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Old 09-26-2015, 02:42 PM   #1
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Our Sprinter build, Em

This is the latest design for our Sportsmobile, scheduled to start conversion by SMB West in mid-February 2016. We're naming her "Em". The most important elements of the design are an open feeling, a small footprint, a porta-potti, a net for groceries, a shower, a comfortable bed, a large refrigerator, a sink, a built-in stove, air conditioning, a place to stow a road bike, and a place for cargo.



The van is a 19.5 ft Mercedes Sprinter without a rear tire carrier, so will have a small footprint. The window behind the driver’s seat and the lack of tall cabinets on the passenger side will give the van an open feeling. The platform bed can be made to be quite comfortable. The 4CF fridge is not large, but is an improvement over the standard 3CF fridge. The propane option will be deleted so that the spare tire can remain under the van, so a diesel stove will be built into the SF (or SE) galley. A storage area for a bike will be located under the platform bed. A net for groceries will extend across this storage area. Additional cargo such as kayaks will be stowed on a roof rack.

The refrigerator will be an Indel Webasto Cruise 130 mounted in a custom cabinet behind the driver’s seat. An 18” width sliding window will be mounted above the custom cabinet, with a cabinet above it for a small 600W microwave and storage. The shower enclosure will also have an 18” sliding window in it. Both 18” windows should be as high as possible, and as forward as possible.



The toilet in the shower enclosure will be a Thetford Curve. Its small size and rounded front should allow the enclosure to be 33” wide instead of the usual 36”. A grab bar should be mounted at a 32” height under the window. A small sink should be mounted in the corner under the window at a 32” height. The shower faucet handles should be at about 36” height. Several small shelves and a small mirror over the sink at face height will complete the shower enclosure. A full-length mirror will be mounted on the outside of the shower enclosure’s door.

The platform bed will be a minimum of 5’9” long and will be at a height so that the top of the platform bed including mattress matches counter height. (The bottom of the bed will be at about 27" with a board and a cushion that adds the 5" to make it match the 32” counter height.)

Only the driver’s side of the bed will have a roof cabinet mounted above it so that the platform bed can act as a sitting alcove. Two large tall sliding windows, one on either side of the van, will be placed as high as possible and almost as far back as possible.

The galley on the passenger side will be the SF (or SE) with a sink and a Webasto diesel cooker. A 15” counter extension will be added to the front of the galley. A 40” width awning window (instead of a full size sliding door window) will be over the galley as high as possible and as far back as possible.



The storage area under the bed will be accessed from the rear door and will be used to store a bike (laying on its side 42”x66”) when needed. A SlideMaster will allow easy access to the storage area. The storage area will have lots of D-rings for tie-downs and a removable net across the lower back so groceries don’t slide forward.

The remaining space under the platform bed can be used to house the water tank, batteries, and inverter. An external shower should be included and accessible from the rear doors.

There will be a ceiling mounted air conditioner (aft) and attic fan (forward).

The interior colors and materials will consist of black cabinets, “Santa Fe” counter tops, brown ultra-leather seats, cab ceiling, cornices, window trim, and pillows, with black Loncoin flooring. A small area rug will be used instead of a carpet overlay.

The van will be a 2016 gray-white Mercedes Sprinter 6 Cylinder high roof 4x4 with the active safety plus package. It will have painted black wheels, speed control, a passenger swivel seat, and a tow package from Mercedes, but the navigation, backup camera, and sound system will be from the third-party provider recommended by SMB. It will have solar prewired, but no solar panels.

The second alternator should be sufficient to power the air conditioner and microwave. Both the air and the water will be heated by a Webasto Dual Top diesel heater, which will be mounted under chassis.

Other exterior options will include a side ladder mounted on the driver’s side between the bath window and the rear window, a diamond mesh roof rack with cutouts for the attic vent and air conditioner, Hella lights mounted on the roof rack, and either hoop steps or retractable running boards.

All comments are appreciated.
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Old 09-27-2015, 11:26 AM   #2
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

OkeyDdokey,
Nice job on getting all of that in a short chassis. Our use of propane for water and space heat coupled with a 75" platform dictated the longer wheelbase.
The only thing that I realized I should have done was to have SMB insulate the floor. You would loose some interior height but I assume that if you are comfortable with a 5'9" bed length, you would not miss the height.
We love the ability to swivel both front seats full to the rear but your drivers seat would not have adequate clearance. So I guess you will sit on the bed?
Good luck,
JIM
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Old 09-27-2015, 04:40 PM   #3
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

Looks like a nice compact and maneuverable unit. A few comments / thoughts:

We rented the short wheelbase Sportsmobile Sprinter with diesel cooktop. It takes a while to heat up and cool down, and throws a lot of excess heat into the interior. That could be a good thing if you're using it for both interior heating and cooking. But if you just want a fast responding burner without too much extraneous heat then a butane cooktop might be better.

