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darryldickie darryldickie is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2016
Posts: 29
Vehicle Name Betsy
Year 2003
Make Ford
Model 7.3l SMB 4x4
Color Parchment
Packages RB50
2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4
2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4
History We originally ordered a 2003 E250 two wheel drive with the RB50 conversion with the pop top. I visited the LA auto show because I knew that Alan Feld was there with couple of vans. He told me that our van had been held up at the factory (along with about 10,000 other vans) due to some undisclosed (by Ford) quality control issue. As this seemed like a bad omen to me, I asked Alan what other vans he had in stock. He replied that he had two 7.3L E350s ready. I picked the parchment one as our good friends already had a silver one. We still just wanted a 2x2 but after talking to our good friends that had a 2002 4x4 we got talked into the 4x4 SMB conversion. This was probably one of if not the last of the 7.3 liter vans, and one of the first SMB 4x4s of which per Alan only about a couple of dozen exist.

Well after more conversions with our friends (names omitted to protect the innocent), we kept adding features. Things like, "well you have to have a winch so you'd better get custom bumpers" etc etc etc. Those conversations added up to about 5 grand a pop and that's what led us to our current configuration with about everything you can add to a SMB. There you have it!!

Betsy was born....
2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Exterior 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Exterior 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Exterior
Pretty stock with aluminess bumpers front and rear.

We had one of the first pop top conversions with the "TAPE". Per SMB they never had problems with the paint wearing through where the rubber gasket touches the top until the 4x4's became popular. The additional dust created quick erosion of the paint on top so they added some nice thick black tape that certainly was capable of protecting the top until it slid into a gooey mess by time I got our van home to So Cal from Fresno. SMB sent me some solvent to get rid of the goo and something to "prep" the top where the new replacement tape they sent me was to go and after a couple of days work got the new tape on that quickly slid again.

After talking to our good SMB friends we both decided the best solution was to Linex the entire metal part of the top thereby eliminating the tape. As far as I know we were the first to do this and now that seems to be a common solution. Linex didn't have the ability to color their product at the time so ours is black and has held up beautifully.

We have a 12,000 lb warn winch with amsteel blue rope. The only time we tried to use it to help someone that was stuck in the sand it didn't work. Turns out one of the tiny screws that holds on of the brush wires was loose from the factory and caused a short in the brush case. Warn factory rep had lots of lame reasons why it didn't work until I took it apart and sent him pictures. Bottom line is a poorly torqued screw rendered our massive recovery winch inoperative. I tightened the screw and it's been working ever since.

2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Interior 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Interior 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Interior
Ours is the stock RB 50. Still have the original upholstery, with the white cabinets and overhead bed that was standard at the time of our conversion.

We had the utensil drawer modified by John Winterstellar so it now has an upper slide out so it's like two drawers. He also replaced the fold down door on the removable cabinet to a drawer.

After seeing John's SMB I decided to go crazy insulating. Added insulation to the Dog House and the front doors as well as every where else I could get to underneath. I even insulated the small v shaped cavity to the left and right of the front windshield as well as under the front plastic steps. I have a layer of sound insulation between the carpet in the rear and the marine vinyl flooring. (Alan Feld drove our van once and commented that it was the quietest diesel SMB that he'd driven).

I have replaced all of the interior lights except for the very top fluorescent fixture on the pop top with LEDs. I rewired the other fluorescent fixtures so as to bypass the ballast so the fixtures are original but now use standard LED lights.

We originally had the microwave oven but found we only used it for storing cooking pans. We had SMB make a large drawer to fit the opening and got rid of the micro. Now we have more pan storage.

All said a casual glance just shows a standard RB 50 so I haven't included many pictures as they all look the same. The upholstery is pretty much as new although the carpet does show some signs of wear.

We have the propane water heater with motor aid and the propane furnace. Not sure I'd go with the motor aid again as the water heats very quickly via propane or shore power and the motor aid mod adds more hose and more places to leak. (Not that we've had any leaks so far just saying)

Wheels, Tires, & Suspension
2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Wheels, Tires, & Suspension 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Wheels, Tires, & Suspension 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Wheels, Tires, & Suspension
After seeing numerous tire failures on other SMB's using the BFG's and our own experience with a left rear tread separation we now use Toyo's. Never could get the BFGs to balance properly, in fact after the tire failure we got all new E rated BFGs in Richmond and only made it about 100 miles where we stopped at the next America's tire dealer to get the tires balanced again. One of them was so out of round it couldn't be balanced at all. They never did balance to my satisfaction. We are on the second set of Toyo's and have had zero issues with them.

