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Old 04-17-2017, 12:28 PM   #1
ORM
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Hi all, new lurker and fledgling fanatic here,

For some time now, Iíve toyed with the idea of building some kind of vehicle that can double as both my work truck and a camping/travel vehicle. A few weeks ago, while on vacation, I laid eyes on an E-series SMB for the first time, in someoneís driveway while aimlessly wandering around the town of Telluride, CO (Someone on here?). Captivated by what I had just seen, I returned to my home state of Ohio, further research has led me to the discovery of this wonderful world and now Iím even more invigorated.

My goal, at least at the moment, is something capable of traveling across the country, any time of year, including in the winter (Iím a bit of a ski bum and I want to be able to chase winter storms when I am able ). The caveat is when the rig is at home in Ohio Iíd rather it not just languish in my driveway. My thought is to build a modular interior; kitchen/bath unit and furniture that can be removed fairly easily so I can use it to haul tools and materials (I work in remodeling). Is this unrealistic? Am I asking one vehicle to do too much? I donít know but it feels like the only way to make this venture practical enough to justify some of the expense, at least at this point in my life. Iím leaning toward diesel for several reasons, mileage, torque, future convenience of one fuel camping. I know I want 4x4, snow covered mountain roads being a leading concern. I really like the thought of the penthouse so I can have a lower profile on the road versus a high roof van, but I have to balance that with its practicality of my anticipated ratio of camping in summer vs. winter. I also really like the thought of the Atlas, for several reasons, including the front wheel drive for all that wide-open country between myself and the Rockies but I donít know when thatíll be in the budget. I donít necessarily anticipate doing any rock crawling with this machine, but I havenít ruled it out yet either, as Alan Feld said in one of the SMB videos Iíve seen ďEven if youíre not going to use it in those kind of situations, if you know what the capabilities are, youíre way ahead of the game.Ē
Iím still on the hunt for the right base vehicle. So far Iíve tried to narrow down my potential choices; all have their positives and negatives:

E-series PSD - either 7.3L or 6.0L: 7.3 will probably need body work; 6.0 will probably need ďbulletproofing,Ē probably a tossup which will cost more.

Express Duramax Ė Probably donít know as much about these as I should, Iíve read that the LBZ (í06-í07) is the best variation.

Transit 3.2PSD Ė Resale market is still in its infancy, probably going to need to let it mature a little yet.

Sprinter 2.7L Ė Best mpg of the bunch, very reliable (two personal friends have had these for work trucks), but 4x4 conversion is more $$$ than any other (Whitefeather)

Iím still overwhelmed by the wealth of information on here. I am eagerly learning as much as I can absorb and living vicariously through the photo threads. I hope to be among the posters sooner than later.
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Old 04-17-2017, 01:09 PM   #2
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You might want to look into a "Truck Camper". I used one for years to take me and the family skying. Then used the truck for work.

Lance Truck Campers | Lance Camper
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Old 04-17-2017, 02:45 PM   #3
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I was in a similar boat as you when I was first getting into this van thing. I bought an older SMB to start out and after seeing it sit in the driveway for most of the year, decided to sell it and get a passenger van that I can use to go camping, haul the family, and use as a cargo van.

If you're building for dual purpose, check out maxacceleration's thread (http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...rior-5601.html). I think it's a super versatile layout and perfect for multipurpose uses. As far as pop top goes, Colorado Camper Van offers a thicker/insulated canvas for their pop tops. They also offer a couple different height tops, both of which offer a wider bed and more head room up top than a SMB top. The benefit to a taller top is the storage space even when its in the "down" position.

Can't help you with what motor since that's all subjective to the end user, but it seems bulletproofing a 6.0 can cost $15k and still be somewhat finicky.
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Old 04-17-2017, 04:46 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by mikracer View Post
If you're building for dual purpose, check out maxacceleration's thread (http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...rior-5601.html). I think it's a super versatile layout and perfect for multipurpose uses. As far as pop top goes, Colorado Camper Van offers a thicker/insulated canvas for their pop tops. They also offer a couple different height tops, both of which offer a wider bed and more head room up top than a SMB top. The benefit to a taller top is the storage space even when its in the "down" position.
Ditto. If I were to do it over again I would do a similar "transformer" layout with a CCV top.

