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Old 11-03-2021, 01:07 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2021
Location: WA
Posts: 32
Build: Making a 2006 Sportsmobile RB30 into my dream overlander

My build is in progress, but I figured better late than never with starting a build thread. Special thanks to Twoxentrix for the HEAPS of advice he's given me about this build. His help has been invaluable!

As was the case for many others, I was bitten by the overland mid-pandemic after being cooped up in the house for about a year. At first, I had my sights set on a VW Syncro. Although cool, I learned that a good one was a lot of money for a relatively old, small, and underpowered vehicle. Once I learned about Sportsmobiles, I realized that they are everything that's great about the Syncro, times ten. After many months searching, I found my unicorn: a 2006 RB30 diesel with 68k miles and all manuals/records:




Original specs:
  • E350 6.0 diesel XLT trim passenger van (includes some nice touches like temp/compass gauge, cruise control, rear heat/A/C, and rear LSD)
  • RB30 layout with pop top, side gaucho, fridge, microwave, and rear sink
  • Front & rear Aluminess bumpers
  • Air compressor
  • 12,000 lbs Warn winch
  • Sportsmobile designed Dynatrac 4x4 setup with Atlas transfer case
  • Rear shower

Previous owner upgrades:
  • Rear airbags with second, dedicated air compressor
  • Tekonsha trailer brake controller
  • Edge digital gauge monitor
  • Bulletproof EGR cooler
  • BD turbo

After flying down to LA to pick it up, the first stop was at Vantage Optics for some new HID headlights:



These were well worth the price and are one of my favorite upgrades to the vehicle.

Next, we headed out to Sequoia. After some beautiful sightseeing, we headed to Fresno, en route to Yosemite. While in Fresno though, we ran into our first bit of classic E350 6.0 trouble: the van just shut down in the middle of the road. No power, no lights, no nothing:



I called up Peter at SMB West (now at Field Van) and he recommended taking it to J's Performance Automotive. They did some fast diagnostic work, determined a dead FICM was the issue, and happened to have a Bulletproof FICM in stock. This was another very worth while upgrade.

The rest of the trip was without incident. When I got home, I continued with more upgrades: a black billet grill, 35x12.5r17 Toyo M/T tires, and 17x9 Pro Comp 69 Series (nice) wheels:



Running tally of upgrades:
  • Rear airbags with second, dedicated air compressor
  • Tekonsha trailer brake controller
  • Edge digital gauge monitor
  • Bulletproof EGR cooler
  • BD turbo
  • Vantage Optics HID headlights & LED signals
  • Bulletproof FICM
  • Black billet grill
  • 35x12.5r17 Toyo M/T tires
  • 17x9 Pro Comp 69 Series wheels

    For my next installment: more problems, more upgrades...
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Old 11-03-2021, 01:16 PM   #2
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Being a musician, my next set of upgrades included improving the stereo. The van still had the stock Kenwood unit from the 2006 build. Although very nice at the time (built in DVD player!), it was very outdated. Fortunately, the install was great and the original huge JBL amp still worked. I had the head unit upgraded to a Stinger Elev8 UN1880 and the front speakers upgraded to Morel Tempo Ultra 692 6"x9" components. The system now sounds great and the original 8" JBL subwoofer even blends perfectly with the new speakers:



Next, I took care of some tidying up of worn parts. I had the front headliner reupholstered to get rid of some sagging that occurred from sitting in the hot southern California sun for many years. I also replaced the faded front cowl, faded windshield wiper arms, and faded towing mirrors:



From there, I added one of my favorite accessories -- a McLean Metalworks hammock stand:



After that, all was good until right after I journeyed to Canada for a pre-wedding photoshoot with my then-fiancée (now wife -- she didn't leave me over the van... yet):



Just after the photo shoot, the van began spewing coolant like there was no tomorrow. Luckily, I was able to get it into a shop that could replace the water pump right away. The van continued leaking, but less. The shop determined it was leaking from multiple spots. Because the van had sat in the hot California sun for so many years, the hoses had become quite old and cracked by this point. I decided to just go all in and have the shop replace all hoses in the coolant system. When all was said and done, they replaced 14 or 15 hoses total. It took a few weeks before the problems were fixed, but thus far, everything seems to be back to normal...

