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Old 08-24-2018, 07:38 PM   #1
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New van or new top?

Hi all! My wife and I have been full-timing in our RB-50 for the last 3-years. We travel pretty much full time for our business and are in our van about 150 nights per year.

We are planning our dream trip down the PanAm to Chile and are debating on whether to purchase a new van or to retrofit ours.

We have a 2000 E-350 RB-50 7.3 Quigley 4x4 manual top with 165k miles on the clock. Mechanically the van is perfect. We have made some pragmatic upgrades to the van (RIP kit, water heater delete, solar, rear bumper box, hitch-swing, road shower, surf pole(s), ladders, 1up rack, TW200 moto, etc...).

We love our van but are thinking that for travel through the Americas we would love a fixed top where we can always be standing up. It is something we dream about often!

My question for ya'll is if you were us: Would you sell our current van and buy another? Or would you invest the money into a new top (CCV) or fixed top with our current vehicle? Ie....do you think our 7.3 base platform at our mileage is worth continuing to invest in?

If we were to sell and buy a new van we would be purchasing a used van. We dont need a beauty queen just something functional. We are kind of dreaming of a walk-thru layout with a fixed top!

I think that I have seen a van on here owned by a guy named Claus? Its the most bad ass fixed top I have seen!

Thanks for reading.
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Old 08-24-2018, 08:07 PM   #2
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Sounds like you've been getting more use out of your SMB than most other people. Congratulations.

You know your vehicle, you know it's reliability, and frankly an older vehicle may be easier to get repaired should you need it. If you convert from a penthouse to a fixed top, you can probably recoup some of your money by selling the penthouse top.

I believe you're thinking about Pschitt. Agree, it's a stellar example of an SMB.


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Old 08-24-2018, 08:08 PM   #3
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Depending on how high you need to stand up in, our CCV high top may work. Personally I would retrofit your current van. In my mind it’s perfect for the Americans trip. You already know your van & it’s history...keep it and add a top. I’m five foot seven & can stand up just fine in the CCV high top, you’ll max out at five foot ten & there will be spots you have to cock your head when the top is down. We do a fixed top too but it will make going thru the “gap” more costly because of height when you ferry.
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Old 08-24-2018, 08:16 PM   #4
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My fixed top that we offer thru CCV was designed around Claus van & is an identical mold. Here is my van with the same top. Forum members Luke aka van diesel & upadown have the same top as well. Here something to think about with a bonded top... the van doesn’t flex as much as a pop top and depending on how much you flex it you can stress crack the corners. This goes for a fiberinetop as well it’s bonded & bolted. In extreme cases you can crack the top at the mounting holes.
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Old 08-24-2018, 08:40 PM   #5
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One huge benefit of the penthouse top is the ability to ship it in a container, instead of taking your chances with roll on services.

As for your powertrain, it's pretty ideal for South American travel. Parts are common (since Navistar has a strong presence) without the complexity of the 6.0, and it's fully compatible with all diesel, unlike and newer DPF-equipped diesel.
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Old 08-24-2018, 10:33 PM   #6
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If you decide to change to a different top I would love to purchase the penthouse top from you. Help you recoup some money like Herb says.
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Old 08-25-2018, 09:42 AM   #7
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Thanks all. Fantastic knowledge. I did not think of the issue of getting the van into a container at the Gap if my top is too tall. I will update this thread when we decide on what we are going to do. JVan if we do go CCV you will be first in line for our current penthouse top.
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Old 08-25-2018, 10:04 PM   #8
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As you know and love your current rig so much i would stay on it and change the top. Selling the pop top will give you money back. If you buy a used other van you never know what you get. Being on the road the most importand thing is reliability.

A fix top has advantages, but also big disadvantages. Here in africa we would get stuck hundreds of times in low trees sections in the rain forest and other situations. Also shipping cost are more and a container will be unimpossible with a high top. On roll on roll off shipping the changes to get stolen something are extremly high. Also when it is hot weather and high huminity a pop top gives you much more cool down possibilities than a fixed top. Heat will not get out there as good. Thats all things we will not miss on our trans africa trip. I guess south america is not so different in some countries. My advice is: Save the money and use it for traveling longer
I hope to see you on the road on time
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Old 08-28-2018, 11:59 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by clicker44 View Post
Thanks all. Fantastic knowledge. I did not think of the issue of getting the van into a container at the Gap if my top is too tall. I will update this thread when we decide on what we are going to do. JVan if we do go CCV you will be first in line for our current penthouse top.
Thanks Clicker. Iím in Salt Lake. I could meet you anywhere though. Iíll do the work to take off the old top.
Good luck with your decisions. There are many great options. Itís always hard to choose between them.
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Old 08-31-2018, 09:50 AM   #10
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My boyfriend and I are currently full-timing in our relatively new to us SMB (2001 e350 quigley 4x4 6.8L with a hard cruiser top, purchased in Santiago de Chile in November) and we’re currently driving the opposite trip — Ushuaia back home to California.

Based on our experience over the last 9 months of full time travel in our van, knowing your vehicle is the single most important thing. Thankfully we speak Spanish which helps make up for our initial lack of knowledge about the car because we can at least communicate wirh mechanics. I wouldnt worry about the miles if everything else seems solid — we have over 240k and still strong. And you will end up in mechanics — its an inevitability with all the miles and crap roads.

We love having the hard top to stand up all the time, and we didnt have the same issues with Patagonian winds as some soft-sided friends did, but it does make the van harder to drive and we worry a bit more about steep rock crawling and tipping than a car with a lower center of gravity, and we cant park in any parking garages down here. We cannot put the van in a container to ship — its too tall 2.98 meters. We are planning to ship RoRo (roll on roll off) from Cartagena, Colombia to Veracruz, MX for price and timing readons.

In short: as someone on this trip, stick with the vehicle you know and love and have confidence in because it can get weird down here. We love our fixed top, but it does limit our manueverabilty a bit and makes the van expensive to ship.
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