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Old 08-28-2009, 03:55 PM   #1
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Brand-Newbie has questions ...

Hi Y'all!

I've got about a million questions (my teachers always loved that about me ) ...

We are just beginning what I hope to be a very successful journey into SMB-land. We have a year or so to make our decisions. We will be on the road for 4 - 6 months at a time snowbirding in warmer climes when it's drab and dreary in Seattle (January to April or June). I've done a lot of reading and have called the Fresno store a bunch of times. The more I read and ask the more confusing it seems to get, so I'll dive right in with the questions.

Our garage will fit a Ford RB with a PH. Our daily driver is a Prius. We have some other storage options and don't really need a second car, but garaging would be nice vs buying a cover, peace of mind, et al. I have yet to drive/see an SMB, but I've been in a Roadtrek Sprinter. I'm concerned about the MPG with gas and the noise/smell with the Ford diesel. Not sure my neighbors/my wife will love that choice, if that were the choice. I'm sure a drive will help with that one. We like to listen to music or books on tape when we travel. Is the Sprinter quieter? Is the Sprinter maintenance still that much more than a gas vehicle? How about a Sprinter versus a Ford? BTW, how much is "more"?

I saw that Dodge may replace the MB-based Sprinter with something Fiat makes. Then there's potentially a problem with parts in either event. A mechanic friend told me that parts can be a challenge with Sprinters, and the idea of being a first-generation buyer of a product without a track history (Fiat) is unnerving. Plus, I used to own a Fiat 124 ...

So, what seemed like an easy call - diesel 2WD PH that can potentially burn bio or vegi fuel, now seems less easy.

How did y'all deal with these decisions? (Only 999,995 questions to go ...)


Thanks

Brian
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Old 08-28-2009, 05:18 PM   #2
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

Can't answer the comparison questions for you, but I strongly recommend a trip to Fresno well before committing to any decisions. Give them a call and make sure they have representative vehicles available for you to see, hear, drive and make an appointment with them.

A couple hundred dollar investment is nothing compared to the $60,000 - $100,000+ you can spend on a conversion.

Give serious thought on how you plan to realistically use the vehicle. Good luck on your path, and try not to second-guess your decisions too much.


Herb
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Old 08-28-2009, 05:45 PM   #3
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

Ditto what Herb said about planning a visit to SMB. I did not do that before buying my van and as a result, it overlooked a few things that I've had to remedy after purchase. A scouting trip would have saved me both time and $$$.

Answers to all of these questions are largely subjective and dependent on how you plan to use the van.

That said, the sprinters do have an edge in terms of comfort. And after checking out a few of the new models as SMB last week, I can say they look great.

My understanding is that the Fiats are really Ivecos and that these vehicles are proven with years of service around the world.

Good luck with your search.

R
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Old 08-28-2009, 06:01 PM   #4
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

If you are not interested in 4wd, I'd go Sprinter. The Ford is essentially the same vehicle they've made since 1975, with new skin after 1992 1/2, depending on who you ask.

Right now, Ford's are the best platform for 4wd van conversions.

The Sprinter is originally designed by MB. Better mileage, quieter, better ride, more room.....
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Old 08-28-2009, 06:26 PM   #5
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by EMrider
My understanding is that the Fiats are really Ivecos and that these vehicles are proven with years of service around the world.
In my understanding, once you bring a vehicle to the US and put it through all of the emissions changes, etc. - the resulting "new vehicle" can take a shake-down period of at least a year or so before it's something you'd really want to own and drive. I think we'll know soon enough, though. I don't think Chrysler/Fiat is going to wait too long to make the changes. There's already talk of a small Fiat 500 for 2010.

Thanks for the replies ...

Brian
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Old 08-28-2009, 06:47 PM   #6
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronco_hauler
Give serious thought on how you plan to realistically use the vehicle. Good luck on your path, and try not to second-guess your decisions too much.
We see ourselves full-timing for 4 - 6 months at a stretch, and frequent shorter trips. We want ALL the creature comforts: comfortable sleeping; interior and exterior shower; porta-potti; stove; heat and a/c; music system; tv/dvd/surround set-up. We're upgrading from tent camping having been restrained from many a night's stay by weather (too cold, hail, thunderstorms, even rain - packing up a wet tent is a royal pain ...). So we've ended up staying in hotels instead. We have downsized to a 1600 sq ft townhome since the kids moved out, and will look at renting our home out while we're traveling. We looked at 40 footers a few years ago before my wife retired, and considered selling the house and full-timing, but we love our home. Then there's also the 6 - 8 MPG ...

Ultimately, we'd like to leave as small an ecological footprint as possible while traveling and staying at RV parks and boondocking. If there were a way to go all electric or hybrid we'd probably do that. Actually saw an ad for Verdier/VW van conversions. I fell in love with that concept. It doesn't seem they're gonna do anything with it, though. Kind of a shame ... It seems like SMB is the next best thing. Time will tell.

Thanks,

Brian
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Old 08-28-2009, 09:10 PM   #7
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

If you want to see a 2006 SMB RB50 4x4 diesel in person, (closer than Fresno!) send me a message. I'm in Bellingham and would be happy to show you mine.

Brian
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:18 PM   #8
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian
We see ourselves full-timing for 4 - 6 months at a stretch, and frequent shorter trips.
I know some people do it, but I don't think I'd ever consider full-timing it in a Ford or Chevy based SMB, strictly due to the size. It would have to be the Sprinter.

If you're looking for a 4x4 conversion, look under SMBw's Previously Owned section and you'll see a 4x4 converted Sprinter that Fresno did. It was a one-off using factory Mercedes parts, but it is a one-off.

If you search through this forum, you should be able to find some info on a gentleman in South Africa who is setting up a Sprinter 4x4 conversion shop here in the US.


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Old 08-28-2009, 10:37 PM   #9
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

Used Two wheel drive Sportsmobiles sell at what I consider very reasonable prices. Since you mentioned that 2WD would work for you, you might want to consider buying a used one. You could use it for a year and then decide whether to keep it or sell it and order a new one. By that time you would know what you need and don't need. My wife and I put off buying a new one for 4 or 5 years because we couldn't decide Diesel vs gas, RB vs EB, electric top vs manual top, etc. We finally bought a used one to see how we liked it. Still have it as it has been near perfect for our needs. It was a 2 wheel drive but I had it converted to 4x4 at Salem Kroger. On a side note, SK is one of the only places that have been successful at converting a Sprinter to 4X4. They said it was a challenge but with time they got through it. Anyway, I would suggest getting a used one first. oclv
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Old 08-29-2009, 01:38 PM   #10
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Re: Brand-Newbie has questions ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bronco_hauler
I know some people do it, but I don't think I'd ever consider full-timing it in a Ford or Chevy based SMB, strictly due to the size. It would have to be the Sprinter.

If you're looking for a 4x4 conversion, look under SMBw's Previously Owned section and you'll see a 4x4 converted Sprinter that Fresno did. It was a one-off using factory Mercedes parts, but it is a one-off.
Thanks, Herb,

I know the Sprinter's a bit longer and taller, too. They only put a PH on the regular shorter roof though, right? Does all/any of that make a difference, in your opinion, to full-timing liveability? I'm not married to the idea of a Sprinter PH, but it seems like it'd drive easier: less wind-shear, and less top-heavy. Does that compute?

BTW, we're not thinking 4x4. Not as fuel-efficient as we'd like.

Brian
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