Running tally of upgrades:
  • Rear airbags with second, dedicated air compressor
  • Tekonsha trailer brake controller
  • Edge digital gauge monitor
  • Bulletproof EGR cooler
  • BD turbo
  • Vantage Optics HID headlights & LED signals
  • Bulletproof FICM
  • Black billet grill
  • 35x12.5r17 Toyo M/T tires
  • 17x9 Pro Comp 69 Series wheels
  • Stinger Elev8 UN1880 head unit
  • Morel Tempo Ultra 692 6"x9" front component speakers
  • Reupholstered front headliner
  • Replaced front cowl
  • Replaced windshield wiper arms
  • Replaced towing mirrors
  • McLean Metalworks hammock stand
  • Replaced all coolant system hoses

Next installment, upgrades that have been five months in the works...
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Old 11-03-2021, 03:42 PM   #3
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Nice find on the van and congrats on the wedding!

I'll be following along to see what other upgrades you have in the works.
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Old 11-03-2021, 04:10 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by aarcaris View Post
Nice find on the van and congrats on the wedding!

I'll be following along to see what other upgrades you have in the works.
Thanks! Lots more to come!
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Old 11-03-2021, 04:19 PM   #5
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Yeah, what he said. Nice, and looking forward to following along. Congrats as well on your marriage.
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Old 11-03-2021, 04:25 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by owlicks View Post
Thanks! Lots more to come!
Nice, I'm excited to see it! Once you get going it seems like there is always more you want to do. I started my ground up build last year and the list of things to do only gets longer as time goes on.
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Old 11-03-2021, 04:37 PM   #7
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Yeah, what he said. Nice, and looking forward to following along. Congrats as well on your marriage.
Thank you -- more updates soon.
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Old 11-03-2021, 04:40 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by aarcaris View Post
Nice, I'm excited to see it! Once you get going it seems like there is always more you want to do. I started my ground up build last year and the list of things to do only gets longer as time goes on.
Nice! That is definitely how it goes! I have more posts to catch up to the current status, then I have a heap of parts sitting next to me by my computer ready to go on the van, ha ha.

Bend is a beautiful place, by the way! I was actually just there last weekend. I stopped by the Earthcruiser factory and one of the employees was kind enough to let me tour the rigs even though they were closed. Already dreaming about one of those after this build... ha ha.

I'd seriously consider moving down to Bend if my wife was on board. As it is, we may rent a place down there for a month or two when the weather gets warmer next year to see how we like it day to day.
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Old 11-03-2021, 05:16 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by owlicks View Post
Nice! That is definitely how it goes! I have more posts to catch up to the current status, then I have a heap of parts sitting next to me by my computer ready to go on the van, ha ha.

Bend is a beautiful place, by the way! I was actually just there last weekend. I stopped by the Earthcruiser factory and one of the employees was kind enough to let me tour the rigs even though they were closed. Already dreaming about one of those after this build... ha ha.

I'd seriously consider moving down to Bend if my wife was on board. As it is, we may rent a place down there for a month or two when the weather gets warmer next year to see how we like it day to day.
I did the same thing in the first few months of our build.

Earthcruiser makes a nice rig! One of the lumber yards in town is in the same parking lot, so I've spent numerous times driving by their shop and seeing all the cool things they are working on.

Bend is a great place to live. Lots of outdoor activities with a pretty vibrant town. I would consider us as still relatively new residences in Bend, but even in the last few years, it's grown a lot. As long as you don't mind some winter weather and can swing it financially most people seem to love it once they move here.
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Old 11-03-2021, 07:09 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by owlicks View Post
My build is in progress, but I figured better late than never with starting a build thread. Special thanks to Twoxentrix for the HEAPS of advice he's given me about this build. His help has been invaluable!
Very kind of you to mention, but I also started off a little out of my element - other than the absolute desire & motivation that I HAD TO HAVE one of these rigs.
Any information/advise I provided has merely been the accumulated knowledge I gained over the last 6.5 years from the contributions of the talented Members on this Forum
Can't tell you how many times they've bailed me out.

Van is looking Great! I also look forward to seeing ALL the ADDI$$ONAL MODS you're planning.
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