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Chumley 09-10-2012 08:38 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Visit report update.

I spoke with my SMB Sales/PM and as usual there were explanations, I guess it was good.

Primary concerns addressed:

The microwave shelf will be vented properly. Apparently the foreman had not been brought up to date even though I thought I was supposed to talk to him about this. :t4: I saw the dimensions on the blue tape on the van walls and could only assume he was going to build to these dimensions and do it soon. There will be venting on at least the exhaust side and I am assured that they will be able to find another microwave that fits if it's a problem. Okay.

The shower stall? He asked me what the issue was (my e-mail to him had a typo) so told him that I expected 36" inside clear (face of inside wall to face of inside wall). He said he must have misunderstood my question last time and gave me the normal "outside" dimension (measuring the outside, or maximum, width, length, etc... dimension) that they typically use. I have to say that this makes sense to me since all of the other dimensions were "outside" but knowing exaclty how much room you have to move about in is a little more important to me than a cabinet where the plates aren't gyrating to shower. I am jumping to conclusions very quickly at this stage of the game. Unfair?

The window tint has not been reviewed by him but I suspect that this issue will never go away. I never wanted the tint in the first place but since my van was ordered without the factory tint I had no choice, except to leave the windows non-matching. I spoke with the guy that has done a good job tinting windows for me in the past and he said that he would leave a uniform 1/4" border on the black ceramic coating on the window. Window films like smooth non-porous surfaces to stick to, like glass, so that black coating does not take the window film well and can release. Okay, I don't know, a dog gets upset and it is scratched anyway and will have to be replaced. The dogs should be mellower in a couple of years so I think I will have to replace it at least once, if I am patient, but I'd rather not have to at all. :b3:

It costs me about $70 in gas to visit each time and it eats up an entire day when it's all said and done. Maybe I should just wait go in a couple of weeks instead of every week. I am just afraid that there will be a mistake that I could have caught that will extend the build duration since I am determined not to make any compromises now. Just want it done. I think I am in the spiraling purgatory of being on high alert for problems so I see more than I might have before so I look more... These guys are striving to make the best builds for us humanly possible every time but scheisse can happen. Making friends in a business relationship is not a priority to me but I like these folks. Maybe not going every week will keep me sane and I may find out that they have it under control. Geez that is going to be tough for me.



freedomrider 09-12-2012 05:18 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
First, major props and thanks to Chumley for this incredibly detailed documentation of one SMB build experience. :l1:

Second, wow! I just joined this forum and started reading this thread. When I saw that SMB took delivery of the Sprinter in June it never occrurred to me that I'd get to the current end of the thread (mid-Sept) and see the conversion is still in progress! :t4: Is this typical?

Third, I agree with your concern regarding that ceiling fan "weatherproofing". That looks shabby to me and makes me very hesitant about adding any features to my build that require opening holes in the body.

Thanks again for your heroic effort to document your journey and best wishes for a lot of happy journeys once it's complete. :b5:

Mike - still in the early planning stage of my conversion van jouney

llamadave 09-12-2012 09:52 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Mike, SMB Indiana told me to expect the build to take 4-6 weeks starting November 1, since my build is more complex than most. I expect to pick up my new van early October. I don't think it happens very often that they have to start over in the middle! I sure hope that doesn't happen to me. My first contact with SMB was April and I ordered the van early June. So for Sprinters you can expect as long as 6 months from committal to completion. Click below to see details of my design.


freedomrider 09-14-2012 11:12 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Thanks David. And thanks also for all the info you've provided on your design.

There's an RV show coming to my area in mid-October and SMB will have a few demos there. I think I'll plan to make a day of it for some detailed inspections and comparison with other upfitters at the show.


kmessinger 09-14-2012 05:33 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Originally Posted by freedomrider
Third, I agree with your concern regarding that ceiling fan "weatherproofing". That looks shabby to me and makes me very hesitant about adding any features to my build that require opening holes in the body.

My ceiling fan was put in 4 years ago using the same sealant and I have never had a problem. We have several holes in the roof for solar panels and back-up camera and no leaks yet.



kmessinger 09-14-2012 05:48 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
I just spent the last two hours reading this. It is better than Falling Skies.

We will be doing Sprinter SMB #2 in the future. We just took one off the lot at SMB rather than order one but next time we order so I really appreciate the lessons posted here.

Do the cornering lights work on the new Sprinter? I was told it was a NAFTA thing that they didn't. I wired mine ... ng-lights/ and got two more switches to add to all the blanks. I think I tried the ones SMB is using. Got my switches from the same place. The Sprinter switch blanks are convex and that switches box is not so it didn't work for me.

It is kinda like building a home. Two ways to do it. One - never come by to look until it is all finished. The second, visit everyday. And just to make sure you are in the right mood for the visit, slam your finger in the car door when you get there.



PS. I visited about once a week and got photos sent to me all the time. I think it is hard to beat the SMB folks and the control you have over what you get unlike RoadTrek and others.

windguy 09-15-2012 12:56 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Originally Posted by freedomrider
There's an RV show coming to my area in mid-October and SMB will have a few demos there. I think I'll plan to make a day of it for some detailed inspections and comparison with other upfitters at the show.

