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Old 04-17-2015, 09:37 PM   #1
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Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Hello everyone, I'm new to the forum. I'll have to say thanks to all the contributors and moderators for making this forum possible. What an excellent resource.

We recently (finally!) purchased a new to us van to build out for an adventure van to haul our family to rivers and mountains. We are located in Tennessee and we do a lot of weekend trips mostly to nearby whitewater rivers and creeks. We also wanted a van for longer cross country trips.

We bought a 2006 E350 XLT Super Duty with a high top. It was a wheel chair transportation van in it's previously life in Wisconsin, however we bought it via NC. I didn't discover this forum until after the purchase and we sort of feel into buying a van with a raised top, luck? We shall see, we think so. We knew we wanted an extended passenger and decided we wanted the Ford e-series with the 5.4L gas.


Here was a photo of the drive home after picking up the van near Asheville, NC.

The high top was installed by an outfit in Oklahoma that does these wheelchair vans. It has a stout steel roll cage between the headliner and the fiberglass top. With the roll cage we loose about 3-5" of head space inside the van. Not crazy about it but more on that later.

The van has 173,000 miles but mechanically seems well taken care of. The interior was dirty as all heck and has been smoked in. Needless to say it is currently getting a deep clean. Good thing I used to detail cars back in college.

Did I mention we are building this on a tight budget. We wanted to stay in the $4 to 6k range for the initial purchase and we got this van for $3,800. We feel like it was a fair price for the mileage but that's a lot of van for under $4k so we are happy with it so far.

We plan a simple build that will fit at least four passengers, we have a 2 year old and 70 pup that will be travel with use on most trips. At this point our basic plan is as follows: platform bed in the back with a permanent queen size bed with storage underneath. Two bucket seats or a double bench seat in front of the bed with a cabinet, fridge, storage behind the drivers seat back to the bed. A permanent bed is a must for us at this point. We want to make those weekend trips easy and not having to situate gear, move this, move that, unfold this, latch that, unfold the mattress, get the bleepin sags, etc. We just want to pull in the campground, put the kid to sleep and hit the bed - if needed. Anyway, more on the build later. Here are some more photos.









Shampooed the headliner trying to get the smoke smell out.


The license plate was riveted on so had to remove, drill them out and install my new plates.


I ordered a new OEM carpet from Fam Van Parts for a $100, $150 shipped. It's not the permanent set up we want but it was cheap and quick as we have a trip coming up in a couple weeks. It's plush and gets us by until we figure out our final build flooring. The plywood with rubber flooring on top of that which I've seen on the forum looks good and reasonably priced and easy to install.


Current set up


Will build a bed platform in the back soon as temporary measure for our upcoming week long trip. This will help us figure out what we need for a long term set up. I'm hoping to get it high enough to put our mtn bikes on fork mounts below, approx 32" clearance. The total ceiling height is about 60 to 62 inches. Will have to sacrifice head room while sleeping if we want that much storage.


First kayak trip to one of our local runs. Considering a rack on top eventually for whitewater boats. Not sure how that would work or about accessing. We shall see.


I'll try to post back when I can with updates on the build. I plan to keep it 2wd but will consider a posi-track or limited slip differential if I determine that would help with the conditions. I typically won't need 4wd as we mostly need clearance for rough putin roads but most the time 2wd is fine.

Well, I hope to hear any all feedback and input. I need all the help I can get.

Thanks,
Justin
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Old 04-17-2015, 09:45 PM   #2
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Welcome to the forum Justin, and good luck on the build.

Looks like a surge in SMB's down south.


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Old 04-18-2015, 06:25 AM   #3
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Indeed welcome to SMB! Nice looking van with great potential for the money----you did well I think. Were it not for all those windows (not needed or wanted for my use) that would have been a deal I'd have jumped on my own self! a few observations that hopefully are helpful........

The heavy roll cage-like structure just under the raised roof is absolutely necessary if only from a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for after manufacture vehicle modifiers. Factory roof structure removed while adding that top renders the body very fragile----properly designed and installed those upper cages restore a lot of upper body rigidity.

Along that same line the rear doors have better upper latches---earlier versions of extended-height doors similar to yours didn't have that feature. I have one of those and the doors aren't don't close as solidly as I'd prefer.

