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Chumley 10-07-2012 12:24 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Hey All,

Interesting note: if you go back to page 7 and look at my Sept. 16th post you will see pictures of the open heater space and water lines just above it. I guess I understand where the water might have come from but how? You an also see the ottoman base and the inverter and such next to the shower stall.

Edit: Here are a couple of pictures.

This is why we bailed on the camping.

Overall glad we got a room even if it is not what we wanted since we are all safe and there are no plumbing, electrical or heater problems in the middle of nowhere. Aren't Sportsmobiles supposed to be tougher than the average motorhome?

Chumley from someone else's bed. :a6:

Scalf77 10-07-2012 10:03 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Sorry to hear about your issues. Yes on page five of your write up, you can see that your water lines go from the back of your van to the top and come down just in front of drivers side window. I would expect if you opened the shower faucet you would be able to drain and residual water. On a second note, it looks like you have a roof top air conditioner in the back, any idea where that drains, although it seems like a long way from the exit point. Good luck.


Chumley 10-07-2012 10:33 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

That was one of the first things I did. Try to find a high point that might be holding water. I put the shower wand on the floor and opened the faucets and got a little water but not that much. Oh well.

I am just geting ready to load and go now. We are going home today. We will, however, go down Hwy 395 to see what we love so much and get to go to Whoa Nelly Deli. You must try this gem if you are in the Lee Vining area, it is legendary good.

We'll take the long way home and get the break in done on the van itself.

Waking up to a new day and going outside I see a van I think looks great. Just seems more hollow this morning and not like the faithful dog feeling I had yeaterday morning. More like a coyote that is half tame so you never know what may happen next.

I hope we can tame the beast and we all get our confidence back soon.



windguy 10-07-2012 12:38 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Sorry to hear about your woes. that sucks.
after all you've been through this really ices the cake.

I would think SMB would have pressure tested the water lines beforehand.
If done in a home, all is well until an earthquake hits. But in a van that moves and twists, not so.
If one of the connections popped open, then opening the shower valve wouldn't do anything. you already have an open source that will drain first. You would think once the pressure has neutralized and all the water that is higher than this point drains, and you don't activate the pump, then the leaking water would stop. Maybe you're at that point now with some slight residual. Don't like the idea that you can't access this area easily, which I think is how you described it. something was glued down. when they redo this area, have em screw the covers on, no glue. appearance is less important than functionality and the ability to gain access. I guess in an RV, you're going to have problems at some point since the thing is rattling around all the time. You need the ability to patch or fix it yourself in the field.

The thing about the dash is maddening and total BS. Replacing a dash in a new vehicle is not the answer for being careless. collateral damage from construction work is always a pet peeve with me. that's why I do most of the home remodeling myself, but I can't do it all and must rely on outside help sometimes. it's a struggle and I have to be on top of them constantly. Sounds like an SMB build is the same story. Sadly.

What have I learned from your experience:
1- Being able to troubleshoot and fix in the field is really important. access is key.
2- The more amenities you add to an RV the more that can go wrong. keeping it simple isn't so bad
3- Tolerances can vary so don't design like you're building a piano.
4- Trust your instincts over the builder's practices. You're probably right in most cases plus it's your property
you want to protect.
5- I'm guessing that SMB West doesn't excel when it comes to custom designs and special requests.
I wish others would share their experiences in the same detail that you have so we can understand a vendor's strengths and weaknesses
6- SMB West seems to have a disconnect among their build team - Sales Guy, Shop Foreman, Line worker.
The left hand isn't talking to the right hand. Who is in charge of Quality Control?
Appears to be self inspection, which only works when you're really good at what you're doing.
7- Don't plan a big trip after your build is complete. Adds too much stress in trying to get the build done
in time and doesn't leave enough wiggle room for fixes.

