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Old 09-18-2016, 02:24 AM   #111
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Very nice. Quite a machine.
Interestingly enough I'm thinking of visiting my father in Santa Barbara and while out there I'm thinking of stopping by van compass too. Did you consider their fox shock upgrade at all? Since I'll be back roading in Utah a bit I'd like a better ride.
I'm sure you're planning your next trip already!!
Well done
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Old 09-18-2016, 03:07 AM   #112
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Thanks for fielding my question earlier! If I could ask a few more?:

* what's the small box on the floor below and just rear of the sink?

* how many watts of solar did you end up with?

* I didn't see the solar charge controller under the seat. Where is it?

Happy travels!
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Old 09-18-2016, 09:42 AM   #113
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Man, that thing is beautiful. I really like the newer style outdoor shower. Could you tell me what brand that is? It's printed on the top of it but I can't make it out in the pics.

Also, I really like the detail work on the Lincoin flooring SMB did, with the edges folded up to give you a tray for catching dirt, etc. but one word of caution. I did this on my last van and folded the rear edge down and hid it under the rear door threshold, just as they have done on yours, instead of using a metal threshold at the actual edge. Lincoin cuts very easily. I was sliding some cabinet boards into my van right after I laid the flooring and I put several big cuts in the brand new flooring without realizing it, so be careful if you're storing things with a square edge back there. If you slide them in you'll risk cutting the edge of that flooring.



Enjoy!

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Old 09-18-2016, 03:23 PM   #114
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Davidboco View Post
...stopping by van compass too. Did you consider their fox shock upgrade at all? Since I'll be back roading in Utah a bit I'd like a better ride.
I'm sure you're planning your next trip already!!
Well done
I discussed the Fox shocks with Mark at Van Compass. I'm sure they will give a better ride but until I get the van fully loaded and spend some time off the pavement I can't really comment. Besides, the checkbook needs to cool off a bit!

As for next trips, yes! The Big Sur Jade Festival is the second weekend in October, the Valley of Fire Meet-Up is right after that in mid-October and then we continue on to a rock hounding trip in the Cady Mountains east of Barstow.
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Old 09-18-2016, 03:31 PM   #115
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Originally Posted by yelnam View Post
Thanks for fielding my question earlier! If I could ask a few more?:

* what's the small box on the floor below and just rear of the sink?

* how many watts of solar did you end up with?

* I didn't see the solar charge controller under the seat. Where is it?

Happy travels!
The small box is a matching footstool SMB made for my wife. It gets used when the front passenger seat is swiveled to the rear and she also uses it in front of the passengers seat while we are driving down the road. For an afterthought, it is working out really well.



As far as solar, 200 watts total and the Solar Controller is located directly above the sink.

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Old 09-18-2016, 03:37 PM   #116
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Man, that thing is beautiful. I really like the newer style outdoor shower. Could you tell me what brand that is? It's printed on the top of it but I can't make it out in the pics.

Enjoy!


The shower is made by Attwood:

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Old 09-18-2016, 03:57 PM   #117
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Snowy did a nice job of offering some post-delivery perspective, now I’ll take a crack at doing something similar.

In no particular order…


We just spent eight days and nights living in the van on our 2,131 mile leisurely journey from Austin to the Bay Area. When we rolled in Friday night my wife wanted to sleep in the van in the backyard, that should tell you how much we liked it. (A hot shower and our own bed eventually won out, but it took a bit of convincing.)


2,131 miles, 16.3 mpg, average price of fuel $2.49.


We stayed in campgrounds, in a friend’s driveway and in stealth mode in several locations. We enjoyed them all and for some reason found stealth camping particularly satisfying. Here we are for the night on the main street in Bisbee AZ just below the Silver Queen Hotel.





We can also recommend the parking outside the Aluminess and Van Compass offices. This way there was no problem being the first appointment of the day!


I was very impressed with the way the van handles, particularly in high wind situations. For a high sided vehicle, it did really well. I wasn’t sure that I would like the cross wind assist, the blind spot monitoring or the lane assist features, but after getting used to them I would highly recommend them as well as the Bi-xenon headlights.


I mentioned stealth camping. We used a black (vs. the standard white) black-out fabric on the window side and are we are very happy with the outcome. In addition, we had magnets sewn into the shades for the sliding door and back windows and the fit was excellent plus it avoids having the shades pushed and gathered to the side on the back windows obscuring some of the view to the rear. We used the same black black-out fabric for the privacy curtain behind the two front seats; again we are happy with the result. The two pleated shades in the awning windows are the weak point as they let in light and figures inside the van can be seen from the outside with the lights on, Brian at SMB is having two matching inserts made for us for these two windows.


We live in California where it cools off at night, thus we saw no reason to add a second rear air conditioner. If we lived in Texas it would be a different story as it was 97 degrees and humid when we pulled into camp at Emma Long Municipal Park in Austin for our first night. In fact, I had to wait until that next morning for it to cool off enough so I could turn on the D5 space heater to make sure it worked! But I thought ahead (I used to live in Louisiana) and the 12 volt Endless Breeze fan I brought on the airplane moved enough air to make it manageable. BTW, the van’s cab AC does a fine job, but if you need it cool inside at night to sleep (we don’t) consider a second unit. As for us, we have no regrets with our decision to not add a second AC unit.


