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Old 04-04-2013, 07:40 AM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Oregon
Posts: 32
Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

I'm pretty new to the forum although I've been saving my cash and lurking for a long time.
I'm hoping to get a "starter" SMB (is there such a thing?) and see how badly I get hooked and how much I'll end up shelling out in the future.

That being said - I came across this one on CL
and I'm pretty interested.

I'd be really appreciative of any advice on things I should look out for, I'm going to see it on Saturday.
Additional info from emailing with the owner....
- Transmission failed at 19K while still under warranty- and was replaced
- there is NO hot water heater - was a mistake
- He had SMB build this rig for him and his wife so single owner

I was originally looking for a RB, but keep finding EBs. Do you really need the extra 2 feet?
My husband is pushing for an EB, I thought an RB would just be easier to drive.
Its us and 2 dogs with a bunch of camping and mountain biking gear.

Thanks in advance!

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Old 04-04-2013, 08:29 AM   #2
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Posts: 252
Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

I'm new to the game, only having had my 1993, RB 2wd SMB for a 2 years now. My first impression is the asking price feels high for a 2wd model... even if it's a well kept EB. Aside from having rear AC, it doesn't appear to have any real special offerings to demand that high of a price - no Aluminess accessories, no awning, etc.

For perspective, granted I got a great deal, I paid $6K for my 1993 SMB with 118K. Obviously there are differences, but the build spec sheet appear to be very similar in nature. Here's a link to the dealer photos of my SMB for comparison. My SMB was a single owner, very well kept example as well... just ignore the embarrassing home AC sticking out the rear window

Having said that, I really don't have any real helpful suggestions as far as what major items to look for in a nearly 20y/o SMB, but here are my quick thoughts.
- Check to make sure the wood interior hasn't been soaked by water leaks. The wood they use soaks up water, swells and never heals.
- Check the pop top canvas' condition as well as the its windows.
- Ask about the age of the house batteries - they run about $500/ea from my reading.
- Ask or check the condition of the fiberglass pop top - over time they develop cracks and will leak.
- Ask if they've had any issues with the refrigerator. The life expectancy of these fridges isn't nearly 20yrs from my reading.
- Does the house battery charging system still work (aka shore power)
- the power side mirrors on my 1993 no longer worked and the mirrors themselves were kept from shaking by bubble wrap stuffed behind the mirror glass. Fortunately there are inexpensive replacements out there.
- the door pulls on my 93 were well worn (normal use). They too are easily replaceable.

Obviously all the big mechanical items will be your biggest concern, but thought I'd share some of my small experiences with a similar spec'd SMB.

btw, I only see two burners, not three on that stove.

Good luck.

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Old 04-04-2013, 08:56 AM   #3
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Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

- has AC available on shore power (or generator, I assume, but a 2000W generator may not be enough)
- has propane
- with that layout, you could keep your bikes inside, vice on a bike rack

- no toilet (but plenty of room at the rear of the van for a portable, self-contained toilet)
- no mention of furnace

SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
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Old 04-04-2013, 09:35 AM   #4
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
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Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

Bought our first sportsmobile coming up on three years now. I bought one without heater or water heater. Also, it is the 17ft. one. Parking is easy but it's missing a lot.
The one you are looking at has a large refrigerator, (wife says wish I had that!) heater, two house batteries and space in the back for a portable shower, dogs, inflatable kayak etc. These are very desirable features and hard to find in the older models. We are looking at having to add a storage box on the back of our van to get the extra space this van already has inside.
One thing about all the systems, water, elect, heater, stove, refrigerator, AC, you really won't know if you have a problem until one quits. Just make sure they all work now. Then, you can upgrade if one does need replacing. The learning curve to understand these systems takes time to learn. I've learned a lot from this forum but have done a lot of reading (thanks everyone for sharing so much).
Pictures of our 1994 are on this site.
Good luck! These vans are a blast! No more tent camping for us!!!!!!!
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Old 04-04-2013, 10:22 AM   #5
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Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

My opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it, so here's what I see, based on owning about 100 cars in my 40ish years. I think it's well worth the asking price. In the car world, you don't find many unique vehicles that are one owner, maintained by dealer (pretty meticulously it looks like), garaged, and cared for like this one has been. Since it's a 2wd, it's probably never been scratched up or beaten up as all off road vehicles generally are. It has VERY low miles for it's age. Also it is new enough to have a pretty modern SMB interior, but old enough to have hard to find goodies like pop out side and rear windows. It also has some pretty nice front front seats that look like they may have armrests on both sides (very important for me at least when driving all day, driver OR passenger).
Also, you mentioned you didn't think you needed an extended length van. Think again. There is never enough room for stuff in a van, and with this layout, as mentioned above, you can add a porta potty in that back corner or keep your bikes or gear indoors for security AND cleanliness, and almost everyone needs space for a cooler since vans have tiny fridges. A lot of the 4wd SMB guys like the shorter vans for less overhang back there, but I think it's well worth having on a 2wd or lifted van. All Ford vans are the same wheelbase, short or long, so the long ones don't 'drive' any longer. I've put about a million miles on them as delivery vehicles and driven both extensively.
BTW, this van DOES have a furnace. Herb, look at the pictures closely. The furnace vent is on the right side just behind the wheel well.

