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Old 04-22-2021, 06:38 PM   #21
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Yeah, I hear you on basically all of that. If you could keep it RB sized but do a cabover for sleeping, a la the old Tiger vans, it'd be a hell of a package. Bonus points if there's a pop top option to keep it low. Tigers don't seem to have an issue holding value or selling at a premium either. I pinged Phoenix campers about this and they were at about $50k not including the flatbed/subframe, but they only do full builds - not just a shell like total composites. Total composites doesn't do pop tops however.
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Old 04-22-2021, 07:15 PM   #22
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Pop tops make so much sense...big proponent here! When up, they make the space so much more livable in terms of light, visibility, ventilation and added sleeping....all plusses when in a small space. When down, clearance, driving in cross winds, lower CG / more stable, and less to heat in extreme cold. Of course there is more maintenance and may be challenging if you have a heavy oad on top. In some bear country parks, they require your top down when sleeping at night. Pros outweigh the cons, imo. I've reached out to Colorado Camper Vans to see if they could add a pop top to a box construction and still waiting for a response.
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Old 04-22-2021, 07:55 PM   #23
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They can, if they will. They have done a few unique tops like that. For CCV, who has the fiberglass and lift mechanism dialed in, you can't get much better than combining that with a 6' TC box (or similar) and putting it on a 7.3 gas E350 cutaway. Personally though, these days I'm seeing more merit in one on a F series (or other make) pick up cab chassis that has the simplicity and affordability of factory 4wd.

When you add up TC box plus E350 chassis cab plus 4wd conversion plus pop top of some make things get really expensive before you even start on the interior.

A factory 4wd chassis cab seems like it would be cheaper than E series chassis cab plus 4wd conversion but I haven't priced it out.

Then the compromise becomes no flat floor and floor mounted van seats (which I personally love) and not as easy a pass thru. Even Earthroamer's budget free pass through offerings leave a lot to be desired IMO. No where near as good as spinning the seats in an SMB and instantly having a living room.

I am rather enjoying this thread.
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Old 04-22-2021, 08:50 PM   #24
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The F series do offer a great stock solution, but you're going to end up with a longer wheel base, wider turning radius, longer vehicle bumper to bumper, and less desirable approach, departure and breakover over angles, but with a little better highway tracking as result. You'll probably get a 34 gallon tank rather than the 40 gallon on the e350 Cutaway Chassis, unless you go with the super crew long bed which would be much longer but you get a 48 gallon tank then. The F series will give you some better electronics, drive modes, higher speed of on the fly 4wd, and trim options. You'll likely be able to pair the 10spd transmission which would be super nice (would love to see that with the e350!). Of course you end up with the massive hood on the F series making visibility going up steep terrain more challenging, though somewhat solvable with camera technology. Due to the hood you're just going to have a more cumbersome vehicle. By the time all is said and done, I doubt the E350 with 4x4 conversion is that much more than a nicely and comparably built F series. To me, if the vehicle is built for one purpose, backcountry touring, the e350 gets the nod. If the vehicle needs to tow a gooseneck one day, a slide in camper this weekend, and mulch on Monday, the pick up is the way to go If building a box, I'd rather have more length in a rectangular format than a short one with over cab sleeping, been there and that why I'm in an SMB right now...just thinking about a few ways it could be improved
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Old 04-22-2021, 09:07 PM   #25
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Great points. I've had both and then some and the only thing that is for sure is that there is no perfect do it all vehicle. I sure love to dream of them constantly though!
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Old 04-23-2021, 06:17 AM   #26
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Andreas told me they did this one Land Rover Defender 130 Camper Conversion, start to finish - North 60 Adventure and said they'd never do another one. But in retrospect, it was not clear if he was talking about the panels for the pop top or the fabric + lift system. That was also 2.5 yrs ago and sometimes people change their minds.

