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Old 04-14-2008, 06:57 PM   #1
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Wanted: Critique of my ideas/design so far, please

I'd like to get everyone's opinion on my SMB design so far. I kind of want to run the whole thing by everyone here initially, even before SMB sees it, so I can be sure I'm on the right track w/ my thinking, decisions, etc. And you all are way more experienced than I am, so let the criticism (both constructive and destructive) begin!

This vehicle will contain many "firsts" for me:

- my first full-sized van
- my first Recreational Vehicle
- my first camping experience
- my first time needing to worry about battery capacity
- my first time needing to worry about water conservation and use
- my first 4x4 (if I go w/ that option)
- my first V-8 or V-10 vehicle
- (I'm probably forgetting a bunch, too!)

I'm guessing a list of "purposes" for the van is beneficial so you can properly critique my ideas, so here's what I forsee the van being used for:

- Daily Driver (to/from work, pick up my three kids a few times per week)
- Weekend Camper (for me and my fiancee to "get away" to local mini-vacation spots)
- Week-long Camper (for the annual one-week vacation somewhere)
- Cargo carrier (transportation for my mountain bike, furniture moving, etc)
- Mobile office (plan on putting a laptop in there and working out of my van part time)
- Secondary home (just to "hang" in occasionally, just for the heck of it)
- Tow vehicle (in the future - for a small pop-up for extra sleeping space for the kids)
- anything else I haven't thought of yet

Anyway, I've been designing via floorplan in both the DYO online and cut-n-paste paper pieces. I was originally planning on getting a regular body van, but after two designs, I quickly realized that the extra 20" is priceless, so I moved "up" to an extended body van.

So, the initial thoughts on the van are:

- Ford E350 EB V-8 gas

Anyway, my "reasoning" behind what I have so far is based on the potential uses for the van (listed above), and my attempt to keep the van as "light" as possible. It'll have A/C, heat, hot water, and an extra battery. I am NOT getting an awning. After seeing a "Dinette W" in person, I realized that those are NOT made for a 6'-0" tall person, so I'm going with the Gaucho sofa option for sleeping. Also inside, I'm going w/ Cabinet HA (A/C, frig, microwave), Storage J or K, Galley F (cooktop and sink), and a large table for eating at the Gaucho. I'm going w/ the penthouse and bed option as well, in case I need the extra sleeping space. I originally wanted a shower, too, but I'm really hesitant on this design working comfortably inside a penthouse top, AND having any sort of cargo space, too.

Here's my design so far, w/ my comments/questions in red:


What do you think? Will this work? Will it handle all of my uses? Is the "adaptable" open area in the back a good idea?

I have a few unknowns, so maybe my design will change:

- where does the heater go?
- where does the fresh water tank go?
- where does the water heater and pump go?

And I'm sure there are a ton of things I have not even thought of yet (which is why I'm posting this for all you SMB owners)...

Thanks for any input you can offer! I want to do this right the first time.
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Homebuilt RV Project: Design Phase is 80% Complete! (but on hold until I win the lottery)
Ford E-350 EB w/ Cruiser Top, Flip-down "Gaucho" sofa/bed, custom cabinets, AGM batteries, solar panels, water heater, fresh/gray water tanks, sink, porta-potty....
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Old 04-14-2008, 07:27 PM   #2
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Dave,
The biggest problem I see is that passengers can't travel sideways, even if they're belted. Your plan would be fine if you were only going to have one passenger.
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Old 04-14-2008, 09:14 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanna
Dave,
The biggest problem I see is that passengers can't travel sideways, even if they're belted. Your plan would be fine if you were only going to have one passenger.
Huh? My brother did lots of research and concluded that sideways was fine even for his kids (although the younger gets severely car sick if the window is open).

As far as the design- the gaucho might not be big enough for 2 people (as learned from my brother's van again).

If you're getting the pop top you won't need the trailer unless you want them to be in a different room or they're older than say 14. (my brother and I lived in a PH for 3 months he was 15 and I was 13... then again maybe that explains why he went for the Sprinter with the fixed top...)

And battery capacity... my opinion is you should prewire for solar and then buy the biggest house battery(s) you can afford. The prewire give you a voltage reading to monitor and you can upgrade batteries, or add batteries, or add a solar panel easily (where as having the prewire put in post build is tougher).

I personally don't like things blocking the side doors, being big and wide it is easier to get in and out with both open. Plus the pantry is priceless, but then I don't have a fixed stove (and having the counter space and reading about other people's inside cooking experiences I'm glad I don't)

The cabinet you were thinking of switching won't really be "right behind" the driver's seat. You can have them build a short cabinet that is right up against it, or leave a small space like I have. From your diagram that looks like a relatively large space.