I went to the RV show in Pomona two years ago and kicked a lot of tires that day.
It's well worth your time and you'll learn a lot. Bring a camera to take pics, measuring tape and paper/pen.
You can pick up a lot of design ideas if you really want to customize your build.
Alan was there with his wife Liz for SMBW. They were both very helpful in answering questions and offering sage advice for making your design. Good folks to work with. We spent a lot of time just sitting in the Sprinter conversion they had to get a feel for comfort and the layout. The only part I didn't like is when other visitors stepped inside the van and the van would rock back and forth, like a boat.
What you'll find astonishing is that the ready made Sprinter conversions are really expensive in comparison to a custom SMB Sprinter so there's some real value in what they offer.
Also check out some of the Class C motorhomes that use a Sprinter front end and add their own box, which is wider than the cab. They have a lot of unique design ideas that you can use. And for shits 'n giggles, take a tour of some of the 40ft behemoth RVs with the outdoor big screen TVs and indoor washer and dryer. Bigger than my first and second apartments combined. Enjoy!

tonyvoudy 09-15-2012 05:02 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
FYI my build in Indiana started August 6th (this year) and was completed August 28th. Yes, my build was not very complex at all.

windguy 09-15-2012 05:16 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Originally Posted by tonyvoudy
FYI my build in Indiana started August 6th (this year) and was completed August 28th. Yes, my build was not very complex at all.

That seems pretty reasonable - about 15 business days. obviously dependent on your design.
the more options the more time required
I wonder how many builds Indiana has going on at one time vs Fresno vs Texas??
I only visited Fresno and there was a lot going on at one time with different stations for different systems (4x4 install, windows, pop-tops, cabinetry, etc)

llamadave 09-15-2012 06:23 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Originally Posted by windguy
I wonder how many builds Indiana has going on at one time vs Fresno vs Texas??

Indiana has room for about 4 vans, but there are only 2 positions where most of the building happens, and there are two foremen who each take care of one of them.


tonyvoudy 09-16-2012 02:56 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
One other thing about Indiana: Most of the employees have worked at SMB for 10+ years. (And several are 20+ years) They have been at it for a long long long time.

Chumley 09-16-2012 08:45 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Mike and Keith - Thanks for the support. This whole thing has taken on more of a life than I expected. I am glad that my personal evaluations and injections of philosophy haven't scared off absolutely everyone.

I have issues with the way things are weathersealed but I think they will be okay. I spoke with SMB and I think they have a layer of bituminous material that is encased in another layer of what appears to be silicone. I am not a big fan of silicone sealant since I have removed so much of it over the years because it didn't work as originally promised and created more problems than solved in the long run. Does everyone remember when silicone sealant first came out and we thought we could seal anything, including the San Andreas earthquake fault and save the rest of the US if we wanted (you do all know that the rest of the US will fall off into the Atlantic if the fault ruptures big... :f1: ). I am waiting for the full report on their sealing procedures but I am not that worried, just think it could be done in a more contemporary way.

Windguy - I think I saw about 6 Sprinters in progress in my last visit as well as maybe 2 to 4 4x4 conversions. SMB West has at least 3 lines and maybe 4. I'll take pictures this week. There is a lot going on.

I spoke with the Foreman and he has been there 14 years at SMB West and the carpentry foreman has been there forever. I know that there is not much turnover and that the recent economic slowdown forced them to reduce staff so the best were kept. They are picking up again so I don't know if they are planning on hiring more or if the efficiency expert provided a buffer for now. If my observations are anywhere near true the the atmosphere is very laid back and they work normal hours. I think they are a good place to work.

I still see a great value in building an SMB Sprinter vs one of the other manufacturers. Some of the others are nice but they are a bit more expensive and from what I have seen not as solidly built. I like what I am getting now and I could not have gotten it anywhere else.

Even with what I have been through I am still a big SMB fan. I just wish it could be a little easier for me. I don't have any experience with any other shop but I think that there could be a little bit more modernization in the way SMB does some things, I can think of one or two right off the bat. I could be wrong and maybe everything is much more contemporary than I think but it's hard for me to see. Maybe you all can provide comment on that.


Chumley 09-16-2012 10:08 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Week 10 Going on 7 or 8

Well I hope you are willing to check in for a couple of more weeks. I have the official planned completion date and it is September 28th. The wife has taken the time off work to do the pickup routine and we are frankly getting very excited, more her than me but I have seen the van every week for the last several weeks. My anticipation is a little higher than getting a mail order jacket from LL Bean but a little less than when I went to pick up my first Harley. BTW: I ride BMWs, Triumphs, Vespas, etc... so please be nice. I am a little worn out on the build so some of the polish has worn off too and I am still a little apprehensive about the last 2 weeks. Not to worry, as soon as the build is on the road and it is proven as well done I will be very f’n excited, and will celebrate accordingly with many cocktails. That toilet may come in handy…

I went this week and it was a non-event. I was there barely ½ hour. I waited almost as long stopped dead in a construction zone on the highway on the way there.

