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Old 06-25-2012, 09:53 AM   #1
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Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

I initially wrote this up as a reply to Chumley, who spent a good deal of time documenting his write up on his Sportsmobile purchase. I instead will simply link his message as a reply to his original thread so I don’t take any of the focus from the great work he has done:

Original Chumley writeup:
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=8786

Reply to Chumley/All:
Thanks so much for sharing your build experiences Chumley. It is great to see someone willing to take the time and offer up their thoughts on “how they made their decisions” on building a van. Based off your inspiration, I have decided to write a little about our thoughts on building a Sportsmobile van. I too have a sprinter that just arrived in Charleston, and will be converted at Sportsmobile in Indiana. Based off your experience and thought process, the wife and I have decided that an on-site visit to Huntington would be a wise move to finalize our floor plan options.

A couple of thoughts on buying a van in general:

Financing:
I went back and forth trying to find the best options I could to keep costs under control as much as possible. I received a separate quote from Sportsmobile on the full cost of the sprinter van from their preferred dealer in Chicago. I used that quote to go to my local MB dealer here in Atlanta to “see what they could do.” In the end I decided to decouple the two and purchase the van separately from MB Atlanta for several reasons: #1 I did not want to pay for this van for the next 10-20 years by combining the two under one loan. #2 The overall cost of an RV loan as compared to a traditional auto loan just ends up being more expensive. #3 I have saved up enough $$$ for several years to pay for the conversion outright.
We ended up going through USAA and taking out a 60 month, 3.19% APR with the payments ended up ~800ish.

Interior:
Having the flexibility to customize an interior is what sold me on Sportsmobile. We decided we wanted to go as minimal as possible and remove a lot of the traditional RV type add-ons that most go for. Considering my wife and I have both done a lot of backpacking, and spend a lot of time “roughing” it (hand shovels can make good toilet tools) we took decided we did not want a lot of the features to free up space in the van for toys. No stove, porta-potty, shower, gray water, fresh water, propane tanks in our build. We even skipped on TV. I figured if I don’t watch TV at home, I know I won’t on the road. Our main focus is outdoor play so visiting Sportsmobile in person will hopefully relay what types of things we want added. We cave, kayak, hike, SUP, run, etc so places to hang wet stuff, store gear, and basically have room to carry things are what is most important to us. We really want to find out if we will be able to hang two SUP boards from the interior of the roof of the van (RB high roof) and still have room to close the door. All indications seem to point that direction but we really want to get a better feel for how practical that may be for moving around inside while on the road. Another add-on consideration is adding a small scooter (~250 CC) to the back of the RV. With a class III factory receiver and 500lb tongue weight, I added on the suggested add-ons from the dual rear springs, suspension package and vibration absorber to hopefully beef up the rear enough to support a ramp/scooter and try to keep things ~450 or under.

Travel considerations:
Some things we have added and are tempted to add before we finalize our van:
We added the solar panels. Most of our travel may end up at RV campgrounds but we do some random trips where we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. We have not yet decided on an add-on AC unit but considering we travel to Florida a lot I think we will strongly reconsider that option. I am curious to hear how the “interior” AC unit works for those who have the low roof/penthouse top option. Already having a high roof, I’d prefer something mounted inside versus adding to the already high roof. Does anyone know if these AC units run off the typical 20amp breakers you find at camp grounds? I am thinking we may be better off with a small, “quiet” travel generator than adding something else on the van. We did add the diesel Espar heater option. We added the 3rd seat with the intention of maybe using it for the occasional passenger. It would need to be removed if we intended to use the bed. Too bad there are no quick releases to place the seat and remove. Apparently it is four bolts to the floor.

Other things we have had a hard time finding information on:
- Ideas for travel shelves to place plastic crates of gear. We left an area of the van in the back empty with the intention of making it “flex space” to have a spot to either pile crates of gear (caving for example) or stick something larger in place. I have not found a good way to articulate to sportsmobile what I am after with portable shelves / temporary storage. Hopefully I can settle that in person.
- Good source for aftermarket Brush guard/bull bumper. Something to be added at a later date but they seem to be difficult to shop.
I have attached a copy of our tentative setup. I welcome anyone’s suggestions / feedback.

Thanks,

tv
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Design-Sprinter.pdf (1.07 MB, 133 views)
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Old 06-25-2012, 09:26 PM   #2
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

for some Sprinter buildout ideas for your recreational life style, have you checked out outsidevan.com? They are located in Lake Oswego OR. A more industrial kind of build approach. I do not have any experience with them as they were very slow on responding to emails and phone calls and the responses I got seemed like they did not read the questions - so I went with SMB West for our RB PH Sprinter.
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Old 06-26-2012, 01:38 PM   #3
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

TV,

Thanks for sharing your build, I think that the more information we can get out there the better it is for all, especially those just starting a build.

