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Old 07-03-2007, 05:52 PM   #1
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We've experienced a few unpleasant suprises during our build process at SMB-West. In what I was hoping to be an excitement filled period is slowing turning into one filled with questions.

First, a side window was installed in a spot that was odd. Later, it was admitted that "they installed it 6" too far to the rear". Not a big deal by my book, but it necessitated re-locating our side ladder to driver's side access.

Second, recently we went up to SMB to check on the van's progress. All looked good, except they built the wrong front on the stove/sink cabinet. We requested drawers w/lining. Instead, we found a slider type cabinet with shelves. Again, not a big deal but caused SMB to have to build another and re-install.

Today, roughly 30 days out from our p/u date, I get an email saying that unfortunately it has come to their attention that both the GW tank and propane tank will not fit. "The only option we have is to delete your propane system".

wtf?

We bought this van to camp in winter conditions. We can deal with (and in fact expect) a few hiccups along with buying a custom product like this. But I don't expect to have to suck up a huge 'oversight' this far into the build. What I find perhaps even more troubling, is I wasn't given a set of options to fix their f'up.

Besides having to vent, I'm curious if others have had similar experiences in their build.

BTW: For folks buying a new SMB with custom windows, I suggest having SMB draw the placement(s) in grease-pencil on the actual sheetmetal and then email you pictures for the okay before they cut your metal. That way, there are no misunderstanding on either end.

-Jeff
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Old 07-03-2007, 06:18 PM   #2
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Jeff,

Great recommendation on the window placement idea!

As for deleting the propane system, I wouldn't accept that at all. You ordered a conversion to your particular specs (given their parameters) for a particular price. Now it appears that SMB is modifying this contract on their terms. OK, I'm sure they will deduct the value of the propane system, but that's not the point. Not that probably want to, but a unilateral change of the contract on their part should give you full rights to back out of the contract. I think they need to come to you with options, not excuses. BTW, the window (mis)placement is something I might expect out of a local car stereo shop, not a professional, well experienced outfit like SMB. Both of these issues are dissapointing to say the least.


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Old 07-03-2007, 06:39 PM   #3
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Herb,

I got an email back from SMB today: They can fit the LPG system, but not BOTH the Grey Water and Propane. So it comes down to one or the other, which is a no brainer...

My original email from them stating "because of spacing issues both the grey water tank and the propane system cannot fit". I guess that's the problem with email communication...the word both can be interpreted a couple of ways.

Frankly, the LPG system is mission critical for us. Espar is a second choice for heating, but for desert camping & bbq cooking our propane system w/12' extension hose seemed like the right choice. We plan to have some serious BBQs!

Herb, was that your red SMB up at SMB last week?

-Jeff
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Old 07-03-2007, 07:00 PM   #4
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Since they f'd up, they should upgrade your SMB (either free or at a minimum their wholesale cost) to the equivalent diesel furnace, water heater,.... .A better way to go IMO.

My SMB is up there for some mods, so it probably was mine you saw. I'm guessing Jonathan is out on vacation, because I haven't been able to reach him to get an update on a few minor few unresolved issues.

Keep us up to date on how your issue gets resolved.


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Old 07-03-2007, 07:12 PM   #5
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Herb,

SMB will be able to accomodate the LPG we opted for, but no GW tank. Thats fine, since most of the time our GW will drain into dirt or sand.

Btw, nice rig!!! What's the deal with your Banks Exhaust? Do you notice any performance gains with that set up?

It seemed pretty hectic up at SMB with people gone. Alot of staff were at the Rally...

-jeff
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Old 07-03-2007, 10:08 PM   #6
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Doh! Forgot about the rally.

Couldn't give you a before and after with the Banks exhaust. The previous owner had it installed. From what I hear, don't bother going to them, or most other diesel performance shops, for an aftermarket exhaust system. Gale Banks suppossedly owns a summer home in the Oakhurst area, near where the previous owner of my SMB lives. They got to talking, and one thing led to another, and the SMB had a one-off custom exhaust by Banks.

I have heard there's a shop near San Fran that does diesel exhaust systems on vans, and the guys at Quadvan in Oregon either do it themselves or have someone who does it for them. Then again, maybe Banks added an off the shelf system after the fun they had making one for my SMB.


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Old 07-06-2007, 06:52 PM   #7
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canyonclan,

Ouch. Hearing this news at this stage isn't good.

When I was preparing for my build, I asked a lot of questions on the Yahoo Group and received several off list replies, many of which stated, in substance:

SMB West is great for the cookie cutter van, especially the "50" series.
SMB West is great for 4WD and finding new items, like the Espar system.
SMB West is faster than Texas or Indiana.
SMB West is NOT great for a lot of customization as they are more of a volume business.

SMB Indiana has great quality but is behind the curve on newer options.

SMB Texas has great quality and will accommodate a lot of customization.

Hence, I went to Texas to view SMB's first hand and I can't say enough great things about them. I think I was one of the first few to get the Espar heat, Flat plate heat exchanger for hot water and the Loncoin floor back in 2005. I visited in late October 2004, ordered in December and received on the last day of June 2005.
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Old 07-06-2007, 11:44 PM   #8
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Joey,

Interestingly, I had met a guy at a local dog park in Pasadena who saved $ for 3 years, then took the plunge to buy a SMB 4x4. His was a custom EB build, but one word of caution was: "Make sure they don't f up your windows". They installed a wrong window in his van. As it was, it worked out and he accepted it, in fact, has grow to like the unplanned change in design.

It comes down to clear communication between the buyer and builder. SMB West is really busy. As the volume increases, so does the stress on the production line. After the above speed bumps, I feel I need to stay ontop of the build weekly...just to make sure things remain exactly per the work order.

All things considered, I have been impressed with SMBs product and staff and look forward to hitting the road in August.

-Jeff
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Old 07-07-2007, 11:28 AM   #9
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Quote:
SMB West is faster than Texas or Indiana.
How do you figure SMB West is faster?

They quoted 9 months to make my van, SMB Indiana quoted and built it in 3 months, including ordering the van.

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Old 07-16-2007, 10:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ford_6L_E350
How do you figure SMB West is faster?
I guess I should clarify that I was talking about the cookie cutter van (RB 50 type that they do so many of) and that my research is a bit dated as I ordered in 2004.
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