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Old 09-03-2020, 07:58 PM   #1
DMH
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Used Ford E350 or E250?

Hello, I am new to the group and excited to start my journey to a converted van. Iíve been reading many of the posts for a while and so appreciate the willingness of so many people to offer their insights and experience. I look forward to learning from you and to one day being able to contribute as well.

My first post. Its long but Iíve seen how detail is often requested.

My plan is to buy a used van to convert. I think Iíd prefer a Ford E Series, so the first questions are: E250 or E350? Minimum engine size? Diesel or gasoline? Standard bed or extended bed? Any implications regarding year or model when adding 4WD?

My details follow:

I plan to convert it over time, meaning years, as time and budget allow. Iím thinking Iíd prefer a cargo over a passenger, I donít think I want so many windows, Iíll add a few. I think Iíd prefer a standard bed for ease of maneuvering but am interested in your input.

My thought is to buy a used 2WD since thatís what is more readily available. I would have the 4WD, high top, roof rack, ceiling fan and some windows added by professionals and I would do the rest of the work to convert the interior. I plan on making every effort to use lightweight materials for the inside to reduce weight. (I would imagine Iíll have questions on that later.)

Obviously the E350 has more muscle but the used E250 seems to be in greater supply. Iím antsy to get started and I like the idea of better gas mileage over the long term.

So, do I need the E350 to be able to handle the weight of my future finished product (which may mean having to wait to find one and also live with the lower fuel mileage) or can I get by with an E250 (which could mean getting started sooner and lower operating cost over time)?

Iím in Sacramento. The van is for backcountryish and beach camping. The intent is to be well supported and comfortable but not lavish, fancy or glossy. I want to be able to get well off road but donít need to be rock hopping. For the first 8 Ė 10 years Iíll use it for weekends, long weekends and maybe a couple of individual weeks a year on the West Coast: Sierras, coast and everything in between. After that Iíll have more time for more extended distance and periods of use.

I plan on there being 2 occupants. Iím 6í2 and slim. If ever thereís going to be a she, she will be on the slim side too. I donít think Iíll be towing anything. Iíll have a regular amount of camping/hiking/living gear in the storage areas, nothing huge.

Initial budget to get started feels like about $15,000 for something like a mid 2000s van, about $15,000 for the 4WD and then the rest will be whatever it is over time. Iím open to hearing input on those figures as well.

I anticipate that it may take some years to have the completely finished product but I do want the 4WD and high top as a first step. My plan for the finished product Ė from the bottom up:

4WD with associated suspension and control components
Some lift
Appropriate largish tires
Aluminess-type bumpers front and rear
Front winch
Rear cargo box
Rear bike rack
Rear spare tire rack
Ladder
Cassette potty
Icebox Ė may not go with a fridge
Sink in the cooking / meal prep counter
Water jugs for fresh water storage Ė initial plan Ė foot pump for sink water
Water jug for grey water storage
Portable stove
Microwave
Batteries for house power
Rear outdoor shower Ė not too big of a tank
Air compressor
Windows in the side swing-out doors and the rear swing-out doors
Interior lights
Stereo
Exterior lights Ė front, rear, side
High top ~10Ē
Ceiling Fan
Roof rack
Roof top storage box(s) Ė Yakima type
Solar

Inside
2 front seats
Double bed (can be a little narrow to fit in the compact space)
Food prep counter w/ sink
Some sort of seat to sort of lounge on
Storage cabinets

Iím also eager to know anything else I didnít think of, the unknown unknowns.

Thank you in advance for your input. I will value it greatly.
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Old 09-03-2020, 09:51 PM   #2
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A 5.4L E250 (or 2007+ E150) would serve your needs if you don't tow. But.. the V10 will do everything better including being quieter at idle, at the expense of a little more fuel use. But once you put big enough tires under it, fuel economy will be about the same. I'd avoid a diesel unless you have a good towing insurance plan and a lot of disposable income...
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Old 09-04-2020, 09:57 AM   #3
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If you have $30,000 to spend now, I would consider looking for a clean 4wd van. You should be able to find one with that much budget. Having a new 4x4 conversion is nice but you're also looking at months long wait lists, distance to the conversion company, and the time the company will take to convert the van. I agree that you can find a lot of clean 2wd vans, but its just something to consider if you want to hit the road asap.