BTW we had to take our van to SMB in Fresno to get the left rear cabinets removed so the repair could be accomplished properly. The Left rear quarter panel was crushed by the tread that separated and no decent body shop was willing to do the job without access to the inside of the side panels. None of them wanted to deal with the cabinetry either. Fortunately our insurance company encouraged us to take the Van to SMB and was willing to cover SMB's cost and the body shop's cost to repair the metal. (We had the body work done near to the Fresno factory at the recommendation of SMB and they did a great job.) Total cost was about 7 grand and BFG never replied to our request for compensation that was filed at an America's tire store. Enough said about the BFG's reliability.

We replaced the original Rancho's with Fox Shocks about a year ago and added the Fox steering stabilizer. We also replaced the original front ball joints with Dynatrac's version, and had to have the steering gearbox replaced due to wear.

Betsy developed a loud clunking sound at low speeds a couple of years ago and after some procrastination, we decided to have it looked into. It turned out that the clutches(?) in the rear limited slip differential had failed and at slow speeds were hitting the diff case. As the case had to be replaced a rebuild didn't seem appropriate so we got a Jasper re manufactured rear end at the recommendation of our mechanic. US wide support and a transferable warranty. It's been perfect.

After seeing what a brief transit of salt water in Baja did to our good SMB friends undercarriage, I decided to undercoat our van prior to any water excursions. I'm really glad I did as we have zero rust underneath and after a good cleaning I use a vinyl cleaner on the undercoat and it sparkles.

Under the Hood
2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Under the Hood 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Under the Hood 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Under the Hood
Just the standard 7.3 liter with just under 100,000 miles. No chips or mods or performance changes. We've had a leak or two and there is no such thing as a cheap leak fix for this motor in the van. Dry as a bone right now.

Installed the dual bypass amsoil filter system after about 7,000 miles and I guess it works. My current view after talking to other 7.3 owners is the stock (huge) filter works just fine. Not sure if the extra oil hoses under the van are worth the risk of another place to get an oil leak or tear one open off road.

Way under the hood we have an Extreme Air compressor with tank. If I had it to do over I think I'd get a portable unit. Whenever we aired down in Mexico it never seemed that far to a tire repair shop and real compressor so we'd just drive slow and air up later. The onboard installation adds more wires and hoses and more places for things to fail. I recently spent a couple of days trying to get the compressor to work. Turns out I forgot about the pressure switch on the tank. Easy fix once I figured it out..

Systems, Solar, & Electronics
2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Systems, Solar, & Electronics 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Systems, Solar, & Electronics 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Systems, Solar, & Electronics
Two Solara flexible panels installed on the top along with a connection point for external panels at the right rear above the bumper. They seem to work OK but are showing signs of age. Plastic covering is starting to separate in some places.

I installed a Kenwood DVD Nav unit after a year or so of ownership and it still works great. Sadly Kenwood (Garmin) doesn't support the database used in our unit so updates are no longer available. We also have a backup camera. The back up sensor system no longer works because the buzzer has failed. (I just ordered a new buzzer). We have a drop down Monitor that allows us to watch movies.

During the original installation we upgraded the speakers and added rear ones along with an add on amplifier and removable sub woofer. We don't use the sub because that's where the leveling blocks have to go.

We have a Cobra CB/weather radio which is great for caravaning, especially in Mexico. Using it almost killed us in Baja but that's another story. I also installed one of the government "free" digital/analog TV tuners that is hooked up to the pop top built in antennae. It works OK if you are in an area with lots of strong over the air signals which is never where we want to use it. (Yes we had to have EVERYTHING... Sigh!)

I recently installed the Blue Sea battery separator. Read all about it in the Electronics section. SMB installs them in their new builds and for good reason.

We have the single AGM 200 amp battery and are on our third one along with our third set of van batteries. Last set of all three lasted about 7 years. I Attribute the longevity to plugging in whenever possible. We are lucky and are able to garage our van year around.

We had a Hella tire pressure/temperature monitor system that used to work great until Hella stopped making them along with replacement sensors. The display looks cool though even though there is nothing to display anymore. I'm still searching for a replacement system.

Favorite Destinations
2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Favorite Destinations 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Favorite Destinations 2003 Ford 7.3l SMB 4x4 Favorite Destinations
I'll add to this section later if possible.

We've traveled the distance of Baja 3 times. Two of those trips were with the Felds and other great friends. We also did a Copper Canyon trip with mostly the same group that was documented (somewhat) in the "Overland Journal".

Other trips around the US as well. I think our Off-Road trips will be very limited in the future. Too much pounding for this old body anymore. Still in love with the SMB...
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