Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 12-20-2012, 11:31 PM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 35
My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

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

smshield is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-21-2012, 05:21 AM   #2
Senior Member
Gnarvan's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Washougal, Wa
Posts: 1,032
Re: My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

You have excellent tastes in toppers! Mini-Gnar gives your van a big double

Welcome aboard and remeber

If you ever wondered what your van would look like with a 4X4 conversion check out the picture of this van on the day I bought it.


Gnarvan 1992 E350 Clubwagon
Advanced 4WD Systems Conversion

Sotar Legend 12.5' X 22" Cataraft
2003 BMW R1150GS-Adventure
2013 BMW R1200GS-Adventure
Gnarvan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-21-2012, 07:44 PM   #3
Senior Member
vandiesel's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 601
My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

Double gnars might be too much for this forum!
2001 Ford RB 7.3 Quadvan (sold)
2006 Sportsmobile EB Transformer 6.0
vandiesel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-21-2012, 09:53 PM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 35
Re: My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

Haha. Yeah. Gnarvan is definitely one of my inspirations. And he's a Kite guy too, so can't be all bad.

smshield is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-21-2012, 10:16 PM   #5
Site Team
BroncoHauler's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Southern New Mexico
Posts: 9,197
Re: My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

Do I see an opportunity for a second mini-Gnar? You could call it Gnar-too.

SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
BroncoHauler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-02-2013, 10:56 AM   #6
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 35
Re: My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

Ok! Well look what the UPS fairy brought.

This is a cheapie $30 (Amazon) rugged ridge light bar for Jeep Wranglers. It's going to work great for me though because Jeeps have flat bumpers. The bar will be installed on the top of my stock chrome E250 bumper.

I'll simply drill the bumper and install it on top. The bumper has a few degrees of forward angle but it shouldn't affect how the lights are aimed since they can tilt.

I wanted a four light bar, but the three light was so cheap I couldn't pass it up. I may run a piece of thin aluminum flat stock across the three light mount holes and drill them to get better light spacing and enable me to mount three lights.

I'd like two yellow fogs and two white fogs.

My van is for kitesurfing mostly so I need light in the evening when leaving dark beaches, or to light up the beach so we can roll up gear, but not so much for 4x4, so a light bar on the stock bumper makes the most sense.

The weight savings are always good since even bone empty she is fuel thirsty.

I have some nice relays ready to go so I'll update as I do the wiring. I've got a decent 30amp breaker to wire in, but I'm going to need to figure out a bus bar and and how I want to do the switch panel. Oh, and I guess I'll need a switch panel.

And I thought sailboats were expensive.
smshield is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-02-2013, 01:19 PM   #7
Senior Member
carringb's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Corvallis, OR
Posts: 4,572
Re: My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

Before you still lights up front I strongly recommend adding a trans temp gauge. Lights in front of the grill to a pretty good job and interrupting clean air into the trans cooler, and it'll run a lot hotter. I had to go with a bigger cooler after adding lights. They are pretty easy to install since there is already a sender port on the trans. Hardest thing is finding a good place to mount the gauge.
2000 E450 dually V10 wagon
carringb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-03-2013, 08:49 AM   #8
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 35
Re: My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

Good to know thanks!

Looks like JcWhitney has them (trans temp gauge) for $61 shipped ... d50231u0j1

Hope I don't have to put a transmission cooler on just to run some lights. I had one on an old Firebird and that thing left me stranded a few times due to failed welds/leaks/etc.
smshield is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-06-2013, 08:13 PM   #9
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 35
Re: My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

So I took my first "dip" into plastidipping this weekend. Turned out beyond my wildest hopes.

Decided to freshen the looks of the van (she has the typical ford faded grey plastic everywhere), so lets fix that.

Let's start with what I got done this weekend.

Now time to maker her look a little tougher. She's got the Gnar-envy, but unfortunately, I'm broke pretty much constantly (starting your own company costs A LOT) so let's try this on the cheap.

Step one was the above offroad lights bar for the bumper from Amazon. Aw yeah! ... +light+bar

Then off to Harbor freight for some cheap $10 chrome 55w KC knockoffs. ... 95811.html

Now, I've got the real deal KC's on my Wrangler and let me tell you, the only difference performance wise or light output wise is the bulbs. They both work great. The problem with Harbor freight lights is that the Chinese like to make them cheap by using cheap metal that rusts easily. We all remember uncle Joe's rusty ass Bronco with the rusty lights on it.

Enter plastidip. Plastidip is pretty darn water proof. I've seen cheap wrenches/pliars in my dad's old water soaked toolboxes that have been in the back yard open to the elements for a decade still look just fine under the plastidip my grandpa dipped them in back in the eighties. I buy cans of black locally at Home depot. They have colors and full car kits even at Great forums over there also. Really helpful and blows my mind the different ways they're using it. I'm going to redo the doghouse and console next I think. In my dad's day you just bought a can and dipped things in it. Now they've been putting it in spray cans and it's amazing. A real wonder product. Spray it on anything, including your painted clearcoat car, and peel it off any time you want years later. No harm, no foul. And until you pull it off it's damn near as tough as rhino liner. And it's not heavy. Incredible.

So I went ahead and bolted up the light bar and the chrome lights to the chrome bumper and shot the whole works with about eight coats of dip. About two cans ish. (maybe two and half. I was doing other trim at the time also so not positive).

Here's the result:

Fogs up close so you can see how nice it looks. I've had things powder coated that didn't look that clean.

Here's a stepped back pic so you can see how nice the bumper and fogs look together.

And, of course, once you start with this stuff, you dip ALL THE THINGS. Here are some cheapie plastic wheel covers from Pep Boys. The van has eight lug steel wheels so I just dipped them for rust protection (remember its on Kitesurfing school duty, so always around water) and then shot the plastic covers as well. They both turned out perfect. Ph3ar the dice valve stem covers.

I have a ton more pictures (learning from how Hal does is van thread.) and I'll update soon. I also dipped the REALLY faded/stained rear license plate bracket&door handle. It honestly looks like a brand new truck from behind now. Incredible.

Anyway, of course like all of you I have big plans for what I'd like to do to the van, and now dipping all the trim on my Jeep, and motorcycle, and the dog, etc. etc. so stay tuned.

Hope this helps. - S
smshield is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-09-2013, 12:09 PM   #10
Senior Member
Gatorbait's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Antigua, West Indies
Posts: 117
Re: My new kitevan project. 2000 e250 handicap high top

Nice.. My buddy runs a kiteschool here in antigua and uses a trailer, but i like the idea of being able to tote around students at the same time. What are you going to do about rust protection on the inside where all the gear goes? Are you typically in salt or fresh water? I know you used the plastidip but I'll suggest something else to keep in mind. U-Pol raptor liner. Super easy to use and comes tintable. WAY durable. Looking forward to seeing what it comes out like.

Gatorbait is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

» Sportsmobile Registry




Add your Sportsmobile
Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

This website is not affiliated with or endorsed by Sportsmobile SIP or any of its affiliates. This is an independent, unofficial site.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 08:05 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.