I guess I am one of quite few who exported one of the beloved SMBs to germany. I would like to tell you my story of finding, buying and converting “HayVan” (means “animal” in Turkish language, where my wife is from) and bringing it from western USA to southern Germany. Hope my English is good enough for you.
If this section of the forum is not the right location feel free to place it elsewhere.
In summer 2014 I saw the first 4x4 SMB in my life. It was the one of “schluchtenflitzer” (Didi), who is also active in this forum. You can see his van here:
I have my Toyota FJ Cruiser with rooftop tent and I love (and keep) it. But somehow I knew I had to have a SMB too. My Toyota can be seen here.
As my wife and I were planning to have a baby child (here is here now since 2 weeks) an excuse for a bigger car suitable for offroad travelling in and around Europe as a family of three was quickly found.
So the search began. You know best how difficult it is to find a good SMB with a fair price. Just imagine how much more difficult it is to search from Germany. Many sellers do not reply. They assume it is a fake or just might cause problems for them to sell abroad. And I could not just say, well I take the next flight and am around to take a look in 2-5 hours.
For some moths (about august to November 2014) is was searching the usual sites like craigslist, SMB preowned, and – for sure – the member classifieds here in the forum.
In all of this time this forum proved to be very helpful. Many of my questions were answered either in existing threads or by other members. So a very big thank you to everyone who helped me and the forum in general!
In 11/2014 I found a quite nice 2x4 SMB at the preowned section of SMB north.
My later Hayvan. A 2008 Ford e350 EB with a 5.4 V8 and about 98000 miles. I got in contact with Nancy of SMB North. She turned out to be an incredible nice and helpful person. She gave me all the informations needed and understood my special needs as European buyer. All that she could she arranged for me and sent me a lot of pictures as this would have to be kind of a “blind” buying.
Those were the first pictures I got from my SMB:
After all my questions had been answered and it seemed this van just had some scratches and was OK besides it was time to negociate and decide. As I could agree on a very good price (quite far below 30.000 $) I said yes. Sending the deposit turned out to be quite a hassle. Lots of communication with german and US banks. In the end it worked out.
I liked the SMB but I wanted to have a 4x4. So the next decision was about who should do the conversion. Again lots of reading in the forum and sending mails and comparing. Chris from http://www.ujointoffroad.com/
was very helpful. He answered all my questions. I still think his 4x4 conversions are amongst the best you can get (IMHO).
So Chris (if you read this): Sorry that I did not come to you in the end. I appreciate your work!
The main reasons why I opted for John and Northwest Quadvan http://www.quadvan.com/
a) He uses mainly ford original parts, which makes it easier to get replacement here in Europe
b) Nobody (also in this forum) had negative experiences with him or his work as far as I could see
c) He answered all of my questions and offered a good price for the conversion
d) He and his wife Adisa are just so wonderful, nice and helpful people.
Only “problem”: I was in Germany. Van was in Huntington Indiana. John is in Portland Oregon.
The decision was to fly to the US, pay the rest of the bill and drive the van about 3800 miles to Oregon and fly back from there. We had 7 days for this trip. The roadtrip you can read in my report here:
But some pictures I also want to show here:
Was a great trip with a colleague and friend. We just had a hole in the radiator in SLC. No other problems.
At the day we said we arrived at the shop of John/Quadvan in Portland. John showed us around and explained again what he would do with HayVan and how he would do it. Amongst other things I wanted:
- The 4x4 conversion with manual locking hubs
- Underfloor storage
- Nerf bars
- Aluminess rear bumper
- 5 Hankook ATM rf 10 tires on
- 5 Mickey Thompson classic III wheels
- Aluminess ladder on the drivers side
- Warn winch in front bumper
- Re gear rear axle to 4.30
- ARB Air Locker at the rear
- On board air
- Bilstein shocks
- Bushwacker flares.
