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Old 04-06-2014, 11:31 PM   #1
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Another Noober... Questions on Design

Hullo to all!

First post here... I am heading off to Fresno next week to finalize planning and ordering my rig, and I have some nagging and debilitating questions I decided to go ahead and ask. Thanks in advance for any and all input, advice, abuse, and uncalled-for witticisms (those who wish to contribute are entitled to at least one free BEvERage if you ever run into me somewhere).

Here's my plan so far:
1. RB w/ penthouse top (electric lift); SMB 4x4; van will be Ford "steel blue"
2. Walk-through custom floorplan
3. Propane system / heater (no stove), sink (water system), microwave, standard fridge
4. Driver side: gaucho and 2 tall cabinets filling the back beyond the gaucho
5. Pass. side: door-mount swing-out galley box (a la RB50), sink cab, drawer cab, and fridge / microwave cab, with a little free storage space left at the very back (about 15 inches if the DYO thingy on the website is even close to accurate, which I am fearing it is not)
6. Aluminess bumpers front and rear; big box on the back with the tire carrier
7. XL box under the floor
8. Solar panels and controller

Questions:
a. I've not asked SMBW yet, but if I can get the penthouse top Line-X'd with the installation, anyone have an opinion on whether or not that is worth it? I've seen a number of posts about cracked top paint, etc., and how you all fixed them with coating material and it seemed like a reasonable preventive measure.
a1. Along with that notion... any opinion on whether it would look better color-matched (if they can), or would black set it apart a little and look OK?

b. Water heaters: any violent opinions on the propane vs. the 110v option? I don't see myself wanting to shower (or at least not counting on anything luxurious), so I don't think I need much capacity. I believe the 110v is smaller and would prefer to save the interior space. Am I thinking in the right direction on that?

c. Gaucho: I am torn between putting in a longer (72 or 75 vs 63 inch) bed to avoid the swing-up extension, but I then lose that 9 to 12 inches of potential storage cabinet space. I see many of you like the PH sleeping option (except for crappy winds) - which would make a case for keeping the short option and dealing with the extension only on rare occasions when needed. However, there is something to be said for not messing with the PH bed (leave it home), and just being able to rack out below. How awful is that extension, or is it a reasonable and decent way to go? Anyone have any pictures of it deployed?

d. Any thoughts on windows? Merits of awnings vs. sliders vs. bays... anyone have particular nits or dislikes about any of those?

e. I think I have settled on the walk-through plan, but just in case... what attraction does everyone see in the closed-back (e.g. RB50) plans? I see so many in the gallery pics... what am I missing? What makes that plan so almost-universally attractive? (weird question, and maybe by the fact I am asking it, I have already decided...)

f. Are the SMB provided outside lights ("patio"?) worthwhile, or am I better off forgetting them and just using a magnet-mount 12v worklight where and when I need it like I am thinking would be more useful (can stick it anywhere and point it where I need it, etc.)? I was thinking to have one or two extra lights added, but...

I am also still caught stewing over having more tall cabinets, or more windows, but that's just a preference question, I guess.

That's probably about it for the moment. Until I think of something else again.

Thanks again for any thoughts or suggestions!
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Old 04-07-2014, 12:39 AM   #2
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

Quote:
Originally Posted by GrumpyBadger
Questions:
a. I've not asked SMBW yet, but if I can get the penthouse top Line-X'd with the installation, anyone have an opinion on whether or not that is worth it? I've seen a number of posts about cracked top paint, etc., and how you all fixed them with coating material and it seemed like a reasonable preventive measure.
a1. Along with that notion... any opinion on whether it would look better color-matched (if they can), or would black set it apart a little and look OK?

b. Water heaters: any violent opinions on the propane vs. the 110v option? I don't see myself wanting to shower (or at least not counting on anything luxurious), so I don't think I need much capacity. I believe the 110v is smaller and would prefer to save the interior space. Am I thinking in the right direction on that?

c. Gaucho: I am torn between putting in a longer (72 or 75 vs 63 inch) bed to avoid the swing-up extension, but I then lose that 9 to 12 inches of potential storage cabinet space. I see many of you like the PH sleeping option (except for crappy winds) - which would make a case for keeping the short option and dealing with the extension only on rare occasions when needed. However, there is something to be said for not messing with the PH bed (leave it home), and just being able to rack out below. How awful is that extension, or is it a reasonable and decent way to go? Anyone have any pictures of it deployed?

