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Old 03-10-2015, 08:00 PM   #1
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Sprinter4WD Miami Build

So I've chugged the kool-aid and jumped into a 4x4 Sprinter Sportsmobile. The van itself has been produced on February 27 and is sitting in Germany. I tried to order it with every option I thought would be useful, while deleting those things that I don't want, like the wood floor.

It's a 2500 144"WB high-roof shorty which will perform well in the rocky mountain winters where I live.

One big unconventional design choice I have made is to delete the sliding passenger door. It took a lot of hand-wringing to finally commit to that, but I think it will work for us.

Basically our van is a runabout. I know this because we used to own a 1997 Roadtrek 190, and we loved using it that way - just driving it around anytime, especially when we wanted to go out of town. But because drivability and maneuverability are top usability issues I know we need a 144" van rather than a 170" van. And going with a 144" van means that bed length is highly limited - too limited to sleep comfortably really. We need at least 75" of bed length in the back. Oh and I haven't mentioned that we want a refrigerator, sink, wet bath, and microwave/convection too. By deleting the slider door, we get the width of the slider entry aisle back for counters, appliances, etc. But how will we get in and out of the vehicle?

Well it turns out that for me, it is really easy to walk right in the front passenger door, past the captains seat, and walk down the aisle to the back of the van. Especially in a van that doesn't have an overhead storage cabinet above the front two seats. It really did take me walking in and out of the front doors of Sprinter vans multiple times - over multiple days - before I started to believe it.

So one way or another, I will find out how much I love/hate this solution once the van is built.
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Old 03-11-2015, 07:34 AM   #2
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

Lots of our drivers do the same thing. They get sick of pulling on and slamming the side slider, so they just walk in the passenger front door to get in and out of the van. This is in urban fleet/delivery use, and seems to work better for a lot of people, no doubt due to the high ceiling above the front seats in a Sprinter.

And welcome to the forum.

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Old 03-11-2015, 07:49 AM   #3
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

That makes a lot of sense. Curious to see what it looks like when finished!

I looked at an older Dodge SMB that was for sale locally a year ago. It had an interesting setup inside the side doors: a removable section (it was either a couch or dinette, I forget) that blocked the side doors. The idea was similar to yours, maximizing usable space on an RB van, but also allowing some flexibility. I thought it was a pretty good idea.

With our EB walk-through design, I find myself using the rear doors and step bumper for ingress fairly often. The only downside is I have to open both rear doors to be able to get in, since we have rear cabinets that block about 50% of the width of each rear door.
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Old 03-12-2015, 11:18 AM   #4
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

I'm really intrigued by this. We live in Denver and are climbers, mtn bikers and snowboarders, so we've been wrestling with the 144 vs 170 question. We're also trying to decide on 4x4 vs regular RWD with snow tires in the winter. We want a full kitchen, full bath, decent storage and efficient use of space; I didn't realize you could simply eliminate the passenger door for more 'alley' space. I'm curious, how tall are you, and do you think you'd get sick of going in/out the passenger/driver doors over time? Have you come up with a floorplan? Do you feel you'll have enough storage in a short 'full-service' RV? That's the other thing for us, we need ample room for toys on long trips, we plan to go out for 2-4 weeks at a time and carry all our fun stuff (climbing gear, ropes, packs, biking gear, tools, workstand, bike clothes/packs, etc). I worry that going short means constantly having to move things out of the way to use the living space.

Very interested in hearing updates? When did you order the van, and how long before it arrives in the US?
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:34 PM   #5
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

86Scotty - Thanks! It's good to know that some folks are using the van this way already by choice. It makes it more likely that we won't end up regretting it.

BrianW - Having a "flip down" type architecture at the slider is a great idea that I hadn't considered. If I had thought of it, I might have ended with a different floorplan. The rear door as a primary entry is another avenue I didn't mentally explore. To me, this just proves that no matter how long a person spends obsessing over something, there are probably still amazing possibilities left unconsidered.

mindtrip - We do a lot of day-trip camping in the summer, four-wheeler riding, and backpacking trips, so it sounds like some similar kinds of gear-intensive activity. We tow around a single-axle utility trailer when bringing 4 wheelers or motorcycles.

