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Old 03-19-2014, 02:49 PM   #1
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Anyone do major body modifications?

Other than installing a high roof or windows, has anyone done major modifications to alter the van's body?

I've seen a lot of threads on modifying engines, suspensions, 4X4 conversions, RV systems and so on, but not much on major altering of the body itself to change its function.

I've seen pictures on Internet and even a few vans in person on the road that were made taller (not fiberglass roof), wider, and longer, but haven't seen any van bodies in this forum that were modified as part of a project. Anyone try it or know why it's not done more often? I'm mainly curious as to why it's not more common.
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Old 03-19-2014, 04:47 PM   #2
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

Does this body modification count?

viewtopic.php?f=39&t=13180
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Old 03-19-2014, 10:34 PM   #3
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

Chance - I found you a super-tall Ford van! It even has vertical sidewalls like a Sprinter:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ford-E-Serie...US_Cars_Trucks
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Old 03-20-2014, 12:39 AM   #4
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

I have always wanted to replace my 2002 E350 front fenders hood, etc. with the new E350 front fenders hood, etc. which are 6 inches longer, just for the added engine room. Move the radiator to the frame rails, add a better air filter, etc., move the under hood starting battery next to the frame rail starting battery and house battery, etc.

And at the risk of exposing myself as a total looney toon, I dream of making the body 6 inches wider, just so I could have a transverse double bed without having to install a slide out. A transverse bed would provide the room I need for a shower. Six inches wider would also compensate for the fact that I plan on raising the body by two inches (I have had the pucks awhile). And 6 inches wider would provide more access to the valve covers. Obviously, a wider full float rear and a wider front axle would be required.

So, Chance, please post your planned and found body mod pictures, diagrams so that I can dream with you.

The recent Sprinter fuel mileage thread has dashed any desire for me to eventually move on to the Sprinter platform. And there is nothing like having a 1 ton diesel truck like an E350 for towing when you need to.
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Old 03-20-2014, 09:07 AM   #5
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

Quote:
Originally Posted by E350
.....cut......

And at the risk of exposing myself as a total looney toon, I dream of making the body 6 inches wider, just so I could have a transverse double bed without having to install a slide out. A transverse bed would provide the room I need for a shower. Six inches wider would also compensate for the fact that I plan on raising the body by two inches (I have had the pucks awhile). And 6 inches wider would provide more access to the valve covers. Obviously, a wider full float rear and a wider front axle would be required.

.....cut......
Why more "looney toon" than converting to 4X4? Just a different need and perhaps involves more work -- not sure if it's more difficult. There have been a few Class B manufacturers over the years which have widen vans about 6 inches to increase room.

On a larger scale, I think there was a small company that modified vans called ďThe Wide OneĒ, by making them a lot wider for use as ambulance, shuttle buses, and so on. Iíve seen pictures of campers too. Whether they were originally that way or were later converted I donít know. Early ones seem to have the body widen over existing frame, but later ones seem to have the frame widen also as you propose wanting to do above. I think it's easier when the van is uni-body instead of body-on-frame like a Ford Econoline.



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Old 03-20-2014, 09:34 AM   #6
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

Quote:
Originally Posted by E350
.....cut.....

So, Chance, please post your planned and found body mod pictures, diagrams so that I can dream with you.

....cut......
I don't have any plans at present -- just curious about what others here have done or considered.

At one time I cut-and-pasted a photo of my van to see what it would look like at 24 feet in length (same as Sprinter). But obviously it's easier and probably cheaper to buy a Sprinter; plus you get the high roof.

Stretching a FWD van seems like a natural to me because it seems easiest for what you get out of it, much like the old VW rear-engine van. I've seen many of the old VWs. The best example of a new van I've seen is a ProMaster type van. It's the Peugeot version of the Ducato. They even added a slide using the extra side door.
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Old 03-20-2014, 09:52 AM   #7
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

Chance: OK now we're talkin'.

The E350 behind the VW is interesting. It looks like there was one cut down the middle on that body.

These were my thoughts/daydreams:

I am a hobby grinder trying to become a first pass(able without grinding) welder. So, crawling around underneath my E350, I considered sliding some sqaure tube into the existing transverse floor supports, welding them to three inches of the floor next to the outside wall, and then cutting the sides three inches in from the outside wall and pulling the wall out three or four inches then adding new flooring sheet metal and welding in place. I don't want to move the frame outward but want to leave it in place and add supports for outbound shock and axle attachment if necessary. What about the roof? I have a hole in my roof already because of the fiberglass top, so I would probably cut it the same way and refiberglass (we laid up old school 13' kayaks at college and I repair my windsurf boards so I am ok with fiberglass).

What about the doors and hood? Just more involved fabrication with probably a little bondo to hide the seams.

What about the hood? Now that gets interesting...

Chinooks are wider by about 6 inches on each side but only behind the cabin. In contrast, I want the cabin wider too. So to not have to worry about moving the HVAC, dash etc., I thought I would move the door frame out, or just get two other door frames and weld them to the existing door frames and put a little vertical rounded rectangle window on either side of the windshield like some E350 school busses have. I get stumped when it comes to this part

But splitting the body down the middle like the E350 behind the VW is intriguing. I would like to talk to the owner or fabricator of that rig.

We don't need as much space as the Ducato, but I like the rounded fuel saving rear profile and have thought about doing that to my van. Some big rigs have a fiberglass rounded back to break the suction that a blunt square back end creates.

Thanks for posting and further fueling my daydreams...
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Old 03-20-2014, 10:54 AM   #8
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

The old Dodge vans were easy to widen because they were Unibody. Cut the body down the middle, and viola! Frame is wider too! They still had a narrow-track rear axle so the rear end looked odd.

I think the biggest barrier to major body modifications is simply how much easier it is to just make a new body. At one time, pleasureway used to widen the stock bodies. Then, they started cutting away everything but the door and installing a new fiberglass body. Now, they order a cutaway chassis and install a conventional RV body.

Here is the previous gen Pleasurway, which looks like a nice wide-body version of the stock body:


The Ford dealer in Medford last month even had a bare PW shell for sale! It was carpeted and lined, but for some reason never got the RV bits and pieces. Not sure if it sold however.
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Old 03-20-2014, 10:57 AM   #9
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

E350, I happen to believe strongly in the bastardized version of the 80:20 rule, which states that the initial 80 percent of benefit can be accomplished with the first 20 percent of effort, or cost, and so on. It's just a rough rule but very applicable to just about any project.

In that light, most limited-production camper vans I've seen in person that were widen were done from the "B" pillar back, except for the side door which was left in original place. As in the 80:20 rule, they get more space in the coach without having to address the more-difficult windshield, dash, controls, doors, safety, and so on. It's the biggest bang for the buck if doing something that radical.

I've always been more interested in added length because it seems way easier. And I drive mostly on highway so extra length would not affect fuel economy as much. It may even make van more stable and able to tow better.

The Ducato Maxi is already plenty wide and tall enough for me; it would just be perfect if the body was as long as the longest Sprinter which seems to be very popular with some converters. The XXL pictured above seems like it had the length of side doors stretched in length, which would make it 25 to 26 feet long. And that may be a bit too much; although very roomy. That one had the rear converted to haul toys like motorcycles while still having a large living space.
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Old 03-20-2014, 11:06 AM   #10
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Re: Anyone do major body modifications?

Chance - have you ever seen the ELF? If was a front-wheel-drive version of the E450 with an ultra-low floor in the rear by using IRS. I think one could make a really nice camper conversion.


I don't know that it would offer any real benefit over a Ducato, other than more capacity and much lower purchase cost (considering Ducatos can only be bought new).
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