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windguy 10-08-2012 04:42 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Chumley,

Sounds like you're heading back home.
Glad you are making the best of the trip and having some fun. that's what it's all about.
great pics too. thanks for sharing.
really like that onboard security system you have.
I was thinking about asking you how you like the ride so was glad you posted about that.
that's the most important part of the whole rig so you've got a good foundation.
Have you given your rig a proper name yet?
I know yesterday it would have been "this $100K POS" but we're not going to accept that since it was a temporary setback.

Regarding this being a good time to have SMBW do a build, did you stop at a gift store along the highway and pick up some rose colored glasses?? Ah, just kidding. I'm sure SMBW has learned something from this build and will make good use of it.

Enjoy!

WeLikeWheels 10-08-2012 05:34 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
I was really hoping to read that everything was perfect at the time of delivery, I can really see how some of the issues you've had can be quite disheartening, but I am glad you and your wife are mostly enjoying your new home on wheels. I am looking forward to reading your upcoming posts on how SMB resolves the remaining issues.

tonyvoudy 10-08-2012 07:27 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chumley
...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?).

Hey Chumley, Just got back from my third weekend in a row of camping in our van. Last weekend was spent in the beautiful Lookout Mountain, Ga area at the Tag Fall Cave-In where I was volunteered to run security (https://www.tagfallcavein.org/) for 1148 of my close caver friends. The wife and I did no less than 20 separate tours of the van for friends, fellow cavers and strangers alike. (We had to take turns talking) There was even a couple that currently have an e-350 4x4 sportsmobile (Hi Tim and Berta if you read this forum) that loved the van as well. The wet cement gray looks good after rain or piled with leaves (it had both after 3 straight days in the woods.) I have yet to turn off the fridge and everything stays nice and cold. I estimated that it generally only takes about 3 hours to fully chill a beer once I drake one / replaced with another.

Here is another thing I liked about the insulation SMB Indiana put in the van. 1148 cavers KNOW how to party LATE into the night. Once in bed, I would throw on the vent van, and sleep like a baby with virtually no outside sound heard. I got up at 5am to water a tree and noticed that there was still some heavy metal music blaring about 100 yards away. (I did not say I was very effective at security) The point is I could not hear a sound in the van.

Tonight I decided to drive it to a restaurant to show how well it drives with my dad in town. On the way to our favorite Chinese hole in the wall, I had some guy start honking his horn and pointing at the van. I thought at first that perhaps I was dragging something along the bottom and stopped off the side of the road to check. Perhaps he was really just honking the horn and excited to see the van???
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chumley

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.

I told my wife the same thing about having to buy a telescopic squeegee. There is no way to get up there and wash the windshield other than driving through a nice rain shower.

Finally, I do want to add that while picking the van up in Indiana I mentioned to Nancy, the primary sales rep for SMB Indiana, that it would be in her best interest to read/follow this thread. (Hi Nancy if you are reading this! ) I have noticed a few minor cosmetic issues with our van but nothing near to what you have went through in your adventure.

Tony

Chumley 10-09-2012 11:53 PM

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

Tony, thanks for the comments. I remember when we called caving "spelunking" and got reprimanded by a real caver friend. Caving is incredible, I just wonder if I would feel claustrophobic now vs. when I was younger and could crawl through that hole likely too small now for my fully matured shape. I envy you, your caving experiences and the party while in your Sportsmobile.

I think it was good to point out this thread to the Indiana crew, thanks. I hope that all of the SMB offices check this thread from time to time. I had a conversation with my wife about customer service and understanding the customer and what happened with this build. We both have some experience in this area, both practical and formal education/training. We didn't see a consistency in the treatment that we were expecting from SMB, from a company so well liked as Sportsmobile. Maybe there is something that will be a benefit to all of them as this shakes out.