Regarding floorplan: we have finalized our floorplan. The "inspiration" for the basic floorplan design comes from the Roadtrek SS Agile with the bathroom and galley sides flipped. This means a near king-sized bed in the back that can also be used in a "U" configuration and converted into a three seat rear bench. It means a full wet bath with a real marine toilet and black tank. Ours bathroom is 42"L x 24"W, which is six inches longer than the smallest size bathroom. It also means a low galley containing a micro-convection oven and a refrigerator. The low galley leaves the window on that part of the van open making the van feel much bigger inside. I've attempted to insert a scan of our basic floorplan into this post, but it may fail due to operator error.



We have just the two captains chairs up front, but the drivers seat can rotate 180 degrees where a flip-down table exists suitable for using a laptop or reading, etc. The passenger seat can rotate too, but it will be much more cramped near the galley countertop. This significant space behind the rear seats can serve as gear storage too - we are ultralight backpackers and could easily stow our packs and more behind the seats. Not to mention the large amount of storage under the rear seat and the overhead cabinet storage throughout the van. For our van, since we are going all electric (no propane), the underseat storage is more limited due to the 8 AGM batteries that will reside there.

4 weeks is a long time though! I would think that food storage would be your biggest problem. Certainly if you like fresh veggies and/or plenty of cold beer. I guess you could bring an icemaker to keep refreshing a big cooler with ice... That actually sounds like a really fun trip. If we were planning to regularly stay out off the grid for 2+ weeks at a time I would have to reconsider getting the 170" WB.

Our usage is typically a few days out at most (based on our old 1997 Roadtrek). If we stay longer than that in one place then we inevitably take a cruise into town and get a hot meal at a restaurant and resupply at a supermarket. Also we typically need to dump the holding tanks after no more than a week out.

We want to optimize for easy parking and driving. The 144" is shorter and narrower than my pickup truck and can navigate even big city driving. The only downside is height, which means skipping most drive through restaurants and parking garages. Which is probably the healthier choice anyway!
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Old 03-13-2015, 08:47 PM   #6
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sprinter4WD
To me, this just proves that no matter how long a person spends obsessing over something, there are probably still amazing possibilities left unconsidered.
Ain't THAT the truth! I've been obsessing over this since camping with friends at Indian Creek for a 10-day climbing trip over Thanksgiving week who just built a 'dry' 144" conversion, all solar and electric, no plumbing or stove (they use their coleman propane camp stove inside or outside to cook) and we caught the bug. I keep thinking "if I'm gonna spend THIS much money on something, I want it to be PERFECT" so am totally lost in the forest, scrutinizing each tree lol.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sprinter4WD
We tow around a single-axle utility trailer when bringing 4 wheelers or motorcycles.
We tour on a motorcycle as well, did that for years for as long as 3 weeks at a time, usually camping. Now we're considering getting a dirt bike to carry on the back or tow--for when we want an easy 'errand' vehicle.

I like your floorplan--thanks for posting it! It reminds me a LOT of Chumley's build, his just isn't 4x4. But it does look very similar, and about the most efficient use of space in a 144 with a full wet bath. And I think the above-floor-everything is the right way to go for clearance. We also want to go all electric and diesel, no propane, so we'll be hitting the same limitation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sprinter4WD
4 weeks is a long time though! ... If we stay longer than that in one place then we inevitably take a cruise into town and get a hot meal at a restaurant and resupply at a supermarket. Also we typically need to dump the holding tanks after no more than a week out.
That's how we've always done our long trips, though thus far it's usually camping in a tent. Odds are though we'll need to do laundry and get more food, I wouldn't plan on carrying a month's worth at a time. 2 weeks is probably the longest we'd likely be truly off the grid.

