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Old 10-12-2012, 03:59 PM   #141
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

A line of chalk on the tread face is a pretty good test for inflation. See if it wears off evenly, or just the middle, or just the edges.


Herb
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Old 10-12-2012, 05:04 PM   #142
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by windguy

Keith,

I found a good explanation on an appliance user forum about microwave oven venting.

The issue is that a counter top microwave is not designed to fit into an enclosed space. The air you feel coming from under, or the back of the microwave is circulating air. Although you might not see any issues right away, I would be concerned about long-term use and its effects by installing it as a built-in. 30 seconds for coffee once a day probably wont be an issue, but prolonged, regular use might cause it to overheat without a fresh air source.

this makes a lot of sense to me. the combo micro/oven we have in our kitchen vents to the front because it's designed to be installed as a built-in. not sure what type of microwave oven SMB uses. It's also possible they've changed models in the four years since yours was built.

Do you use your microwave a lot?
To me it seems like an economical way to heat something up quickly assuming you have ample battery or shore power rather than using propane. more convenient too. At home we use ours all the time.

Cheers!
I feel no air coming from any where on a counter-top microwave. A Microwave does not get hot, only what is cooking gets hot. A combination convection/microwave would have heat as the entire space gets hot and need venting but uses too much power for a SMB. Any micowave installed over a stove top would have to vent because of the heat of the stove. That said, if the manufacturer (mine was Sylvania) recommends venting then I would.

We use it mainly for popcorn and to reheat leftovers. At home with a convection/micowave we sometimes cook in it but the one in the Sprinter pulls too much juice when used for anything more than just a few minutes. Very convenient especially when driving down the highway and the wife wants some popcorn.

Regards,

Keith
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Old 10-12-2012, 05:08 PM   #143
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by BroncoHauler
A line of chalk on the tread face is a pretty good test for inflation. See if it wears off evenly, or just the middle, or just the edges.


Herb
I think I will try that. I have been rotating the tires every 5k (free service) and have got 60k+ on them now so what ever the air pressue is, it must be pretty close to right.

Regards,

Keith
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Old 10-12-2012, 05:43 PM   #144
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

I have noticed in this particular topic I seem to be almost "troll" like in my posts. Although that is not my intention - I am really a very happy camper - it seemed the more I read the more I didn't really understand. Well, maybe I understood but just didn't agree with.

I can agree that a 3" would be a project stopper for me, but a 1/4" over 20" is just a little over 1%. Like most of the SMBer's I know, if it bothered me I would fix it. Much of the joy I have in my SMB is "playing" with it. I know, you pay $100k+ you expect things to be perfect but I can testify perfect is unachievable at any price.

I think the experience you had Chumley represents a very, very small number of SMB customers. That number would be 1. Yes, others have had problems and needed corrections made but none to the degree you have. I submit you will never really be happy with your SMB. There will always be something that wasn't done right or showed up after 10k miles. The length and detail of your posts show me that. Not that there is anything totally wrong with being fixated on an unachievable goal but don't blame other people for not being able to meet your standards - after all they are "your" standards. Case in point the leather seat covers. SMB agreed to make them but after review decided they could not. There is nothing wrong with that.

I do agree you have the right to say anything you want about your build. It is after all, your SMB and your money and your time. I just reserve the right to disagree.

I consider Alan and Liz and Jonathan friends and I think you have taken advantage of them.

So, I now will butt out as I started to do when I read your first entry. I should have known better.

Keith
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Old 10-12-2012, 07:32 PM   #145
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

It's obvious Chumley is more detailed oriented than most. And, his posts can certainly lead one to think that maybe he has crossed the line at places. I think part of the issue is his near-real-time journaling of the process, without the time needed for the frustration to subside.

BUT, if I were in his shoes, I'd probably react similarly. For a $100,000 vehicle the expectations are understandably high. I don't get the impression that he was looking for perfection, but rather was looking for a product commensurate with the pricetag. People know that there is a tradeoff between the quality and price of a Ford Focus vs a BMW 5 series, for example.

