There are lots of Ford 4x4 vans around, however Ford has never made one factory i don't think. There are many converters who do them, such as Sportsmobile (Sportsmobileforum.com is a good place to learn about them), Quadvan, Quigley, etc. Not sure what part of the country you are in but there are tons of ford 4x4 vans out in the western states and anywhere east where it is mountainous, such as where i live near the Smoky Mountains. Just FYI, Chevy/GMC is selling AWD vans these days with serious powertrains, like the 6.0 gas, not sure about diesel. Chevy's 6.0 gas is pretty comparable to Ford's V10, VERY strong, but expect about 10-11 mpg. I recently sold one (a truck) and wish i had it in a van.
Scotty, Chevy offers their factory AWD only on the 1500 van with the 5.3 liter engine. From what I recall, this AWD system is based on the old Astro/Safari system and is not a heavy duty off road type of system. Good for snowy roads and stuff, but only on a low GVW van. And not too much ground clearance (very little if any more than the 2WD versions).
There are converters who will do *real* 4WD conversions on Chevy/GMC as well as Ford vans, using pickup parts and generally solid front axles. These would be what you'd want for heavy off roading, but I'm guessing that the center of gravity is pretty high, and the vans are pretty big in terms of width and height, so you're not gonna be doing Jeep trails with them.
I had an Eaton posi put in my van--an '02 E150--when it was new (bought it out of dealer stock with an open rear axle) and it has done some pretty rugged campground roads, steep driveways, and gets through a LOT of Michigan winter weather. In fact, I have had limited slip units put into my other vans as well, and have literally NEVER stuck one in the snow in Michigan and have driven them a lot in the winter. They do waaay better than, say, a 2WD pickup in bad weather because there is more weight in the rear. I've run Michelin LTX M/S tires, but if I was going to be serious about bad winter weather in, say, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, would get some dedicated snow tires and think it would be great in 2WD with the posi.
In addition to asking why there is no 4WD van made by Ford, I would also ask why both Ford and GM stopped making minivans, which I think are really sensible vehicles. I've had (four) full size vans continuously since 1986, and when my '02 E150 wears out (it will be a while) I will likely downsize to a minivan or look at stuff like the Flex. The big vans got me through my son's childhood, boy scouts, bike racing, etc. Now it's mostly just my wife and me, but we do like to take bicycles, musical equipment, etc. with us.
YoGeorge, i didn't know that. I was basing my info off of a few GM AWDs i've seen. There is a guy on the Sportsmobileforums who drives a Duramax AWD GMC or Chevy, don't know how he got it, but it isn't a lifted conversion, it's the 2wd height AWD, like the minivans you are speaking of. I was under the impression they were filling the gap Ford won't fill. I would hope that any full size AWD they make would be a little more hardy than the minivans. I put about 200k on a Safari AWD minivan (work/fleet van) and went through no less than about 5 transfer cases. I loved it when it was new, it would go anywhere, but once it started having tranny trouble, it was never quite right again. Constant limp modes, lights, and codes, and lots of strange noises from underneath that would've driven me crazy if it was my personal van.
Not much time right now, but I did a bit of an Internet search and confirmed that the Express/Savana use a viscous center differential, a Borg Warner 4473, which is similar to the 4472 used in the Astro/Safari. No big old transfer case here. I think they changed the Astro van during the run, so if you had an earlier one, it may have been weaker than the newer ones. Looks like the Bravada (Olds Trailblazer version) uses a similar case, as did the Syclone--so again, these were full time street AWD systems.
No low range, and definitely not a piece for off-roading or heavy use, but it will definitely be helpful on the road in bad weather. (I have a Subaru Forester with a stick, and it has a viscous center differential as well.)
yeah, i'm gonna see if i can find him. I'm curious now too. I have a Subaru Outback and it is a capable winter vehicle, but like you say, not for serious offroading. Anyway, if he's really got one with a Duramax, i'm wondering if it was once available as a special order with a pickup tranny or similar. You'd think it would have a drivetrain that could keep up with that beast of a motor. I'm not very sharp on all of the specifics, i don't even know which tranny my 6.0 Chevy had, but it was strong, and the factory transmission temp was something every truck/van should have.
YoGeorge, well, i goofed. I was pretty positive he had an AWD, but i went back and looked and it is a 2wd Duramax, which is available in a cargo van anywhere i'm sure. It's an extended cargo, and i bet it is a super powerplant for a van, but only 2wd. Imagine if you could get an AWD Duramax Van! I couldn't afford it, but it would do anything you wanted it to.
Yo George, which Eaton limited slip did you have installed? Was it the True track?
No, it is the basic Eaton Positraction (original GM design, but updated with carbon clutches, etc.) Not sure if they make one for the larger axles, but they make them for my 8.8" rear axle. I had it put in when my van was almost new in 2003. The axle place gave me a good promo deal on the unit, pretty much the same price as the Ford Trac Lock.
Traction is great; only issue is that it has always had some chatter (say on a tight wet corner) which I could probably address with some more posi additive, but it's not enough of a problem that I want to go thru the trouble and lose some of the lockup capability. Works great in Michigan winters and I've had it on some pretty sketchy campground access roads as well.
some shuttle bus companies sell the vans as a "front wheel drive" which is just a modified transfer case on them with all the power to a front differential and putting a tag axle in the back. Now that would be a cool vehicle to get and set up 4x6! lol