We're definitely wrestling with the 144 vs 170, in part due to concerns of parking and city driving though admittedly wouldn't likely be driving in too many actual cities--more driving through them on the interstate to get to the REAL reason for the trip. My SO has made it clear--if we're staying overnight in a city, she'd rather just get a hotel room instead and go out for a nice meal. I'm more concerned about the maneuverability and clearance of a 170 on the tight, often rough dirt roads or rutted two-track most climbing crags are located on--a 144 sounds better for that, but then I worry about the storage space once you put a wet bath in. A 4x4 170 might solve that with increased clearance but I'm guessing it wouldn't show up until next year, when we want it for trips this summer. Oh decisions decisions!! And then I have to remember,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sprinter4WD
no matter how long a person spends obsessing over something, there are probably still amazing possibilities left unconsidered.

Thanks for the info, good luck with the build. Any idea on when yours might show up at SMB? (And how long ago did you order it?)
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Old 03-13-2015, 10:12 PM   #7
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

mindtrip

It sounds like you have caught class-B fever for sure. I had a bout of it before when I was shopping for our used 1997 Roadtrek, and am currently in the throes of a relapse.

I appreciate your comments on the floorplan - it is based on our usage patterns. We had a "double" bed in the old Roadtrek in which you sleep across the van (heads against the passenger side of the van) and it was not large enough for two nor convenient for exiting - it requires the person in the back to acrobatically climb over the other person to get out.

Our experience with the shower is that it gets used rarely. Showering in a class B isn't exactly a fun experience because it's so cramped, but after a few days of backpacking it sure feels amazing to be clean.

Funny that you mention the Chumley build because I have read his thread end to end multiple times. I learned a lot from his experience. Despite all the frustration that came his way, which I wouldn't wish on anyone, I was impressed that in the end SMB did take care of him and fix his issues. They never gave up and SMB must have been frustrated as well. But his thread really convinced me that SMB was the right place to build our coach because they will stick with it until everything works properly.

The all electric and diesel approach appears to be a trend in the industry - the Roadtrek etrek and others are doing it. I'm excited by two main usability gains: 1) no need to maintain propane tanks, which are very difficult to tell their fill level, and 2) the ability to run the air conditioner without having a generator running. Generators are just too noisy, even for a backcountry campsite if you are sharing it with friends. It really ruins the mood of a place to have a lawnmower running in the background. We own many different generators, including one of the Honda Inverter units which is one of the quietest on the market. They are still too noisy! It looks like we should get several hours of AC run time from the battery bank - it's been a while since I've done the calculations.

We also own a 2012 26 foot class A Winnebago motorhome. I thought the class A could be a "runabout" as it's very short and has an amazingly tight turning radius. But it's just too long and too wide. At a minimum it takes up 1.5 parking spaces and it's easy to get blocked in when parking. This is making it clear to me that a short class B is the way to go. I remember that the Roadtrek (based on a Dodge SRW van) could park in any spot just like a big car. It was a little long and took some 5 point turns here and there, but you could drive it into almost any situation with confidence.

I still camp in a tent when backpacking, of course, and any class B is a mansion compared to that!

IMHO you are right to be worried about the approach angle and departure angle of the van. When driving those primitive forest service roads the killer is typically the cross ditches. A long wheelbase really exacerbates the problem with those. I dragged the tail of our Roadtrek on the rocks many times and it seems to physically injure the driver from the emotional pain. The 4x4 Sprinter does have a higher ride height than the RWD variant.

I ordered our van on November 18th and it was produced on February 27th. I ordered from the Miami FL dealership because I figured they wouldn't be ordering too many 4x4's in sunny, flat, Florida. While I don't have any hard data on arrival times, the experts that I have found indicate that cargo vans typically take 60 days from production to arrival at their destination (Sportsmobile Texas in Austin for me). Sooo, if that holds true, I should be seeing the van in Austin around the end of April.
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Old 03-13-2015, 10:43 PM   #8
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

This week I made a trip to the Sportsmobile Austin facility where our van will be built. This is a summary of my trip for anyone who may be interested. I highly recommend making the trip to Austin if you are buying a Sportsmobile.