As usual everyone was nice and my Sales/PM was apparently with other customers but came right out. Looks like a busy place. We were walking to the van and he was pretty happy as usual but more so than the last couple of weeks. We had just been notified that SMB checked in and locked in our interest rate at 4.75% which was a full ½ point below our initial quote. There is some silver lining that cloud and he was glad to have something as positive as that to start the tour. (As a side note: we decided to take out an RV loan since we wanted our money to continue working for us. We have almost fully recovered from the economic disaster but like it when the money is working. The interest is going to be tax deductible so it is basically free interest in the long run. This works for us but certainly maybe not for everyone. YMMV)

The van is in more of a normal location versus sitting by itself off to the side of the line. I see that the driver and passenger seats are leather covered now and the tan/black combination is nice. I look inside and see most of the stuff inside is back in place and looks familiar. The heater is in place and it looks like it will look good in the cabinet face. All of the plumbing is back in place so overall it is just about where it was before “Redo-Day”. A nice gentleman came up to us with another SMB sales guy and inquired into the build. There is so much to say but the best thing I could say is that it is like a little home on wheels. I think anyone walking through the first time has to be mighty impressed, I know I was and still am when I look at some of the completed vans being readied for delivery. The Sales/PM and I discussed just a few details but most of it is now back into familiar territory. They still don’t have a plan for the installation of the microwave oven but it was promised that I will get good ventilation on the side(s). I didn’t even feel like looking at the window tint but will again during this week’s visit since it is going to be done so soon. I am simply asking that the edges be a uniform distance all of the way around and that the tint is adhered well enough that I can’t see anything from the inside or outside (meaning sometimes you can see a little lighter area around the edges on the little black dots (that fade to solid black around the edge) where it reflects light or bubbles up as it releases). This appears to be the last critical area since the redo fixed everything else. The interesting thing is that this appears to be the only area where they seem to expect a compromise from me, interesting that their philosophy is so different here. They are replacing virtually anything that gets damaged during the build (glove box door and likely a “B” pillar so far) but will accept less than their normal high standards and I am expected to replace it at my cost in the future if the dogs scratch it when I never wanted it, I just wanted the right color glass. Those 2 e-mails I sent that never got a reply may haunt SMB for a while. They were also part of the trend that made me switch to a new salesman that eventually got me here.


Yep, most of those photos should look pretty familiar.

On the way home I got a call from Rob of IA who is installing the A/V systems. He said that he felt that the sealant around the roof penetration for the XM radio antenna did not look good to him so he is getting an ABS cover to install over it to clean it up, nice. I’ll show you when I see it. We are also working on getting a larger safe for the van now that we have the final dimensions.

Overall the build is back on track. But I can’t say that my confidence is back yet and it may not be until I have been in the van on a trip and everything does indeed work as promised. I will confirm this but it appears that the credit check is done for the loan so we can get my wife her car now, I hope. We sold the minivan so we are either on the hook but if something blows up I guess we can use the $21,000 deposit to go back and buy one pretty much just like it (Mazda5s are one of the best deals on the market). I am not anticipating that kind of a problem but I am always mentally prepared for the worst, I just don’t know if the wife is...

I have been working on getting insurance and so far it is about $1,000 year (Good Sam) but I am still working on it. We need to outfit the van with the basics like a patio rug, the Stowaway2 cargo basket, and all of the little “things” you just have to have and can only get at some special RV outfitting shop.

It has been a long strange trip but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is not a train, it is the light of day and it looks like a trip to the Alabama Hills and Bishop in a few weeks as a shakedown. We go to the Southwest in early November for a couple of weeks so I am going to start conditioning my GI tract for some serious heat by way of red and green chili sauce.

Life is good, getting really good. Hope you are enjoying your week and this report.

Thanks for checking in.


Chumley 09-19-2012 08:49 PM

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

I am getting prepared here in the week before we pick up the Sprinter at SMB West and a lot of things are happening.

I am working on finalizing my insurance. What I have found out that is a lot of companies promoting their “RV Insurance” policies are going to be providing quotes for auto policies with “assigned values”. I have found this to be true with AARP (The Hartford). You have to be diligent and provide a full inventory of items installed and pictures will help. When an adjuster is needed they might not be RV savvy and you could get a depreciated value of all of the items installed right off the bat. My current understanding is that it might be hard to get true replacement value from an auto policy with assigned values. I am doing more research on this since I do not want to mislead anyone and I need to know. I finally received a quote from State Farm (current insurer) at something over $830 and one from Good Sam for about $800 that included their 5 year full replacement value feature (State Farm does not have this). This is a lot of work and I think I’m done here. Please note that I have included rough quotes based upon my particular circumstances and deductibles and they vary the price dramatically.

The financing is substantially complete. I was told, however, that I should not go out and buy a car right now because the Texas office may want to run some more financials(?). Okay, I will wait like we had planned. Since I keep hearing how this has to be approved and that has to be approved through Texas I must deduce that Texas is the “mother” office. I guess this is a franchise or something. Maybe I can get this clarified tomorrow.

