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Old 09-14-2012, 12:03 PM   #1
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Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

I've been dreaming of owning a SMB for at least 20 years. I've come close several times but never could pull the trigger. Anyway, now I'm ready...

My budget is $40k to have the rig totally completed. I thought about buying a new Sprinter and totally blowing it up ($70K) but I can't justify the cost for a weekend or so of use a month. Also, having something that bitchin' sitting at a trailhead while I'm out for a couple days will have me worrying about it.

Anyway, I climb (rock, ice, mountains, etc), mountain bike, surf, hike, run, etc. It will be set up for my wife, myself, 2 small kids, and sometimes a couple 50 lb dogs.

I've been lurking, searching, and reading the stickies for awhile. Here's my current list of wants or concerns. (I'm hopeful you guys can steer me through the common mistakes)

2x (not 4x4) currently thinking E250 RB sounds about right
Penthouse
RB 50 floorplan
No head
Awning
Outdoor shower (the one that mounts in the rig but the wand pulls out)
Limited slip differential (LSD)
Lifted some with slightly bigger tires
Maximum space utilization underneath (batteries, holding tank(s), propane, etc.)
Slide out pantry
Heater
Hot water
2 burner stove
Swivel captains chair(s)
Well insulated for both sound and temperature
Small table that can be removed
Space for crates under bench/bed for lots of climbing hardware, etc.
Trailer hitch for storage box and bikes (ala TMTM's setup)
Alarm (I know the guy that owns Encore so all good here)

I'm really into as simple as possible, no fancy finishes, quality design/construction, and being highly functional. I expect to own this thing for 20+ years.

Last, basically I'm torn between waiting for the right used low mile rig to come on the market or buying an E250 with low miles for about $15k and doing the conversion. If I have it done I'd probably have SMB do the penthouse as well as the 'systems'. I'd then probably hire a local cabinet maker to help me finish it out.

Thanks for indulging me and I look forward finally joining the family!
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Old 09-14-2012, 01:53 PM   #2
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

First off, welcome! There is a ton of great information here and I'm sure you'll learn a lot just by checking out old threads.

I've got two out of the box / off topic suggestions:
1. A lot of times you can find a mid 90's 2wd Ford in the $10-15k range in great shape. Perhaps consider using that for a year before investing in new (the depreciation shouldn't be too much) to identify what things you really like and use and other things you could live without.

2. If you aren't stuck on having a Ford and can do a light build, consider the GM 1/2 ton AWD van platform (or even the 2wd heavier duty rig for that matter). I have the 5.3L drivetrain in my work truck and it has been great and people have been seeing very reasonable fuel economy out of them. Check out Accrete and LenS's rigs for nice examples of some lower to the ground GM's.

you're going to love having a van for family base camp!
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Old 09-14-2012, 02:34 PM   #3
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

Welcome. Have you sat down with SMB and speced/priced out what you want? I'd check with them as far as building the "systems" on a used van. I know depending on their load, adding a PH is something they usually will do. I'd also look into a rear Aluminess or similar bumper that you can add a large box on the back that will incorporate a way to haul biking stuff. Having a rear cabinet is a huge plus for packing equipment. If you're planning to go off the grid on a regular basis like packing away from your rig for a spell, I'd look into a top rack and a smaller solar setup just to keep the batteries up. Having top storage is nice but might require an electric PH top and that is expensive. By the time you do all that you want, a pre-owned might be cheaper.
I wish you luck on your next ride and remember it's just money


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Old 09-14-2012, 03:10 PM   #4
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

Hi and Welcome

Here is your list and I will make some notes from it.

2x (not 4x4) currently thinking E250 RB sounds about right 2WD is fine but does have its limitations in the snow and of course off road, but a 1992 up Ford can always be converted to 4x4 at a later date. An E 350 is the same size as a 250 but can handle the weight a little better making it a better choice.
Penthouse can be added to any Ford, Sprinter or Nissan van starting at about $6,000 and up
RB 50 floorplan
No head you dont need it
Awning nice to have but can be added later
Outdoor shower (the one that mounts in the rig but the wand pulls out) Hot water on demand can work good for this as well.
Limited slip differential (LSD) good to have if you only have 2WD (I still have 2WD and a limited slip, so far so good)
Lifted some with slightly bigger tires you might think about this one as the cost of 2WD lift kits is kind of high about 1/2 as much as a base 4x4 system
Maximum space utilization underneath (batteries, holding tank(s), propane, etc.)
Slide out pantry
Heater
Hot water
2 burner stove are you going to cook inside or is this needed for the motor home tax thing?
Swivel captains chair(s) nice to have
Well insulated for both sound and temperature
Small table that can be removed
Space for crates under bench/bed for lots of climbing hardware, etc.
Trailer hitch for storage box and bikes (ala TMTM's setup)
Alarm (I know the guy that owns Encore so all good here)

