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Old 12-25-2009, 03:05 PM   #1
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Large Family Sportsmobile

Greetings everyone!

As an intro, we were a family of four looking for a family activity. That led to an '06 Jeep Rubicon Unlimited and a couple of great family outings. Then came kid #3. Then came kid #4. I can only get 1/2 the family on to the Rubicon Trail at a time. Now, the Yukon XL is pushing max capacity for a weekend trip...

Then, my wife suggested a 12 passenger van. I said NO WAY! Then she showed me a Sportsmobile. Hmmm. We currently live near Fresno. I drove Allen's van. My wife volunteered to dump the Yukon and use the Sportsmobile as the family truckster/daily driver. I get to keep my Jeep. I knew she was worth the risk when I popped the question!

Thanks to the Sprotsmobile Forum, we've been getting up to speed on the possibilities fast.

So, here's the goal:

1. Capability to haul 12 people.
2. Capability to go everywhere the Jeep can (ok, maybe not the Rubicon Trail, but everywhere a full-size 4x4 will fit).
3. Capability to sleep the six of us (kids are still small 8, 6, 2, and 5 months).

Here's the plan:

Phase one:
1. '09 RB Diesel commercial cargo van.
2. Basic SMB interior (think Transformer without the galley unit). Ability to configure with three benches (3, 3, 4). Or, pull the middle 3 person bench, move the 4 person bench up and insert a platform bed in the rear. Front 3 person bench to fold flat into a bed. Front bed board for the youngest. All rear seating positions with LATCH and tethers for car seats. Headrests for when the kids get bigger.
3. CB and Ham radios for communications.
4. Full Dynamat treatment for daily livability.
5. Wire to plug in my Honda generator for direct 110v ac when parked.
6. Multiple DC sockets throughout for power on the move.
7. Pre-wire for front and rear bumper lights.

Phase two:
1. Sell the Yukon to pay for the 4x4 upgrade.
2. Standard package plus rear Dynatrac axle and limited slip front and rear.
3. Aluminess all the way around.

Our goal is to demonstrate the possibility to build a large family friendly 4x4. For those that haven't yet been outnumbered by their kids, you would be surprised to find out that the large vehicles on the market just do not meet the needs for LATCH position seating plus room for all of the stuff that typically accompanies small kids on trips as simple as a grocery store run. Hopefully we will crack that code.

So, step one is complete. We have found a suitable van (thanks to a post on the forum) and simply need to arrange shipping from OH to CA. Any input (especially from those with small children) would be greatly appreciated. Pictures to follow as we get into the process...

Current: 2014 15 Passenger V8
Former: 2009 SMB 4x4 6.0
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Old 12-25-2009, 03:44 PM   #2
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

Welcome and congrats.


SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
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Old 12-25-2009, 05:12 PM   #3
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

Sounds like a good plan. Keep us posted on the progress. And welcome to the forum!

'05 Ford V-10 4x4 SMB "50" White
'00 Jeep Cherokee 4x4 Highly Modified
'04 Jeep Grand Cherokee- wife won't let me modify it. :-(
Does anyone really read this stuff other than surfgeek?
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Old 12-25-2009, 06:20 PM   #4
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

We opted for the Aluminess Safari Rack on our Rig. It was awesome to have stuff secure up in the roof instead of crowding the inside. I can't even imagine having gear for 6 people inside. One of our friend suggested that we bring one duffle bag for each person on our trips. We abide by this every time. We use The North Face (medium) Base Camp duffel which is water proof. Good luck with your rig and keep us posted.


P.S. Welcome to the SMB addiction, I mean forum

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Old 12-25-2009, 10:02 PM   #5
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

I might suggest you join to see a few ways folks with kids have set thing up.
I agree there just aren't many ways to deal with 4 kids and 2 adults...but you are well on the way with the plan you have.
Go out and play in the dirt!
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Old 12-25-2009, 10:57 PM   #6
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

Why limited slip instead of ARB Lockers?

I'd recommend ordering the van with the integrated trailer brake controller in case you ever tow a TT, and the upfitter switches are nice too.
2000 E450 dually V10 wagon
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Old 12-26-2009, 01:58 AM   #7
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

Originally Posted by carringb
Why limited slip instead of ARB Lockers?

I'd recommend ordering the van with the integrated trailer brake controller in case you ever tow a TT, and the upfitter switches are nice too.
My Jeep has selectable lockers. I have to put it into pretty extreme conditions before they are required to get me past whatever obstacle. When the lockers are not engaged, both axles are open differential (as are ARBs). If they were limited slip, I doubt I would ever need to lock them up. Additionally, with the air pump and air lines multiple failure points are introduced. Finally, ARB's are only there when engaged, limited slip is always there for you.

So, for simplicity, reliability, and significant cost savings I'm going with the 95-99% solution. For the money I'll save on the ARBs I'll swing the winch and recovery gear in case the limited slip doesn't cut it.

Unfortunately, the van I found doesn't have the integrated brake controller or upfitter switches. But, I already have a Tekonsha Prodigy in my Yukon that I'll move over. For the switch placement, I like how Allen installed them on the overhead in his van.
Current: 2014 15 Passenger V8
Former: 2009 SMB 4x4 6.0
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Old 12-26-2009, 08:55 AM   #8
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

Kinda off topic, but if your looking for shipping you Van from OH to CA, call McNutt Auto Transport. I just bought a Tacoma on ebay from OH actually. The dealer does tons of ebay sales, and uses McNutt for everything, and highly recommended them. I researched a lot different companies and they were priced well, and had the best rating for door to door service. Plus, their should be a load leaving Ohio this week for the West (I hope!! )
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Old 12-26-2009, 09:00 AM   #9
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

Good luck with the project.

The SMB is a wonderful family vehicle. We've gone many places and taken many trips that would have been impossible in a big SUV, not matter how well equipped.

IMHO, the desire to sleep six in the rig will be a challenge, especially as the kids grow. Our kids are 11, 8 and 5 and we've slept 5 several times. A bit cramped, but doable. As they grow, we'll be deploying a tent outside for the kids .

2006 SMB 4x4, EB-51, 6.0psd
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Old 01-06-2010, 04:07 PM   #10
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Re: Large Family Sportsmobile

You might want to check out the thread:

OK yes I pointed to my post I love my OZ tent

On the big family topic we are 2 adults 3 kids at minimum and 3 adults and 5 kids at maximum...
And yes we have a 12 passenger van and it IS a Chevy

New ride: 2000 Chevy Suburban 1500 4WD
1998 Chevy Express 2500 past project
+ 1990 Mitsubishi Pajero V6 3.0l
+ 2001 Saab 9-5 Aero Hirsch
+ 1972 Saab 96 V4 (not running)
+ fixed house (Argh)
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