I received an interesting e-mail yesterday. To preface: a couple of months ago I asked SMB if they could make leather seat covers to protect the nice leather seating from dog nails. The SMB rep. said that he spoke with the upholstery department and they said they could do it but could not give a firm quote, just a rough estimate and then charge what it took to get it done. I agreed. I was asking the Sales/PM guy to make sure that the seat outer protective covers I was having would be made without any additional accent seams so there would not be doubled up seams on the seating/sleeping surfaces. So I get this e-mail yesterday (basically 2 days after the question is asked, they are busy) responding to my e-mail sent Sunday night, saying that they don’t think they can do it in a way that would meet my standards. I will dedicate the next paragraph to this…

This may turn into a whine or rant so you can skip this part… From the beginning I tried to tailor my expectations to this custom recreational vehicle industry. What I found out was that it is normal to go a couple days without response when you are keen to make an important decision, I get that. I see that the work completed is good, actually very good, but not at the highest levels that I have seen. I accepted that. The quality of the materials are very good but not the best but again I see the reason and balance of quality versus cost that represents a good value. I accept that. I did however have difficulty with the level of design detail provided but that has nothing to do with the actual construction quality. Overall I see why things are the way they are and accept that. However I don’t accept mistakes that could have been easily avoided with good sense. I have spent the better part of the last 30 years estimating and managing commercial construction projects. I’ll tell you a favorite story. I was on a jobsite one day and saw the brother of a painting shop owner who did most of my work dilligently painting away and went to talk to him. He appeared a little nervous so I left him alone. I asked the painting company owner what was going on with his brother. He said that I made him nervous (short history was that I made him redo work I did not accept). I tried to apologize but he said “no - thank you”. Of course I asked why and he said that he always makes good money on my projects because I tell them what might be a problem before they move off the job so they can fix it. Their projects look good and they get fewer call backs and make more money that way. It’s not just me but anyone who cares about their work helps others get their job done right when it effects them all.

So I get this e-mail and it says that they are afraid that they will not be able to meet my expectations after all of this time expecting the work to be done. From the beginning of this build I told them that I would expect good quality work and when they would not define what that meant to them I accepted it. I will ask them what I have asked for that is out of the norm or is in excess of what they are expected to deliver because I don’t know. Except for possibly the demands that the window tint be nicely done I have not asked for anything extra, well maybe that roof stuff sealing job too... I have however observed and pointed out several of their mistakes but I don’t think that it is the same as complaining about quality. Mistakes and quality of the completed product are 2 different things to me. Well I am sure not going to push it on them now but it is disappointing at this point. Just another thing to do in a time crunch now. Also, I remember it was one of the things mentioned that would make it difficult for me to walk away from the build if they made for me because it was an expensive custom item... Hmmm... Okay, done with the rant.

I will go tomorrow and I expect it will look pretty good. I hope that the SMB Sales/PM guy will be in a good mood. I am still a apprehensive because of something I heard today that threw me off a bit. I will go prepared but am thinking maybe it is a good time to have Alan Feld join us for a while… I have my reasons...

I will tell you all about “The Ether” in my next post.



WeLikeWheels 09-20-2012 04:49 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Glad to see things are coming together for you Chumley and you are at the point where you can see how nice the end product will be!

I mentioned before that I make custom products. I customize motorcycle fairings(plastics). One of the very earliest lessons I learned is when you've cut a hole in someone's fairing - you either wait to send them pictures until you've re-molded whatever will go in it's place, or you provide a lot of explanation for the stage you are at. And again during the sanding stages of flow-coating the paint or wet sanding before buffing we are reserved with sending photos of these stages to keep our customers from cringing. In other words, the process for creating a perfectly polished finished product isn't always pretty. Sometimes there is only so much you can do to explain that this ugliness is a necessary part of the process. I would say that better than 99% of our customers are very satisfied with the end product, but more than a handful have also expressed concern during the customization process.

I think it is perfectly normal, when something you are so emotional invested in like a much believed motorcycle or a new home on wheels is having major reconstructive surgery, that you would have anxiety about the process. Despite having hired the best surgeon in the country, you aren't the one holding the scalpel. You have to put your trust in the surgeon and for most people sitting in the waiting room is probably easier than being on the observation deck watching every cut.

Mistakes happen and when they do it is no fun for either customer or company. In this case it looks like you are actually benefiting from them, because not only is SMB fixing them, but they've also had the extra time to find better financing for you.

I am glad to see that SMB has done almost everything to make things right by you. I can't wait to read the report and see pics next week of your and your wife's huge smiles as you drive your new home off the lot.

kmessinger 09-20-2012 02:37 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Check Progressive. They know what a Sportsmobile is and have replacement total just based on the purchase price.

I have had two claims they handled great. One was for the original glass on the sliding door. I wanted to replace it with a CR Laurence which was several hundred dollars more than the standard. They approved going with the more expensive. I had it done at SMB and paid for the labor.



