I have an R50 V8-5.4l E250 on order from the folks in Texas. I bought it from Fresno and shipped it with two other vans to Texas last week. Paul estimates that it will be done some time in October. I live in a high-rise building and, unfortunately, my parking structure won't hold anything as tall as a 4WD conversion, so we are building this as a 2WD van, with the plan to convert it to 4WD if we ever move. The van has the limited slip rear axle option.
I have been reading Peter Massey's "Backcountry Adventures" book, which shows a lot of trails in Southern California that he rates as a 2 on an off-roading scale of 1 to 10. His description of a 2 is "High-clearance vehicles are preferred, but not necessary. These trails are dirt roads, but they may have rocks, grades, water crossings, or ruts that make clearance a concern in a normal passenger vehicle. The trails are fairly wide, so that passing is possible at almost any point along the trail. Mud is not a concern under normal weather conditions."
For those of you familiar with Death Valley, the trails he rates a 2 are:
Cerro Gordo Road
Cima Dome Trail
Hidden Valey Road
Harry Wade Exit Route
New York Mountains Trail
Nipton Desert Road
Owlshead Mountains Trail
Saline Valley Road
Skeleton Pass Road
Titus Canyon Trail
My question is-- how realistic is it to take a 2WD non-lifted SMB on these trails? The E250 specifications show 7" of ground clearance, which is only 1.5" less than a Pathfinder (which I have taken off road).
Would a winch be useful in a van like this, on these trails? I have never used one before and don't know how much capability this adds-- say we sink up to our axles into sand on the Fonts Point Trail in Anza Borrego, would the winch be much use? Or if it rains while we are camping out and find a dirt road has now become muddy, is the winch enough of a crutch to get home in a 2WD, or would we really just be screwed?