Okay, fair warning, sit where it's comfortable so if you fall asleep you won't hurt yourself... I feel that there are 2 basic types of companies. The first type believes that taking care of the client first is serving the company’s best interest and understands that making clients happy makes the company money in the long run even if there are temporary losses. They work thoughtfully to understand if clients are making reasonable demands and may even give in to unreasonable ones if there are extenuating circumstances. We all talk about how great these companies are and are willing to pay a little more for the comfort of knowing we’ll be treated well. The second type are the ones that feel that the best way to look out for the company's interests is to shield itself from losses trying to satisfy client demands that might be inconvenient or costly, even if legitimate (we all know not all demands are fair or legitimate). The company comes first and the customer is a revenue stream and that’s it. Short term savings approach. We all wonder how they stay in business.

I firmly feel that if Alan Feld were personally involved the company would be represented by the first business model. With the current Sales/PM guy I saw predominantly the first type of philosophy but towards the end there were a couple attempts to deflect issues and not take responsibility (e.g. the refer was not installed square with the cabinet and the door was twisted and the first comment was that “no one but you would have noticed it”). BTW: No one else is paying for this build but me, I don't care about anyone else, just my family and me at this time.

They went ahead and ultimately fixed it but this displayed a classic style that concerns me. What if the customer did not have a "strong" personality? They might feel intimidated and just say “okay, I guess you’re right”. Is that the way you want to be treated? Distracted with a personal comment or a simple no hoping that it is enough to deflect the issue? That represents a cheap victory and winning a battle but not the war. There were many many times during the build where a potential issue with an item was explained away and I thought about it and went along with it. Could it have been argued? Sure, but would it have been worth it? Maybe but sometimes it’s good to let the little things go and focus on the bigger stuff, but you now you can only take so much of it. To this date no one has been able to point out anything that I was unreasonable about. I think a person (like at Sales/PM guy) just gets worn out hearing about this mistake and that mistake and they get numb and a critical perspective is lost. The perspective is that of the customer. If there were no mass of problems then there is nothing to discuss but there were issues and it gets old for everyone. The project burn out is a product of the self inflicted wounds and the customer is the true victim, the company has to accept its responsibility in this. Think about the customer, have empathy for the customer and start to proactively take care of things as that the customer would like (they likely know something about you at that point) after checking in with you, no surprises – even good ones. Make the customer believe that he does not have to fight for the corrections, that each one is a humbling form of education and it will be taken care of in the most painless of ways. Make you think that they are your individual proponent in a system that is good but not perfect and they know how to advocate for your rights and interests. Make the customer feel like they have the customer’s back.

There was a time when I thought that my Sales/PM Guy was on my side but after a while there was just too much to overcome and I just wasn’t sure anymore (now I have a strong belief that there was at least one major issue that was kept from me and this issue is now going to be fixed). I have worked with some people I consider to be very good at sales and marketing. Since large commercial construction projects are usually completed between groups of professionals there is not much room for less than professional conduct. No one gets to be trite and give lame excuses because they will be eaten alive. Marketing staff is open and honest and they pound on the desk of the project manager to make them take care of their client. Most marketing guys rely heavily on commissions. When a lot of an organization’s funds are at stake everyone becomes very particular about who is going to take care of their project and everyone becomes very blunt in their evaluations of performance as a practical matter. Just business. We are always trying to look ahead and see where problems might be and turn the ship before it grounds. When I started this project I had to change my expectations because I knew that the world I work in can be demanding to the unprepared. I thought I had reasonably altered my expectations but I could not give up all expectations. There have to be standards of some sort, right? Some things are just obvious and expected. Make sure it doesn’t hurt my eyes and make it all work was what I was asking for, that’s all. Going back to the refer install, was that asking for too much?