So I wonder, is Chumley the first guy to come along with so many build problems or is he the first guy to document the problems or even notice them or care about them? Would love to know that answer. I have my suspicions. Same applies for all three SMB build locations. And Chumley's point of "what if I lived out of the area" is very valid. I've read that some guys don't see the build until it's complete, flying in for the first time. talk about a leap of faith. Maybe it's acceptable for a custom RV build to have a punch list of problems and issues when done. You can only specify a certain amount of detail in a plan and the rest is done as it goes. Note sure that would work for me. I'm a very detailed oriented person so my hair is on fire right now :n3:

Let's hope this story has a happy ending. Reading through Chapter 8 (ie page 8) it's been a mystery/adventure story bordering on becoming a murder mystery :b1:
Good luck Chumley

baybeegg 10-07-2012 02:20 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
thanks so much for having the courage to post so much about all the good, bad or whatever about your build and experiences. My buddy bought a brand new van retrofitted from new from another company (not sportsmobile or outside van). We swapped for awhile b/c I needed to live in a remote location for some months (oh, darn!). When I got back and we swapped back, the bottom line is it was a good thing I was handy and could fix all the rattles, loose or not working items, gluing, rigging, etc. let alone the fundamental problems with the van. We posted together on another forum to let everyone know some of the pain in the neck problems and sad and expensive hassles and we were harshly criticized by many, including the company. So, no more posting on that forum I would guess. I also appreciate this forum letting the Chumleys spell it out, so all can learn, including the sportsmobile company.

Bottom line, it takes a lot to be specific in postings and to deal with a less than perfect product for that amount of money! My experience and observation of my friend's experience taught me that I do want to buy some sort of van or rig, but it is best to live nearby to the company who does the work if you can, b/c if stuff starts going wrong and you are in the middle of nowhere or traveling far away, you are on your own, maybe.

llamadave 10-07-2012 05:25 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Any chance your water pipes froze? I checked and the low for Truckee was 26 the morning of October 6. Not sure where you were overnight.


Chumley 10-08-2012 01:01 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Thank you for your post. My wife read it while we were drivng. You would be surprised where you get a 3G or even 4G connection in the Eastern Sierras.

As she said "you nailed it". It's the summary I would write but don't have to now.

But I think I would do it again. It sounds crazy but I look around at the thing and for the most part it is very very nice. There are some very strange things that happened, and am waiting for an explanation, but I think they have to be the exception to the rule. They have to be. There are too many people like (us) and they sometimes get some money.

I asked Sportsmobile to fit everything that I saw in a Roadtrek and do it better. It is actually a smaller package since nothing hangs down low on the side hidden by the running boards. I've seen the construction and it looks solid. It was amazingly solid feeling except for the cabinet with the refer but it was played with the day before pickup so maybe stuff got moved and not secured properly?

Can you see the conflicted side here? I am so disappointed yet I love the potential of this rig. It looks good now so let's get it working right! Every bit of it.

We're certainly not done yet. The story isn't over. I will post the three posts like I had originally planned but it may take some time.

BTW: I think that this is the best time to actually get a new Sprinter SMB made. Everyone is on high alert. Maybe there will be some changes? I don't know. At least for a while everyone will likely be on best behavior. Now is a good time to buy SMB West. How's that for finding a silver lining in a cloud?



Chumley 10-08-2012 01:17 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Thank you for the kind words but I don't think it should take any courage, at least not from what I have seen here on this forum. That doesn't mean that there aren't many other members royally annoyed that I would say all of the stuff I have but it is all just documentation of what happened. Maybe some of my analysis would upset some but no one has been at all negative here. Thank you all.

This thread was started with a bit of an issue with my first salesperson but then took off really well when I got a new salesperson. To this day I wonder if he is as much a victim in all of this as I am. I thought that after the slow start that it would be all very positive and actually quite brief. I had no idea it would turn into this. I figured maybe about a post a week after the pictures rolled in or I visited. I originally hadn't even planned on going that oftern until I sensed something wrong about the 3rd week of the build. It never got better.

I am very sorry to hear that you were mistreated at another forum and it speaks volumes about the other builder and even the caliber of the members. I too have belonged to forums where the "regulars" sit and respond to every post as if they own the site and rain down on you if you show any disrespect for the main topic of the forum. It is regulalry referred to as "drinking the coolaid" and most everyone knows what is going on but when you are being attacked well... it's hard to fight back at some anonymous person who can't the the other side of anything.

This really appears to be a good site but then most everyone is very well behaved.

Good luck.


Chumley 10-08-2012 01:25 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

I want to thank you and everyone else who cared enough to try to help me understand my issue.

We live in the Santa Clara Valley of California so it was maybe in the 50s overnight. It was actually beautiful up by Truckee in the early afternoon so an overnight low in the 20s was not apparent.

I think that there is a leak in the water line above the heater. The heater has pretty sharp corners and the water lines may have rubbed against it during the drive. The water system really was slightly pressurized since going to altitudes of over 8,000 in some parts of the trip the reduction in surround air pressure essentially pressurized the system.

