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Old 09-29-2017, 10:41 PM   #11
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Fixes hightop roof gets my vote. No matter the weather or location, stealth or not it's ready to go with no muss or fuss.
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Old 09-29-2017, 11:56 PM   #12
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Thanks everyone for your input. I LOVE the idea of the penthouse for the ample sleeping room on demand, and views, and lazy afternoon maps on warm days. Id also be fine in a subzero bag, single digit weather just for the views (the wife maybe not so much). That said, popping it up and down is less than ideal. I wish there was a way to try the high roof and then change to a poptop if I wanted something else (but sans selling it and starting over thats a no go nor going vise versa). We have survived with a trailblazer and tent thus far, so no matter what choice we make it will be an upgrade of some sort.

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Can you give us more information? I'm having difficulty envisioning the complete picture and it's difficult for me to see this one issue in isolation from the big picture.

What are your use cases? Are you going to stay on pavement, go on nothing more than gravel roads, want to go rock crawling? Are you not going off road but want to travel in snow? Do you need to maneuver and park in urban settings? Do you have garage height/length considerations? I see you're in Alaska and I assume you intend to stay there. Will you be only taking the bikes in summer? Will you use the van in winter (snow obviously) but without the bikes. Will you need to go up and down hills in the snow? (This determines whether 4x4 is necessary or whether you might get by with just studded snow tires.)

Do you have mountain bikes, cruisers, racing bikes? Are you open to folding bikes? (We have a pair that are full sized and very sturdy. They are expensive, but we love them.)

All of this stuff matters and it is all tied together. That super high roof 24' Sprinter could serve you very well in cramming a full family and bikes inside and touring the country on paved roads, however you can't get it in 4x4 and it is not something I would want to drive around in a city.

If you can answer the above questions I think people will be able to give you better feedback.
Tom some good questions. Yes, Sprinter, 144WB, 4x4 mandatory. Honestly Ill probably need it just to get in and out of my steep driveway! You never know up here either as I have gone out many times to wake to snow overnight that was unexpected. Sometimes to ski the fresh snow you might be the first into an unplowed lot or road too.

Summer, mtns bikes, 29rs, winter Fat Bikes (also 29s). Im tall, so XL frames. Most likely in any setup the front wheel is going to need to come off. For the first few years probably hauling a chariot (bike trailer) for the toddler. I envision a drawer type setup to slide the bikes in and out of the rear. Cross country skis and snowshoes too , backpacks, camera gear.

No rock crawling, probably some real rutty back roads at times, mud, and deep holes from other rigs passing through. Occasionally rocky roads so the 4x4 clearance will be nice. Though, in all likelihood that will be the minority of the time. Mostly road trips to trailheads, doing day trips (with all the gear and kids etc). Maintained campgrounds and some boon docking. In AK its easy to just get down some roads and be off the beaten path to camp out of sight. Rig will not be a daily driver, but it will act as a 3rd winter car. Our plan is to somehow have it so the third row can go in and out to take say a family of 4 and two friends along.

Use, is the big issue and question. I am used to getting by out of my trailblazer. Wed just move the stuff forward, sleep in the rear with the backseats down being good to go (but a tad tight).enter a new toddler .

Truth is we are not exactly sure how we will use it and that is probably part of the challenge. Im sure after the first year we will know our needs, but of course that doesnt help right now! We never had the option to eat inside if it was raining, I like that we can now. Id hope though that most of the time is being spend outside! I'd like to be able to setup and break down with little fuss and muss. I's also like to lay down and sleep without having my knees bent up.

I am considering the RIB seat that folds down. Would provide a fairly quick setup and not "waste" space with the second row being "just a seat".
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Old 09-30-2017, 12:37 AM   #13
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So you definitely need 4x4 and some clearance. You obviously also need room for 4 people and bikes. My personal recommendation would be to get the biggest Sprinter available in 4x4. That would be the 22' 9" 170" WB extended bed with a high roof. This vehicle is not quite as off road capable as the RB and it has a wider turn radius. Since you are in AK, however, I don't think the turn radius is too big of a deal, and I think this mid length would be ok for the degree of off road you want to do. The 2wd EB can be had with the super high roof, but I think the 4x4 version of the EB is not available with super high roof, only the high (medium height) roof. SMB will only put a Penthouse on the lowest roof version and only on the RB of most vans (except EB on an Econoline).