The fact that SMB willing completely tore-down and rebuilt his van tells me that they agreed it was done incorrectly. To me that is actually a big plus in SMB's book: the willingness to admit a mistake and rectify it. At any point SMB could have refused, or simply given him his money back and said they didn't want him as a customer because he was overly critical.

That being said, there is a difference between building a custom house or high-end building (seemingly the field Chumley works in) and a rolling house. Fit and finish are likely much harder when working in a van. Without being there to actually see the finished SMB product, I don't think any of us can say whether his worries were justified or not.

There is always a disconnect between what a contractor thinks is acceptable and what a client thinks is acceptable. I say that as someone who has both worked in the construction field (my father is a contractor) and has been a consumer. I recently spent many thousands of dollars having a new AC system installed in my house. The install was a mess, with poorly done ductwork, mistakenly installed electrical components, etc. They have been back twice to fix things. Most likely the average person would not have noticed the issues (well, except for the system breaking down within 16 hours of install), but I did because I have a background in the industry. Does it make me picky that I made them fix the things in the attic they did wrong? I don't think so.

"Good enough" depends highly on who is doing the judging. There are numerous posts in the forums about people who are surprised by the messy way SMB does hidden wiring and plumbing in some builds. I've felt the same way as I worked on my new-to-me SMB. But, truthfully, as long as it works and is safe, who really cares what it looks like behind the walls? Sure, I'd do it differently, but in a production environment this is a good case of "good enough" being good enough. Visible fit and finish is a different story, though.
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Old 10-12-2012, 09:59 PM   #146
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

My analysis of the product: A $100K van is really a $42-45K commercial van built to better than average standards with a great handling and maneuverability, but not to Mercedes passenger car standards and fit and a $55K investment with SMB in labor (about 30-60%) and quality components (40%-70% based on needs and desires) to build a unique one of a kind solution. Don't leave out of the equation paying overhead costs (employee bennys, taxes, utilities, liability insurance, workman's comp) and making a profit in high tax CA.

The components used are designed for a variety of applications-not just RVs, that are adapted on a case by case basis to the layout preference of buyer and the installer. Wiring and plumbing wise SMB seems to have used years of experience to eliminate situations that don't work but since they don't build a standard platform every time, the investment in standardizing a wiring harness or plumbing tree, etc for elegance and intellectual perfection for a concealed location has no payback and is likely a hindrance to the goal of customization and labor efficiency. Having a production line fuss with your unique generator installation and components they don't install often is likely to distract them from other issues -its human nature. If you want near perfection in any unique product, you have to be willing to invest in a prototype as well as the final product.

I do agree that a three inch glitch is a big deal if it interferes with the intended function and commend SMB for owning up to it.
I really enjoyed the process and the product that SMB West built for us for a fair price all things considered and their commitment to my satisfaction.
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Old 10-13-2012, 04:56 PM   #147
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

I think all of us learned something beneficial from Chumley's experience, including SMBW.
I'm grateful that Chumley shared his thoughts with us in a candid manner.
I wish the Chumleys the best of luck with their SMB travels.
I'm confident they will thoroughly enjoy their van as their new home on wheels.
Cheers!
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Old 10-13-2012, 05:53 PM   #148
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Hello All,

I see that my posts have brought some controversy to the thread and comments are being made, all appear reasonable and in no way disrespectful and I appreciate that. I hope that no one feels that I have been maliciously telling stories about SMB, it is all real and unfiltered. In a way I would say that this is “reality forum” posting (but with none of the staged events like reality TV seems to have). In a way it is heartening to see the support for SMB and I was wondering where everyone was that might feel that I was presenting my story as a knock towards Sportsmobile. If you read all of my posts I think you can see that in the beginning I would have no idea of the way it would work out to this point. If you give me credit for plotting and planning this post to be a negative story about SMB from the beginning I assure you that you are giving me too much credit. There were a couple red flags thrown up at the beginning but I thought that my second salesman put all of those to rest. There were just so many more to come - an so much good work to fix it all.