From what I see you would be a perfect candidate for a nice used van. I would try to stick with a Ford as it will give you the most choices. There are some good used vans out there both base cargos and Sportsmobiles plus other conversion companies. Depending on where you live another good company for conversions is Van Specialties. http://www.vanspecialties.com/

Good luck and keep us informed as you go along.

...Jamie
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Old 09-14-2012, 03:18 PM   #5
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

Hi. good suggestions from Rockbender and others for consideration. And here are my suggestions for build consideration:

Electrical: Provide for PV solar for evening lights and furnace operation and possibly to power the refer. Generator noise sucks for you and others camping around you.

Galley storage: deep drawers are way nicer than cabinet shelves below the counter area. you can see and access every thing without moving stuff around to access whats in back.

Recreational toys: think about what you might want to bring on top, behind or tow so that the right equipment is provided.

Rear camera: If you get one have it put up high. The low ones get blocked by stuff attached to the back or road mud. The down side to high is they are easy to bump if you put stuff on top.
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Old 09-14-2012, 03:26 PM   #6
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

At a budget of $40k you might consider used. Go to Sportsmobiles website and click on pre owned. Don't just look at the SMB near you. A great RV you will keep a long time is worth the trip. You will get way more bang for the buck buying used. It also leaves room and money for customizing.
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Old 09-14-2012, 03:37 PM   #7
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

I just went to the pre owned site. On your budget there are really great SMBs available.
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Old 09-14-2012, 04:17 PM   #8
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

2wd with that budget should bring lots of options, including used Sprinters- however you lose the larger tire/lift option (afik there are no 2wd kits anyway!) but I wouldn't let that stop you.
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Old 09-14-2012, 05:21 PM   #9
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

Here is the link to Sportsmobile used site.

http://sportsmobile.com/z-PO_all.html

Do not be afraid to travel to get something you want, it can be your first adventure in your new van...

...Jamie
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Old 09-14-2012, 08:24 PM   #10
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Re: Soon joining the SMB family - Counsel appreciated

I love the internet when it works this beautifully. A random collection of enthusiasts willfully sharing their time with complete strangers. So far this is functioning better than most families!

Anyway, much thanks for your time, responses, and ideas. For used I've been checking SMB's used listings, Searchtempest (searches all Craiglists), and eBay. Also, I've not limited my searches to just SoCal. I've found a few that are interesting but not the right one just yet.

Currently, in SMB used there is a listing from Tucson for an '02 E350 V10 with 22.5k miles for $38.9k. It has the penthouse and the floor plan but I'm thinking E250 and V8. Also, the price seems about $8k too high to be a really good deal.

I haven't contacted SMB about doing a build yet. I thought it best I start here to not end up in the sales queue over there. Also, it seems that $25k for them to do the penthouse and all the goodies will be insufficient. I want to be done for $40k. Not most of what I want for $40k then a couple extra G's here and there.

I def don't think I need a gennie. I'm used to tent camping or sleeping in the dirt so a couple LEDs for night is gonna be fine.

4x4 in lieu of lift would be cool but the gas and loss of utility on the highway is not worth it for me. For the few times I'll be in the snow I can toss chains in to keep Highway Patrol happy.

2 burner stove as my wife is a great cook and it's what we use when car camping.

Will check out Van Specialties too.

I thought about buying a rig in the $10k range just to check it out. However, I know myself and I'll end up dumping a bunch of cash into it and end up losing in the end if I try and trade up. With this forum's help I'm just gonna go for it and hope for the best. Besides collectively you guys have made all the mistakes possible combined at least a couple times. ;-)

Peace
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