They had a bunch of Sprinters outside on their property in various states of completion ranging from completely finished units to fresh new empty cargo vans and seemingly everywhere in between. It was really pleasant to be able to spend time looking at real units instead of internet images.

I met Paul who is the main contact at SMB Austin. He runs the show, and quite effectively. I've spent a bunch of time educating myself on different aspects of building RV's and it's clear to me that he has a complete handle on what is going on. It will be hard to find a more expert group of folks to do a Sprinter conversion IMHO.

Paul spent several hours going over my floorplan and even though he is clearly super busy he never rushed me or made me feel like I was taking too much time. There were several times that he would ask a question I couldn't answer like: how high do you want the ottoman seats? And the answer was to walk out to one of the many Sportsmobiles on site and demonstrate some different options. Perfect.

Now my build is probably way more customized and specific than average. It's not that my floorplan is very unusual. With the exception of the slider-door-delete it's a variant of Sportsmobile's RB110s standard plan.

However after many years of RV-ing, I am super excited about the details. Like making a longer bigger bathroom. Such as putting a flip down table for the rotated drivers seat. I literally have an Excel spreadsheet with over 200 lines of details. Now many of those details/specifications are things that SMB would probably have done anyway, but I want to be sure and communicate effectively up front. Paul was never put off by my desire to have the van built a specific way - it didn't ruffle him at all. I was really happy that I didn't need to spend effort convincing him of things, and he did a really good job of asking precision questions to make sure I really knew what I was asking for.

After meeting with Paul, I met with Matt who handles most of the electronics in the conversion, such as stereo upgrades, autostart functionality (for automatically recharging the coach batteries), aftermarket radios, radar detectors, etc. I am an electrical engineer and have a fair amount of first hand hobby experience installing car stereos. I can honestly say that Matt is at the top of his game in his field. He truly understands what can (and can't) be done with the Sprinter vans. Frankly if he was in my area (North Idaho) I would have a much better stereo in my car... In the end, Matt is doing a bunch of custom work for my stereo using specific components I have chosen. But to be honest, if a person building a SMB didn't know much about stereo systems, just going with Matt's recommended system would be awesome.

Overall it's 5 hours of flight time to Austin, but the entire trip was a very pleasant and exciting experience. I'm frankly surprised that we didn't run into any blocking problems with a project this complex, and it's mostly due to the experience and "can-do" attitude of the people at Sportsmobile.
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Old 03-14-2015, 11:20 AM   #9
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

Great information, thanks very much!

We were considering a 'sleep sideways' arrangement to make a 144 work, hadn't even thought about the acrobatics involved with that. Good to know.

So it sounds like a rough time frame is 6-7 months from ordering the van to having your new SMB. Yowza! Didn't realize it would be that long! Patience isn't just a virtue, it's a necessity.

Great write-up about the Austin facility trip, that's the site we're considering using as well. Thanks again, keep 'em coming, can't wait to hear updates! (Any chance I could get a copy of your spreadsheet? We rented an RV for a week to 'feel it out', but seeing what an experienced RV'er is looking for/concerned about would be great insight!)

Drew
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Old 03-14-2015, 08:31 PM   #10
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Re: Sprinter4WD Miami Build

Sprinter4WD - I am reading everything you post with keen interest as we continue to wait for word on our order for a 2015 Sprinter 4x4 RB. Thanks a bunch for all your posts!

mindtrip - Our order was submitted on Oct 27 or 28, and we have not yet even received confirmation of the order from MB. So our production date is not even close yet. More than likely our total time from order to delivery day will exceed Sprinter4WD by quite a bit. Hopefully, folks placing an order now will have improved results.
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