I see some feel that I want everything “perfect”. I think that we all want stuff to be perfect, especially one that represents such a big investment, but I respectfully disagree that I demanded perfection, I just seek it. I won’t argue perfection and me, I will just let things work out and I hope you will see what I am talking about in the long run, you may always feel right and that is your right but hopefully after all of the facts are in. Someone said that a person who expects perfection will never be happy and it has been implied that I will never be happy with my build. I think that it would be true of an unreasonable person and they would probably live in a world burdened by unfulfilled expectations. I do have high standards and I do sometimes get frustrated with how much service and regard for others has degraded over the years but I quite like the balance in my life. My eye has made me a very good living over the years. That same eye has protected owners from subcontractors providing substandard quality and subs from owners who expect more than is reasonable. It does cut both ways. If you talk to the guys at SMB I think that they may say that I am tough but so far no one has said unreasonable, but I may be the last one to hear it too. Seek quality in life, not quantity (unless it is a lot of quality... ).

As it stands right now I am on the fence regarding my build. I envy all of you who got out the door without having to rebuild you interior once and have part of it pulled apart again only a couple weeks later. I envy all of you who had everything right when you inspected it and it was pleasing to your eyes. I envy everyone who got to make that memory of the first night in your SMB a great and special one. I do fully expect to get there myself. I do expect to be happy with this rig and Thursday's correction was a good first step (or was that second?). I am just not there yet and I feel that I have legitimate reasons. It will take me a little longer than some of you and I may need some more help from SMB than you.

I will work on a couple more posts now and I hope that you can work with me to keep it civilized. My goal is to put enough positive posts on this thread myself that it buries and ones that appear negative but there is a little more to discuss, most as a response to those that think I expect perfection. This was never intended to be something that might hurt SMB’s reputation so I really would like it to end in a long series of positive posts but it's still not all up to me yet. But I have come this far based on telling the day to day truth and how I feel about it contemporaneously so I cannot conveniently or rightly make it all go away at once. It happened over time and it will take time to fix it. I am working on it now.

I really like the gang at SMB and I may have pushed them into a situation where I can never call them friends now, no matter whose fault. My goal was to get a nice motorhome made, not make friends, but if you build relationships along the way then you get more than what money can buy. But I also don't like conditional friends so let it happen as it may. I know that Alan wasn’t feeling as well as he could and I respected that and it was one of the myriad of reasons why my posting has slowed. I like Alan, I like my Sales/PM Guy, I like all of the guys I met and now respect a little more. I have to be honest, when things go like they did I am not a warm fuzzy kind of guy. Like I told the foreman, there is a little animal inside and he's best left there, he's kinda thorny (I also sincerely apologized for being thorny last Thursday). That doesn’t mean that when it is all over they can’t make fun of me and I make fun of them and a beer or two is hoisted. Just first things first.

FWIW Thanks.

Chumley
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Old 10-13-2012, 06:23 PM   #149
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Tires, what's up with the tires?

So I wanted to respond to the tires thing. I am sure many of you think I am crazy for buying new tires right away for this rig. I am not thrilled by it either but I had to make a choice, be pretty sure that I solved the problem or expect to live with it for about 2 weeks and 4,000 miles. The cost of the tires were not necessarly cheap but if the vibration can help start things rattling inside I am pretty sure the front end is taking a beating.

I decided to change tires because I have had a long history with Continental tires and really like them on my cars but they never seemed to work on my Mazda MPV. They did pretty much the same thing that's happening now until I had them worked over by Custom Alignment in Mountain View (rotating them on the rim until they could balance them and they may have shaved one). I've been going there for years and they seem to be able to fix about any front end issue and are well known in the area for it. Of course they aren't cheap, just good. This van's definitely worth it.

So I decided that with what I had read and my own experience I would change the tires. When the new tires showed up I realized that I might have goofed. I ordered Michelin LTX A/T2s. Nice aggressive tread blocks but they are tall and I expect that some squirm may be noticable for a while. I will also have 2 spares at home or you will find them on eBay, virtually brand new...

I am hoping that there is enough adjustment in the camber plates that they can move the camber from slightly positive now to at least neutral but hoping for just a little negative. It could really make all the different in the slight wandering I feel now. My van is defintely arse heavy. I am so glad I got the 3500 now (see the little affirmation to myself there...).