Does the solar pre-wire include roof mount and sealed electrical roof jack? We've discovered it's very difficult to get aftermarket solar installed on a finished Sprinter conversion (because they need to rip out the interior ceiling and cabinets). Perhaps you could mount panels on the roof rack to avoid that problem.

Overall looks like an excellent vehicle for going anywhere short of full 4x4 trails!
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Old 09-27-2015, 04:59 PM   #4
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

And a very minor detail - we've found the Londeck flooring pattern easier to clean and better looking than Loncoin, but that's entirely personal preference...
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Old 09-29-2015, 11:19 AM   #5
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

Thanks JayBea and PeteM for your comments and suggestions.

I'll definitely ask SMB about insulating the floor.

As for the swivel seat, the 2016 sprinter doesn't have an option for swivel seats unless you go for the 11300 GVWR, which is much more expensive, so we're having SMB just put in a factory passenger swivel seat. Like you said, there's really no room for the driver's seat to swivel anyway. The seating will be the passenger seat, the bed, and outside. It's more of a van than an RV.

I will ask SMB about the Londeck as I am also concerned about how to clean the Loncoin.

I'm also on the fence about the diesel stove. I like that you don't have to haul it out and set it up each time you use it and you don't have to carry butane. I was thinking of going with induction, but we tend to cook low and slow - think stews - so I thought diesel would be best for this. I am concerned about the cabin heat though. Obviously more research needed here...

I don't even know if we'll need solar, since we are getting the second generator. That's why we were going to just have the solar pre-wire. I'll ask SMB more about what this includes.

Again, thanks for the comments! More food for thought.
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Old 10-02-2015, 11:32 AM   #6
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

Hi Okey Dokey,

The design of your new Sprinter EM build looks like it will address all of your priorities pretty well. As I’m sure you are well aware by this point in the design process, building inside the walls of a cargo van chassis requires a lot of thought and an acceptable amount of compromise. After reviewing your design post on the SMB Forum, I have a few comments I’d like to share. You may already have considered these things but in the event you haven’t they might help you avoid disappointment down the road.

First let me begin by saying, my wife and I sold our 2006 Ford E250 RB PH SMB and bought a new 2014 MB Sprinter RB high top SMB from Sportsmobile West in January of this year. Like you, we wanted a short and nimble package for our style of travel. Many design aspects of our new SMB are similar to yours so that’s why I thought I’d provide you with our thoughts after several months and several trips in it. So here goes!

1. Thetford Curve and 33” shower compartment: We have the 33” shower compartment and the standard square manual flush Thetford model which is 16” back to front. I’ve found the remaining distance between the front of the toilet and the wall a real squeeze for my knees and size 11 shoes. I mastered how to make it work but it’s very tight. Even though the shower walls are 33” apart, the basin in the floor pan only measures about 30”. Since the toilet sits in the floor pan, your working room for the toilet and your feet is reduced by about 3”. In my case, 30” minus 16” equals about 14”. In your case, since the Thetford Curve measures 17.75” from back to front, the available space for your feet will be 30” minus 17.75” or about 12.25”.

2. Grab bar in the shower compartment: I think this is a very good idea! However, how far does it protrude into the available space? The outer wall of the shower compartment curves in from bottom to top so a grab bar may interfere with shoulder room on the left side. Fortunately, the Thetford Curve is .25” narrower than the standard Thetford, 15.25” verses 16” respectively. This may allow for positioning it a little off-center and further from the outer wall. The good news here is the actual Thetford model can be swapped since it is portable and not attached.

3. Small corner sink in the shower cabinet: As mentioned above, this is a very tight space in all directions. Adding a small corner sink with the required plumbing will definitely cut into the available space to maneuver. Particularly where the drain pipe is concerned.

4. Installing the shower control knobs at 36” high: Something I’ve learned along the way is, plumbing has to go somewhere. When it comes to the shower controls, if yours will be like ours, the hot and water supply lines run up the backside of the front wall of the shower cabinet. If you want your shower controls to be installed 36” high, the supply lines will probably need to be concealed in the refrigerator cabinet forward of the shower cabinet. This will most likely require the refrigerator cabinet to be at least 36” high so the supply lines don’t have to extend beyond the top of the refrigerator cabinet. While we are on the topic of plumbing, you will probably be amazed how much plumbing is located in the cabinet below your galley sink. The supply lines, angle stops, extension hose for the pullout faucet, and drain pipe make this space challenging to use for anything other than small stuff.

5. Shower cabinet door clearance: We have the same shower cabinet in our Sprinter SMB but it is located directly behind the driver. Our shower door is one piece and extends 27” into the aisle when fully open. Looking at your design plan, it looks like you should have about 29” aisle due to selecting an 18” wide galley cabinet. You might want to make sure of this unless you want to go with a bi-fold shower cabinet door. We have the 22” SB style galley cabinet and since our shower cabinet is forward, opening from the rear with the hinges toward the front of the van, the 27” door just barely clears the front inside corner of the galley cabinet. You might also want to consider emptying the Thetford toilet when determining what direction to have your shower cabinet door open. They can get heavy and cumbersome to haul in and out of the van. The last thing you want is a door in your way.

