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Old 07-20-2017, 04:56 PM   #1
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Howdy! I've been lurking here for a while, I figured I'll finally introduce myself.

My name is Steve - nickname is Esteban. I live in Olympia, Washington about an hour south of Seattle.

That out of the way, I'm a proud owner of a 1997 RB e350 Sportsmobile with a Quigley conversion and about ~170K miles. It is a V10 with a manual penthouse. It is an original SMB West conversion that was "de-converted" by its original owner about 5 years ago to have a row of captains chairs, a fold-out 3-piece bench and a few remaining accessories. The remaining accessories include solar with a 110 inverter, a single Optima house battery on the rail, custom front and rear bumpers - tire swing arm with jerry can holder and storage.



I bought it from its second owner in Boise about 6 weeks ago. Since I've put about 1,000 miles on it on 5 trips including the drive home.

There were a couple of issues identified at the pre-sale checkout that I'm getting addressed right now. It needed new front pads and calipers and was leaking fluid at the rear differential. The brakes are done, and (see question below) turns out the rear diff needs a rebuild. Otherwise it seems to be in great running shape for a 20-year old van.

Since I've owned it I've installed a Rydeen DVA-6 head unit, new speakers, and am in the process of getting the backup camera rigged up and mounted on the penthouse.

My wife and I have been outdoors enthusiasts for our adult lives. Having our first kiddo born one year ago has meant we are constantly exploring ways to get out that work for him. Luckily he is a great sport and LOVES rides in the kid carrier backpack. We have rigged up the back bench as a crib and his first 5 nights have gone extremely well. We also have a yellow lab / white shepherd mix that joins us on most of our trips.

We are equipping the van to take us all over the NW as well as focusing on extended trips to Southern Utah. We typically spend 2 - 3 weeks + with extended boondocks there. In the past we have driven a Subaru WRX and a Subaru Outback (both bone stock) on our adventures. We have a camping setup good for about 7 days of boondocking - so we are adapting from that to the van. Technical canyoneering is a favorite past time and we have a lot of way off the beaten path spots that we like to go. For frame of reference - we have been comfortable taking the Subarus as deep as we can get - until now with very limited recovery gear. We've been all over Cedar Mesa, Grand Staircase, Capitol Reef, and the Swell. We're pretty self reliant and have squeaked by with pairing our route choices to match vehicle capability and driving skill. We tend to see our vehicles as a tool to get us to our adventures, instead of the source of adventure themselves. We will take about 2 1/2 weeks to go to GSEM and Capitol Reef mid-September. Long-term we definitely will do trails like White Rim, often with my wife driving the rig and me biking the trail.

We plan to spend about a year on the road in the van when our kiddo turns 5 - giving him a kindergarten out in the world instead of stuck in a classroom. We are evaluating whether our current van is right

To wrap up the long winded discussion I'll outline our plans for the van and throw a few questions out to the community.

Short-term Plans:
- Add an awning / shade for the desert and rain protection
- On-board air
- Recovery kit - tire repair, tow straps, bottle-jack (van came with hi-lift)
- Jerry cans and siphon to extend range

Long-term Plans:
- Propane heat (before ski season)
- Agile RIP kit
- custom slideouts / chuckbox
- Upgrade solar / house batteries
- Fridge
- Water storage?

Questions:
1) With having to rebuild the rear diff - I'm wrestling with options. It seems I've read every thread out there. My current direction is to install an Ox Locker and then add my own air solenoid as I install OBA. I plan to install a Puma 12V compressor and tank. Most likely, I will have it in the van body for this year and do a permanent install this fall winter. That means If I need to lock I'll have to do it manually for this summer - based on my past experience I the need to lock the rear is limited in the near term. Am I stupid trying to save a few bucks over a full ARB locker and OBA setup going this route? I have also thought about just getting a TrueTrac LSD and using the savings elsewhere. Currently have manual lockers on the front.
2) Awning-wise we were originally leaning towards a foxwing, but are now thinking of going with an ARB or CVT and an 8' x 8' Ez-Up. Has anyone else used that setup for the flexibility of having a base camp or having coverage on the side and rear of van when needed? Any guidance from those that have done this for a while?
3) I haven't been able to track down the vans electrical setup yet... I can't tell if there is an isolator or what kind of charge controller I have etc. My next step when the van is back from the shop is to contact SMB West and see if they did the install and go from there. Any pointers on sleuthing what is going on for the solar and battery system?
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Old 07-20-2017, 10:19 PM   #2
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Hi Esteban--welcome to the forum, and congratulations on your new rig!

I'm in your neighborhood. It would be fun to meet up sometime and swap tours. I have figured out most of the electrical in my van, but I do not have solar, so I don't have inside information regarding that part of the system. In any event, I'd be happy to have a look at yours with you; I might know something that is useful.

I have a Fiamma awning; no experience with any of the others. And no lockers yet, although if/when I get to that point, I will likely go with TrueTracs.

I don't have propane; I am in the process of installing a Wallas Nordic DT combination stove and heater in my rig. I am looking forward to having both heat and cooking capability.

My rig has a 20 gallon water tank; I just finished re-positioning it 5" forward in order to make room for a future inverter and to allow me to make some minor revisions to the plumbing. With the stove and the inverter I'll be pretty happy; I'm still contemplating a water heater.