I mentioned that I thought that the tires may have flatspotted and could have been that way when going in for a balance and thrown off the balancing. I know that modern radial tires really aren't supposed to flatspot but I have definitely felt something when starting back out on the freeway if the car (usually a truck) sits a couple weeks. Tony brought up a good point that I did not know about and that was the 20 psi overpressure from the factory, smart move.

I am going to have the tires installed and the alignment done this upcoming week. I have asked that they first check the balance and give me a report that I can send to SMB so they know if their guy is doing a good job (they have a guy that does a balance and alignment after the build).

I know that there is a chance that the steel wheels aren't perfect either, it is supposed to be a cargo vehicle I am reminded (silk purse from a pig's ear anyone?). We do have a couple wheels to move around here if needed. It's worth getting right.

Hmmm... that gets me thinking, I wonder if the headights should be re-aimed?

Thanks.

Chumley
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Old 10-14-2012, 08:17 PM   #150
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Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

A summary…

This is all dedicated to those less picky than I am. The wife is on a business trip so I had some time before I went out and worked on the motorcycle but I didn’t know I would spend so much time on this. Still, it’s as much for me as anyone else. I have it more clear in my mind now and am more convinced than ever that I was reasonable. I also think this may be the longest post in the history of posting so get something to drink and go to the bathroom first, or just skip it entirely running away as quickly as possible.

Week 4 of Build:
I visit SMB for the first time during the build. I am impressed but notice the backup light had already been installed and it was a round one, not the square one we had been discussing. I was still waiting for a cost to make a decision. I had been told that the “Rigid” light they would like to use was tough and waterproof (and square). I researched it, liked it, and wanted it. We just had to come to agreement on price first. But I got something else until I complained and they changed it. Thank you SMB but it seems like extra unnecessary work.


Stiff piled on dash but told it would be okay. This is part of an overall problem now being addressed by SMB West. Commitment made by SMB to fix it or replace it if necessary.


Noticed that the floor base was cut short at the sliding door and a cabinet edge was just hanging there. This would need to be fixed somehow but no plans for design were offered for a long time, then became moot.


Week 5 of Build:
Notified that the rear upper cabinet (option) that was identified to be 24” is going to be 18” due to ac unit location. It is good to be informed but still wrong, it ended up being 16” wide in the end.

Did not understand why the microwave shelf was not attached to and level with the front storage compartment (like it is now). Told that the microwave needed venting and that they don’t think it would look right to have the shelf level with front storage (like it is now).

Also, see that blue tape in the background? It is there to show where the plumbing lines are run.

Week 6 of Build:
We discussed the dash switches and I asked to have something other than the standard switches cut into the knee panel of the dash. I was presented an option to have a custom plastic plate made and to have switches installed on it. I didn’t like appearance of plastic and quality of fabrication. We would wait until there is confirmation that there is nothing on the aftermarket available and then go with the normal SMB style install if nothing is found.

In general some of the vagueness of the design is starting to appear. Backsplash details, countertop extension details, drawer instead of cabinet door, etc… Nothing really wrong, just surprising and I thought I had been thorough.

We find the glove box door has a big gouge in it. It will be replaced. It has the lock.

Cabinets are complete but notice that the upper cabinet that was supposed to extend over the sink is missing. Confirmed it was on the plan so it will be added.


Week 7 of Build:
Confirm that the microwave shelf is out by ¼” across 20”. One quick search on the internet has provided this set of specs. The type of cabinets used by SMB are called European frameless with “blum” hinges. ( http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/O ... eness.html )
Besides dimensions you should use your eye to work with spaces where reference lines may make things look distorted, like the inside of a van with curved roof and walls. The noted dimension I observed represents ¾” across 5’-0” which would be very noticeable to the eye if there was a reference edge nearby. Note: for the SMB build the team uses the floor as its “reference level” since the vans have a typical rake (sloping down towards the front in this case) when empty.