Good luck!
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Old 04-17-2017, 05:25 PM   #5
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Welcome! You're in good company here. It's an easily achievable goal and won't cost as much as you might think depending on which van you go with. If you want a capable daily driver that won't cost you in maintenance or fuel I'd find an RB 5.4 Ford. If you think it's a little weak afterwhile then put a 5-star or comparable tune on it. These are cheap and readily available and hard to kill. They aren't at all weak unless you try to climb Vail pass with a diesel or V10 beside you. Even converted to 4x they do fine and get decent fuel mileage if you aren't towing.

Read away. There's more info here than you can soak up in a lifetime.

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Old 04-17-2017, 05:32 PM   #6
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There are a bunch of us on here who need or want a transformer, usually to carry people or stuff unrelated to camping. I bought a 12 passenger and am slowly changing it into a do-everything vehicle. I put in Sienna seats partly for their comfort but also so I can slide all kinds of long stuff, including plywood, right up the middle. You can take a look at my thread so far here:

http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...rig-17377.html

My plan is to make everything back of the cab removable. Check out this video. It's fun and a good planning tool for dreamers.

http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...ans-19349.html
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Old 04-17-2017, 09:56 PM   #7
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Take a look at the photos of my van - it's a floor plan you might find interesting. It's a sort of modified "50" (it's actually a Lopes 55, I think one of only two made). The cargo space in the back measures 55" deep and nearly full width except for the built-in box (which also has plumbing, a shower fixture, and a subwoofer in it). I find it exceptionally useful. I was seeking a "50" when I found this van for sale, and it was close enough to meet my needs. Turns out, I'm even happier with the floor plan than I expected. The bench seat fits 4 people, so a total of 6 passengers. I can fit archery equipment, full length Pelican rifle cases, crates, totes, chairs, tables, whatever back there - I even hauled a Lazy-Boy style recliner once with room to spare. The loncoin flooring from wall-to-wall and all the way up the sides is especially useful when hauling game (deer, elk, pronghorn, etc.).

As for using it as a work truck... my van is just way too nice to be hauling sharp tools, trash, paint or glue. So I kept my pickup as my daily driver, for hauling lumber, trash to the dump, etc.

If you can find a Chevy, the LB-7 (circa 2002-2003) is arguably the best (it's what I have in my GMC K2500 4-door long-bed - yeah, it's so long the truck should have "SS" stamped on it somewhere). The LB-7 produces more power than I know what to do with and gets 25 mpg (I am not exaggerating; it actually does better than that when cruising long distances on the interstate at 75 mph, despite a 4" lift and 285 All-Terrain's). The LBZ produces more power, but at a significant economy cost. All of the Duramax engines run incredibly cool, and the Allison transmission performs wonderfully.
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Old 04-24-2017, 08:47 AM   #8
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Thanks everyone for the warm welcome! Didn't mean to take so long to reply, been keeping up with everyone's posts, but I've been busy with work.

I guess I hadnít given truck campers a whole lot of thought, I actually know a guy who had one fall off (there were extenuating circumstances). Maxaccelerationís build definitely has my attention. I had seen CCV mentioned in passing, but now their insulated medium/high top is definitely on my radar.

86Scotty, I read your thread about chipping your 5.4, thatís interesting, Iím going to research that some more. Based on your experience, what is realistic mpg if tuned for efficiency and modestly loaded?

BVerhulst - That is a nice setup. I also agree older is better for diesels but unfortunately GM never built an Express/Savanna with an LB-7, at least according to Wikipedia. That doesnít mean it couldnít be done, but would the theoretical 25mpg be with the effort?

I should mention, my current vehicle is an í02 Dakota V6 4x4 crew cab which I have no intention of getting rid of, kinda sentimentally attached, if nothing else. Itís big enough to do a lot of things, but I donít think truck camper is one of them. At the same time I didnít necessarily want to get -another- pickup truck since I donít want to get rid of this one, hence the thoughts of a van.
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Old 04-24-2017, 08:51 AM   #9
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FWIW, here is the SMB flyer for when they offered their Transformer model.


Herb
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File Type: pdf sm_transformer_flyer.pdf (488.3 KB, 44 views)
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Old 04-24-2017, 11:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
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FWIW, here is the SMB flyer for when they offered their Transformer model.


Herb
Herb thanks for posting that! It's the basic plan I'm following, except for substituting Siennas for the middle bench and leaving out the back one entirely.

Anybody got any good photos or specs on that kitchen module? It's perfect for my needs. A small cooker can go on a door box.
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