I waited and had Aluminess install the Nerf Bars when they installed the front winch bumper, in retrospect I should have had SMB do it during the build as Aluminess had to re-route the D5 exhaust and I now have the grey water tank drain valve to re-locate. Not a big deal, but something that could have been avoided had I thought ahead. BTW, for those who are not aware of it MB will not allow SMB to install the front winch bumper due to a warranty issue, thus my reason for having Aluminess do it.


I wanted a Rotopax to store fuel for the Honda 2000 generator but I wasn’t sure of the dimensions. I ordered a 1 gallon unit but now that I have everything in place it looks like the critical dimension is the 3” thickness and that the 2 gallon unit will fit. I will most likely upsize and will report back on the outcome.


We had after-market swivels installed on both front seats as they were not available on the 2016 model. We won’t use them much but when we do we will appreciate them and I would recommend installing them both, in particular since MB is now offering them as a factory option on the 2017 models. We are travelers and not campers, the swivel seats will get used when staying in the same place for more than a day, something we won’t often do.

When we chose the color scheme and the finishes Laura built off the fact that the van fabrics and finishes are grey and black. You can replace the headliner and recover the seats, but we saw no reason to do so thus finishes were chosen with the existing MB colors in mind and we are happy with the result.


I like to cook and I can imagine that at some point I will wish for a cooktop built into the counter, but I really doubt it. We eat simple meals, neither of us are coffee drinkers, the microwave is there if we want it, and my Dutch Ovens (outside) and Partner Stove (either inside or outside) will take care of the rest.


I have read lots of opinions on a built-in bathroom vs. a porta-potti vs. nothing at all. For us, the manual Thetford porta-potti works great. It is small, convenient, easy to use and easy to clean. I can see where a larger group using the van might have different needs, but for the two of us this simple solution is the right way to go.


Another thing that gets a lot of discussion is the sound and electronics options. Our van came without a stereo and we had a Viper security system, a backup camera, upgraded speakers and a Kenwood head unit with the Apple CarPlay feature installed and again we are very satisfied. I really like the CarPlay, it’s the human interface (me!) that still needs some work as I learn to use the various features.

Earlier in this thread I included the punch list that I used. I added several things to it and it really kept me on track during the review process, I would strongly suggest that anyone picking up a new or used SMB think through this aspect of the process and make your list. BTW, probably the best help of all was forum member Snowy meeting up with us at the campground the first night out. He went through the systems with me and his input and insights were invaluable – THANKS SNOWY!


Living in California and having the van built in Texas presented a logistics issue to keep track of things. I did quite a bit of searching and eventually located a local college student (the son of the friend of a co-worker) who visited the build and took pictures on a weekly basis. This really helped me know what was happening and is the main reason that I was able to share ongoing build pictures. I have his contact information, if anyone is interested let me know and I will pass it on as I did ask him and he is willing to do the same (for a price, just as with me) for others.

What would we do differently? Time will tell, but for now the only change we would make would be the addition of some low-level lighting installed near the front, most likely at the base of the front seats. The LED lights installed in the van are great and they really light up the inside, but they are too much when you want just a little light. For now I have ordered a couple small USB LED lights and we will see how they work, if we want something else they will be no problem to install.


The Austin office is about to expand into their new next-door facility, that will allow for more production and for shorter build times, a good thing for all. As for dealing with SMB Texas, Paul Meyer and Brian Dollar were a pleasure to deal with throughout the process. I asked questions, they provided answers, they made suggestions, we all communicated and the result was NO SUPRISES, something the project manager in me knows is the result of a well-run project. I maintained a spreadsheet of decisions and prices and we shared it several times during the process and it worked well as a tool to keep all of us on the same page. There will be changes as you go along, keep track of them and the running total cost and you will be happy with the result.


I have a few other items I will be adding and that I will document in this thread as we go along and I will be happy to answer any questions, but for the most part this build thread is pretty much complete. I have tried to document the things we did from the perspective of the research I had to do and the recollection of questions I saw repeatedly asked by others as we went through the process. It’s been quite a journey to get to this point and Laura and I are both looking forward to many more journeys in the future. To close, please look for us on the road and if you see this sign as you come across us feel free to point it out in the SMB Sightings thread, wave, stop and talk or otherwise get our attention!


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Old 09-18-2016, 05:04 PM   #118
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Awesome build! Awesome thread! Really enjoyed reading it!
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Old 09-18-2016, 05:24 PM   #119
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Fitz, where are you planning on mounting the RotoPax?

My build will use the regular Sprinter bumper with the Aluminess spare tire carrier. Hopeful I can mount it to the outside (rear) of the spare tire by modifying it with longer bolts for the tire carrier.

Also, I know you''ll be up this direction in a few weeks. Let me know when, and if you have some 'spare' time ... I'd like to buy ya a frosty adult beverage for a chance to poke around your van. So many questions...
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Old 09-18-2016, 07:38 PM   #120
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Fitz, where are you planning on mounting the RotoPax?

Also, I know you''ll be up this direction in a few weeks. Let me know when, and if you have some 'spare' time ... I'd like to buy ya a frosty adult beverage for a chance to poke around your van. So many questions...
My 1 gallon Rotopax is mounted on the back of the Aluminess Deluxe box:



Here is a design constraint to be concerned with, the distance from the Rotopax mount to the back of the door. In my case there is approximately 1/2" of clearance, as you can tell from the first picture there is plenty of additional height and width to work with.



I'll be up in Santa Rosa next Saturday with the van visiting with Chris, does that fit into your schedule? After that comes a wedding in Reno and then a few trips, then things will settle down at the end of October.
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