enabled

A reader sends:

I acquired a late 00’s GM 2500 van. It’s a plain work van, white of course, bare inside, plastic floors, front bucket seats. Nothing fancy then, but that’s OK. The body, it’s a little rough, not horrible but not great. The good part is it has a 4.8 liter V8, heavy duty 4L80E transmission, 4 wheel vented disc brakes, 8 lug hubs, heavy duty wheels and rear end. Low mileage, under 100K and oh so cheap. I wanted a similar year Suburban but it’s 10x the money vs van. Plans include adding a bench or a couple buckets for a couple of passengers. Exterior wise I plan to leave it stealth, plain white work van, mostly anyway. I’d like to eventually add a basket, chain the spare to the roof and eliminate the janky spare tire hoist in the back. Someday add more knobby tires on the rear, a brush guard and a winch. It’s not 4wd but that would at least improve fire road/Jeep trail capabilities for cheap compared to a 4wd conversion or buying a different vehicle. First order of business is a trans flush and filter and change out the rear diff fluid. I’ll probably go with stock Dexron VI on the trans and Mobil or Royal Purple on the rear diff. IDK if it’s a limited slip or not, if it’s LSD you have to get the correct oil and possibly an additive or it’ll burn up. We want the ability to travel long distance, carry all our gear and also be able to use our vehicle for shelter. I chose the GMC/Chevrolet platform specifically because of the engine. The Gen 3 small block debuted in 1997 in 5.7l trim in the Corvette. This all aluminum motor was a total departure from all previous small block chevys from 1955-1996. It has since been produced in everything from the 4.8, 5.3, 5.7, 6.0, 6.2 and 7.0. There’s probably even more I’m missing. The motors are known as LS motors and the aftermarket and versatility of these new motors blow Away everything else in my opinion. The most powerful stock variant is the supercharged Corvette ZR1 variant with an earth shaking 750BHP. I sure could slam one into a work van were I so inclined. There’s a hilarious yet serious YouTube of some guys who dirt cheap slammed a 500HP turbocharged LS in a 76 Winnebago. I find the LS to be one of the easiest engines to work on. They are simple and compact so there’s plenty of room to get to most things. They are so popular that there are conversions from fuel injection to a good ol Holley 4 barrel carb. Problem areas are few, early engines with cylinder deactivation had big problems requiring a complete top end rebuild and elimination of the cylinder deactivation. Exhaust manifolds eventually crack. The rear oil pan and seal may start weeping oil. Water pumps are easy on the LS. Really that’s about it, aside from GM shitty QC and crap Delphi electrics. Parts are cheap, available everywhere from the usual suspects like AutoZone, Oreilly and any GM dealer.

Contributions/lessons learned welcome.

26 thoughts on “Stealth Camper: Comments (On Point) Enabled”