Wsgraham 09-22-2012 09:26 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Like Keith, I too have RV insurance with Progressive. You really want to go with one of the insurance companies that has specific RV policies. I am paying about $800/year for a new (July) Sprinter RB with a Sportsmobile conversion. It has five year replacement as well as many other coverages not included with auto type policies and is much less expensive, about one half to one third as much based on the quotes I was given before I found that RVs should not be treated the same as cars. Since I was buying the Sportsmobile in Texas and live in Iowa there was some confusion at Progressive. They finally found an agent for Iowa who understood RV insurance and I was insured in about an hour with a fax confirmation. It did require some work in the Progressive phone tree. There are other companies like Good Sam that understand and offer RV insurance and I think that all would be competitive and offer similar coverages. They asked me what replacement cost would be and I told them $80,000 and they were OK with that. Bill

DonSt 09-27-2012 02:51 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
I finally went through this whole post on your build, and I can't believe it. The rebuild seems like a waste of creativity, time, and money for all.


tonyvoudy 09-27-2012 06:49 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
How's the build going Chumley? Have not heard from you in a week or so...

Chumley 09-30-2012 09:57 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Weeks 11 and 12 – The End, Kind of…

Hello, I did not post last week for a couple of reasons, I was busy and I was conflicted. I apologize for not being regular but strange things happened at week 11 and I thought I had better see how things went this last week before I posted. I now have the motorhome that I have been dreaming about for months sitting in my driveway. It is an incredible feeling! I wish I could tell you more about it after a planned short trip but a sore throat popped up Saturday morning so we bailed. We still got out Saturday night for a family drive and made a run to McDonald’s which is a family tradition on my wife’s side. Everyone piles into the new car and they go to McDonald’s. I guess you can tell what generation that one stems from. Instead of sitting in the driver’s and passenger’s seats we got to sit in back in incredible comfort. We even got a couple local channels to come in on the TV and the picture is just dazzling. Eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers and French fries in Hollister while watching TV in a motorhome built locally is one of the American dreams for us. The stereo simply makes driving a joy I can tell you. The overall comfort is right where we expected. SMB delivered on this motorhome that they helped me design. So most of it is just wonderful and my wife is just ecstatic that we have fulfilled a dream. This is really for her, she works long hours at a stressful management job and this will be her decompression chamber, the golden carrot hanging right there every day. The dream is now reality and Sportsmobile really delivered on the substance of that dream. This kind of dream needs to merge with reality at some point and we are there. This dream has to yield to the bright light of the day called reality. Turns out that the dream included pimples and other blemishes, just like me. It’s been a long strange journey, and it’s apparently not over yet. Conflicted?

Con•flict•ed - adjective \k?n-?flik-t?d\
: experiencing or marked by ambivalence or a CONFLICT especially of emotions. Chumley during portions of his SMB build.

I am a professional builder and can critique a project with no emotion because it is a world of defined specifications and, if I have done my job well, established expectations. There will be more about this in the future posts.

So due to what has happened the last couple of weeks I thought I would break my posts down into a couple or three different ones so that I could focus more accurately on what is going on so that you will not see a series of conflicted sentences right next to each other. Don't get me wrong, this is a 98% good end to the story, history just tells me that the last couple of percent can be boogers.

First, let’s bring this all back to why I documented my build in the way that I did in the first place. I wanted this thread to help others who were looking for more information than appeared conveniently available in a single place. As a general practice I read the forums for whatever it is that I might be buying or participating in before I get fully committed. I read overwhelmingly good comments about SMB West but there are always gonna be a few negative comments no matter who you are so I saw a few of those too. I understand that a lot of posts on forums are simply a way for people to complain about issues they feel wronged. I also think that it has become fairly easy to determine when it is simply an isolated complaint and when there is merit to an issue. I think we have all dealt with the companies saying that forums are populated by nothing but whiners. Now many companies use them to their benefit and pay attention, I think SMB does. Sometimes people come out of nowhere with an issue on these forums and there is no reliable background history so it’s hard to evaluate without a lot more information, there are 2 sides to these stories. I decided that my thread would be contemporaneous so everyone would live it as it happened and I would be detailed enough so that there would be no doubt as to what I was feeling at the time. I am the customer so what I think should matter. You would think that a company would love to read this stuff since they can check it themselves as it is happening. I also know that a good company should not respond too much to posts on forums so to be fair the posts should be as honest as possible otherwise it becomes a hollow thread. I actually spoke to my SMB Sales/PM guy about this and he agreed that responding to a post on a forum can easily be seen as petty or combative but if he is viewing I honestly offer him to chime in during the last series of posts. SMB delivered a product as promised but it still needs a little work to call it good. I had been very determined not to have to go back right away for correction work but I guess that stuff happens and as long as SMB stands behind their work and we get things resolved within the next few weeks it will be okay. My schedule will be very tough so they will have to work with me but I believe it can be done.

So here we go. Let’s see how this wrap up works. Three more posts to come shortly.

But here are a couple pictures to whet the appetite.