This is how I left HayVan at Quadvan:
And some impressions from the work process John sent me:
Finally John finished his work. As I said he always kept me informed. This is what the van looked like then:
John even made a video to show me my van and sent it to me:
. For them taking the van on a trailer was no problem. But they would ship from Los Angeles CA. They organized the trailer transport. Some pics from the pick up at John and the van waiting in the harbor area:
Well … no pics from the weeks on the ship in a container. Every day I followed its way with a tracking app. Long weeks of waiting!
In the end it arrived in Bremerhaven in Germany. Still long days to clear the customs and pay tax (19%) and customs (10%)! Makes things quite a lot more expensive.
Again HayVan had to climb on a trailer for the 270 miles trip from Bremerhaven to Wildflecken to the Ford dealership Beck. (http://fordbeck.com/pages/de/start/willkommen.php
Ford Beck had to prepare everything for german registration requirements. Quite some changes necessary. In the end HayVan passed the test. That was not for sure before. There was as slight possibility that my van would not get a german registration and all I could do was ship it back to the US and sell it to you folks. So I was quite happy.
Moreover Ford Beck removed the shower combo. We do not want/need that. What we need is a 3rd seat near the front for our baby boy. So this is in place now.
When I came to Ford Beck I saw my van the first time in Germany:
They day came when I could drive my van (first time as a 4x4) about 120 miles to my hometown Nuremberg. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg
Here you see it in front of our house and with my – then still pregnant – wife.
And here together with my 67`Alfa Giulia 1600 Super in its new home:
But … still not ready (will it ever be?). I then brought HayVan to Tom Ganser, TomGan Customs (http://www.tomgan.de
). Quite a few things had to be improved or altered.
Still in the US I bought the vanspecialties (https://www.vanspecialties.com/
) brackets for mounting an awning. Tom attached those to my van.
I bought a ARB 2.5 m x 2.5 m awning at my good friends of http://www.weiterweg.de
. Tom attached that to the awning brackets.
The van is long. Very long. The view through the rearview mirror is nearly zero. For me it was necessary to have a rear view camera built in, which Tom did. It is a Waeco PerfectView cam 44 with a 7” screen. The cam has two lenses with 2 possible angles; more flat and one right to the gound. I can use it as a permanent rear view “mirror”. A great improvement!
Germany is not a very warm country. And having a baby a warm place to sleep is even more important. So a webasto air heating was installed. It uses gas (not propane – the same the van consumes). Works very well!
We will use the 4x4. We will try some more or less serious offroading. Hence the winch. But sand ladders are good to have. So those had to be installed in a matching colour (black). And you can use it as a table too.
You might have noticed the empty space on the right swing out arm of the aluminess rear bumper. Tom attached my high lift jack there.
In front of the jack I needed a box. After quite some research I found a 1984 Zarges Box from the german army (Bundeswehr). http://daerr.de/hauptartikel2_daerr/...%20Tonnen.html
This was the look before painting it black.
This is how it looks now.
The wheels in silver did not match with the look I wanted. So those were coated black matte and the big scratches in the sides of the van were removed. IMHO far better in black!
The van went to a specialist for wrapping it in foil. Mr. Müller in Schwabach, Fa. TrimLine. He put on protection foil on the sides of the van (protection against trees and branches) and a black matte one on the front bumper.
My wave (even if very pregnant) tailored a mosquito net for the van. The instructions in this forum helped.
Now the winter is near. This is it for this year. Enough to do with you baby. Next year some modifications in the interior will follow. And our first family trip. To Sweden, france, Albania … who knows?!
Thanks a lot:
To John at Quadvan and Adisa for the incredible work and support. I just can recommend them in any way.
To Nancy at SMB North.
To Didi/Schluchtenflitzer for inspiring me and answering tons of questions.
To this forum as a whole, its members and specially those who helped me.
To my wife for all of her support and understanding.
To Tom (TomGan) for his immaculate work and his good ideas.
I will send you our trip reports as soon as we get started.
Feel free to ask any questions or just tell me what you think about HayVan. There are so few SMBs here in Germany (2? 3? 4?) So we need your support and background.