If this van has been properly maintained over its life those 173K miles is almost nothing. My own 2000 E250 was purchased with 203K miles, now has just over 275K miles and has been pretty much flawless since 2008. Not sure your DIY skill or interest level but most of us here along with another site can pretty much walk you through many steps that will save money and give great peace of mind small repairs/maintenance is done correctly.

If the stink of previous smokers persists fire restoration companies that mostly specialize in residential work regularly treat vehicle interiors too. Its an ozone-replacement process that's not too expensive over all but is so thorough its well worth the cost, typically less than $200. By way of a "fogging" process it reaches spots inside we can't even see.

Anyway hope to see your progress.
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Old 04-18-2015, 08:56 AM   #4
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Welcome from another Tennesseean! I'm just up the road near Knoxville. Looks like you got a good deal and a good start. Nice to see that high top with rear air too, that's a fairly rare combo. You'll need it with our humidity.

Looking forward to the build.

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Old 04-18-2015, 09:26 AM   #5
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Welcome Justin! Looks like a great budget van.

As mentioned, ozone is the method of choice for removing the smoke odor. My buddy works at a place that does home repairs for insurance companies, mostly smoke and water damage stuff. They use ozone on lots of things from house fires, and it works amazingly well.

We love pictures here, so keep 'em coming!

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Old 04-18-2015, 12:40 PM   #6
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Thanks everyone, looking forward to figuring out what will work best for us and putting it into action.

JAW - same JAW over on the Ford Enthusiast forum? You and others gave me some good input on a DCT 0446 code just last week. And yes, plan on doing most anything myself so I'll be sure to ask and post up anything that may be of interest. I've already fixed the brake lights and check engine light (needed that to pass emissions and get tags). -Thanks for the input on the roll cage, I figured as much but haven't seen anything as stout at this on other hightop or poptop build threads. I haven't personally investigated many of them in person.

I'm familiar with the Ozone process. We used to use one when I worked at a Toyota dealership back in the day. I may have to go to that extent, we'll see. Plan to replace the bench seat and possibly the front seats as well. If it's still an issue after that I'll consider the Ozone.

Good to see some fellow southerners on here too. Super cool.

Regards,
J
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Old 04-19-2015, 05:41 AM   #7
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jboles
Thanks everyone, looking forward to figuring out what will work best for us and putting it into action.

JAW - same JAW over on the Ford Enthusiast forum?

J
One and the same----some of us are here and there too----and awesome too!

BTW its JWA not JAW!
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Old 04-19-2015, 08:13 PM   #8
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

JWA - good deal. Small world around here. Also, regarding the window vs. cargo van. My wife straight up said she wouldn't drive a van without windows so we quickly moved in the direction. I'm ok with it but see where you could install enough windows in the right places on a cargo van and get about the same. None-the-less, we like what we ended up with.


I was able to get a few things accomplished this weekend. Very luckily I picked up a used swing away bike from a local gear swap. I wasn't even looking for one quite yet but for $200 I couldn't pass it up. I don't favor having bikes on the outside of the van but it will be great for those long trips where we need the interior space and simplicity of having the bikes secured outside the van.






I also picked up a roll of Reflectix and cut out some window blocking inserts for when it's super hot and sunny and for sleeping. We plan to lay them out for all the window except the front where we plan to install a full width curtain behind the captains chairs.





I bought lumber to build the platform and a few other items before my trip coming up in two weeks. I got two 4x8 sheets of 1/2" plywood and a dozen sticks of 2x3s. I hope to build up the platform in the next week or so. The interior smells like lumber for now - much better than some old cigs.

Regards,
Justin
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Old 04-21-2015, 05:14 AM   #9
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Your ideas for window privacy screens are good and here's a thread that might be handy for a way to keep them in place while parked: http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/vie...p?f=40&t=11820, Skyrat provides a great idea.
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Old 04-26-2015, 09:15 PM   #10
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Re: Gruffalo the Family Adventure Van - Build Thread

Build update:

Our first trip is coming up next weekend and the van is just about ready. I'm finished with the bed platform, got the windows tinted and put a coat of spray paint on the steel wheels. I also built a removable platform that fits over the bench seat up to the back of the front seats seats for my boy to sleep on. I'm 90% complete with the cleaning of the muck that came on this thing. A few door panels and the dash is all I have left. It's been fun but a lot of work leading up to our first trip.

The bed platform has 27" clearance below the 1/2" ply board to the carpet, about 33" above. We will put a futon mattress with a 2" memory foam mattress topper on top of that.

















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