Thank you all for tuning in and contributing. :b5: Thank you SMB! :l2: :l8: :q1:


ecopco 10-01-2012 12:11 AM

My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Great! More pics ASAP please. It looks awesome by the way.

tonyvoudy 10-01-2012 05:49 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Congrats Chumley on getting your van! I look forward to additional pictures when you have time.

windguy 10-04-2012 09:51 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
glad you finally got closure to this long and arduous build process.
I'm sure SMB West is equally happy to get your rig out of their shop.
now the fun starts. enjoy! :a3:

Chumley 10-06-2012 12:11 AM

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

I am sorry that I have not been posting but I had a case of brochitis that has kept me half asleep most of the last week. With what has happened over the last couple of weeks with SMB I felt I needed to write this up properly. I was going to write up what happened as far as "interesting" events in a diplomatic way but I may just torpedo that whole thing. What has happened just in the last 2 days is worth noting now and I will fill you in on the last couple of weeks worth of events when I return from Bishop and Lone Pine. I will keep this breif because I asked the house sitter to come by early to force us to get an early start, bright idea.

Yesterday I finally got out of bed for a while and went to my upholsterer to see about the seat covers that SMB bailed on at the last minute. We go out and look at the van and I tell the guy I want nice seat covers for the leather seating. He looks at me like I am kidding him. He says this stuff is all vinyl, what are you talking about? I about crap, I paid for leather and had a long conversation about how all of it was supposed to be leather. I said what do you mean and then he showed me by squeezing the ottomen and backrests and they didn't wrinkle, just bulged up. He said this is vinyl but then felt the couch and said that it was leather but a very thin one, he also said it is common in motorhomes that they typically use a thin less costly leather. He said that a good skin can cost around $500 and it would take 1 to make both ottomen seats. So I paid for leather ottomen and I got vinyl! How do you think I felt? I spoke to Peter and he went to find out what happened. My Sales/PM guy (edit) has turned me over to the "service" side now. He calls back and tells me that the upholstery guy admits making them in vinyl because "they always do it that way" even though it was clearly marked to be leather. Apparently they don't make the seat back for the ottomen out of leather normally either but in my redo they will - because I said all along I wanted all leather seating!

The list for the "warranty" work (a.k.a. fixing goofs) is very long and will take a full day of everybody's time next Thursday. I don't think they are making any money on this one - and possibly the worst is yet come now!

As you all might remember early on during the build I saw a lot of stuff piled on the dash and leaning against the dash. I was told that there is never a problem and "no one has ever said anything about it before" (rermember that line as it will be coming up a lot in my future posts). Also early on I was asking them to work on getting those dash switches which they eventually found and used. Before they found the new switches they were showing me a plastic plate that they were going to screw over the blank switch area and mount my two switches on (nice custom offer which they would not charge extra). The plate looked terrible and I said to go back to their standard switch installation if they couldn't find better new switches. The standard switch arrangement for accessory items are the little switches you see like they use on all of their LED fixtures. These accessory switches are typically installed on the dash around the left knee. Well one day I see the switches in the factory locations so I am happy. Happy until tonight. Sorry, there will be multiple issues addressed here so hang in there. I asked SMB not to apply anything like "Armorall" to the dash since it covers the scratches like we were trying to find (if they did indeed happen during the "pile of stuff on the dash" period). They did apply some anyway and then promised to clean it off with their cleaner but never did, even after two requests (it was turned over with the stuff still on the dash!). This is where it bites them in the butt. Nothing sticks well to a surface with "Armorall" on it, it's too slippery. They installed a label that says something aboiut "Seat to be facing forward when moving" or something like that. Well on one side it had the "Armorall" on it so the label was coming off. So I pulled it off an then decided I would pull the other one off too from the driver's side. This is what happened.

Holy crap!

I think you can see that the dash area had holes that were filled, the area was then sanded and then it was painted! The paint just flaked off in a sheet! I had noticed earlier that there were some "crumbs" in the seams but figured I would just clean it up later since the entire van needed a final good cleaning (lots of sawdust). Those weren't "crumbs" - that was the edge of the painted area where the paint pulled up with the masking tape! I put my fingernail in there and the paint just started flaking up.

What do you think? Is this right? What would you do? Please tell me.

Now during the build when I was upset about how things were getting possibly damaged (and then virtually everything after the rebuild startover day) I was told that "if it was damaged it would be replaced". I even stressed that it would have to include the dash. Sales/PM guy would always say yes, if he had to he would replace the dash. I would always say "do you realize how much that might cost?". Answer was always that he would replace it if necessary. Oh, I forgot to mention that on the Thursday before pickup during the inspection I did find scratches on the dash and he had someone come out Friday morning to repair it. It looked fine when I inspected it but there was a funny spot where there were black flakes coming up near the repair area. There are people that are good at plastic repair and people that are not. Any one want to guess what caliber the guy they hired was? Also, make your vehicle inspections outside in the sun!