If people are paying 6 figures for sprinters, then I'd think a modern one ton version of the Tiger Astro (see pic) would get a lot of attention. Phoenix campers did say they could do a frame mount camper and basically do exactly this, but it was $60k before adding options. Again, that's with a full interior though - the only way they'll do it. I agree that the 4x4 being aftermarket is a bummer but for awhile that's how it was with the Transits too (still is if you want a transfer case). Hell people are dropping $20-30k on the Astros if they have awd, and that's for a 40 yr old vehicle with 165-190hp. I can't seem to find original MSRP for those but I'd be curious to find out then add inflation.
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Old 04-23-2021, 06:34 AM   #27
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That's for sure...no perfect do all vehicle...Each one is going to be biased in oneway or another. I do think a converted E350 gets closest to a 50/50 onroad / offroad performance. I've previously mentioned lots of characteristics that make it a little better offroad than an F series (wheel base, angles, hood, etc) which in turn make the F series a little better for highway and off course towing. Now if you look at the cabover Fuso based model, they may be a little better off road, mostly due to just the heavier duty components (transfer case, Dana 80s, etc) but they are substantially heavier and longer so it's worth a closer look. On road, the E350 can cruise at highway speeds (here in Utah that can mean 80mph is some spots) and overtake as necessary (the 2020 Fuso has a speed limiter making 70mph max). In a converted e350 you can shift on the fly in 4wd (with hubs locked) at slower speeds than an F350 vs coming to a complete stop as in a converted Fuso due to the heavier duty style of transfer case, which is likely an advantage offroad. A converted e350 has lots of wheels and tire options including those with the mtn snow flake. Having several tire options can be a big benefit for tracking, noise, mpgs etc or added off road capability. Being able to swap them for certain trips is a nice option. Whereas the cabover conversions are maxing out on mud terrain tires to support the weight and there are no snow / mtn snowflake options and fewer tires that will fit in general, which could prove challenging the further from home you get.

Now when you factor in the livability aspect, those with the boxes and straight walls like in a truck camper start to get the advantage over the van except for the access piece. Truck camper tend to be quite wide and require some agility to get into and out of bed, pass throughs are a a rare option. The Cabover boxed vehicles tend to have all the creature comforts in the same length as the truck camper set up (due to all the hood space being utilized in the living compartment). They're better insulated, with better insulated windows, so better suited in more inclement conditions.

I'm envisioning an e350 with a box, could achieve some improved livability characteristics with straight insulated panels for more layout and feature options without increasing overall length & width of the classic RB, and maintaining on and off road performance. Too much too ask? All the elements are there but figuring out the mounting system is quite literally the missing link.
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Old 04-23-2021, 06:53 AM   #28
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An updated tiger astro would be a good starting point, and I'd okay not having the overcab bed too. Seems like lots of improvements have been developed that would make revisiting something along these lines desirable. Done right, the price would like likely be comparable somewhere between a fully built Sprinter and an SMB Classic, not cheap. Then a shell option for the DIYer should bring the price down significantly and still be a great long lasting platform.
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Old 04-23-2021, 07:49 AM   #29
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I have been in touch with Andreas directly. He suggests mounting using the standard body mounts to the front and cab area, and some sort of springs in the back.

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I'll say it again but I think all of this talk about special mounting is just personal opinion. Until someone shows me some FEA that shows the frame flex with and without a solid box then I'm not sold. Again, look at how many tens of thousands of Class C Rvs are out there with basic mounting of the box to the frame. Add in a custom mount and it will be better than most "assembly line" mountings of the RV manufacturers. Sure most of them are highway cruisers only but I've seen many in some remote places...4wd or not and when I talk to the owners they have never had any sign of flex issues.

I'm assuming anybody looking at doing this is going to go with a decent size box (12'+ long, 7'+ wide and 6'+ tall. This is a big, heavy vehicle, which a big turning radius and there is only so many tight, nasty 4x4 trails where I can physically fit.

Me, I'm way more concerned about getting stick in a muddy grassy field after a recent rain than getting stuck on a three diamond trail.
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Old 04-23-2021, 07:52 AM   #30
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There's also a bit of hurdle in being able to buy a Cutaway Chassis before registering it. Usually they go to some sort of body upfitter where it can then be registered or an Upfitter can convert to an RV with the right goodies. I'm sure individuals can do all of this, but it does complicate the situation.
Chris at U-Joint bought a cutaway a few months ago...He is building an upgraded version of V4, not a camper but he did start with nothing but a trash bag back wall and empty frame rails. I'll be heading his way next month to ask him what that process entailed for him.
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