As far as MPG, I wouldn't think too much about it. The V10's historically get the worst gas mileage from the bunch but the 5.4 will only get 1 or 2 MPG more. If you can find an 05+ V10, thats the one to go for.

I think this one checks a few of your boxes...
https://sandiego.craigslist.org/csd/...172220031.html
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Old 09-07-2020, 10:51 PM   #4
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Carringb - thanks for the input. It’s really valuable to me. I started my search this weekend.
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Old 09-07-2020, 10:53 PM   #5
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Mikracer - Thanks for the input. It’s really valuable to me. With that input I started my search this weekend.
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Old 09-08-2020, 08:08 AM   #6
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This was just posted:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/2001-Ford-E...Condition=3000
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Old 09-08-2020, 08:38 AM   #7
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The van in my avatar is a E350 and it literally took me the better part of two decades to find. I had a specific set of "needs" - E250/350; raised roof; extended length. Basically - a unicorn. Engine type and windows were less important, although mine ended up being an "extra unicorn" and is a diesel. It's also amazingly rust free for the miles (200K) and location (I live in the mid-Atlantic "rust belt"). It's a basic 10 passenger "limo" van the previous owner used to tow a boat from the PA hills to DE.

The windows are a double-edge sword. When I convert mine, I'll block off the windows but otherwise leave them in place. On the good side, it'll sort of hide the fact the van is a camper as it looks more like a passenger van, although pure stealth is not a main goal. The downside is I won't really have much in the way of usable windows other than the side doors (maybe). I'd rather have a slightly taller and flatter roof (for more/better solar installation), but I can stand up in my van, so it'll do. The 7.3 IDI (non-turbo) diesel will never win a drag race, but it'll get up to speed eventually and can return 20 MPG at a moderate cruising speed. I will likely upgrade the engine in some way eventually. It also helps I paid an extremely fair price for my van, so I am fine with its faults.

I suppose this is a round-about way of saying when looking for a van like this to convert, you sort of have to take what you can get unless you can wait until the van you really want comes along. And even then the chances of it being 100% perfect are slim.
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Old 09-08-2020, 10:55 AM   #8
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I'll throw in my 2 cents:

- Really ask yourself if 4wd is a need to have or a nice to have. Based on the use case you described it sounds like a nice to have.

- If you decide 4wd is a need to have I would highly recommend buying a van that already has it installed. Finding places to convert old Econolines is harder to do than you think, and as someone else pointed out the wait times are 4-6 months just to get a date on their schedule let alone the build time. Also $15k budget for a new 4wd conversion is not enough. Plan on spending $25k. If you want to discuss this further PM me. I just went through this planning out my new van (2002 E350) and have talked to lots of 4x4 shops all across the country. In the end I am keeping it 2wd and adding on board air with a rear air locker.

- Having worked on both Cargo and passenger vans I would recommend starting with a passenger. It is hard to make a cargo van not feel like cargo van. Passenger vans tend to have more creature comforts as well (power windows/doors, cruise control, etc.) Also it is a whole lot easier to cover windows up than to cut holes and install new ones.

- Sounds like you have plans for a pretty complete build out. I would go E350 and either a diesel or the gas v10. This will be more future proof as your build changes over time. Both of my vans have been the 7.3L diesel not necessarily because I needed the power or towing capacity right now, but because I didn't want to limit myself in the future.
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Old 09-08-2020, 12:03 PM   #9
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I tend to agree with the comment about converting a 2WD to 4WD. If I'm in a situation where I need 4WD it means I've made a mistake and I plan to have a winch to get me out of there and back to where I belong. At most I'll do a Weldtec 4" kit.

But it does depend on what you want out of the van. For me, the van will be a means for travelling to areas to ride mtn bikes and trailhead parking lots are generally accessible by regular vehicles.
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Old 09-10-2020, 03:22 PM   #10
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Check these guys out for 4x4 vans.

https://www.rockmotorcars.com/cars-f...r=&PageSize=25
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