Next Thursday I go in for a full day of repairs which include:
- Repairs of the additional scratches I found on the dash once in the sun and where the "Armorall" was (I wonder how that will be handled now - it has to be done right).
- Repair a hole they put in the refer interior wall (must repair per manufacturer's specs - pretty sure this happened when they plumbed up the refer, pictures later).
- Provide additional ventilation at bottom of refer cabinet. Apparently no one read the install manual. It's how they always do it.
- Make another set of window covers (3rd). Always included as vinyl but first set made in cloth fabric with missing snaps which was made while I waited after orientation. These had been a part of the order from about the 1st week. 2nd set which I now have after I sent the first back to them after I marked locations for missing or misplaced snaps. A third set will be made to accurately fit the new shrouds (see below).
- Blinds do not fill out window opening. The "shrouds" were made too big so one side of one is about 1/2" short so you can see in and out easily and two other corners I can easily see out since they are just short. Replace the 2 large sets of shrouds.
- Replace the microwave which is scratched up. Stainless stell push button and plastic frame are chewed up.
Edit:Forgot a couple items:
- Replace the glove box door or at least the lock. The glove box door got swapped out with another van but they did not change the lock when they did it so there would have been 2 people without locking gloveboxes.
- Recover the ottomen in leather and make new seat back cushions out of leather.

There is so much to do. I am a bit ovewhelmed and I still have a lot more to write about that happened in the last 2 weeks. I have a lot of pictures to go with the tales to be told. There may be issues somewhere in the SMB shop office communication, What do you think? If you think I was getting whiney towards the end there were some very good reasons and I will share these with you.

I just don't know what to say anymore. I hope that the SMB folks will feel it their duty to provide an explanation to me and all of us. I welcome their response. I just need to know that it will all be taken care of as painlessly as possible for me. What if I lived in Oregon? What would they do? What would I do? What would anyone do?


Conflicted and flummoxed Chumley

Chumley 10-06-2012 02:42 PM

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

We are sitting here at beautiful Glacier Meadows rest stop on CA Hwy 80 just before Truckee. We noticed water coming out from under the shower and out of the front of the heater. What next?

I assume altitude had something to do with it but still doesn't seem right to me.

Really trying to have fun but stuff keeps happening. Oh well.

Keep you posted.


llamadave 10-06-2012 07:31 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

Your gray tank might be full. When it fills up you will first see water in the bottom of the shower. If the drain pipe is not tight, water might come out from under the shower instead. I don't recommend this as a general practice, but in an emergency I would drive over a storm drain or onto some grass along the road and dump your gray water.


Chumley 10-06-2012 09:54 PM

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

It couldn't be a full grey water tank, we have not used them yet. We haven't used anything except the TV and stereo. I guess the refrigerator is being used.

Fresh clean water on the floor.

Oh well. Thanks for the thought.


Chumley 10-06-2012 09:57 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Our First Trip in our one week old Sportsmobile!

We have the dream rig and we have 3 days! The plan was to take it easy and break in the van, put in a lot of miles, and see some beautiful Eastern Sierra fall scenery. We would learn how everything works before we take off in about a month for 2 weeks exploring the Southwest. We had several possible “dispersed” camping sites picked out, some established remote sites on well graded roads (so they say…). Sites from Mono Lake to just north of Mammoth Lakes to our favored sites near Bishop in Buttermilk Country and the last day at the Alabama Hills. The “Frugal Shunpiker” guides even provided GPS coordinates. We would make the usual stops at Whoa Nelly Deli in Lee Vining, Schat’s Bakery in Bishop, and burgers, pie and milkshakes at the Mt. Whitney Café in Lone Pine. We were set and very excited.

We had three days to luxuriate in the Sportsmobile splendor.

Well, not really.

As I posted earlier from the beautiful new rest stop at Glacier Meadows on Hwy 80 just before Truckee (okay, closer to Donner) we had a problem. We were probably at 5,000 feet and my wife noticed that either the dogs just peed in our new motorhome or something was wrong. I would pee in the thing before the dogs so I knew we might have a problem. Water had started to soak through the carpet and drip out of the heater onto the vent below. I couldn’t believe that water was coming out of the heater. I pulled out the drawer above but there was a panel closing off the heater area. I tried to remove the face panel at the heater but someone had glued those plastic screw covers into the screws. I only had basic tools so there was no way I was going to be able to remove them. So I removed the grill on the heater and there was water running out of it! How could that be? The heater is next to the shower and shares the cabinet space with the shower plumbing but it appeared that the heater should be above anything that might leak. What was going on? The air intake grill below was pretty much completely blocked by the heater pedestal so I couldn’t see a thing, just water dripping out. I went to the shower and drained the line to the shower wand and checked the faucets but they were closed and since I never turned on the pump there was no water pressure. So I buttoned everything back up. All in all about an hour wasted since I also had to remove the drawers and clean up. We put a dry towel in there and hoped that this was just an issue with altitude and it was over for now. We go about another 50 miles and the towel is soaked again. This time so much water had come out that it floated out the sawdust from under the shower too. Thank God it didn’t go into the ottoman well next to the shower since that is where all of the electrical stuff is mounted (inverter, etc…).

You can see that the towel has a line and that is the sawdust that floated out from under the cabinet/shower stall.

So there is water soaking into the plywood and under the shower stall and cabinet and they are not where there is good air circulation (none actually) and there is rain forecast for next week in the SF Bay area so I don’t think anything is going to be drying out soon. Will the plywood soak up the water and swell or will mold develop? What is going on?

What do you do when you get a bunch of water coming out of your heater and the pump isn’t even on? Turn on the pump and hope that it holds and doesn’t flood the electrics? Can’t take a shower, can’t cook and clean up, can’t… anything. So you don’t rely on the rig anymore.