6. Location of water tank and pump, batteries, invertor, and outdoor shower: I know you are planning on installing all these things under the platform bed along with sufficient space for a road bike and groceries. I know I was surprised how much space all this stuff takes up. In addition to the actual stuff, there is all the plumbing and wiring that goes along with it. And, in some cases, switches, fuses, and other controls have to be installed somewhere. This is one of those areas I’d strongly recommend you work out exactly where things are going to go so you aren’t disappointed on pick-up day when you find your road bike won’t fit in the space you’ve designed for it.

I know this was a bit lengthy but I thought I’d share these things with you because I’ve learned them myself. Would I buy another Sprinter SMB, absolutely because I’ve learned a lot along the way. Like folks on this forum have said before, “By your third build, you probably get it right.”
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Old 10-04-2015, 11:42 AM   #7
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

Here are a couple of suggestions.

1. Along with insulating the floor ask them to extend the heater hose that goes to the front cab heater down thru the center of the floor and back (under the floor but on top of the insulation). Really nice heat from the engine.

2. The overhead storage will stop at the bathroom (you show it going through the bathroom) but make sure you check the depth you have them made. I didn't pay enough attention to that and mine are a bit shallow.

Now is the time to pay attention to all the detail.
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Old 10-04-2015, 01:44 PM   #8
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

Hi Okey Dokey,

After further review of your EM Sprinter build design another concern came to mind. This isn’t meant to be a criticism of your design, just a heads-up of a possible hardware conflict. The issue here involves your large awning window in the sliding door. We have two of those windows in the rear of our 2014 Sprinter SMB so I did a little measuring to confirm my concern with putting one of those windows in your sliding door.

The potential issue here has to do with the length of the twist knob that opens and closes the awning portion of the window and the clearance between the sliding door and the side of the van when the door is opened. Besides the day/night fanfold shade and padded vinyl window trim peace, my awning windows have a twist knob that opens and closes the window that sticks out about 4” from the inside surface of the glass. I did a quick measurement from the stationary factory window on our sliding door to see if 4” would clear the outside of the van when the door was open and it looks close. Close enough I wanted to give you a heads-up to confirm this with the SMB folks during the design process and before the hole is cut in the side of your van.

This may turn out not to be a problem but I thought it better to be safe than sorry so I’m bringing it to your attention. I’m uncertain about this because it is difficult to know exactly where your awning window will sit in the sliding door compared to the surface mounted factory glass in our sliding door. In addition, I don’t know if the operating knob on the awning windows can be modified to make it shorter. This all may work fine so I recommend checking with the experts at SMB to be sure.
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Old 10-08-2015, 12:42 PM   #9
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

Thank you JJSporty and DCHitt for your insights. I'm so glad I decided to post our build here! It's hard visualizing how it'll turn out based solely on floor plans. I'm hoping we get it mostly right the first time, as this is a huge investment. Too bad there's no Sportsmobile Architect that could take your ideas and turn them into a great design.

JJSporty, you make really good points about the lack of maneuverable space in the shower compartment. I think we may need to rethink this area a bit. There's room behind the fridge for some pipes, so maybe the shower controls could be positioned just above the sink. Also, we may add some height to the fridge cabinet and put a drawer in it. The shower and fridge doors will both open from right-to-left and should both be OK clearance wise.



Also, the layout of the area under the platform bed definitely needs to be better planned. We'll need to get the dimensions of the water tanks, etc. and see if we can squeeze them in.



When I visited SMB Fresno, I asked about the awning window in the slider, and they didn't give any indication that it would be a problem. I'll definitely get it verified though. We can always switch to a slider, though I did want one awning window to open when it rains.

DCHitt, thanks for the suggestion about the heater hose. Sounds like a great idea! I'll double check the depth of the overhead cabinets.

Again, thanks for all the great comments! We'll be heading to the RV show in Pomona this weekend to check out other manufacturers' layouts and maybe get more ideas. It looks like SMB will be there, so we may have a chance to run some of these questions by them there. It's much closer than Fresno.
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Old 10-09-2015, 11:35 AM   #10
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Re: Our Sprinter build, Em

Nice plan! I'm hoping to do something similar, which would primarily be for MTB trips.

One thought - have you considered raising the platform bed so that bikes can fit underneath vertically instead of laying it down? Or do you only need to bring one bike?

Outside van has had some pics of platform beds with clearance underneath for bikes. Front wheels came off, and fork mounts were on the floor. I have also seen some interesting designs with bike storage trays that slides out for loading/unloading the bikes.
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