Remembering GM's Early-2000s Factory Conversion Vans
The Chevrolet Express LT and GMC Savana SLT were GM's factory-built conversion vans of the early 2000s
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the aftermarket conversion van market was booming: owning a conversion van allowed American families to take vacations and long road trips in serene comfort. However, a conversion van doesn't come that way out of the factory: it starts out life as a stripped-out cargo van that is then sent to an up-fitter to modify it to their specifications, and then it is finally sent to the respective manufacturer's dealership to sell on their new car lot. However, in 2001, General Motors (GM) wanted to offer their own "conversion van" to buyers that would be produced in-house, and wouldn't require modifications to be made by an up-fitter. Those vans were the Chevy Express LT and the GMC Savana SLT. Equipped identically (except for the front grille and exterior badging), GM's factory "conversion vans" were built on the 1/2-Ton Chevy Express and GMC Savana 1500 Passenger Vans, and offered all the luxury amenities of aftermarket conversion vans without the added mark ups due to added equipment. Read on to find out more about GM's factory conversion vans. NOTE: Any any all pricing discussed in this article includes a mandatory destination fee, but does NOT include any applicable taxes or other fees. Finally, if you couldn't already tell the Chevy Express LT and GMC Savana SLT were not your ordinary passenger vans, 'LT' and 'SLT' emblems were added just behind both front doors of both vans as a reminder.
Starting with the exterior, you can immediately tell that the 2001-02 Chevrolet Express LT and GMC Savana SLT aren't your typical passenger vans. Chevy and GMC started by adding a custom, color-keyed exterior body kit, which included fog lamps mounted in the front chin spoiler. Both brands then added color-keyed exterior side mirrors and side door handles, as well as fifteen-inch (15") machined aluminum-alloy wheels. The front grille was also painted the same color as the exterior of the van. All of this gave the Express LT and Savana SLT the appearance of an aftermarket conversion van. And while Chevy and GMC didn't offer the custom "Two-Tone" exterior paint jobs of aftermarket conversion vans, they offered the Express LT and Savana SLT in four of their most popular monotone exterior paint colors: Forest Green Metallic (Metallic Dark Green), Light Pewter Metallic (Metallic Dark Silver), Indigo Blue Metallic (Metallic Dark Blue), and Dark Carmine Red Metallic (Metallic Maroon). For those buyers who planned to tow a small trailer behind their van, all vans came standard with a heavy-duty (HD) trailer towing package, which included a trailer tow hitch mounted in the rear of the vans.
Moving inside the 2001-02 Chevrolet Express LT and GMC Savana SLT, you are greeted with the typical amenities of an aftermarket conversion van. While custom cloth seating surfaces come standard, luxury leather-trimmed seating surfaces were optional, and most Express LT and Savana SLT buyers opted for them. The interior was only available in Light Neutral (Light Beige) to evoke feelings of luxuriousness. Both front bucket seats were power-adjustable, and the vans sat seven passengers in luxurious comfort, with second-row captain's chairs as standard equipment. Mom and Dad were treated to an A/M-F/M stereo radio with dual-media cassette and single-disc CD players, and a model-specific twelve-speaker amplified Bose premium audio system (a six-disc, in-dash CD changer could also be ordered in lieu of the standard dual-media unit), and rear-seat passengers got a VHS (videocassette) player with dual ceiling-mounted "Flip-Down" Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors and two pairs of wireless headphones that could also be connected to the kids' game consoles for endless entertainment on long road trips. Of course, the interior also included (faux) wood interior trim to complete the luxury experience. To gain access to the vans, drivers didn't have to stick a key in the front door, as power windows and door locks with keyless entry came as standard equipment as well, and front and rear air conditioning and heating kept all seven passengers comfortable.
The 2001-02 Chevrolet Express LT and GMC Savana SLT didn't just have good looks and a comfortable interior: they also had plenty of power under the hood. GM's 5.7L (aka 350 Cubic Inch (CID)) "Vortec 5700" Electronically Fuel-Injected (EFI) V8 gasoline engine, known as the "L31", came as standard equipment on all vans, and produced 255 horsepower and 330 lb. ft. of torque, mated to the General Motors (GM) Hydramatic 4L60-E electronic automatic transmission with overdrive, and Rear Wheel Drive (RWD). As mentioned, all vans came equipped with a trailer tow package and rear-mounted trailer towing hitch, and could tow a maximum of up to 6,500 lbs., which was enough to tow a small boat or travel trailer. Base pricing ranged from $35,005 in 2001 to $35,158 in 2002 regardless of whether you chose a Chevy Express LT or a GMC Savana SLT. A "Loaded" van with every available option (there weren't a lot of available options) could be had for just over $37,000, which meant that General Motors' (GM's) factory conversion vans were much more affordable than an aftermarket conversion van, yet offered many of the same amenities. Sadly, GM decided to discontinue the Chevy Express LT and GMC Savana SLT following the 2002 model year (the Chevy Express and GMC Savana were both redesigned for the 2003 model year), and there hasn't really been a factory conversion van ever since. What do you think of the Chevrolet Express LT and GMC Savana SLT factory conversion vans? Did you ever own one or spend time in one? Let us know in the comments down below!