The big one happens. I sent an e-mail the previous Thursday night since things didn’t appear to be adding up and something just looked wrong. Monday we find out that the bed is 3” short and will initially all come out of the shower stall which is 39” not 36”. Ultimately it will turn into 4 ½” to 5” short before we are done and we will have to take another 1 ½” out of the microwave shelf and cabinet below (the one with the heater). This takes care of the microwave shelf issue. Entire van gets gutted at this point. This will fix most issues including the floor that was cut short. I am promised that this will not take any longer than planned. They will throw all the men at it they need and will be back on track. I tell them I would rather have it right than “on time”. It takes a couple weeks before I find out when it will really be done. Prediction is 3 weeks later than the most recent promised completion date but only 2 weeks later than originally planned.

We have all lighting in at this point and I discover that the LED puck lights planned for over the driver’s and passenger’s seats are missing. SMB will now add those in.

The spice rack is not installed as designed. It is supposed to be the full 24” width of the shower stall wall it is attached to. It is instead just the width of the microwave cabinet shelf and has finish trim so that you can barely get anything in. I knew nothing about its design until it was completed and installed. This will be fixed and ultimately moved to a new location up against the exterior wall under the microwave shelf. We will move the LED light from under the spice shelf to the underside of the microwave shelf in redo now. Thank you SMB.

The missing cabinet section over the over the sink is being installed and it looks terrible to me. It looks like an add on and even the edging is trimmed crooked . Good thing we are rebuilding. We discuss lighting and we will have a LED puck light over the sink and a light that swivels over the stove that can also point outside and with an LED lamp will be very effective. Good options.


They are out of the black countertop material and have changed suppliers. We will have to change to another color. We have selected a darker brown top and are okay with it now.

We will get the full backsplash that we expected and wanted. I provide a design and reviewed it with the carpentry foreman and field foreman since this is not normally done. Backsplash will be installed at the edge of a square cut countertop so it is flush vertical surface from top to bottom – for a reason of mine.

Cabinet was possibly made too small for the refrigerator so a “narrow flange" kit is ordered I am told. During the rebuild they get the cabinet size right and don’t need the narrow flange kit anymore.

This is what it looks like now:



Week 8 of Build:
I ask how all of the holes in the floor will be patched and demand that they be per Mercedes requirements. I am told they will be and am shown how it looks when I crawl under the van which looks like nice patches. I see many holes not plugged but am told that they will be reused (this comes back).

SMB finds after-market switches that will fit in the factory dash switch locations. I think it is good but apparently they had again gotten ahead of themselves and installed the blank plastic plate. They had to perform the patch and paint work. Everyone knew it took place but they thought that it was a good and reliable patch. I am told nothing about the patching work (this comes back).


This will come back too.


Week 9 of Build:
I am told that the microwave will be installed without venting by foreman. “They do it all of the time”. ( http://products.geappliances.com/ApplPr ... ES0736SPSS )
Click on link and go to “Q&A” and see the question about venting. The reason this is a big deal is because I told them that if we needed we should talk this out. I was thinking that if necessary we could relocate the microwave but was always assured that the venting that my Sales/PM Guys told me was required would be installed.

The window film is installed poorly on one rear window and it will be replaced. It did not extend to the edge of the window so you could see daylight.

Week 10 of Build:
Nothing to report!

Week 11 of Build:
Not previously posted. SMB folks are unhappy that I am unhappy with recent developments. My wife had finally apparently called while I drove there because she knew I was getting pissed about the unapproved changes and told them I was unhappy and that I was tired of surprises and just wanted the truth. I was "offered" a check made out to us if wanted and it kind of made me feel good to know that if things fell apart I could bail on the build because my confidence was at a low (FYI: the deposit credit check was made out for the incorrect amount). I was told that the microwave shelf was not going to be vented as promised so we burst into a “spirited conversation”, Alan F., Sales/PM Guy, Foreman and myself. While we are arguing we walk to the van and they pull out a microwave and put it in place. It is now fine because it is a different microwave unit and the venting is all in the rear! I guess I kind of smile and the SMB office guys don’t, they didn’t know about the change either. The entire conversation is moot.

The installation of the new microwave and shelf is fine! The shelf now lines up with the front storage cabinet and it all looks nice (I was previously told that this would not appear right, why?).

