Originally Posted by AtlasMick
I was also on the fence about purchasing either.
I would love to stumble onto a reasonably priced 4x4 van already equipped with some version of selectable lockers, so that I would have a base for building up a rugged off road camper. I do need some more education on what a good Sportsmobile setup is. Having watched some videos of these 4x4's in the mud, I saw some that indicated they had lockers still having the rear spin faster than the fronts, with left and right still matching. Is it not possible to get 4 wheel lock like Jeeps?
My significant other is a film photographer and we would like to get out there and really see everything. We also motorcycle though, so it doesn't have to rock climb. She has a yamaha SR400 that needs very little to be converted into essentially a dirtbike and I'll probably find a light ADV bike when the van we want becomes a reality. If the trails get absurd or tight then the plan would be to setup camp and take off with the bikes.
As far as which model I am interested in, MPG and total range are important to me. The type of gas not that much. Getting an extended version is also important due to having some dogs and a huge slew of camera equipment to haul around.
I would say between myself and my SO, we have enough mechanical skill to rebuild parts and replace or upgrade things on our own. I have in the past rebuilt little DOHC Japanese engines and the transmission on my Sportster successfully.
I look forward to hearing more of your suggestions, and the advice is greatly appreciated!
I don't look at my van as a Jeep. I can't hard core rock climb with my van but it is surprising where it can go. If you don't plan to get into medium to easy rock climbing (you mentioned bikes) I wouldn't waste my money on lockers. I'd be looking into an E-350 EB with a full float rear axle with a rear limited slip. Maybe a winch and a good on board air compressor. Chevy's are a better more comfortable drive and a Chevy 4x4 is a great vehicle for snow or easy forest service roads but their wheel base is kinda long.
My van was a standard SMB 4x4 conversion. I can't speak of the other companies that build conversion kits but there are several here such as Quigley, Agile, Ujoint as well as some active members on this site putting out top quality kits.
I've got a Dynatrac pro rock 60 up front with an ARB locker & Warn prem hubs. The front also has a disconnectable Hellwig sway bar. I ditched my old 06 SMB shocks and springs and went with a Deaver Spring package. The SMB build has an Atlas II transfer case and beefed up drive line. They've built the conversion to have a really good turning radius and that helps when driving switchbacks with a long vehicle like my EB. Brakes are a bit lacking and a hydroboost conversion is probably going to happen in my vans near future. The newer 08 and up have a different setup compared to my 06. Their lift is a bit higher than what they did earlier and they went with (IIRC) F-550 brakes. SMB puts an 42 gal aftermarket fuel tank in as a option that most seem to purchase.
If your pockets are full or you like to work on engines, maybe you can score a good deal on a 6.0 PSD... great trail fuel mileage but maintenance is expensive. I do like the way a diesel can crawl in tricky situations.
I'm guessing you are going to need to put at least one trail bike inside?