We found no more water leaking in an apparent manner Sunday morning and the humidity was so low that I think it may have dried out the van pretty well. I hope.

Thanks for the concern.

Chumley 10-08-2012 02:09 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Hey all,

My own personal negativity is starting to wear even me out right now. I think this thread needs to go back in the direction it started - moving towards the dream of owning a Sportsmobile.

So last weekend we went on a trip. It went from a 3 day trip to a 2 day trip but it was full of memorable experiences. This trip provided the anguish of knowing that there is much more to be done to our brand new van to make it fully functional but it also let us get a glimpse of what it will be like when it is done. The future is very bright and we are cautiously optimistic.

One thing I want to say right off the bat is that the main reason for my current joy is that the Mercedes Sprinter van itself just flat out delivered. That van drives incredibly well. I drove a Roadtrek 140" wheelbase model (Agile) all of about 10 miles so knew it would be nice but this is just so much better than I expected. We got home last night about midnight after driving almost 11 hours and 612 miles. The last hundred or so I drove it like it was broken in since we came back with a total of 1356 miles, 938 in 2 days.

A little review of the Sprinter here. Most of the time I took it easy on the engine but it really did well going over the Sierras on Hwy 80. For those that don't know it is the main 4 lane highway over the Sierras between Sacramento and Reno. People drive fast on that road, including the big rigs. High speed sweepers were a joy. No porpoising when we hit bumps, just a solid single bounce. No yaw. The ride was firm yet not harsh. This is where the Germans excel. This van handled like a car for the most part. The brakes were just incredible. At speeds below 70 to 75 it had very little wind noise. We hit a lot of crosswinds on Hwy 395 and then around the Mojave and it did little more than shake the van at worse. Passing big rigs was more unsettling with their bow wake of turbulent air. When I finally started oepning her up more towards the end of the day it really impressed me with its acceleration. We averaged 16.3 miles per gallon and spent most of the time in the mountains! What is there not to like about the Sprinter? Haven't found it yet for sure but I suspect the original tires suck. The front tires defintely need balancing but that might not be the factory. The vibration increased with road speed so up about 75-80 there was a pretty good vibration. I am thinking of ditching the Contis and going with Michelin which my alignment shop says are typically the most round (really round) tires made. FYI: This is the 3500 RB van with the "high center of gravity package" (bigger sway bars, heavy duty shocks and mounts).

The van itself just rocks.

We drove from Minden. NV, down to Whoa Nelly Deli for lunch.

I had the grilled pork chops with cranberry glaze, potato salad and spaghetti squash. My wife had the lobster taquitos with their homemade refried beans and salad. I am sure part of it is the setting but the food is really really good. My pork chops were so tender but done well that they may have been the best chops I have ever had.

View from the dining room:

Rig looks pretty good too.

Precious cargo:

The reason we drove down Hwy 395 is we love it and it is so close, 4 hours away. This is the fall color season and you see photographers all over the place and cars pulled off the side of the road with people just gawking. You would think that this was a "between" time of year. The summer recreational users succumb to the school year and cooler weather and it's too early for the ski season. This fall color brings people from all over and it extends the year for many businesses. Hard to find a room if you haven't planned well but it's nice because most businesses are still open.

You can see streaks of orange and red going up the mountains where the aspens are turning color. Stunning.

We saw a lot of cool old hot rods going up and down 395 since the Bishop "Fall Color Custom Car Show" was this weekend.

The SMb customer service guy warned me that we would get a lot of attention in our van. Apparently there are quite a few Sportsmobile fanciers out there. He was right. No one came up to us but we got some thumbs up and longing stares at refueling stops. Lots of people looking at us instead of the White Mountains or Sierras driving down the road (yeah, we noticed). I think that the rig looks pretty bada$$ with the duallies and the color (hey Tony, how you liking that color?).

Even though we didn't use the van as intended it was just so comfortable for the 11 hours on the road. Some of the rattling and creaking actually went away so maybe some items have worn in.

I learned a couple of things too. I need to get my own squeegie since so many at the gas stations don't have long enough handles and the windows cover about an acre. I have to be very careful exiting driveways. The wheels protecting the generator are getting a workout. I am going out driveways more diagonally now and we seem fine.

I could really get used to this.

Hope you all are enjoying your SMB. I am certainly getting there with mine.



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