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Old 08-01-2020, 09:43 PM   #1
Junior Member
Join Date: Aug 2020
Posts: 2
Hi! - Is SMB right for me?

I'm trying to decide what is the right platform for me to build an Overland vehicle for my family. I'd like to be able to get us reliably in and out of places off the beaten path, but I don't need to be able to rock climb in MOAB. We also have a lot of stuff - bikes, camping, hunting and photography gear. I already own an Excursion. But I was open to other options (as long as they were Ford) and trying to weigh the pros and cons I'm seeing of going with other vehicles specifically SMB modded ones.

Here's what I've gathered as pros / cons of the options I'm considering (Excursion / 4x4 Econoline / 4x4 Transit)*

+ If I'm going this route, it's gonna be the 6.0 diesel. I have one already, and have a spare motor to keep getting stupid on. Lots of power opportunity, easier to maintain/mod versus the Econoline. I don't think I would go beyond a stock transmission so that'll limit the power I built it out to. It's still a family hauler after all. I would also stick with the diesel because power potential is the Excursion's strength in this competition, and the diesel is the best base for that.
+ Gonna have the best tow capacity of any of the options, 11k+
+ Probably easiest to upgrade due to the similarities with the f250, lots of options available and probably cheaper
+ Best ground clearance and overall handling
+/- Has windows, good for travel, although not great for camping if we're going to be using it as a primary shelter
-I wanted to be able to stand up in the vehicle we end up going with, so it's gonna take a significant topper or pop-top in order to make that happen in the Ex
* #1 priority is suspension - which I want soft on paved roads but able to handle some rough terrain if we come to it.
Some good reference videos I found for Excursion builds


Ford Transit (practical, but ugly)
* I think I'd go with EcoBoost/10r80 combo. Everyone I've talked to loves the EcoBoost. It performs well, gets good gas mileage. It's in a ton of Ford vehicles so I'm confident that parts/repair will not be astronomical (still high given the pieces but it's not a Land Rover). I5 diesel combo seems like a good alternative, but I am not a fan of modern diesels with all their BS.*
+ Definitely the largest interior capacity. Squarish dimensions are practical and going with the cargo version eliminates a lot of window shielding problems. Won't need a topper for this one if I design the interior right.*
- Unibody construction. Still specs out at 7k tow capacity (decent). It's strong enough for what I'm looking to do, but I'm assuming that this increases the risk of an astronomical repair if I hit the wrong bump while off roading.*
+/- Lowest ground clearance, but easier to get into. With the 4x4 install, I'm confident it will have the height I desire.*
- Not a vehicle I'm going to be posting photos of me with anytime soon.*
- Could be most expensive option, but it's not that far off when I spec out all the things I also want to do with the other vehicles. Getting the same headroom in any other vehicle is at least $10k, and is not going to be as strong as something built from the factory.
Some Transit build videos

Econoline Build (A-Team nostalgia)
* 6.0 diesel / v10 - I think I'd go with either option here since I'd keep the engine factory for best reliability. Not fun working on this engine bay.
* 10k tow capacity, depending on suspension upgrades.
+ Body on frame construction, sturdy and easier to repair
+/- Some compatibility with f250/excursion, don't think suspension parts though
- Worst for*crash/rollover risk of the 3

Some other notes:

The most ideal is that the vehicle is able to be lived in full-time if necessary (ie. bath/shower internal). REALLY TOUGH to do in the Ex, but it is possible. I'd still like a sink/fridge internal as well. Stove would be nice, but I think having to cook inside is not necessary. Also, since I'm taking the family, I'd still like to be able to seat four and sleep at least two in the vehicle (two more maybe on outside or in roof tent).*

I'll also go with Li-Ion power system, so will need space for that internally as well.*
I'm a fan of the Aluminums setup for the Excursion, and probably would look for something similar on either of the vans too. (full size spare / bike rack, big box)

Anyway, if you made it this far, I applaud and thank you for ensuring my stream of consciousness and would appreciate any feedback/ideas you may have.*


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Old 08-02-2020, 05:14 AM   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: FL and VA
Posts: 1,237

Only you know how much space you need and what will work. Sounds like a long wheel base Transit AWD would be the best fit for sitting and sleeping 4 with indoor shower plus being able to live indefinitely.

2008 GMC 3500 Quigley Weldtec 4x4 Savana SMB
2006 BMW HP2 Enduro-Sold
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Old 08-02-2020, 07:57 AM   #3
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 2,468
Have you considered going the pop top route?

Colorado Camper Van can very likely put a pop top on your Excursion (they have done it in the past) which would be a possible solution but given your space requirements I see a van and the flexibility it offers.

Transit 144 Med Height Roof - 4x4 by Quigley or Quadvan. Add a CCV pop top with a 3/4 roof cut out gets you lots of space and versatility lots of Headroom even with the top down. The longer wheel base will be an issue for obstacle clearance but you will be capable on fire roads and easier trails.

Econoline EB w the High Top will provide lots of room.
Beastie 3: 2002 7.3 EB Cargo: Agile TTB, CCV Mid Top, Custom Walk Through, Lots of stuff added.
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Old 08-02-2020, 08:58 AM   #4
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Southern New Mexico
Posts: 9,641
Here's a short thread you might find interesting, it's about people who sold their SMBs (including me). Think of it as the reverse position that you're in.

SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
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Old 08-03-2020, 09:37 PM   #5
Junior Member
Join Date: Aug 2020
Posts: 2
Thanks for the replies!

Ray - I had actually seen CCV's excursion pop top and reached out to them already for a quote. It's possible, but I guess quality is pricey (~$15k). Fiberine can also do a hard top. They demo'd a 20" lift at a SEMA show:
Truck Bumpers and Running Boards
for around $10k.

I'm leaning towards the Transit build, but haven't thrown out the Excursion yet. I'm relooking the idea of trying to fit everything into one vehicle now.

I'm relooking going the camper trailer route with a "mobility" vehicle that has some amenities that are not all internal, ie. outdoor shower, cassette toilet, probably an outdoor kitchen setup. This way I still have some self-contained vehicle camping ability but haven't compromised too much in off-roading ability. Also, I can fit more creature comforts for the wife who I'm not sure is as keen as I am to camp in such a small space.

I asked a similar question on some of ExPo and some folks brought up the safety concerns. of being able to buckle in the kids while on the road. Very valid, so I'm going to take a closer look at the transit layouts with five seats. We still have an infant so will need somewhere to put in the car seat.
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