The countertop was not installed with the backsplash flush against the edge as agreed earlier. Instead the countertop edge was radiused and the backsplash set on top just inside the curve on top. I just accepted it at this point but it negates my previous plan to have a stainless steel band laminated to the edge to strengthen it against accidental holds. Foreman changed it because he “thought the other way looked boring”. No one asked me. They did do a custom flip up top and it fits flush against the main countertop. They can do good work.


The foreman also changed the agreed upon design for the window of the shower stall. It was supposed to be all FRP. The foreman had decided that he would install a vinyl “shroud” like all of the other windows at the window opening. When I told him that the design would now allow water to get past the edge of this screwed on padded and vinyl covered piece of wood he said it wouldn’t leak. He thought it looked nicer even though it would not perform its function well. I temporarily said okay if he would caulk it in on the sides and top. I called back and told the Sales/PM Guy to make him do it the way we had originally agreed. He did.

Week 12 of Build:
We go on Thursday before Friday orientation and pickup.

Thursday:
Audio and visual guy goes well. Done well.

We are signing paperwork. Numbers don’t match at first but it is okay since it represents the $300 deducted for deletion of the safe from the build, I forgot. I ask about the paperwork for the extended warranty. Finance lady looks lost. She talks to Sales/PM Guy after we show her our final build estimate which is the basis for paperwork. This has not been addressed or included. Finance did not have any more long contract forms. She will get correct paperwork to us next week along with the extended warranty.

Inspection of interior includes the recently referenced refer not sitting properly in cabinet. I ascertain that likely a leveling foot at the left rear corner is low since the whole unit is now twisted. I measure 1/8” across the 17” of door width but it’s not the dimension (which they measure as 1/16”) but the obvious alignment issue with so many nearby straight lines like the countertop.

There is a warped panel on the side of the cabinet with the heater. They say I am ridiculous so I say “okay, you don’t mind if I post pictures of it then?”. They found it and fixed it.

The dash is scratched on top of the instrument cluster. There is also the “Armorall” on parts when I had been assured it would be removed to see if it might be hiding scratches. A plastic repair guy will come in tomorrow before orientation.

It is difficult to open and close the blind behind the shower stall. I had asked if we should make this a short blind and have a snap on window cover for the window above the heater cabinet. I was told that this would not be a problem but now it is not working properly. A couple guys start working on it and take off the spice shelf and the window shroud to get to it. They take the window shroud somewhere and drop it and damage it so make a new one (this is likely the source of the future leak problem). They remove a guide on the end for the blinds and it works fine now (I think it also removes a guide string to be seen later).

Friday:
We look over the work required from yesterday’s inspection. Refer is not twisted anymore and the cabinet side panel is acceptable. Dash looks okay but there is a funny black material flaking off like wax or something. SMB will look into what it is (never received a response to this day).

Orientation moves along and we both seem to relax again.

The upholsterer is working while we are in there. He is just now making the window covers that had been in the plans from about the 2nd week. They will measure and come back after the orientation with the completed covers. We have been done with orientation for a while and I am just waiting for the covers while my wife waits at the motel with the dogs and we need to check out in 20 minutes (already late checkout). They come back and the window covers are made of a cloth fabric and not the vinyl. Sales/PM Guy asks if they will be okay and I say no I want vinyl as we agreed. He quickly agrees. I need the covers this weekend so they will make new ones after I use them for the planned overnighter. I will mail them the old ones to use as a template and they will mail back new vinyl ones the same week. Original window covers end up not fitting well on one side and were missing one snap at a corner so I mark them and the replacements fit well.

Items to mention:
I had asked to have the van outside so it could be inspected in the sun but we never did do that. I think it is imperative to see it in the bright sun because unless you drive only inside of a building you should see it in its native environment. As well as the gouged glove box door SMB also replaced the passenger side “B” pillar since it had become gouged. I accepted the scuffing that was going on but was hoping it would have ended. I got sick that weekend so we never went anywhere but McDonald’s one night and the van sat until the next Thursday when I went to the upholsterer.

