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Old 11-20-2015, 12:26 PM   #1
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Ideal base van for me?

Thought this would be the forum to ask. I'm looking to get a van and start mostly from scratch. I've been looking at quigley conversions and express AWD's for the most part.

I am on the road a bit for work half the year, can do a lot of work from a computer and have a flexible schedule when im not on the road. So i'm looking at this as a 2nd home. for work, the only thing that would really be nice is a shower. to look "presentable" but if thats a pain to make it work then i can always just stay in hotels those nights.
Otherwise i want something capable and able to haul bikes, skis, SUP's etc.. I do a lot of trips around Moab and CO where I need to do some pretty decent offroading to get to my camp spot, trailheads etc.. Not technical crawling necessarily, but stuff you need AWD/4WD for and low gearing would be nice.

I'm thinking of doing a big "trunk" storage area in the back where i can carry multiple bikes, and have the bed on top of that, as for the shower, kitchen, etc..just whatever works.

to keep it brief, here's my requirements..
Capable offroad but still good for long cross country road trips, doesnt need to be mega comfy for long stretches of pavement, just do somewhat well.
Sleep 2, maybe 3 uncomfortably.
shower
storage for toys.

I've got about a 10-15k budget for the van itself, could maybe justify spending more if its already outfitted to some extent. but the plan is to take a year or so to fully complete it due to time and money.

im guessing a high top would be nice to get some additional height for toy storage and be able to stand up in the shower. are they easy enough to convert myself (friend owns a fab shop so he help with a lot) that i dont need to worry about finding one with a high top to begin with?

Express AWD vs quigley and other 4wd conversions?

what length? ford vs chevy vs other makes, etc..

as you can probably tell i dont have a lot of knowledge when it comes to vans so i'm just looking for a little direction.
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Old 11-20-2015, 01:20 PM   #2
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

For what you list, go with an AWD express with slightly larger tires. That's what I'd go with if doing it again. That way you don't have any issues associated with 4x4 conversion, parts are easier to get, the base rig can be had for cheaper likely, it just seems like a more simple path. That being said, I'm extremely happy with my 07 v10 van, but the Quigley conversion has basically been all but replaced with better suspension parts.
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Old 11-20-2015, 01:22 PM   #3
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

It sounds like you need to build it for heat and cold when I hear words like Moab and skis, no?

An inside shower is doable but water tanks need to be on the larger size and just dumping water on the land can get you in trouble, so you'll need to install a reasonably sized gray water tank.

You'd need a black water tank for the head or a porta potty unless you have other ideas. Again I'm thinking of snowy conditions.

A hard top is nice for cold weather camping but a pop top is nice in warmer weather. There are people that use each style for hot and cold. For instance I've been in teen temps with my PH top up, but I have a Espar heater on board. The nice thing about a PH top is the upper bed and windows that can be opened.

I'd suggest an extended bed van because the extra 20" really does matter. 4x4 vs AWD is not too important but if you need clearance the Fords have a shorter wheel base IIRC. I would want one or the other just to avoid having to chain up but YMMV.


A basic build is easy to do but it just depends on the weather conditions. Also you need to factor in weight and determine what model you need. Because most conversions are heavy, the one ton is a favorite....lots more to consider
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Old 11-20-2015, 01:46 PM   #4
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

The AWD option wont give you the "low" gearing you mention and only come in the GM variety. I'm not sure if you can get AWD in the extended vans, but the extended GM vans have a longer wheel base which people say have a wider turning radius. The extended Ford vans have the same wheel base as the regular body, the added length is behind the rear wheels.

