Nearly 40 years ago, and for the better part of Truckin's earliest existence, our pages were filled with fullsize vans sporting cosmic airbrushing of stars, wizards, and many otherworldly creatures. As time and trends moved on, the exploding popularity of Chevy's Astro van became the custom vehicle to have and be seen in. After a long run, the van market dwindled and trucks became the dominant staple of our readership. Fast forward to current day and we are finding that plenty of vans are slowly sneaking back into truck shows in the form of customized Chevy Expresses and GMC Savanas. After getting a gander at Mike Robbins' 1-ton Express sitting on 26-inch wheels and sporting a smooth flame motif, we couldn't help but find out more about this awesome people mover.
The large proportions of the long wheelbase Express van lend well to the big 26-inch wheel
Mike's ride began its pedestrian existence as a 15-passenger, 1-ton van in a plain white wrapper. After plenty of custom touches, it has become something much higher on the coolness scale. Mark Fehrle of Slaughter House in Tomball, Texas, was tasked with knocking all the daylight from under the Chevy. He began with a pair of Belltech ½-ton drop spindles and Dominator 'bags up front with a custom two-link, narrowed 6-lug axle, and an additional set of Dominators out back. Clearing 26-inch wheels is no joke and required many of the underhood accessories to be relocated along with notching the firewall for additional breathing room. A standard step notch and wheeltubs cleared the rear with much more ease. Those big hoops are 26x10-inch U2 55S-B wheels encased by 305/30R26 Kumho Ecsta STX rubber. Getting those large tires rolling is handled by the van's 6.0L V-8 with the benefit of some added ponies from Performance Truck Products.
Stance made a gigantic difference in the Chevy's attitude, but it's the paint that sets the tone. Rolled into the booth at Maxed Out Paintwurx in Magnolia, Texas, the Express was stripped down and readied for its hot rod makeover. Bright orange flames were masked off and sprayed down the van's sheer Summit White length before being outlined with a blue pinstripe. Even the headlights and taillights were sprayed in matching color to allow them to seamlessly blend in with the new scheme. Everything chrome was covered in Candy Orange, including the grille center bar, bumpers, and wheel lips. The wheel faces were painted to correspond to the Chevy's surrounding body color with a paint-matched billet grille and Bow Tie emblem rounding out the details.
Opening any of the numerous access doors reveals a custom interior designed for looks with the added durability to allow passengers without much worry. Mike removed two of the rearmost bench seats, but had Rick Woolridge cover the remaining two bench seats and the front buckets in white vinyl with orange cloth inserts. One-off wall panels run the length of the long wheelbase, fitted with plenty of speakers to keep all the seats jumping. In total, there are four sets of Hifonics 6½-inch speakers working in concert with four 12-inch Hifonics subwoofers to bring any chosen tunes to a screaming volume. Amplification comes by way of Hifonics with the controlling JVC head unit being placed in the dash for ease of access. Keeping the levels in check is a Clarion equalizer. Overall, Mike's Express van is definitely a modern take on a classic theme that we would love to call our own.
I needed something to carry my sons and their dirt bikes around the country in. The Express van was the perfect fit and I just ...
Inside the Build
Year Make Model: 2006 Chevy Express 3500
Owner and City/State:Mike Robbins • Magnolia, Texas
Type: 6.0L LQ4 V-8
Exhaust: Custom 3-inch stainless
Fuel System: 32-gallon aluminum fuel cell
Engine Management: Performance Truck Products custom tune
Output: 350 hp and 400 lb-ft
Rearend: 3.73 gears
Front Suspension: Belltech 2-inch ½-ton drop spindles, Dominator airbags
Rear Suspension: Custom two-link, Panhard bar, Dominator airbags
Brakes: 13-inch ventilated disc
Built By: Slaughter House • Tomball, Texas
Wheels: U2 Wheel 55S-B 26x10-inch
Tires: 305/30R26 Kumho Ecsta STX
Originally set up from the factory with four bench seats and capable of carrying 15 people
For connoisseurs of ear-bleeding decibels, we bring you the working end of the Chevy. With