You only have about 1 million other ways to design it so keep playing with it and imagining how you're going to use it.
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Old 04-14-2008, 09:24 PM   #4
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Gee, maybe I'm wrong, and since I'm not in California anymore, I can't even look it up, but it was my impression that passengers had to be forward facing. Could different states have various rules on this?
SMB would know.
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Old 04-14-2008, 09:39 PM   #5
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Dave I guess my first thought is you have never camped. Have you been a backpacker or slept in small spaces like tents. If not you might want to rent a similar rig like a Roadtrek for a couple of weeks to see for yourself. You might get some ideas to adjust your order. It will also give you some feeling of driving, parking, backing, and living in something kind of like an SMB. Of course nothings like the real thing. As a backpacker and tent camper my SMB was a fantastic upgrade.
You want to make sure the bed is OK for 2. You might want to plumb in a shower. Those portable showers are nice but take up space. Just washing your hair makes a big difference especially to the ladies. One 4-D battery is ok but I had to add a second, now power is not a problem using light loads. Solar is good, at least pre-wire for it.
Sorry can’t comment on Propane, don’t have it.
The open back is nice but you can add a shelf maybe enough room for a small removable bed. Closets are nice to store in but a suitcase is OK. Just some thoughts.
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Old 04-15-2008, 04:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanna
The biggest problem I see is that passengers can't travel sideways, even if they're belted.... it was my impression that passengers had to be forward facing. Could different states have various rules on this?
Good point, Joanna. I actually have an email in to both SMB North, and the Delaware DMV on this matter. I would have to assume, though, that side-facing passengers would be OK, since many RV's have this seating arrangement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jage
As far as the design- the gaucho might not be big enough for 2 people (as learned from my brother's van again).

If you're getting the pop top you won't need the trailer unless you want them to be in a different room or they're older than say 14....

And battery capacity... my opinion is you should prewire for solar and then buy the biggest house battery(s) you can afford. The prewire give you a voltage reading to monitor and you can upgrade batteries, or add batteries, or add a solar panel easily (where as having the prewire put in post build is tougher).

I personally don't like things blocking the side doors, being big and wide it is easier to get in and out with both open. Plus the pantry is priceless, but then I don't have a fixed stove (and having the counter space and reading about other people's inside cooking experiences I'm glad I don't)

The cabinet you were thinking of switching won't really be "right behind" the driver's seat. You can have them build a short cabinet that is right up against it, or leave a small space like I have. From your diagram that looks like a relatively large space.
jage,

I'll have to take a few measurements of our bed at home, and see if the Gaucho (full length, and 48" wide) will suffice for us.

The trailer was a future idea, to give the kids (and us) more room (and more privacy) for future camping trips. I wouldn't worry about it right now, as my oldest child is only 8. They can easily climb up into the ph bed, or use the optional cab seats bed thing....

Good point on the prewire for solar and batteries. I'll certainly look into that further.

The SMB I saw first-hand here had the galley blocking the shorter door on the side. I thought it was wierd at first, but I had no issues w/ getting inside easily. I'm guessing the only reason to block a door like that is to get more useful space out of the van.

As far as the large space behind the driver's seat, I was using the DYO online and the cut-n-paste design guides, which indicate the starting points for both a short cabinet and tall cabinet. Believe me, I'd like to get a little closer to the seat w/ stuff. But I'm assuming these guide lines a la SMB are only if the driver's seat will swivel?


Quote:
Originally Posted by daveb
Dave I guess my first thought is you have never camped. Have you been a backpacker or slept in small spaces like tents. If not you might want to rent a similar rig like a Roadtrek for a couple of weeks to see for yourself. You might get some ideas to adjust your order. It will also give you some feeling of driving, parking, backing, and living in something kind of like an SMB. Of course nothings like the real thing.... You might want to plumb in a shower. Those portable showers are nice but take up space. Just washing your hair makes a big difference especially to the ladies....
daveb - I haven't camped as an adult. Correct. I was in the cub scouts and we did camp a little here and there, but this is different. I had considered renting a Roadtrek (I was looking at these seriously before I found the SMB!), but the "local" RV center closest to me charges $220/day (3 day minimum) plus 44¢/mile. WTF? I don't think so. I'll do my verifications in my mind instead of a rental. Although, I can easily test-drive some Ford E350's from the local dealer to get an idea of how they handle and how "big" they are to park. Good point on the shower thing. Luckily for me, my fiancee is from Oregon and doesn't mind roughing it.

Thanks everyone for your comments and points/suggestions so far! I appreciate them!

Additional questions I have:

- Is the Gaucho "extension" cushion worth while? I could order a slightly shorter Gaucho and use the extension to "save space" for other items....

- where is the shifter for the 4x4's located? Is it right next to the driver's seat? A swivel seat would then be impossible, correct?
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Homebuilt RV Project: Design Phase is 80% Complete! (but on hold until I win the lottery)
Ford E-350 EB w/ Cruiser Top, Flip-down "Gaucho" sofa/bed, custom cabinets, AGM batteries, solar panels, water heater, fresh/gray water tanks, sink, porta-potty....
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Old 04-15-2008, 04:58 PM   #7
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Why all the fuss with customization? Everyone knows that the Sportsmobile RB-50 is nature's perfect camping vehicle.











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Tent camping for now. Dreaming up a new 4x4 SMB. Gas or Diesel?
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Old 04-15-2008, 05:37 PM   #8
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Dave in Delaware, there is a used one on the Sportsmobile website that is very similar to what you are looking to outfit. It is an RB, not EB. It is the next to last one before you get to the "sold" section. It is the same color that you liked in the classified section here. Being so low on list, they might be willing to negotiate. oclv
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Old 04-15-2008, 05:45 PM   #9
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Right On, lowracer!

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Old 04-15-2008, 05:58 PM   #10
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You are about to spend $75k to $100k and you won't rent a van for $800 to see if you like it! Penny wise and pound foolish!
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