Depending on your layout, storing multiple bikes, room for a shower, and a bed will eat up quite a bit of space, so your best bet would probably be an extended van of some sort. If you'll basically be living in it, I would think the high top would be a nice option to have as you will always have the added head space. No need to pop the top. You could also build a taller shower where you could stand up. The benefit of the pop top would be that you could forego a bed downstairs as you would have a bed upstairs. You would have more space for storage.
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Old 11-20-2015, 02:36 PM   #5
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

Pretty tight budget but worth a call to Don at boulderoffroad to see if he's got any clients selling one of his Chevy 4X4 conversions, then throw a CCV insulated pop top on it later.
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Old 11-20-2015, 04:34 PM   #6
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

Alright thanks for the help so far! so much quicker than trying to figure all this out myself.
I figure If I go with a shorter body the high roof will pretty much be a requirement to fit everything. I would like it if I could keep it shorter, for the sake of offroading. but if it doesnt work it doesnt work.

So far the best ive found on craigslist are two diesel quigley e350's, an express 2500 AWD, a quigley express with IFS and one quigley express 2500 with I think a solid front.
So seems like i've got a good variety of options.
I closed out of them so i'll try and post them up later.

I'm liking the e350's because it could come in handy for towing. Its not a necessity, and a ways down the list of wishes. but it would be convenient.
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Old 11-20-2015, 05:40 PM   #7
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

Take your time, try to find some configurations you want and go look at them, sit in them, get underneath them, will it fit your requirements, your garage or storage space.

Go to a SMB or Quigley workshop, they will all have some old ones there for repair or newer ones, Ford, Chev, etc, being built.

Go to the either or both, The NW Overland Rally, June 25, Plain, Wahington or the Overland Expo, May, Flagstaff, Arizona, there you find at least 10-20 Sportsmobile Vans in attendance, for you to look at,
discuss options with the owners, look at, get the feel.

Keep your eye on this site, lots a good used ones regularly come up, of all budgets.

A good reference site for pictures, is the Galleries of the members in this site, check Em out!
When your posting and get a response, have a look at their image gallery too!

Measure twice, cut once, similar analogy to buying a good SMB, to suit your needs.

Cheers Doug.

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Old 11-21-2015, 12:56 PM   #8
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

Wait for the right van to come along. Not saying that my 3 previous van were wrong, but as my needs changed so did my vans.
Think and think some more about the distant future and plan accordingly.

I landed on a 01 E350 PSD extended high top with no windows with very low miles. Which leaves me more options than I need, better than not enough.
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Old 11-21-2015, 02:17 PM   #9
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrsa1
I figure If I go with a shorter body the high roof will pretty much be a requirement to fit everything. I would like it if I could keep it shorter, for the sake of offroading. but if it doesnt work it doesnt work.


I'm liking the e350's because it could come in handy for towing. Its not a necessity, and a ways down the list of wishes. but it would be convenient.
There is no wheel base difference between the Ford RB & EB. I take my EB into places where most don't and it doesn't limit off road travel much except on the more technical trails suited for lifted vans such as trails like the Shuteye Peak trail and those rated higher. But if you plan to tow, a full floating rear axle is a good option to think about especially on a extended body van. Some of it depends on the overall weight as well. You can replace that down the road if you decide to tow and if you really need a heavier rated axle. Space is a premium in some situations so it all depends on your layout and the creature comforts you plan to build if the extra EB space is needed.

I think basically your issue is just finding a good 2WD high top vehicle for a great price and planning to spend the money to convert it to a 4x4. You might find a reasonably priced used 4x4, but they hold their value pretty well...at least those from the early 2000's and newer.

I wish you all the luck on your search.


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Old 11-21-2015, 08:49 PM   #10
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Re: Ideal base van for me?

OEM, the Chevy AWD vans won't have the low range, but it is doable as a parts-bin swap, and it's not very complicated.

It's well documented and easy on the smaller vans (converting my Astro AWD to 4x4 w/ low range cost me just $500), but can also be done on the bigger vans.

There's at least one or two guys on the Expedition Portal forum who've done it. This is the best documented one: http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/t ... conversion

Technically, it's also possible to do an AWD with low-range, but requires mixing/matching parts and some machine work, I think (somebody on one of the Astro Van boards doing this currently.)

For my money, a junkyard t-case swap to 4wd with low-range was one of the primary motivating factors for choosing my Astro. There are days when I wish I had a full-size or even extended van, but then I remember where I'm at with respect to my budget, and I just smile.
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