Week 1 after the build:
I see a hole in the refer near door. We never checked inside after the refer was leveled and there is a hole now.


Thursday I go to the upholsterer for the cover that SMB did not want to do. He tells me that the ottoman that are supposed to be leather are vinyl and shows me how to tell for sure. On top of that issue I had originally asked SMB if we could upholster the rear area in microfiber because of the dogs. They say that they can only use material approved for use in automobiles and know of nothing else but tell me who their supplier is, who has no good selections. My upholsterer says that materials are typically approved for home and auto use and they use the same standards. Someone might want to fact check him on this, I haven’t.

I see that the microwave has a series of scratches on the door open push button and the plastic frame.


Friday I am getting ready to go to the Eastern Sierras and just a little after 5:00 PM I pull off the seating warning label and paint comes off of the dash and I see the holes and sanded dash. I will admit I kind of lost it here for a few moments but realized I would demand and get a new dash for sure now. I also saw some fine scratches on other parts of the dash but they are insignificant now.


Saturday I was driving on HWY 80 when water started coming out of the refer. Trip in Sportsmobile ended and it became a trip in the Sprinter van and a motel room. Trip cut short.

Week 2 after the build:
Thursday to be big day of repair work.
Started with mild dispute with foreman about small cut in seat. Did not expect them to replace it just want them to know that it had happened. They did replace it, thank you.


The untreated holes in the floor that I found turned out to be one of the most important issues. “Curt” found several holes and they decided that they would put it on the lift to get access to all of them. There were over 20. Many had sealant coming through from the inside but the bare metal edges were supposed to have been covered by the undercoating/sealant. This surprised everyone and was critical. Good catch by Curt.

The shrouds would be replaced on both sides. The blinds are short but since they are a standard size it turns out that the shrouds were made too big. They said that they make the shrouds big because people want more window area. I understand but ask them if they can block out the view outside (and in from out) when closed for me. Because they had to make new shrouds they also had to make new window covers. The last set (3rd) fit very well and they make such a difference in insulating the windows they may show up as an option some day. The problem is that behind the shrouds is a 1/2 “ thick piece of plywood that they use for backing (called blocking here) that I saw was easily split (and was split) so any screws installed nearby probably won’t have the same holding power. The new screws were installed close to the old ones in many places.


We looked at the blinds above the heater cabinet because the cord was missing and there were funny looking empty holes. They agreed it was wrong but to replace them they would have to really pull some stuff apart so I just accepted it. This probably happened when they worked on it that Thursday before orientation. There is another cord in the bathroom missing.


We went for a test drive to isolate the rattles and creaks and they found them pretty quickly. One of them was the sliding door cover that did not have a screw in the corner so it flopped around and rattled. They added in a screw and covered it with a button. No one knows why they didn’t before.

Replacing the dash was quite effortless and less of an ordeal than I thought it might be. I should mention that the guy that did the work, Randy of IA, is really on top of things. We saw how the sawdust got inside the instrument cluster and how scratched up the instrument lens was when it was removed. This is an area where SMB policy has changed so no more scratched dashes or instruments. Good for the next guy but I still have some small scratches on mine I guess I can live with.

The replaced glove box door did not include the correct lock so it is found on another van just before it is shipped to the Pomona RV show and is installed in my van.

The water leak was likley from the screw holes for the shroud that was replaced in a hurry that day of inspection. Too bad the blue tape was removed showing plumbing routing.

They repaired the leak but then I asked them where all of the water went that I saw gushing down the wall. It does not appear that they had thought about it but then said that the weep holes would let it drain. There was also a lot of insulation that might have gotten wet. I walked around the van and never saw any water on the floor the rest of the day. Only time will tell if it was an issue. The piece of plywood wall paneling behind the patch area is now patched instead of being one big piece. There may be some stuff flexing around now that wouldn’t have before so it may just be another thing that may pop up later but for now I can’t see it. They ran a 1 plus hour pressure test and it passed.

