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Old 12-17-2017, 04:14 AM   #1
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Default 2011' Airstream Avenue - Lifted and Locked

We recently purchased a 2011' Airstream Avenue which is built on a Chevrolet 3500 Express van. I plan to use it for my photography trips and quick weekend camping trips with my wife. I was worried about it's lack of clearance and I like getting off on the back roads so I thought a lift was in order. After hours of reading different threads on lifting the Chevy van I decided to go with WeldTec Designs 3" lift spindles, coil spring spacers and Fox shocks. I had the spring shop build new progressive rate spring packs although we still had to use 2" blocks because of interference with the front part of the spring pack where the waste tank wrapped around it. They also installed a forward facing rear stabilizer bar and of course longer brake lines. I had Cooper Discoverer AT3 285/75R-16 tires put on the 16"x7" Alcoa wheels that came on the Airstream. I also had the 4wd shop install 4:10 gears with an ARB air locker with twin compressor with air up kit for airing up tires. During the test drive the Brake/ABS light sensor came on so we decided to order a Bully Dog tuner to dial in the new tire size along with the new rear gear ratio, hopefully that will take care of the brake/ABS light and correct the speedometer. I was very pleased with the way it drove and handled, it actually drives better then stock, IMO! Over all I ended up with 5.5"-6" of added height. I am happy with the added clearance it gave me and I can't wait to try it out on the back roads to see how it drives and handles. I actually wanted a van with 4wd or AWD but decided to drive this for 6-9 months to see if I would really need it, with all the stuff hanging underneath I would need to be careful what type of terrain to drive it on anyways, even with 4wd. Thanks to all that provide info on this forum, it really helps in the decision making!


Stock height
stock-01.jpeg
Lifted height
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Stock height
stock-02.jpeg
Lifted height
lifted-02.jpeg
Lifted height
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Old 12-17-2017, 01:08 PM   #2
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Looks good!

Wow, that's a huge list modifications / upgrades
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Old 12-17-2017, 01:27 PM   #3
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What coil spring spacers did you wind up using? Part number on the spindles would be interesting.

You may want to consider a set of wider wheels, as the the 285-75-16 is rated for a minimum wheel width of 7.5". That would also give you a chance to find out from the folks who designed the lift spindle what the optimum wheel center to ground and offset would be so you could get as close to that as possible. Do you know what the offset on the current wheels are?
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Old 12-17-2017, 05:34 PM   #4
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Looks great!
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Old 12-17-2017, 07:36 PM   #5
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Beautiful job! I too was looking for 4WD for my camper van; but there were not a lot of choices.. I've discussed this with several Sportsmobile and Tiger owners and they seem to say that ground clearance was more important than 4WD.

So the route you took to get clearance and add the diff locker make a ton of sense to me. I just wish there were more aftermarket options to do the same for my 2016 RAM Promaster.
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by booster View Post
What coil spring spacers did you wind up using? Part number on the spindles would be interesting.

You may want to consider a set of wider wheels, as the the 285-75-16 is rated for a minimum wheel width of 7.5". That would also give you a chance to find out from the folks who designed the lift spindle what the optimum wheel center to ground and offset would be so you could get as close to that as possible. Do you know what the offset on the current wheels are?
I used Weldtec Designs 3" lift spindle - CE-3LS1 and Weldtec Designs 2" Aluminum Leveling Spacers - CE-ALS

I considered wider wheels because I was aware of the minimum wheel size and after talking to my tire pro and from past experience of using larger tire to wheel ratio then recommended, I decided to use these wheels. I am not ruling out getting wider wheels in the future though. I believe the offset on my wheels are 6", I would have to look it up again and I don't have the number of the wheel handy.
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:54 PM   #7
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Did you use the stock upper control arms or aftermarket?
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Old 12-17-2017, 09:01 PM   #8
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Did you use the stock upper control arms or aftermarket?
I used the stock upper control arms.
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Old 12-17-2017, 09:03 PM   #9
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OK, thanks.

