Howdy! I've been lurking here for a while, I figured I'll finally introduce myself.
My name is Steve - nickname is Esteban. I live in Olympia, Washington about an hour south of Seattle.
That out of the way, I'm a proud owner of a 1997 RB e350 Sportsmobile with a Quigley conversion and about ~170K miles. It is a V10 with a manual penthouse. It is an original SMB West conversion that was "de-converted" by its original owner about 5 years ago to have a row of captains chairs, a fold-out 3-piece bench and a few remaining accessories. The remaining accessories include solar with a 110 inverter, a single Optima house battery on the rail, custom front and rear bumpers - tire swing arm with jerry can holder and storage.
I bought it from its second owner in Boise about 6 weeks ago. Since I've put about 1,000 miles on it on 5 trips including the drive home.
There were a couple of issues identified at the pre-sale checkout that I'm getting addressed right now. It needed new front pads and calipers and was leaking fluid at the rear differential. The brakes are done, and (see question below) turns out the rear diff needs a rebuild. Otherwise it seems to be in great running shape for a 20-year old van.
Since I've owned it I've installed a Rydeen DVA-6 head unit, new speakers, and am in the process of getting the backup camera rigged up and mounted on the penthouse.
My wife and I have been outdoors enthusiasts for our adult lives. Having our first kiddo born one year ago has meant we are constantly exploring ways to get out that work for him. Luckily he is a great sport and LOVES rides in the kid carrier backpack. We have rigged up the back bench as a crib and his first 5 nights have gone extremely well. We also have a yellow lab / white shepherd mix that joins us on most of our trips.
We are equipping the van to take us all over the NW as well as focusing on extended trips to Southern Utah. We typically spend 2 - 3 weeks + with extended boondocks there. In the past we have driven a Subaru WRX and a Subaru Outback (both bone stock) on our adventures. We have a camping setup good for about 7 days of boondocking - so we are adapting from that to the van. Technical canyoneering is a favorite past time and we have a lot of way off the beaten path spots that we like to go. For frame of reference - we have been comfortable taking the Subarus as deep as we can get - until now with very limited recovery gear. We've been all over Cedar Mesa, Grand Staircase, Capitol Reef, and the Swell. We're pretty self reliant and have squeaked by with pairing our route choices to match vehicle capability and driving skill. We tend to see our vehicles as a tool to get us to our adventures, instead of the source of adventure themselves. We will take about 2 1/2 weeks to go to GSEM and Capitol Reef mid-September. Long-term we definitely will do trails like White Rim, often with my wife driving the rig and me biking the trail.
We plan to spend about a year on the road in the van when our kiddo turns 5 - giving him a kindergarten out in the world instead of stuck in a classroom. We are evaluating whether our current van is right
To wrap up the long winded discussion I'll outline our plans for the van and throw a few questions out to the community.
- Add an awning / shade for the desert and rain protection
- On-board air
- Recovery kit - tire repair, tow straps, bottle-jack (van came with hi-lift)
- Jerry cans and siphon to extend range
- Propane heat (before ski season)
- Agile RIP kit
- custom slideouts / chuckbox
- Upgrade solar / house batteries
- Water storage?
1) With having to rebuild the rear diff - I'm wrestling with options. It seems I've read every thread out there. My current direction is to install an Ox Locker and then add my own air solenoid as I install OBA. I plan to install a Puma 12V compressor and tank. Most likely, I will have it in the van body for this year and do a permanent install this fall winter. That means If I need to lock I'll have to do it manually for this summer - based on my past experience I the need to lock the rear is limited in the near term. Am I stupid trying to save a few bucks over a full ARB locker and OBA setup going this route? I have also thought about just getting a TrueTrac LSD and using the savings elsewhere. Currently have manual lockers on the front.
2) Awning-wise we were originally leaning towards a foxwing, but are now thinking of going with an ARB or CVT and an 8' x 8' Ez-Up. Has anyone else used that setup for the flexibility of having a base camp or having coverage on the side and rear of van when needed? Any guidance from those that have done this for a while?
3) I haven't been able to track down the vans electrical setup yet... I can't tell if there is an isolator or what kind of charge controller I have etc. My next step when the van is back from the shop is to contact SMB West and see if they did the install and go from there. Any pointers on sleuthing what is going on for the solar and battery system?