UPgrading to 04 'burb with 8.1
After a great deal of cogitation I ended up deciding to get a 3/4 ton 'burb with an 8.1 liter gasser. Some shopping over a period of weeks turned up an '04 in dark red livery. The dealer is completing a few minor repairs and I expect delivery in a few days.
Once it shows up I'll be putting on a new hitch, since there are visible signs of stress in the existing one. The new hitch is already on order. I expect to upgrade to the Maxbrake brake controller next spring.
In my situation I didn't believe that any of the pickups provided sufficient cab space. I have three kids, and there are too many situations where friends, relatives, dogs, cats, or unusually delicate or valuable cargo require a true sixth seat. And due to the prevalence of mud and snow in this climate, I need 4wd. With the 30' classic that narrowed the field to the Excursion, 3/4 ton Suburban, or a full size van with an aftermarket 4wd conversion.
I came to the conclusion that the reliability and the overall cost picture were both best with the Suburban. The diesel Excursion was a tempting alternative but given the prices they command and the very real possibility of a high-buck unscheduled repair I didn't see any savings. I expect to put no more than 5,000 miles on a year and so fuel economy is not the compelling problem it might otherwise be.
I didn't find enough used 4wd vans to be able to evaluate the market. They are few and far between. My sense is that it wasn't worth waiting for one to show up, especially since I like the lines of the 'burb and Ex better and don't need that much space.
No 3/4 ton truck has an easy life and this one clearly has a lot of towing miles on it. The PO installed aftermarket aluminum covers on the trans and rear diff to improve cooling, a K&N performance intake, and a few other tweaks.
I'm keeping my 1997 K2500 pickup which will again be relegated to snow plowing duties and held in reserve in the event the right Avion C-10 comes along.