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Old 11-12-2014, 04:49 PM   #1
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Finally introducing my SMB

Man, I'm way overdue for an intro. My name is Jonathan and I'm a campaholic. My forum handle is "ultralite" because when I backpack or camp out of canoes or with a bike, that's my method of operation.

But my family also loves to roadtrip and we love old cars, hence the Westy: (recent Nantahala overnighter)


I got hooked on this as a kid when my grandparents bought an old Dodge Tradesman with a hightop and my grandma (she came from a family of carpenters) made it into a camper. They took me all over the South in that thing. I've been asking relatives of old pictures of it and when we find some I'll scan them and post them here. My grandparents would have loved this site.

Anyway, a couple of years ago about the time I found my Westy I also found this site and started looking at the home builds. Then, on a camping trip I noticed a blue van with a homemade mounted generator, reflectix in the windows, and thought "hmmm, I bet that guy knows about the SMB forum". Well, since his son had on a VW t-shirt and we were all playing shuffle board at the same time a conversation was started and it turns out the dude did know about the SMB forum and you know him as "86Scotty" or "Eric".

I started following Eric's build threads and with kids about the same age, we started camping together as they are near Knoxville and we're in Atlanta. So meeting in the middle in the mountains is a good place to meet. After getting to see his various threads and watching the site in general, I slowly set aside my money and started the slow hunt. (I had taken years to find my VW, I encourage others to take their time on the hunt as well.)

Back in August, I found what was the holy grail for me. 7.3, shower (wife's requirement), hightop, and low mileage; under 140k miles. It's a '99 and belonged to a couple in Arkansas. Oddly enough the same state where I found my VW. I did the same thing I did with the Dub. Flew out, drove it home, sleeping in it the first night.

So here it is on its maiden voyage with the whole family to visit my just born niece. My brother in law loves this stuff too so while at his house we scrubbed it top to bottom and took off the running boards.

Here's the "after":


First camping trip to FL


Well, more intro in a little while, being called to dinner!
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Old 11-12-2014, 04:59 PM   #2
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

Nice-looking van(s)! Do you still have the VW, too?

Did you see the recent thread about making fender flares out of those old take-off running boards? Might want to consider that if you didn't trash the boards.
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Old 11-12-2014, 05:29 PM   #3
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

Oh yes, I have them both. At this point, I'm trying to keep myself from ending up with more! Just kidding, the VW is mainly because I love old cars. I thought "why not combine my 2 passions of old cars and camping?" We've taken it to shows and while we have taken it on long trips (Atlanta to Daytona and ATL to the FL panhandle), it won't be our full timer. Can't really use it in the summer here with no AC.

The running boards were very crumbly. To be honest, I don't know what my brother in law did with those things.
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Old 11-12-2014, 05:45 PM   #4
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

Welcome friend, welcome.

Ultralite's driveway: (no icon for old cars and camping trailers, dude buys a lot of tires!)

What Ultralite does, a LOT!

Yeah, I guess I'm having too much fun with the smilies page today.
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Old 11-12-2014, 09:07 PM   #5
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

Woot! Welcome to the crew...
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Old 11-12-2014, 09:29 PM   #6
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

You know you're right, that's basically my life in smileys. Except i need one that shows me wasting away at a desk but that's how you pay for this stuff. A little more background, I like to try and include information that might help lurkers and those ready to take the plunge.

Like I said earlier, I took a long time in my search. I had a very good idea of what I wanted, the hard part was being patient. I went ahead and set aside the money, the hard part there was not spending it on other cars! But boy am I glad I did set it aside. It was the same way with the Westy years ago. When you find a good one you need to be ready to jump on it fast.

I watched the classifieds on this forum, the SMB factory listings, and Expedition Portal for about 2 years, maybe longer. This gave me a very good idea of the market rates, common condition you find these in, and where candidates tend to come up.

When this one came up it was late one evening when I saw it, my wife was telling me about something, and I held up my hand and said "honey excuse me, but I think we just found the Sportsmobile we've been looking for". We sent messages that night with questions.

The next day when I was able to talk on the phone with the owner, I did not even mention the price. I felt like it was more than reasonable. The owner thanked me for not immediately haggling over the price. We quickly established rapport and it was like talking with very friendly parents or grandparents.

Dealing with the previous owners was just great. I'm still in touch with them and will remain so. I flew to their nearest airport and they met me there. I started back toward Atlanta that evening.

When I reach the MS state line I pulled into a rest stop. Stood up and stretched in my spacious SMB, laid down and went to sleep. In the morning, woke up, brushed my teeth, cranked her up and headed out for the nearest diesel station for fuel; diesel and coffee.

I've driven all kinds of cars; new-old-fast-luxury etc. One of my absolute favorite driving experiences is sitting in these van seats with coffee, elbow on the armrest, cruising down the highway.
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Old 11-12-2014, 09:30 PM   #7
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

Welcome to the forum.
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Old 11-12-2014, 09:43 PM   #8
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

I made it home to Atlanta without a hitch. It is so blasted hot in ATL that we tend not to camp in the summer anyway. Besides I wanted to get on with maintenance and sorting.

The PO had kept the cabinets in fantastic condition. I would never guess I was looking at a '99 model. They did live on a dirt road so there was much cleaning of dust in nooks and crannies but that was it.

The tires did have some dry rot so I replaced them all and the spare with Michelins.

For the Florida camping trip I mentioned earlier I made a bed for my daughter that stretches across the front 2 seats. She loves it. My son is still short enough to sleep in the cabinet above the cab! So I made a bed for that and he loved it too. Now, when I make furniture for my Westy (and my Suburban) I make a prototype. That way we can use it and see how to improve it before I finish it off. Honestly, I just love making stuff like that so it doesn't bother me a bit to scrap something and try it again. Once I complete the beds I'll post pics for others to try if they need something similar.
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Old 11-12-2014, 09:44 PM   #9
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultralite
When this one came up it was late one evening when I saw it, my wife was telling me about something, and I held up my hand and said "honey excuse me, but I think we just found the Sportsmobile we've been looking for". We sent messages that night with questions.


Welcome and congrats on the van!
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Old 11-12-2014, 09:56 PM   #10
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Re: Finally introducing my SMB

Ugh, forgot to mention, after all the good I need to include that which has been underwhelming.

Fuel economy: so far in some 6+ hour trips of interstate driving 13-14 MPG. I've seen people report better. I'm not too upset about it and figure I will try whatever improvements I can in the future. It's not a daily driver and it is a gigantic beast.

Diesel noise: my dad was a truck driver and owned his own rig once upon a time. I had the great fortune of riding in it in the heyday of Smokey and the Bear, East Bound and Down, etc. I know diesel noise. This is still louder than I'd like. The heat shield in the doghouse and around the engine seems great and in good condition. I'm not seeing any room for Dynamat. But, I'll be researching this too. For now, it's no big deal. If you're about to buy a SMB that has a V10 and wishing it was a diesel, don't feel too bad.
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