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Old 12-12-2017, 10:52 AM   #1
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Shop4seats.com

Hello all,

New owner of a 2003 e350 RB here. It currently has the SMB penthouse top(installed in 2004), but otherwise is configured as an 11 pax van. I have been lurking here for a few years and have seen a lot of different builds but nothing like what I'm envisioning. That said, I may not have searched this site far and wide enough.

Unlike many of you I am not interested in adding a fridge, sink, solar, heater etc. We live in So. Cal. and will rarely be camping in inclement weather. I want to keep everything simple and basically only use the van as mobile sleeping quarters and cook and clean outside. That will allow us to save that space for bin/tote type storage and a larger more comfortable bed for the wife and I while our 2 kids sleep up top.

The previous owner solved the bed problem by removing the front row bench and throwing in a queen blowup mattress. That is definitely still an option for us, but I'm also considering a sofa bed from shop4seats.com. Sleep while camping has always been elusive for my wife so a comfortable bed is paramount which is why I'm even considering a sofa bed.

I know a few of you have used seats from shop4seats but I haven't found anything about the results. Do they have a good product? Is there mounting system any good? What, if anything, did you do about seatbelts?

My thought is to mount the sofa bed in more/less the same position as the 2nd row bench and add the extend-a-bed behind it. That would allow us to have the requisite # of seats, room for bin storage, and even give us the option to put a portable table up front and eat in the van (Driver and passenger seat swivels on order).

Are there other, better options out there that I should consider? Any help, including links to previous posts, would be appreciated. Thanks!

Matt
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:31 AM   #2
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I have S4S bench and extend a bed. They are fine. Certainly not over or underbuilt, but fine. I mounted them using their brackets but made some larger steel backer plates for under the floor. They do make backer plates so order some. You will have to be careful of the location you mount them as you can run into "stuff" under the van. Pay attention to being able to use your factory shoulder belts. Also know that when the bench folds down, it does push forward some, so that is another consideration.

Probably your easiest and cleanest DIY solution out there that is safe. Other than that you would have to find a conversion company to do them.
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Old 12-12-2017, 12:11 PM   #3
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Another owner here with the Duchess. A well built seat, for a pretty hefty price imo.

As a fellow so cal van user, not sure how location affects the use of a refrigerator to keep food/drinks cold. But once you use one, you'll never go back.

I do agree on stove/sink tho.

Where exactly are you located, you are welcome to check out my seat if you want. I mounted it pretty simply with steel backing plates under hte van. Same with teh 3 lap belts
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Old 12-12-2017, 12:17 PM   #4
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Thanks Flux!

I remember reading your build posts. You are a WAY more competent fabricator than I am. Your van looks awesome!

I just revisited your photo album and looked at your seat belt set up. Do you only have lap belts in the back? Trying to use the existing shoulder harnesses would be ideal, but I don't think the geometry will work with where I'd place the seat. I'm considering a 4-point setup, as I don't think my wife will be all that excited about the kids riding around in just lap belts. The rub there being the seat back. I highly doubt it's stressed for the loads a front collision would place on it if the harness was attached to the floor directly below the seat back. I think the seat back would just fold forward negating its effectiveness. If I attached the harness a couple feet behind the seat I think it would be OK, but then I'm trading off storage space. Obviously safety comes first, but I'm hoping somebody out there smarter than me has a better idea.
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Old 12-12-2017, 12:23 PM   #5
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Thanks bemerritt!

I'm just up the road from you in Mission Viejo. It would be awesome to get a chance to see your setup. I'll PM you my info so we can set something up.
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Old 12-12-2017, 01:30 PM   #6
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Thank you for the compliments!! I only see all my mistakes.

Right now I only have the lap belts as my kids are in car seats. The car seats have an extra attachment behind their heads which goes over the seat and attaches to the floor. My belts are bolted through the floor to backer plates. When we get out of those I will go to a harness system like you mentioned.

Harness systems are most effective when the shoulder belts are attached straight back. I have a lot more reading on this to do before I pull the trigger. I have seen folks with the Y harness ones take them back down to the floor over the seat back. I think a lot of it depends on if you have the belts adjusted right. I know my kids are small enough that the standard shoulder belt would do very little and they would most likely slip out in a roll over, which is why I would prefer the harness even if it went over the seat back. But again, I have some reading up to do on the things that you are concerned with as well.
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Old 12-12-2017, 08:50 PM   #7
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Nc72922 - how tall are you and your wife? If 511 or under you can sleep across the back of the van and have storage under. Top of the bed foam is such that your head and feet fit into the window bays. This gives a clear 18 of clearance under the bed.
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Old 12-12-2017, 10:00 PM   #8
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1der,

Unfortunately, I'm 6'2" so sideways sleeping doesn't sound too appealing to me. The S4S sofa bed and extend-a-bed combine for a total of 70" which is still 4-6" short of ideal for me, but I'll survive. I'm more worried about my wife, but at 5'10" she should be OK too. Worse case scenario we place a cooler at the foot of the bed and use that to rest our feet on. That's what we did last month when we rented a Westy for 4 days in Joshua Tree. It wasn't ideal but it worked.

If I can get 18" of clearance under the seats I'll be stoked. That would allow for a ton of tote storage.
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Old 12-12-2017, 10:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nc72922 View Post
1der,

Unfortunately, I'm 6'2" so sideways sleeping doesn't sound too appealing to me. The S4S sofa bed and extend-a-bed combine for a total of 70" which is still 4-6" short of ideal for me, but I'll survive. I'm more worried about my wife, but at 5'10" she should be OK too. Worse case scenario we place a cooler at the foot of the bed and use that to rest our feet on. That's what we did last month when we rented a Westy for 4 days in Joshua Tree. It wasn't ideal but it worked.

If I can get 18" of clearance under the seats I'll be stoked. That would allow for a ton of tote storage.
It will be impossible to get the 18" under a seat. Under a raised bed platform it can be done , although you do lose a couple of inches of headroom with the SMB pop top bed and it will be really tight. Perhaps working down from the bottom of the penthouse bed platform and deciding how much space above the lower bed you want - do you need to sit up, or climb in and out, etc. probably 30 to 36", then 3" of foam and 1 inch of bed platform. Rest is what your storage space will allow under the bed platform. Is that about 14" to 16" ?

One idea that came to me was the possibility of having the penthouse bed raised up on some removable blocks since the boys probably do not need all the headroom available in the penthouse. This would give you and your wife more space above the lower bed. Possibly allowing the rear portion of the bed to be raised for more storage..... just ideas
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Old 12-13-2017, 10:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nc72922 View Post
1der,

Unfortunately, I'm 6'2" so sideways sleeping doesn't sound too appealing to me. The S4S sofa bed and extend-a-bed combine for a total of 70" which is still 4-6" short of ideal for me, but I'll survive. I'm more worried about my wife, but at 5'10" she should be OK too. Worse case scenario we place a cooler at the foot of the bed and use that to rest our feet on. That's what we did last month when we rented a Westy for 4 days in Joshua Tree. It wasn't ideal but it worked.

If I can get 18" of clearance under the seats I'll be stoked. That would allow for a ton of tote storage.
Ask them to make the extend a bed bigger. They will I think. Under the S4S seats you get about 11-13" clearance. I would have to measure again.
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