I was worried that we might run out of time and told them that I would accept them putting me up in a nice motel. It was already 5:00. I said that I did not want to perform the final inspection in the dark and said that 7:00 would be my cutoff for completion. I did not realize how dark the overcast skies would make it so early…

They were about ready to go at 6:00 and were filling the water tanks, cleaning the windshield, etc… I went in and sat down while they finished and then saw the van being slowly backed into the shop. A piece behind the “B” pillar on the driver’s side (which had been removed to access the leak) that holds the cover for the seat belt adjuster was broken now. Two men were frantically working on the area and were going to another van and pulling it apart. I said that I think we ought to call it a day but they wanted to continue. Okay. “Curt” asked if we could perform the final inspection while they worked since they were only in the one area. Sure, so we went through everything. We checked and everything we could see was fine but the guys were still in the way until the very end and it was pretty dark inside by then. The dash swap appeared to have gone fine. The guys finally finished the repair but I fear in their rush they left something in there that slightly rattles from time to time. I’ll probably pull it apart myself and look at it since I saw some wires in the area that are likely the cause.

We looked at the shower and ran it. I ran all systems which we had not done at the orientation. I noticed that water collected on this little shelf that extends to fill the space between the smaller shower pan and wall. I thought that I had brought this to the foeman’s attention earlier when I asked him about the grey plug in there. I was told by Curt that he probably misunderstood me since he did too (I am not sure how many ledges there are next to the grey thing but…). Well this ledge appears to slope away from the shower pan and not towards it to drain. I was told it drained this way with a wave of the foreman’s hand. Well, it does hold water and does not drain as we found out after the shower test. They will make a filler panel out of the same FRP as the enclosure walls and send it with a tube of silicone sealant for me to install. Oh well.


They were finishing cleaning as we were getting ready to leave and it was about 7:00.

After I left the appointment I was initially incredibly happy because it is amazing the difference in quality you feel when the annoying major rattles and creaks are gone. I didn’t realize how much the remaining noises were bothering me. The van felt so much more solid.

I looked over the van the next day and realized that I wish we could have finished earlier because it really was a mess of fine sawdust in places. I guess cutting out the plywood wall panel sent a shower of sawdust all over the place. I noticed a few more scuffs but I won’t blame SMB for those. If it was a production model sitting on the showroom floor it would have scuffs. I don’t like gouges though. Speaking of gouges here is a grab handle that got chewed up (assume when the pillar cover got replaced) that I just noticed.


Overall I am feeling better but need some more miles and smiles to push me into the complete SMB fan column. I think I can get there, I just can’t have any more silly problems.

Hey, if you think that all of the stuff here is silly for me to have been worried about then I guess I am a perfectionist. My concern would be that if what I have displayed is truly a demand for perfection, and did not let up until it was received each time, then there is no expectation for anything to ever be better than what I received and I have a hard time believing that. There is a very long list of items accepted that were less than what was in a van in the showroom. I understand that SMB would welcome me back to let them sort out more issues right now but I can’t keep going back. When does it really all end?

I really like the van the way it is. I love the overall layout. My wife and I can move about and pass each other at the kitchenette, we can dine easily in the cab seats, see the TV from the front seats as well as the rear seating, it is just very comfortable for us. And it feels solid now. I am still unsure about how everything will work since we haven’t had a chance to actually use it but if it does work as we expect we are going to be very very happy. I took my wife to her office in Palo Alto Friday to get some stuff for her business trip and we ate gourmet empanadas from a food truck while sitting in back with the dogs. She looked around and said she felt like it was becoming our van. I have had to do a heck of a selling job SMB, please don’t let me down. I don’t know why this was all such a struggle but hopefully it is over. Someone said earlier that I will have a very strong bond with this and it seems to ring true. I actually feel pretty confident that I can take a good part of this van apart myself now, I have seen it done enough times myself and if I carry the right tools I am in good shape.

I am not going to say thanks to SMB West just yet because I am gun shy right now. But maybe soon.

Thanks all, I am done with the yin now.

Chumley
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Charlie is the best antidote for a tough week at work. I get to see a different side of this great country and relax in different places on every trip. My vacation home is parked where money can't buy residence. Life is a long journey and my magic carpet is named Charlie.
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