To compensate for the longer WB, I'd contact Van Compass and see if their RIP (ride improvement package) could be applied to the EB. You would get 4" of lift from suspension improvements and even more lift if you increase tire size. You'd have to talk to SMB about weight. They typically don't like to build on the single rear wheel version of this length (they prefer dual rear wheel), however, the Van Compass suspension upgrades allow for the heavier weight of a conversion and allow the Sprinter to drive with a normal feel rather than a weighted down/bottomed out feel. As far as SRW vs DRW, one drawback to DRW is rocks jamming between the tires and rupturing them. If you stay off roads with baseball sized rocks, and check frequently, though, you can avoid this problem. Increased tire size may be a bit problematic with DRW, though. By the time you place an order, super singles (wider than normal tires) may be available for the rear. Their disadvantage is not being able to air down as much when in sand/mud. Super singles and DRW allow for greater towing capacity than SRW.

If you can lock up the bikes outside and cover them when not in use, I like the lifting bed that is in the new Winnebago 4x4 144" Sprinter. (I think many other features about it would not suit your needs, however.) You might talk to SMB about a bed that lifts into the high roof ceiling like that.

If you think this platform could suit your needs, I and others could then start giving suggestions about layout. Personally, I'd put large Flarespace bumpouts in both rear windows, go with a transverse bed for the adults between the Flaresoaces, and do an inline bed for the little ones underneath. A protective canvas atop the upper bed would allow bikes there in the daytime. You'd then still have room for a little wet bath, fridge, and cooking area. But we can get to all that if you decide this van could work for you. Personally, I see it as by far the best solution for your needs. I'll let you chew on this a little bit before I go any farther.

Let us know what you think.
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Old 09-30-2017, 12:42 AM   #14
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What is the interior height of a Penthouse Top Popped Up on a Ford Econoline van?

Is there a weight limit for the bed in the Penthouse area? I have never seen any large people or tall couples in those pop tops.

Thanks,
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Old 09-30-2017, 01:10 AM   #15
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These show just a rough idea of what I was thinking. The DIY planner does not allow Flarespace bump-outs to be included. The upper bed would extend 5" at both foot and head. Bikes, skis, etc. would go atop upper bed which is covered with waterproof tarpaulin. They must be restrained so they do not become missiles aimed at your heads in a front end collision. I would envision this as 4x4, high roof, lifted suspension.

This is just something to jump start some thinking.
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Old 09-30-2017, 03:10 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deshet View Post
What is the interior height of a Penthouse Top Popped Up on a Ford Econoline van?

Is there a weight limit for the bed in the Penthouse area? I have never seen any large people or tall couples in those pop tops.

Thanks,
Good questions but I don't know most of the answers. I do know the CCV top in the Sprinter is pretty long for tall people. I also understand you can add another slat like piece to make it even longer if you want.
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Old 09-30-2017, 03:17 AM   #17
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Another possibility to chew on. The beds can be extended 5" to the rear, but notches have to be cut in them (foam) to accommodate pillars, etc. This would give the kids 5 more inches length and one of the adults a little room to extend a hip.
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Old 09-30-2017, 03:18 AM   #18
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Tom - thanks for all of the suggestions and input!! Man, you got some knowledge and ideas. No can do on the longer wheel base. My driveway alone would make it a nightmare to turn around and there are some trailheads where that WB would be a nightmare for getting in and out. Plus if we just take the gang out for frozen yogurt the parking would not be fun .

I think as of right now we are going pretty spartan. No cabinets, storage at first is going to be plastic bins secured to L Track under some sort of frame out of either wood or 80/20. I want it simple, modular, and cheep .

I saw the Winnebago but never did get through the video. Guess I need to find it again. Bikes up on the bed (secured) is an idea. Though, ideally we get there and don;t have to move stuff around to get the beds set-up, though I think my "want list" is not exactly within the parameters of reality . I have an opportunity to go check out a built van so that should really shed some light. Thanks again for the thoughts and input.
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Old 09-30-2017, 04:17 PM   #19
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Best of luck with your van. Keep us posted!
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Old 09-30-2017, 04:20 PM   #20
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BTW, This is a new Sprinter conversion company. They have lots of modular stuff and they're in AK!

https://www.alaskacampervanconversions.com
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