I have to echo Spenard's comments. Someone like OutsideVan or even the "nearby" wink, wink... Van Specialties might be well suited for your use. The reason I say this is that with as much as you mention hauling wet and dirty gear the cabinet material used in the Sportsmobile might not be the best. Also some of these companies offer modular systems so that you can remove and reinstall what you might need. You may have already seen these options but just thought that I would support Spenard's comment. You know, if you are at all handy with tools this is a perfect do-it-yourself project.

Good luck with the build. This is what makes these van conversions so great, you get just what you want and that may not be sitting on a lot anywhere.

Chumley
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Old 06-30-2012, 11:51 AM   #4
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

I looked at outside van a lot when I was shopping around. My wife is just not interested in any of their offerings and is adverse to ultra modern type looks. We will be making a trip to Indiana next week to finalize the interior. We hope we can relay additional ceiling mount points and places to hang/hold gear in person versus trying over the phone. They also happen to have two high roof 144's in production right now so that will give us a good chance to see one up close finally.

Plus our van should arrive a few days before we get there. Will be nice to see it and take a bunch of pictures before the conversion starts.

tv
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Old 06-30-2012, 12:51 PM   #5
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spenard
for some Sprinter buildout ideas for your recreational life style, have you checked out outsidevan.com? They are located in Lake Oswego OR. A more industrial kind of build approach. I do not have any experience with them as they were very slow on responding to emails and phone calls and the responses I got seemed like they did not read the questions - so I went with SMB West for our RB PH Sprinter.

As far as I know Outside Vans is a consulting firm that specializes in Sprinter vans. They take professional pictures of their builds in nice settings and put them on their web site. They help people get the vans custom built for what they want or need. They have most of the actual work done at Van Specialties also in the Portland, OR area.

Van Specialties does very nice work from what I have seen from very basic to very modern and everything in between...

http://www.vanspecialties.com/


Thats thing about vans (houses, cars, pets and many other things) everyone has different tastes and needs.
Personally I really like the vans I have seen on the Outside Vans web site, I think they are super nice...
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Old 06-30-2012, 01:08 PM   #6
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

I am "toying" with van ideas similar to this discussion. Just went to Van Specialties in Oregon and toured the shop and saw the work they were doing on a number of vans. Seems they are mainly doing Sprinters, but would happily do other types of van interiors and had a few others in the parking lot. Very creative and flexible work being done, depending what the owner wanted. We didn't get into price, b/c I don't have the van to work on. Seems like solid work/craftsman ship. Some of the more modern looking work also looked easier to keep clean for muddy/outdoor stuff and they were flexible in trying to build hinge-type designs to move things out of the way.
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Old 07-02-2012, 07:03 AM   #7
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

I will let everyone know how the trip to Indiana SB goes afte rthe end of this week. Hopefully tweaks to plans and overall designs are part of their norm and they can work around additional toy considerations. They already have several plans for those that put motorcycles / motorbikes in the back of vans.
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Old 07-03-2012, 02:48 PM   #8
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

My sprinter arrived at Sportsmobile Indiana on Monday. It felt pretty weird driving to my local MB dealer in Atlanta and paying for it..... and driving back home empty handed. Nancy took some pictures and sent them over to me. I will be there Thursday to finalize the config / take more pictures. I suppose I may even drive it around...

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Old 07-09-2012, 10:10 AM   #9
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

We visited Sportsmobile in Huntington, IN last week. We could not have picked a hotter day to visit. I believe the high that day was 104 and expected to be even hotter the next day. I have to say, visiting on site and talking to everyone was a great benefit to the wife and I. I will post an updated plan this week but we did indeed make some changes and "finalize" our inside and outside plan.

After taking measurements and talking to one of the techs, we decided that SUP boards won’t fit well inside a 144 and we elected to have a Tuule roof rack added. Switching to a roof rack meant no roof mounted AC and removal of the solar panels. We elected to go with the Danhard internal AC, and prewire for plug in solar panels. Our having solar prewired will allow us to run a portal panel of some sort when we get one. I believe there are even some “roll up” panels out there that are easy to store. I will have to research this further. Sportsmobile will no longer install rear door mounted ladders due to liability so we will have to install one ourselves. Does anyone happen to know of an optional rear door ladder mount that braces on the ground instead of the door itself? I was wondering if it really boils down to a weight issue where someone too heavy tends to knock the sprinter rear door out of alignment. I really don’t like the side mounted ladder options.
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:12 AM   #10
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Re: Tony's Sportsmobile Build / thoughts

I built a hot water circ system in my van- wasting all that water to get warm at the tap was silly. I love it but it took an entire interior removal and rerouting of everything water related. So many hours I'll never repeat unless it's a fresh build. At least have them stub in extra pex under the floor so you can plum at the ends later.

On a similar topic my water lines went up inside the wall diagonally from the city water tap, across the 3rd brakelight (Ford) and down to the water heater on the opposite side. Constant freezing was part of redoing the system- and 3 pex elbows to run at the van skin is a lot cheaper than 30 to weedle in and out of all the interior components... so just make sure you stay on top of the build and don't wind up with a linetech making a change in where the waterlines route.
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