Enjoy!
Bianca
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Old 07-20-2017, 11:31 PM   #3
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Welcome bud,just joined myself.roto-pax are mountable gas cans/heavy duty put em anywhere.you can install an aluminum water tank where Oem tire used to mount underneath and rig a water pump 12 volt.i used a mr heater portable before I got my new van,uses green cans but I thought of using a rubber grommet & a long hose to 5 gallon tank safely outside & of course a smoke/carbon detector battery powered.dont know much about lockers yet but I was thinking of mounting a front receiver hitch as well as a back since my rv never towed and having a winch mounted on receiver stock for versatility,gustav
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Old 07-21-2017, 08:55 AM   #4
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Welcome along Esteban. You guys definitely seem like Sportsmobile material given your hobbies and explorations.

1. I'm no expert here but seems to me like you could probably get along just fine for awhile with a front locker while you work through your list of other needs. What's the issue with the rear diff? Whining noise? How bad is the leak?

2. The Foxwing awnings are really cool but pretty pricey for little coverage with a van. They simply aren't long enough to cover the passenger side to the front of the door, which is ideally what you want covered usually with a van. I would go for the biggest CVT. I had that on my former SMB 'Rusty' and it worked great for me. It has a black case and would match your van great. You'll need the brackets from forum member '1der'. You can get them other places but his are better and cheaper than the competition. If you need the additional coverage and versatility of an EZ-UP I'd carry that along too if you have the storage for it. They are great to have. Mine will sit just over the rear rain gutter of a lifted van at it's highest setting and cover the back doors. Oh, they're cheap too.

3. If you have a panel and an aux battery there is definitely a separator/isolator there somewhere. Given that yours is a 97 look for a blue heat sync (like a small amplifier) looking box under the hood. They hide them pretty good sometimes. Look on the front wall of your engine bay down below/around one of the headlights, maybe even almost under the battery. It will probably be the old Sure Power type and look like this:

https://www.waytekwire.com/item/8006...RoCZTkQAvD_BwE

If it works ok then great but they do fail and many of us replace them with a Blue Sea one, many threads on that here.

If your fuel range is pretty short, like <300 miles short then you probably have a stock tank modified by Quigley that has never been upgraded. It's pretty small for a V10, taking the stock tank down from 35 to around 32 gallons to make room for the transfer case. You could skip adding any outer tanks by upgrading to an Aerotanks 45 gallon or talking to Michael at MGMetalworks (down in Portland) about installing a cutaway gas tank under the rear. They're huge and a stock Ford part you can get from a salvage yard cheap.

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Old 07-21-2017, 04:47 PM   #5
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Bianca - It would be great to meet up and swap tours. I would like to hear more about your stove heater and water tank. Planning to spend some nights up at White Pass this winter so a heat solution will be a necessity.

I would gladly take you up on the electrical look through!
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Old 07-21-2017, 04:50 PM   #6
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Gustav - I will look up the rotopax, thanks!

I don't think a permanent propane install is in my near future. I have been using a 1 gallon tank for a coleman lantern and cooking setup until now. A mr. heater may be the solution for this winter, although with a toddler bouncing around in the van, I may bite the bullet and do a permanent installation. Luckily I do have a friend who just re-plumbed and installed a heater on his sailboat, so I may be able to get some assitance there.
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Old 07-21-2017, 05:03 PM   #7
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Scotty - you provide a wealth of info, thanks!

The pinion bearings are going in the diff - so there is enough play that the pinion is loose and that is tearing up the pinion seal. So new bearings and pinion pretty much mean hte diff is getting opened up and either going LSD or locker makes sense with the other work.

I'll go digging for the isolator as soon as I have the van back from the shop.

Regarding fuel range - I'm regularly getting ~ 10mpg which seems par for the course on this engine with the lift.. I'd be happy if I had a 32 gallon tank... My range is more like 250 miles and the most i've put in when I'm at E is 25 gallons. I can run it down all the way next week and see how big the tank is (I've been conservative until now because I've been in places with limited gas stations). I'll look into the cutaway tank that sounds like a good option.
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Old 07-21-2017, 05:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OlyEsteban View Post
Scotty - you provide a wealth of info, thanks!

The pinion bearings are going in the diff - so there is enough play that the pinion is loose and that is tearing up the pinion seal. So new bearings and pinion pretty much mean hte diff is getting opened up and either going LSD or locker makes sense with the other work.

I'll go digging for the isolator as soon as I have the van back from the shop.

Regarding fuel range - I'm regularly getting ~ 10mpg which seems par for the course on this engine with the lift.. I'd be happy if I had a 32 gallon tank... My range is more like 250 miles and the most i've put in when I'm at E is 25 gallons. I can run it down all the way next week and see how big the tank is (I've been conservative until now because I've been in places with limited gas stations). I'll look into the cutaway tank that sounds like a good option.
Gladly, I have no other life. Just vanlife.

When you're digging around the van looking at other stuff, see if your tank looks cut straight off just behind the transfer case. It's usually pretty obvious where they've cut it. It's a flat cut slice off the front whereas the rear is round. They're almost always about 32 gallons. I'm betting you could go a lot further than that 250 miles but I don't blame you for being cautious.

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Old 07-21-2017, 06:11 PM   #9
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Hey I know that van. Boy mike didn't hold onto that van long. Glad to see you here though! Pretty cool van, I was really impressed with the bumpers. A lot of thought went into those.

Too bad I didn't know you were picking it up. I have an oem lsd stinking up my garage right now that I need to get rid of ��
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Old 07-21-2017, 11:00 PM   #10
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Welcome,
Let the fun begin.

Ron
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