Hi all. Thought I'd post up my rig and maybe someone might be interested in my kite van buildup.
Here she is as of last week the day I saw her on the lot at a little buy-here-pay-here.
Ended up grabbing it for a song (cash talks). It was filthy, grody, but mechanically solid. It was a church handicap van. It was on fleet maintenance so even with 172k miles, the oil is honey color, fires up first bump of the starter, and after going through her with a fine too comb, I can't find any drips.leaks, or mechanical problems whatsoever other than general wear/tear.
She's a 2000 e250. 5.4l v8. I'm really shocked at how well it handles. No real body roll or untoward handling at all. Feels like driving a regular full size pickup honestly.
So the back story if anyone cares is that I run a kiteboarding school in Oklahoma City. We're growing like crazy and it was time to get a real kite van. Loading and unloading 3-4 people's worth of kites, wetsuits, harnesses, boards, etc, etc with my little Wrangler was a PITA.
I had a couple of criteria I needed.
A) Standing headroom so I could hang wetsuits and let them drip dry into a bucket
B) Plenty of storage
C) A tall vehicle so it would be easy for new students to know where to meet us when they got to the beach (Our local lake we teach on has a beach)
D) A rolling billboard for advertising purposes
E) Something strong enough to pull and launch a couple jet skis (student recovery if they get blown out to sea)
I just happened be keeping my eye open for a special van when I saw this beast winking at me. It was love at first sight.
She has that obnoxiously huge top which makes my day, and on top of that I like that it has the bus door option on the passenger side. It seems like it'd be a PITA to not be able to open it except from the driver's seat, but keep in mind that when we're using the van we typically have four or five backpacks full of kites, and it's blowing 20+ mph.
That bus door LOCKS OPEN. I'm so stoked about that. No more trying to hold open a door that's being blown shut while our hands are full of gear.
I'm probably not going to 4x4 it because we don't have a lot of mountains in central/western Oklahoma. After reading through most of this site's forums, it's looking like the right option for us is to have some longer springs installed on the front, and the leaf pack in the rear modded with an extra leaf or a block.
The reason I need a couple more inches of height is that the low step box under the passenger door is only about 4" off the ground. That thing is going to be hanging up left and right when we go to launch jetskis from the front hitch in beaches with no boat ramp (which is a lot of them in the lakes around here.)
You can see the low step below the passenger door here kind of:
Most of what I'll be documenting on this thread will be the interior buildup. So far I've just done some cosmetic stuff to it (only had it a week).
1) Wire disked and rustoleum paint for the ugly/rusty white wagon wheels.
2) Pulled and painted the grill and headlight surrounds (they were faded and stained). Big improvement
3) Pulled the bent front bumper and swapped it with a new chrome dealership pulloff ($50!)
4) Pulled out some of the hand hold chrome bars (non structural, they were just there to help people standing up/sitting down have a hand hold).
5) Tightened up every loose screw, lock, and fastener I could find. SOOOO much quieter in general going down the road. It no longer seems like being on a school bus where you have to shout to be heard. Now it's no different than being in any passenger van. Almost silent. I love it. Cannot WAIT to get the interior carpeted. Should be a tomb. Happiness is.
6) Here's a wierd thing that really made me happy also. I cleaned and regreased all the locks and hinges. Now instead of ever door creaking and popping like a castle gate, there's just *NOTHING*. No sound at all. Just like a new car. Amazing. Such and easy thing. And they all open and close way better also. I used marine bearing grease. I'm a sailboat guy so I had it around, and this van will spent most of its remaining days by water, and full of wet gear, so going to try to do it right from the start with rust prevention and high humidity maintenance.
Wheels rattle can black:
Grill and surrounds shot black:
I also just vacuumed, scrubbed, and disinfected the entire interior. This is no mean feat on a bus/van whose only cleaning looks to have been a monthly sweep.
Next up will be testing out the new power washer my kid sister got me for Christmas. Never had one before. The fiberglass top is FUNKY from weather. The car spray wand was not up to the task of getting that black crap off. We'll see how a high pressure personal one works.
Like I said, I'm a sailboat guy so cleaning dirty fiberglass is no mystery to me, but it is a PITA doing it by hand. Really hoping I'll catch a break and the power washer will magic it clean. We shall see.
Also, if you notice in the top front corner we had a smacker at some point and holed the top. There's a huge gob of body putty on it. Must have been decent sized because I pulled a hefty bag full of bird nest out of the front overhead storage compartment. Tweety was living large in there.
Luckily last winter my project was restoring a small sailboat (Sunfish) that had some holes in the hull. This should serve me well with repairing the fiberglass correctly. It's really pretty easy once you've done it a bit and know the tricks and what to expect.
Anyway, stay tuned. I'll try to update with more pics and I definitely appreciate any advice as I go along.
Thanks! - S