Good luck in your search!
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Old 04-04-2013, 10:57 AM   #6
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Location: Lake Tahoe
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Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

Originally Posted by dorothyt7
I was originally looking for a RB, but keep finding EBs. Do you really need the extra 2 feet?
I just bought a '96 EB. I have stacked plastic sterilite drawers in the space at the back and to my surprise it is some of my most valuable space. The stock spaces stumped me in that there is no openings bigger than 9" and if you have any item bigger than that you are left scratching your head.

Price is pretty hard to gauge with Kelly blue book and Nadaguide being better for cars, not custom built vans. I do know I wished I had more comparables in my search so I will share mine with you. The '96 has only 40,000 miles but plenty of negatives. It has no water or propane. It has a 460 and the rear airconditioner (starcool) didn't work. It was listed on Craigslist for less than 10k.

1996 Ford EB 2 wheel drive 460
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Old 04-04-2013, 11:03 AM   #7
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Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

Look under the van to see if the wiring and plumbing is in good shape. Look for water damage. there will be maintenance you can't see, just assume you will have to spend a couple thou over the next couple years to fix things.

We really like our RB because it is easier to park and get into tight spots in the woods, but we don't take dogs. If the dogs are very big the EB will be better.
2009 E250 RB 5.4L "SilVan"
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Old 04-04-2013, 11:07 AM   #8
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Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

Originally Posted by 86Scotty
... Herb, look at the pictures closely. The furnace vent is on the right side just behind the wheel well.

Good luck in your search!
Good catch, but not having it mentioned in the ad could be an oversight, or it could mean it's inoperable or has been removed. Worth clarifying when checking out the van.

I'm not in the market, so take this with a grain of salt, but I would set my target price no higher than $13K-$14K for that rig, provided there are no surprises.

SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
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Old 04-04-2013, 11:34 AM   #9
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Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

I'm sitting here in my SMB parked in a local mall's parking lot taking a conference call for work. Laptop plugged in with inverter on, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot running, and comfy with my legs stretched out across my rear dinette seats. Gotta love it!

Anyway, I'm coming up on one year's ownership of my 1998 SMB EB 2WD, 73k miles when I bought it. A similar story: one owner (retired doctor), dealer maintained (and other stuff maintained by SMB Indiana), lowish miles. An all-electric van, no propane, no heater. I got lucky and got it for a song, so I'm not a good data point on price. But $17k seems a tad high, but if it's in really good shape and it's what you want, not totally outlandish. Selfishly, I hope it sells for that, as that would make mine worth a lot more than I think it's worth!

One thing to be aware of when buying a SMB is that your eagerness coupled with the novelty of the vehicle and the lack of used options might cause you to overlook needed things or minimize their importance, especially if you are flying in and driving it home. Be prepared to walk away if it's not right and don't let SMB-lust make you stupid. If flying in, buy two one-way tickets, with the return ticket being fully refundable, in case you need to walk (fly) away from the sale.

It might help you to know things I had to replace/fix on mine over the past year. Starred ** items were must-do fixes.

1. **New batteries. It came with two Lifeline AGM batteries, which would not hold a charge. Replaced with three new AGM batteries from Sam's club for about $500 total (330 AH total) and redid the battery area to make three fit.
2. Upgraded the stereo to a modern one as it still had the OEM cassette deck.
3. **New tires and new wheels (wheels were optional). Tires had fine tread, but when I got it home and looked closely I saw there was sidewall dying/cracking. Good E-rated tires aren't cheap, budget $600-800 for tires if needed. I got lucky and scored a set of 2012 Ford take-offs mounted on mag wheels for $850 total.
4. **New belt(s) and possibly hoses if they haven't been replaced on a van that age. If no receipts to say they have been replaced, budget that in. I replaced my serpentine belt and all pulleys and the tensioner.
5. **The PO of my van advertised it as needing to have the house electric (110v) system fixed and also the Starcool. Indeed, when I picked it up, neither worked. When I got home and was troubleshooting, I found that the electric fix was as simple as a popped GFI button on the one GFI outlet. Starcool needed a charge and also had a popped breaker on the Starcool wiring block. I got very lucky with these two items and it could have been a lot worse. I had budgeted for a new inverter but thankfully diidn't need it. Moral of the story: fixes can be really easy or really involved, and you probably won't know until you spend some time with it.
6. While the above issues I knew about before picking up the van (I flew to NC to get it), the one big undisclosed issue was that the PO had once accidentally left a rear door ajar in a big rainstorm and the rear cabinets have water damage. The PO didn't think it was that much of an issue, but it's high on my list to repair (build new rear cabinets).
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Old 04-05-2013, 12:23 AM   #10
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Oregon
Posts: 32
Re: Hoping for advice on used 1995 2WD SMB

I was at work and couldn't escape to reply to the thread but saw how quickly you all responded with really thoughtful and long responses!
This is hugely helpful.
Thank you!
Audisnapr - Thanks for the frig tip - good to know life expectancy.
Herb & 86Scotty, I did email the owner and yes indeed there is a furnace - thanks for pointing that out. Although there is no water heater - he was apparently mistaken but was honest about it.

All that are EB proponents - My guy is grateful, i.e. gloating at the support on EB.
I noticed in the photos that there is a clamp and 2x4 on the melamine - so I will definitely keep on eye out for water damage.
BrianW - Its a weird coincidence that I found this - because we're going down to mountain bike so we do have 2 way tickets and maybe we'll just get really lucky and have to drive home.
But I've been looking long enough that I do have some self restraint (otherwise we'd have a second mortgage on the house and a REALLY nice new rig. (someday!)
Thanks again!

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