d. Any thoughts on windows? Merits of awnings vs. sliders vs. bays... anyone have particular nits or dislikes about any of those?

e. I think I have settled on the walk-through plan, but just in case... what attraction does everyone see in the closed-back (e.g. RB50) plans? I see so many in the gallery pics... what am I missing? What makes that plan so almost-universally attractive? (weird question, and maybe by the fact I am asking it, I have already decided...)

f. Are the SMB provided outside lights ("patio"?) worthwhile, or am I better off forgetting them and just using a magnet-mount 12v worklight where and when I need it like I am thinking would be more useful (can stick it anywhere and point it where I need it, etc.)? I was thinking to have one or two extra lights added, but...

I am also still caught stewing over having more tall cabinets, or more windows, but that's just a preference question, I guess.

That's probably about it for the moment. Until I think of something else again.

Thanks again for any thoughts or suggestions!
I'd highly suggest coating the top. Have them show you a sample of the color match.

The lights are OK but make sure to go LED (inside and out for that matter) Aftermarket lights are nice if you go with a Yakima type (or other) type rack. You might consider a pre wire job for lighting. Side mounted lights are nice when stepping out.

I like the 50 but I'm a big guy. Besides I use the back for storage more than using the lower bed YMMV. I think once you actually see the inside of both you'll probably know what you want.

Having the PH bed is always a plus for me. I've only had a couple winds issues bad enough to cause worry...very rare. I do wish all my pop top windows had screens that open. Mine only has 3 that fully open. I actually wish I had a rear PH window as well. The bed stows up top and the rear section can be used to get stuff out of the way from down below if not in use. Hardly ever bunk down below even is temps about 10*.

At first I didn't like the awning (if that is what you're referring to) especially how it's mounted (see posts on this) but now I am very happy I have it. Doesn't mean you have to go with what SMB offers. To me the best part is when I enclose it and use a propane fire inside. Great in bad weather depending on the winds.

Sliding windows let in rain and is why I think most SMB's don't usually have them all the way around. Air flow is important even is the rain. The type normally used have not caused any trouble for me yet. I do usually close them especially off road.

Good luck on your build
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Old 04-07-2014, 07:23 AM   #3
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

RE: Window styles. Our Ford EB SMB has slider windows in the rear sides centered over the wheelwells/our dinette. They have plusses and minuses:

Pros:
- Let a good bit of air in when open
- Can leave open while driving for great airflow through the van with front windows open or cracked (some may worry about fumes coming in, but we haven't had an issue). I don't think leaving an awning window open while driving is a good idea; we have tilt-open windows on our barn doors and if they are popped-open while driving they make a lot of noise.

Con:
- Only complaint I have is that you can't leave them open in the rain, which is a big benefit of an awning-style window.
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Old 04-07-2014, 11:11 AM   #4
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

I notice you live in Denver, which can get below freezing. Any water heater can be an issue in cold weather. It would need to be winterized after each trip, or not used. Unless the van is stored in a heated garage.

Walk through vs. RB50 - If you don't mind going outside around the van to access the rear storage area, the RB50 design provides a more automotive style passenger seating, a bigger lounging area, and a much better downstairs bed.
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Old 04-07-2014, 11:49 AM   #5
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

Quote:
Originally Posted by GrumpyBadger
Hullo to all!

Questions:
a. I've not asked SMBW yet, but if I can get the penthouse top Line-X'd with the installation, anyone have an opinion on whether or not that is worth it? I've seen a number of posts about cracked top paint, etc., and how you all fixed them with coating material and it seemed like a reasonable preventive measure.
a1. Along with that notion... any opinion on whether it would look better color-matched (if they can), or would black set it apart a little and look OK?
Black tends to act as a heat sink, but if your alternative is "Steel Blue", it may not make much of a difference. Personally, I would go for the color-matched option. Ask if there is a price difference.