So here we are in our +$100,000 Sportsmobile on our first trip and this is a picture of us enjoying it.

It’s really kind of tough to find rooms in the “fall color” time of year in the Eastern Sierras. Add in that Bishop is having a car show and there are no rooms from Bishop to Mammoth Lakes, especially if you call at 3:00 and you have 2 dogs. So we stop in Minden, NV, and stay at a Quality Inn since they have rooms and will take dogs. It’s right across the street from the Minden/Gardnerville waste treatment plant, right out our window as a matter of fact. If you know what a cattle stockyard smells like then this is close. This is what I did on the first trip in my new $100,000 dripping limousine. There are no chairs under the awning, no sky full of stars, or the bottle of wine with left over pizza. I looked at and smelled a sewage treatment plant, or?

I thought that yesterday I would have found the last issue when I discovered the patched holes in the dash and the black paint flaking off in sheets. How am I supposed to feel as a customer? My wife now says she just hates this thing. It represents so much that could have been a dream fulfilled and it has gone about 180 degrees from expectation. Now this is a lady who is a senior vice president at a bank that is the darling of Wall Street and is a regular speaker at financial institution conferences on sales and customer service. Her evaluation of this situation is not very positive. I am chair of a couple of board of director’s for non-profit organizations promoting wine tourism and a linear park through our downtown and a sitting City planning commissioner. Why do I tell you all this? Because we thought we had seen everything and understood why things happen and know how we might be able to avoid a situation like this. I probably come across rather bombastic and a know it all but this is what I know. Ask me about electrical calcs and I’m lost. We are so far from understanding how SMB could treat a person like we have been that we are lost. I am literally dumbfounded and wonder if we can recover from all of these mistakes.

I live 2 ½ hours from SMB. It costs me about $70 in fuel each visit and it writes off an entire day. I went to SMB regularly and still had the struggles that I wrote about. But I am not giving up! They owe me all of the fixes and they have to be done right! They are supposed to fix everything that they knew about last week in one day, the 11th of October. They have to get it all done because I cannot get back there before my vacation and now there is this leak. I want to be there when they open her up and check the plumbing. I want to know what it is that went wrong for myself because the trust is taking a serious hit. I had asked for an extended warranty when they did the rebuild because things just don’t seem to go back together as well the 2nd time in my experience. They denied it and I don’t know why, it wouldn’t cost them a thing if it was not used. Easy customer satisfaction with no costs involved, I just don’t get it. I hope this leak isn’t the result of a reused line that split or was crushed – after I was told that everything would be new.

This business is very personal to the Felds. It is more than a business, it is their life. I am not trying to tear down their house, just the opposite. This is why I did not post for about 2 weeks, so I could justify in my own mind that I could skip the events that happened. I just can’t hold back all of the stuff that happened anymore because it just isn’t right to do so. I know that they were getting upset but no one could tell me why, they just didn’t like that I was “not happy”. I am not sure how that works, I have a list of goofs a mile long and they tell me that I am lucky because Jonathan pushed so hard to get the repairs done so completely. I don’t know where I went wrong in all of this. I can’t take all responsibility even if I tried. I don’t run their shop. I tried to help but maybe I was just too overbearing. I don’t know. Can you feel the frustration?

For those of you who are or are about to PM me please just post your messages here. At this point SMB cannot deny that this thread has legs. You all are reading this thread and it is in their best interest to have it end and end well but I can’t seem to get comfortable, there is just always something else. Where will it end?

I feel so bad because my wife is so disappointed, I am too, but I believe we can get this fixed, she’s not so sure.

This is supposed to be fun right? When does the fun part start?

My God, how did we come to this?



BrianW 10-06-2012 10:25 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
Not to ask the obvious, but did you drain the fresh water tank to eliminate one potential source of water? No idea why it would be coming out the heater, though. It seems SMB runs their water lines all over the van in the weirdest places, maybe there is one back there that got punctured during the build? But, with how close you've been to the van during the build you probably are familiar with where the water lines are.

Perhaps rainwater came in the outside vent hole for the heater at some point and filled up a cavity. As a stop-gap measure until you have SMB check it out you might want to put a piece of duct tape or something over the vent hole. Maybe it was installed incorrectly?

Chumley 10-06-2012 11:18 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience

You brought up a good point so I went outside and looked at the side of the van to see if maybe the sprinklers might have sprayed some water into the heater. No such luck, side is clean. Our water is so hard it would have left stalactites, no stalactites or water spots.

No rain for months but some is coming next week. Not rain water at this time.

The water tank is in the rear and is still 3/4 full from when SMB turned it over Friday before last. You are right, I saw the water lines run fairly low along the wall on this side so I am surprised to see it coming out of the heater which I thought was higher than any water line, except the shower head wand but it is inside the shower stall. I'm thinking a small leak in a line that is spraying but will likely be proven wrong. I just want to see it for myself.

Thanks for the thoughts.

I would like to know if this is the first time this has happened to anyone and how concerned they were about the wet plywood. I kind of doubt that it is marine or even exterior but hope I am wrong.

This is really getting to be trying.



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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