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Old 08-01-2014, 04:37 PM   #1
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Passenger vs Cargo

I noticed that SMB seems to always start with the cargo vans (as opposed to the passenger).

I am considering doing a build from scratch with the idea that I could get 4x4 first and use the van with the fam for a year or two and then do the interior, etc. However, this plan gets more complicated if the passenger van configuration limits the interior conversion options down the road.

SMB tells me passenger vans (with the full windows) do, in fact, limit your options.

Thoughts?
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Old 08-02-2014, 12:54 AM   #2
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Re: Passenger vs Cargo

I would approach it like this:

1. Get a cargo van, with windows in both the side and rear barn doors.
2. If you can, try to plan out your final layout of cabinets, sofas, etc., now.
3. Install aftermarket windows, either sliders or awning style, in places where your future layout will allow them. You'll also have to work around the structural beams in the sides of the van.
4. Install seats to haul passengers.
5. When the time comes, take out the passenger seats and build away.

For me, I would put in a big window with a lower awning opener on the driver's side, opposite the barn doors. And then maybe a couple smaller sliders in the rear part of the van. When the van is in passenger phase, the big window on the driver's side won't make people in the back feel like they are on a prison bus.

Just my $0.02.
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Old 08-02-2014, 05:16 AM   #3
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Re: Passenger vs Cargo

I'd liken cargo only vans to the proverbial blank canvas, as PhotoG says you can add as much as or as little as you like.

There is no real difference in body strength so that's not the issue but trying to deal with or work around the Club Wagon windows would be one of the limiting factors I think. In this case it would be easier to add windows.

I'm slightly divided whether rear door glass is all that advisable unless they'd be close to a bed. Side door glass is almost a must to me because it gives better visibility out the right side when negotiating some intersections. Most cargo vans come with glass in both rear and side doors but if that needs to be changed salvage yards are a great source for whatever you're looking to add.
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Old 08-02-2014, 06:05 AM   #4
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Re: Passenger vs Cargo

I started with a passenger van because of the ease of doing the conversion myself, already had windows and interior in back. I knew going in that I was going to somewhat limit my build options but I had no plans for shower or tall cabinets. On the downside that's a lot of glass in the back, but I cut reflex panels to cover the windows when needed, also the insulation is not quite as effective as a insulated cargo van. Overall I'm happy with my choice.
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Old 08-02-2014, 07:44 AM   #5
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Passenger vs Cargo

Depending on your state, window vans can be registered as passenger vehicles, while cargo vans, even if converted by SMB, will need to be registered as a truck or mobile home. Being tagged as the latter two may limit your parking and access in certain locations and make registration more expensive each year. Just another thing to consider.
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Old 08-02-2014, 08:38 AM   #6
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Re: Passenger vs Cargo

Having owned a passenger van now for over 10 yrs, and a cargo GMC prior, here are some reasons to consider passenger over cargo:

1.Windows all over the place creating an airy open feeling
Saves on buying windows, pop outs can replace fixed rears. Cabinets can cover any fixed window but need to make sure window latches can be accessed if want them to open. Also need solar control for insulation. Factory windows are flush to the body of the van, thye do stick out at all.
2. Factory rear air / heat is included
Works fantasic while driving for conditioning the cavernous area. I really wonder how much a/c is used while parked unless hooked up to shorepower. If Most important is while driving, then I do not think the facory rear ac/heat can be beat.
3. If buying used, usually easier to find in good shape, with power winows, etc. , can be somewhat difficult to find w diesel.
4. We have found the factory floor carpet and under padding to quite sufficient floor insulation for our use in CA, so far down to outside temps in the mid 20's.
5. If needing a transformer style, then you have all the seating configs available with seat belts, etc. And the seat hold downs provide handy attach points for cabinets when installed for use. Also the plastic interior trim is all there so doors and walls, etc. are finished.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I, personally, would not reject a clean van with the powertrain I want because it was a passenger model.
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Old 08-02-2014, 09:59 AM   #7
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Re: Passenger vs Cargo

Great, thanks for all the great advice.

So, basically, there is nothing structurally different in the two (with the exceptions of windows)? In other words, if I wanted to add tall cabinets that cover the windows on one side, that is still doable?

It doesn't make sense to me that the cabinets would be anchored where the window would go. From pictures I have seen, it looks like that area is just raw sheet metal. Not exactly a structural member . . .
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Old 08-02-2014, 10:17 AM   #8
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Re: Passenger vs Cargo

Doug the sides of either configuration are basically flat sheet metal only on the outside, aka exterior sheet metal. Inner structure spot welded to the exterior panels makes for a more rigid body. Think of this as you would a house framed up the convention way, an outside shell "hiding" the inner structure.

There is no real difference in strength IF its a passenger van from the factory. Someone adding windows and doesn't adhere to Ford's recommendations where and how to cut those inner structures can greatly reduce the body's side and top strength which is important when attaching anything inside or mounting roof racks etc.

Just for grins look inside a bare cargo van then compare what you see with the same body style Club Wagon---you'll see how and where Ford creates openings for the windows.

If the price and the deal is right we can make anything work and be pretty much perfectly suited to our needs. Your imagination, creativity and skill level should be your only limiting factors---that and the budget too! (Club Wagons tend to be cheaper in most markets I've shopped in.)
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