Quote:
c. Gaucho: I am torn between putting in a longer (72 or 75 vs 63 inch) bed to avoid the swing-up extension, but I then lose that 9 to 12 inches of potential storage cabinet space. I see many of you like the PH sleeping option (except for crappy winds) - which would make a case for keeping the short option and dealing with the extension only on rare occasions when needed. However, there is something to be said for not messing with the PH bed (leave it home), and just being able to rack out below. How awful is that extension, or is it a reasonable and decent way to go? Anyone have any pictures of it deployed?
How tall are you? Storage always seems to be at a premium in vans, particularly in an RB. If you think you will be using the PH most of the time, and will only occasionally use the gaucho, I'd stick with the shorter gaucho + extension.

Quote:
d. Any thoughts on windows? Merits of awnings vs. sliders vs. bays... anyone have particular nits or dislikes about any of those?
My one big regret on my van is getting sliders instead of awnings. Definitely go for the awnings for rain protection.

Quote:
e. I think I have settled on the walk-through plan, but just in case... what attraction does everyone see in the closed-back (e.g. RB50) plans? I see so many in the gallery pics... what am I missing? What makes that plan so almost-universally attractive? (weird question, and maybe by the fact I am asking it, I have already decided...)
Pros for the RB50 are forward seating for passengers and a more-open seating area with the front seats swiveled around. Cons are outside access-only to rear storage.

Quote:
I am also still caught stewing over having more tall cabinets, or more windows, but that's just a preference question, I guess.
More windows! Tall cabinets can be claustrophobic. Ask to look at multiple builds when you visit to get a sense of what you prefer.

Hope this helps.

Brent
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Old 04-07-2014, 01:01 PM   #6
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

No one speaking up for walk-thru, so here's my $.02: We lived and traveled for some time in a Westy, the origin of the RB50, but chose a walk-thru for our SMB. We don't need passenger comfort as we're mostly just two and dogs, we don't want to have to walk outside to get stuff, we love the add'l counter space, and we'd much rather sit on the gaucho with an outside view than sit on a couch with a view of the front seats. Despite the apparent space in a 50, I would say it's more cramped and less useful.

The extension isn't a problem for us. In fact, it creates a shelf and add'l storage when not being used for a bed. The longer bed uses a lot of potential vertical storage space or, in our case, the driver's seat when it's pushed to the rear.

Awnings are nice if you're in wet country. In the Southwest & most of the West, I'll take the extra window space and lesser cost of sliders. (We split the difference with an awning over the gaucho and slider in the galley.) Which brings me to the point of not filling the walls with cabinets in a walk-thru. The counter top gives storage and work space while reducing claustrophobia.

Water heater? Gone from our build. We didn't need it but did need the space it occupied. We heat dishwater on the stove and bath water with the sun. Look for the thread on the Nemo shower. A nice modification with the new space: we put a door in the water heater hole and have access to storage from the outside. We keep leveling blocks and similar stuff on the outside half of the hole and kitchen stuff on the inside.

Don
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Old 04-07-2014, 03:09 PM   #7
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

Here is my wisdom, also worth $0.02:

Quote:
...can get the penthouse top Line-X'd with the installation
I don't think SMBW uses Line-X brand, but the coating on my 2010 is similar and I don't think they use just paint. My almost 4 year old top is showing some cracks, but I walk on mine more than most folks because I keep surfboards up there.

Quote:
...would look better color-matched
Some colors match better than others. The solid colors seem to match better than the metallics, of which I think Slate Blue is one. What about white instead of black? Take a look at Mac's: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=12508&p=117465&hilit=white+pe nthouse#p117465

Quote:
...Water heaters: any violent opinions on the propane vs. the 110v option? I don't see myself wanting to shower (or at least not counting on anything luxurious)
You say that now, but you may want to reconsider this if you plan on traveling with a female. A hot shower after a couple days of camping and hiking puts my wife in such a good mood!

Quote:
...Gaucho
I have an EB-50 layout and rarely use the penthouse bed for sleeping, but the back part makes a great shelf for keeping our clothes bags handy when camped.

Quote:
...Any thoughts on windows?
I have awning windows and like them. Open windows in the rain is nice.