  1. Concerned Americansays:Test 123Reply
    1. Walter Sobchaksays:5×5Reply
    2. boss21says:👍Reply
  2. Bigus Macussays:Don’t forget that JC Whitney is still out there, now they are https://www.carparts.com/Reply
  3. DrDogsays:Drain a tranny only, a flush or wash could actually cause more wear by inadvertently shoving particles where they should not be.Stealth:* Add some fictitious business name to the van.
    * Put some visual barrier so that no can look into the body of the van from the front windows.
    * If you are going to move the tire, there are aftermarket tanks shaped to fit the wheel well. Gives more range.
    * Look into upgraded locks. The ones on the chevy/GM models are subpar, easily defeated.Reply
    1. 1500says:Unless you plan on removing the VLOM / AFM system, it’ll go bad after ~100k miles. My Gen 3 NBS Silverado has that happen. Stuck valve on driver side. $2k later to replace the AFM, valves and got the spark plugs replaced as well.
      Would rather do a delete on the AFM but the kits are pricey and time intensive. Not impossible, there’s yootoob vids that show how to do it.That said, the LS engines are great to work on, used in loads of models, and readily available parts so it’s a viable long term choice.Diesel fans will throw shade on gassers but emissions tests are clamping down on them hard, especially if they mod/delete the emissions systems (DEF, EGR, DPF).Reply
      1. Walter Sobchaksays:The 4.8 in mine dosen’t have AFM thankfully. Factory delete lol. Also no onstar or any wifi hotspot, so I think it’s not really trackable. KS dosen’t emissions test, which is awesome. Diesels are great but the injectors are so expensive if they go bad. I’ve actually seen quite a few GM LS powered vans go 3-400k miles, some of the highest mileage vehicles I’ve worked on.Reply
    2. Walter Sobchaksays:I should have clarified that better, you are absolutely right. I am going to drain the fluid and change the filter. Hooking up to a flush machine is a no go.Reply
    3. Watchmansays:I agree on the locks. Most all GM work vans around town (high crime area) have padlocks added to the rear doors.(Thank God comments are back)
      (Just moderate out the ‘tards, thanks)Reply
  4. Bonaventuresays:4wd off-road van conversions:
    https://www.ujointoffroad.com/10 ADVENTURE VANS:
    https://www.maxim.com/rides/10-stylish-outdoor-adventure-vans-2018-3What are the best 4WD or AWD vans? https://www.reddit.com/r/vandwellers/comments/2tlda5/what_are_the_best_4wd_or_awd_vans/4×4 VANS
    https://advanced4x4vans.com/Reply
  5. SemperFi, 0321says:The multitude of videos on YouTube on this subject is overwhelming, from tricking out min vans to 4Runners and even the bigger stealth rigs.
    Look up Overlanding conversions too.Reply
  6. anonymoussays:It is a sound theory. I had an ’86 Suburban 4 x 4 I used to car camp in. Cold winds and hard rains beating down on vehicle – and I was snug as a bug in a rug. A steel tent, safe from the elements. I’d open the back doors (rather than lowering a tail gate) and bungee corded a tarp over the resulting space, forming an open porch. I velcroed fuzzy tape around the back windows and cut bug screen with wire glued onto perimeter. This allowed me to leave windows open when warm and enjoy the outside air. All in all – a great idea that worked for me.The generic white work van would be considerably more ‘Gray Man’ and blend in better on highway traffic. Especially if wearing a uniform and gimme cap with clipboard on top of dash, most people’s attention move move on..Reply
  7. Seansays:Not sure. Maybe I’ve read so many apocalyptic versions about “after” that I don’t have any faith there’ll be fuel, unimpeded roads, standing bridges, parts, oil, tires………I look at vehicles to be great ways to get around, but expensive, temperamental, and vulnerable. This does look great however. The stealth part is what makes it even more appealing. Here in Texas, I used to see countless vehicles and even motor homes with camouflage paint, and other tactical stuff. Now, hardly at all. Guess the stealth is catching on.Reply
  8. Retiredsays:Thanks!
    I can’t find an affordable 4×4 used truck with < 200 k miles.Reply
  9. Johnny Paratroopersays:I recommend a titanium exhaust for weight savings. And delete the catalytic covertor as it could clog. The biggest intake possible as well. Nice truck. That 4.8 chevy is a beast. I had one.Dont forget to insult the interior. They get cold, or hot. And can be quite noisey.You are gonna want to skip things like extra tanks. Save the money and use fuel cans. They serve multiple purposes.Dont forget to install a cheap, lightweight gun safe.If you hang your armor off the back of the seats, you add armor to the driver and passenger seat.3m tinting on the windows. Nearly unbreakable.Reply