On my 4 inch lift I had aftermarket uppers installed on the kit and I'm wondering if maybe they have something to do with the occasional odd feeling I see over different transitions.

Waiting to hear back from Boulder Offroad on that.
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Old 12-17-2017, 09:26 PM   #10
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Is there a particular reason you chose to use coil spacers instead of new springs in the front, as the originals are quite overloaded in stock form, as can seen by how low they sit stock?
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Old 12-17-2017, 10:30 PM   #11
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Nice job on a nice looking rig.
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Old 12-17-2017, 10:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by booster View Post
Is there a particular reason you chose to use coil spacers instead of new springs in the front, as the originals are quite overloaded in stock form, as can seen by how low they sit stock?
I went with Weldtec Design's recommendations for the coil spacers knowing that if they didn't work the way I liked I would change them out with new springs. So far so good but I need to do a lot more driving on different road types to know for sure. Have you had a poor experience with them?
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Old 12-18-2017, 01:27 AM   #13
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I went with Weldtec Design's recommendations for the coil spacers knowing that if they didn't work the way I liked I would change them out with new springs. So far so good but I need to do a lot more driving on different road types to know for sure. Have you had a poor experience with them?
No, I haven't had any personal experience with them, so no bad for sure

I am going by the fact that the stock springs are loaded enough to run low enough to be on the bump stops for a lot of the time. If you lift the van with spacers, you lose the ability of the beehive style (overload spring so to speak) bump stop to add to the spring rate and limit motion, as it doesn't get hit anymore. It is possible the spring might even be able to go solid on a very large bump, which can bust up stuff quickly. If the rear has be lifted with more spring rate, you could wind up with a large mismatch front to rear which could cause front bouncing or porpoising.
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Old 12-19-2017, 06:26 PM   #14
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You have a great looking rig. Ron
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Old 01-31-2018, 03:22 PM   #15
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Default Off road pictures and comments

I was able to take our AA out to the desert this last weekend and work the suspension and air locker out a little on some mild off road trails. Once I dropped my air pressure a little I was pretty happy with the off road performance of our van. I had one ledge that actually caused some rear tire spin until I locked in the air locker, it was good to try that out. It was a fun and beautiful day, in the 60's!! All in all this van is handling on highway and off road better then I expected!

We had taken it to New Mexico a couple weeks ago and found out it didn't stay too warm once it got in the 20's at night, I guess poor insulation and too many windows. Once we got to an area that was 30-40 degrees at night it was much easier for the furnace to keep the inside comfortable.
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Old 01-31-2018, 04:07 PM   #16
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That is awesome!

Thanks for sharing! We don't often get feedback on the off-road capabilities of lifted Class Bs. Even if it's mild off-roading, it's good to know what we're getting into.
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Old 02-01-2018, 04:24 PM   #17
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GP- that is very cool! Who did the lift? DIY? It looks great & works good!
We are having ours done by a small shop in Prescott Valley. Using "Super truck" coil springs in front & "Airlift" bags in rear. Bilstein shocks. Should be finished next week. Anxious to get out & play. It won't be as capable off road as yours, but maybe handle 'washboard' & our rough AZ hiways better.
Great photos too.
Happy Overlanding! Ric.
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Old 02-01-2018, 10:22 PM   #18
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It will stay plenty warm if you put reflectix on the windows. We have stayed in 13F total comfort.
Harry
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Old 02-10-2018, 09:30 AM   #19
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Quote:
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It will stay plenty warm if you put reflectix on the windows. We have stayed in 13F total comfort.
Harry
Thanks, I will certainly have to give that a try!
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Old 02-16-2018, 07:13 PM   #20
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GpnAZ,
What leaf spring changes did you make to the rear?

Do you have any idea what your front and rear weight is?

Last question: Is your rear axle a semi-float or a full-float design?

You use your van the same way we do, and we still need to finish the rear suspension.
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