Quote:
... what attraction does everyone see in the closed-back (e.g. RB50) plans?
We had a VW Westfalia before our SMB, so we knew what the "50" floor plan had to offer. The bed is big and having a wide open space in the middle is very nice when sleeping or when we are stuck inside due to weather. One of us doesn't have to crawl over the other to get out of bed, only the cabinet under the sink is blocked when the bed is out and I like that no cabinets block any part of the side entrance. Also, Sportsmobile builds mostly "50" floor plans, so they know how all the pieces of that puzzle are supposed to fit. If you have them build to custom specifications, you can expect more surprises, forgotten details, incompatibilities and so forth. If you build a custom floor plan, plan to visit a few times during the build to make sure your instructions are being followed and that mistakes are caught or changes can be made before it is too late.

On the issue of storage space, I used to pack every cranny of the van with stuff. Now I carefully consider if I really need something. I like that I have the space to bring things, but less weight is sometimes better. Also, you can add underfloor storage and storage boxes on an Aluminess bumper and even roof storage if you need it.

Quote:
Are the SMB provided outside lights ("patio"?) worthwhile...
Mine was included, but I rarely used it. I replaced it with the fancy LED motion sensor version and I still rarely use it.

You are sure to be good and confused at this point. Just remember, though this may be your first SMB, it doesn't necessary have to be your last!

Steve in L.A.
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Old 04-07-2014, 03:31 PM   #8
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

I like our walk through plan. Think we have more living space overall.

We use the penthouse bed 99.9% of the time. Wife likes to have the bed pre made and set up. Nothing to put away. Enough room to leave bedding on bed and pillows also stow on penthouse bed.

Walk through vs 50 I would think really depends on what you want to hall. We carry very little on the inside that can't be stowed in the storage cabinets.
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Old 04-07-2014, 07:52 PM   #9
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

I love the walk through as well. Way more flexible for storage, IMHO. And just feels bigger. But that being said, the gaucho is only for passengers for short trips. It's not a fun place to ride. Or kids...who cares what they think. And there have been times I really appreciated being able to get all the way into the van from the rear.

And avoid tall cabinets. If you have to spend time in the van you want all the view you can get. Every square inch of window counts. See below. I'm 6-2 and I use the extension on the gaucho occasionally. The penthouse is the place to sleep. Most all of us consider it way superior to the gaucho; in fact, I think it's the best single feature of my van. And as others have mentioned, I love the long counter running the length of the back. Without that, it would be way too cramped. If you go without the tall cabinets you can always find a way to stack storage boxes or whatever. But you'll never be able to go the other direction and regain window space. But then again, I'm sure some like the closed-in effect.

If I were doing it again I'd get the zip out screens. I'm not sure about bay or awning windows; I don't think they even had that option when I built my van. Sliders work fine for me.

I might have them add one LED outside. Depending on cost. Or maybe just wiring nearby. I converted to mostly all LEDs, and then decided that wired in LEDs were not really worth it, and began doing what you said, using LED lamps with clamps, magnets, etc etc. And just carry a battery charger. The batteries last forever with LEDs and they are way more versatile. I'd go all LED...do they even do fluorescents anymore?

I MonstaLinered my top recently, after about 12 years. So a coating is nice, but you can always do it later.

Water heater? Dunno. I don't use 'em much. I don't even have built-in propane, but I'd go with what's most energy efficient overall. With a microwave you're gonna use a lot of juice, and also with a heater (even propane heaters need to blow the air around). Take that into consideration.
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Old 04-07-2014, 08:48 PM   #10
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Re: Another Noober... Questions on Design

Quote:
a. I've not asked SMBW yet, but if I can get the penthouse top Line-X'd with the installation, anyone have an opinion on whether or not that is worth it? I've seen a number of posts about cracked top paint, etc., and how you all fixed them with coating material and it seemed like a reasonable preventive measure.
a1. Along with that notion... any opinion on whether it would look better color-matched (if they can), or would black set it apart a little and look OK?
I have an "opinion"! My fiberglass started failing within 5 years, cracking to the point where it started absorbing water. Plus having to be careful walking on it and the additional maintenance (washing, waxing etc). I recommend doing it right away. I prefer color matched. I also recommend line-Xing the entire roof to below the gutters. The Ford gutter sealant cracks and it rusts. Several pictures of my problems scattered in my Gallery. This also takes care of the gasket rivet rub to bare metal on the painted roof and you won't need the 3M tape. Fours years into my Line-X and I have done nothing to it (except fix something I screwed up)
Pat
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