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Old 05-04-2009, 08:16 PM   #1
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The birth of a new Sportsmobile

I wanted to share my build process with users of this forum in hopes that future buyers may benefit from my experience. While researching Sportsmobiles prior to buying/building, I learned much from this forum, some good and some bad. The discussions found here were extremely useful in my decision making process, but also raised concerns about methods, materials, and the overall complexity of the vehicles. In the end, I was pleased to find that Sportsmobile and their partners obviously pay attention to what is discussed in the forum (and directly from the field), and are constantly making changes to their materials, equipment, and procedures in an effort to improve their delivery. My experience was great! I hope it comes across in what you are about to see.

NOTE: There are 143 pictures of the build process in my gallery, only a small portion of which are shown here.
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Old 05-04-2009, 08:17 PM   #2
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Part 1

It started with a simple 2009 Ford E350 V10 cargo van... at least that's what I thought. Seems that at the end of 2008, the auto industry was so whacked, that there were no 2009 E350 V10s in the US (literally). I waited until mid-January and bought the first one delivered in Reno Nevada. Sight unseen, I had it shipped to SMB West where they put it on a lift.



Then they removed the bottom half... axels, gas tank, you name it.



Then they replaced it with cooler stuff.



And really big tires. They talked me out of 37s and put Cooper 35s on 18 inch American Racing "Thug" wheels (very happy with the wheels/tires).



After new axels, diffs, gas tank etc., they put it on a truck to Austin (I live in Dallas, so the rest of the build would happen in Texas).

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Old 05-04-2009, 08:19 PM   #3
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Part 2

Once in Austin, cut in the windows and penthouse top...



And installing the Aluminess products (front/rear bumpers, nerf bars, roof rack, tire carrier, cargo box, and side ladders... basically everything Aluminess makes for these vans)



I can't say enough good things about Dave and Aluminess. Very helpful in the design process, excellent craftsmanship, still my favorite part of the van.



We opted for a solid roof rack despite the 150 lbs and have never looked back. It is a really cool place to kick back. We generally travel with 100 lbs of cargo in Thule cargo bags with no problem.



I wanted the interior to be different, a bit more industrial. We opted for a HD laminate which is simulated steel, with all the trim made from aluminum edging. The laminate is over marine ply board (there is no MDF in the Van.... except for the sub woofer enclosure we put in the back).



Close up of the front suspension done in California.



I settled on 4 custom HID go-lights with directional controllers instead of the traditional light bar. It has worked out very well. Provides a lot of flexibility for lighting, and I can change it on-the-fly.


Each light is controlled independently and I have a visual of where they are pointed before powering them on.
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Old 05-04-2009, 08:22 PM   #4
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Part 3



I had them remove the power driver's seat and replace with a manual one that swiveled. The shifters have been cut and threaded to allow them to be removed so that the driver's seat can be turned 180.



With a 150 lb roof rack, a power penthouse is not really optional.



A good shot of them building the door panels. The entire interior is leather, grey with black accents. The only cloth material in the vehicle is that used for the curtains in the penthouse.



A final shot of the cabinetry before the leather goes in...



The next time I would see the vehicle, it would be done (about 2-weeks later). I flew into Austin, spent an hour or two going through an orientation, then drove it to Dallas..... where I took it all apart...



The objective was to install all of this equipment at a local custom shop I have worked with for many years.



And to figure out where to install these air horns....



The biggest challenge was the subwoofer. I wanted to get the biggest subwoofer I could in the van, while not encroaching on any of the storage space, while respecting the air-space requirements for the speaker itself.... it ended up being a 8 inch JL Audio in the back door.



Built a custom enclosure...



Cut a big square in the door : )



Covered it in leather to match the rest of the vehicle and set it in.



Meanwhile, cut in four additional speakers for 6.1 surround.



... and completely destroyed everything else in the van installing a Kenwood deck, satellite radio, nav, bluetooth, front/rear cameras, game interface, flip-down screen, and a new alarm system.



Then we put it all back together and it worked perfectly with no problems......... really, honest (after a day or two).
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Old 05-04-2009, 08:23 PM   #5
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Part 4

A collection of finished shots (remember there are a hundred or so of these in my gallery)



















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Old 05-04-2009, 08:25 PM   #6
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Part 5

A few pictures that require explanation...



The flip-down screen was a trick. We took a standard screen that opens much like an inverted notebook computer, disassembled it, ground down some parts, made a few others, and put it back together backwards. Now it opens towards the rear so as not to obstruct the driver's view, and pivots so you can see it outside the vehicle.



Game interface.



SMB created the headliner with GoLight controllers.



The alarm is 2-way and has a range of about 1 mile. With the paging feature on, you can tap the red square on the windshield and it will page me. My friends really like this feature....



The modified electrical for the Audio/Video.



A hefty lock on the storage box for my camera equipment.



On board air.



A nifty little instrument mount/knee pad to make long range driving more comfortable.



Strobe lights (emergency lights.... not the disco type) tied into the deck relay.



One of three, VERY loud air horns (we had to break them up and place them in three different places under the vehicle....



And a hammock.....
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Old 05-04-2009, 08:56 PM   #7
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Re: The birth of a new Sportsmobile



Wow. Neato.
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Old 05-04-2009, 09:35 PM   #8
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Re: The birth of a new Sportsmobile

Great rig, and great write-up.

Now, how about some more details on your nerf bars / rock sliders.....


Herb
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Old 05-04-2009, 09:41 PM   #9
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Re: The birth of a new Sportsmobile

I have been lurking for a little while but must say, I think you just convinced me I need an SMB!! That is one sweet rig . The hammock is a nice touch.
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Old 05-04-2009, 10:34 PM   #10
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Re: The birth of a new Sportsmobile

Hey KCrain,
I really like some of the custom items you did. I really like the rock sliders and want to do something like that myself. I like the front speakers, rear sub and the Golights. The air horns and hammock top it all off.
What a cool rig. I especially like the color.
steve
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