  10. JBsays:Limited Slip Differential is easy to identify. Jack the back of the van off the ground, and give a tire a spin. If the other spins in the same direction, it’s LSD. If it spins opposite direction, it’s not. Might pay to put one of those screened dividers between the driver’s compartment and the rear department. I believe some have a door between them so you don’t have to get out to get to the back. Advantage is you can hang stuff on the screen to prevent people from looking in the back, and you can also put a bluetooth backup camera from Amazon etc. on the license plate bracket in the back of the van to facilitate greater visibility behind you. Look at what other work vans have on them. A lot of times you can get away with a PVC tube on the roof for some additional storage. I’ve seen guys make those into compressed air storage, water storage, really the sky is the limit. You can also put a roof rack on them without drawing second glances, and if you go traveling can store additional gear up there as needed, including that spare tire you mentioned. Good choice btw!Reply
    1. Walter Sobchaksays:This one actually already has an Adrian Steel divider with a door. I maintain a fleet, which is actually how I came across this one.Reply
  11. Walter Sobchaksays:Just great suggestions from everyone. Magnetic slap on business logos, definitely. I’m interested in the extra spare well fuel tank. I’m going to check out the links, the 4wd conversions I saw were awesome but looked like a pricey proposition. I’m in KS so it’s pretty flat here, so 4wd isn’t priority. Part of my thought process on this project is standardization. Just like pistols and rifles this could help logistics with vehicles too. We’re trying to standardize with full size GM LS powered platforms. I do all my own wrenching, and I’m more familiar with full size Chevy/GMC than anything else. Especially the plain vans. I never saw too many AWD vans or Duramax diesel vans when I worked at the dealership.Reply
  12. Walter zoomiesays:Is op sure it’s a ls1 and not a Vortec engine? Not sure gm put ls mills in vans originally. My 2000 Silverado has a 4.8 Vortec. Ls and Vortec are not the same from my understanding.Reply
  13. Paulosays:Since I have been on a project using my noggen lately
    and reading this topic, an idea just surfaced – Would a
    good sturdy slide out in the rear on bearings add to more
    room outside once you are stationed somewhere? For
    example, the van rear space is lets say 5 feet wide and
    12 feet long, so adding an inch or more thick plywood on
    bearings or sturdy sliders with attachable legs once out,
    plus even making a tent type attachable cover?Just a thought…. many good possibilities…Have fun and enjoy.Reply
  14. Cavguysays:Once you alter/deviate from stock appearance with all that stuff, racks/knobby tires/fuel cans, it will draw attention.Sorry you cant have it both ways.Sounds like you will have an awesome rig when your done!!CavguyReply
    1. Bonessays:Agreed.You want the “grey man” look. Work van, okay, get some magnetic signs, ladder rack, etc… on top. Inside is your porta-potty, camp stove, beds, (or hammocks on hooks on the van sides), rifle rack, ammo storage, (could be under bench seats), generator.Reply
    2. Johnny Paratroopersays:This is why I suggested nothing being added to the outside.
      Leave the spare where it belongs.
      If you need the spare, someone will be watching.
      If you pop open a Tactical AF can, people will know.
      It should look like a work van on the inside as well.Criminals are ALWAYS watching you.Reply
  15. ProGunFredsays:I’ve had this on my mind for a while. Heard a great tip: a few dings and scratches, a ladder rack on top, and when parking in public spaces pub two orange traffic cones, one fore and one aft. No knockers including the po po if you have the traffic cones, they figure you’re working on something.I’ve been looking for a 4 wheel drive model at the right value/price point. It seems like a great idea. There are thousands of “van life” vids on the tuuube of U about how to upgrade interior, comforts, tips, tricks, living off grid, all the things. Seems pretty cool, if you are already the loner type or adventurous family.Don’t forget to train like you are using it for the real thing, whatever your real thing is. And make lists of what goes in it at short notice or for bugout, etc. Same as any other mobile plan you should ALREADY have.Reply
  16. Tactless Wookiesays:Good choice on a stealth camper. I own a Silverado with the 4800 Vortec. Runs great. I’ve also owned a similar vintage GMC Savana. Great van. Now you have me thinking about a second vehicle.Reply
  17. Saml Adamssays:Put a “Mr. Rooter” or similar variant work sign on it. No one will be interested in the contents.

Author: Alfred E. Neuman

EDITOR ONLY, 74 year old geek, ultra-conservative patriot.

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