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Old 12-15-2013, 01:10 AM   #1
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How cheap is too cheap?

Just wondering "how low you would go" on a base van to make your DIY RV conversion? This is available locally to me, but looks to be in "beat up" condition with questionable floor spills, ripped up front seat, etc.... Probably on the list to "go to auction" soon.

1997 Ford Econoline Van
5.4L V8 PFI SOHC 16V
173.2 k miles



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 12-15-2013, 01:47 AM   #2
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Re: How cheap is too cheap?

You'll end up spending more to fix the repairs than you would should you buy one in better shape. You get what you pay for. Nothing worse than building on a terrible platform.

2006 Express Duramax 2500
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Old 12-15-2013, 07:08 AM   #3
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Re: How cheap is too cheap?

First thing that comes to mind is: "one man's junk is another man's treasure...."

I'd yank that back floor mat and assess the floor---those things are a known rust incubator. Next would be a very thorough under-body visual inspection for rust anywhere. There will be some but how much and where would be a concern.

Honestly though I'd pay $1400 for that van as is. Yes it looks somewhat beat to hell and back but as a rolling chassis for low dollars the visible repairs aren't a huge issue. Motor mileage isn't too much a deal breaker either.

Yes spending more would most likely yield a "better" vehicle but how much better really? Having now owned a worse condition '97 along with a '00 and daily driven '03 I'll say body-wise the '97 > '02's seem better. Could be just my perception and experience but looking in the scrap yards I see many, many earlier E-Series still in good shape, even up north here.

In fact that van might be driven off the lot for a cool $1200--act quickly if you're up for a bit of elbow exercising!
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Old 12-15-2013, 09:20 AM   #4
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Re: How cheap is too cheap?

I would skip that one for an RV conversion personally. There are millions of Ford vans out there. My reasons would be finding one without the big fleet mirrors with holes left in the door, and the lack of cruise control and power windows/door locks. I find these simple conveniences invaluable in a vehicle that I travel and relax in. That's just my opinion of course, the van itself doesn't look too beat up. I would NOT be afraid of the miles. Oh, also, do you really want a sliding side door? They are hard to work on when they screw up, they prevent you from adding bigger tires in some cases, they are hard for passengers with less strength to open and close, from the in or outside. Etc. I loved one in a delivery vehicle but this won't be.

Good luck, it mostly comes down to your needs and desires.

Currently vanless. Weird.

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Finally found a pic of my first camper,
a 1986 Serro Scotty
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Old 12-15-2013, 12:07 PM   #5
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Re: How cheap is too cheap?

It doesn't look too beat up. But I would hold out for an XLT van for the power amenities.

No matter what, and van of that era I would highly recommend budgeting for a new front axle takeout replacement. It'll address most of the ear and maintenance issues typical on a high mileage E-series for MUCH less that addressing them when they become critical (mainly brakes, ball joints and suspension bushings) while at the same time upgrading to bigger and better parts.
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