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Old 10-03-2010, 09:12 PM   #1
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Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

Hello all. Newbie alert. I just bought a used 1996 Ford E250 with a Salem Kroger 4x4 conversion. It's a cargo van that's been a government vehicle for the last 14 years. I'm planning on doing some DIY camperization. This is my first experience with a 4x4 conversion and I really know nothing about it.

So - It has 135k miles and is actually in AMAZING condition, but the ride is very rough. I mean very, very rough. I'm used to the ride of my 4x4 Toyota, which is smooth as silk. This sucker launches me out of the seat going over parking lot speed bumps at 5 miles an hour. Going 65 over a dip on the highway is downright scary.

So my question is this: is this just the way that 4x4 conversions ride? Or is there some part (shocks, springs, etc.) that might nee replacing?

Here's a shot of the new van...
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Old 10-03-2010, 10:09 PM   #2
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

What's in the interior? By that, I mean how did the Govt use it? Lots of equipment or cabinets? It could be that it was spec'd with very stiff springs to compensate for a lot of extra weight. Easy to have new springs/shocks done, but you should wait until you finalize the interior so you know the full weight.

To me, my SMB rides like a mid-large size truck. Better than an F250 I used to own, but definitely a truck.


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Old 10-03-2010, 10:39 PM   #3
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

Hey thanks for the reply. Yeah I'm not sure how the van was used before, but there is nothing in the back except a single jumpseat. It's not even lined or insulated.

My plans for it are pretty tame. I intend on turning into something akin to the Westfalia Weekender, so just some storage and a bed/bench in the back. I may install an auxiliary battery, solar kit and a fridge at some point, but that's about it. I don't think I'm going to go the full-on kitchen route.

So it sounds like I should replace the springs and shocks? Can I have that done at any auto shop, or is that something that I should have the original shop do?

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Old 10-04-2010, 08:42 AM   #4
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

Empty weight stock F & E 250 & 350s ride like crap. Put 3/4 ton of something in the back and it will be much, much better. My pickup rides like a car when loaded to the gills, my SMB all the time since the buildout is so heavy.

If it's still bad after you build it out, load it up and take it camping, take it to Deaver (or call them with the corner weights). But doing anything before then is a waste, unless you're going to drive it around empty forever.
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Old 10-04-2010, 09:56 AM   #5
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

Got it. Thanks folks for the info. Can't wait to get to work on it. First step was an mp3-ready stereo system. Check!

Anybody know of any really good DIY camper plans for 90s Ford vans?
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Old 10-04-2010, 10:13 AM   #6
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

I hear this is becoming a book ( ):
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=3336
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Old 10-04-2010, 04:40 PM   #7
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

I had one of the same vans done in '96 by Salem Kroger for the state of Oregon mjdipietro. They were built for the Lottery division and didn't work out very well for them. They are VERY rough riding and need work to tame the beasts. Your best bet is to call Chris at Salem Kroger and talk to him about it. When he built these rigs, he had a big argument with the State over their specs, but it was their money so he built them the way they wanted 'em. Lots of complaints afterwards and I believe even a law suit. I know Chris would like to forget the whole thing, but if you're nice, I'm sure he will talk to you.
Pretty much your only reasonable option is to change out the springs. It still won't be as good a ride as most other conversions as your front springs have the shackle at the front of the spring rather then the rear and the springs are much shorter from eye to eye. As I remember, SMB is around 48" eye to eye. Check yours out. I did all sorts of stuff. Three different sets of springs, air bags, shocks, etc. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great rig. I had mine for years and took it many places. It'd just foam up your beer while driving down the freeway.
This is all assuming you have one of the Lottery vans like I had.
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Old 10-04-2010, 05:29 PM   #8
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

Great info thanks! It's gotta be one and the same. I know it originally came from Oregon, bought by a dealer in Santa Barbara, then bought by me.

I'll definitely give Chris a call. I certainly don't need a cadillac ride, but it'd be nice to be able to drink a cup of coffee too, ya know?

I'm totally willing to spend a little extra up-front to get the van that I want for the longterm. I plan on hanging on to this for a long time...
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Old 10-04-2010, 10:08 PM   #9
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

It probably just needs a shackle reversal & some longer springs. Are the front spring shackles up front?
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Old 10-05-2010, 12:28 AM   #10
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Re: Ride Quality - Salem Kroger

When your conversion is done do a 4 corner and then springs. Mine rides pretty rough but it is not the fault of the Kit maker (Chris at UJoint) it is due to the added weight of the plow in the Winter. I had the plow on the other day to rework the mounts and it rides nice with a extra 800lbs hanging off the front.
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