At this point the magnitude of what has happened to me makes me think that my Sales/PM Guy should look up “Crisis Management” in Wikipedia. As part of my training to deal with the media and crisis management I learned that there are successful and unsuccessful ways to manage crisis. The successful ones usually involve some form of corporate introspection and change. Think of this as a crisis on a personal level. No one died or was injured but the fundamentals are the same. If I remember correctly, when the news cameras show up at the front doors you: A. Briefly describe the crisis, B. Apologize to the victims and show remorse, C. Summarize the problem and accept responsibility, D. Provide a plan for emerging from the crisis. Also, customer service training would usually teach you to recognize what state of anguish the customer is in when contacted. If they appear agitated and want to vent, let them. Do not try to explain or correct anything. Just listen, DO NOT interrupt them, everything you say will sound trite. Maybe they put salt instead of sugar in their coffee and still haven’t gotten over it but likely someone screwed up and there is a victim talking. If they are rational then have a thoughtful conversation but the last thing is to include a string of excuses because they are your company’s problem and not the customer’s, his problem is you and your company, respect that if you want their business and others like them. You need to make them feel like you are on their side and you care (and you do) and you will work together to a resolution. I’ll stop there, I am sure many of you are better at this than I am but I think I got the fundamentals here. Why did I go through all of this? I’ll let you read between the lines.

So why did I go there? Oh yeah, I’ll go back to why I went off on this tangent.

I was sitting in a motel room in Minden Nevada last Saturday while my wife slept in the late afternoon. We got to the room and she handed me a beer and she took a Benadryl because something in the room gave her an allergy attack. We were supposed to be sitting in the mountains in the fresh air and enjoying our new investment. You know how it is when you’re driving along and talking about how wonderful everything is going to be and what you’re going to do in this wonderful new Sportsmobile van. You’re having this wonderful conversation and you are just happy. You have put all of the stupid stuff that happened in the last couple of weeks behind you and you are just drinking it all in. This is why you went through all of this and paid what you did for this incredible van. Then the wheels fall off as water starts coming out of the heater and everyone’s disposition changes. So much has happened the last few weeks and we had pushed it all aside but it all came back and all I remember was seeing that look of disappointment and hearing her say “I hate this thing”. So I watch her sleeping and I sit down and write my next post to this forum. I actually felt a bit of rage. I rarely feel that since I just seem to compartmentalize or detach myself but this was just too personal and when the one you care about and really wanted to be happy was so disappointed then… what do you really do? Feed the anger or try to make it better? I stopped and rewrote the post. I decided that the next day would have some of the most essential parts of the trip kept in the plan and we would enjoy ourselves and let the people who created this problem suffer, not us. I posted to the forum and my wife read it and she felt better. Something about getting out and expressing yourself. We decided to have a nice meal and try to enjoy ourselves. We did, it was an expensive meal for eating in a motel room but it was worth it. Anytime you are in Minden I recommend Buona Sera, good food and good people.

Sunday we stopped at the Whoa Nelly Deli just as she had been talking about for at least a year. It was one of the many things we talked about doing when we were still just dreaming of this van. As she said “check this one off the bucket list”. I wish that the SMB folks could see both the night before and the day after, there was such a contrast and if I were them I would fully focus on making sure only one of those two happened regularly.

We really enjoyed the rest of the day in our Sprinter (the Mercedes part performed well). I relaxed and I decided that I would go back to approaching this build businesslike.

You can never be in a hurry when trying to correspond with someone at SMB but if you are persistent you will eventually be in contact with someone. I was home Monday since we drove until midnight and was groggy in the morning but went to work trying to get our SMB van right. After it was right we could start to put distance between us and the bad memories and maybe think of the folks at SMB as something other than phone numbers and extensions. I do not tolerate someone talking to me or my staff in an unprofessional manner and if not that at least respectful. No one should ever be crapped on if they were not the one directly responsible for your issues. I called and was very respectful of the Customer Service guy even though there was some early morning groggy rage lingering. I talk with the Customer Service Guy and he is nice but likes to try to explain what is going on and tries to talk over you at times. I was actually just wanting to vent for a while but then I decided to go to work and get some stuff done. So we got the following resolved.

The dash will now be replaced. They have the guy that does the stereo install involved and this is what he does. I know the guy and feel that he is the most trustworthy and can likely do it, I ascertain from my conversation that no one from SMB is comfortable with this, I agree. It will now include the instrument cluster lens (plastic) since it is scratched and sawdust has gotten behind it. The instrument cluster will be replaced too if necessary. Alan has given his blessing to this plan. I also added that if this does not work and it is not all “perfect” then the fallback is that they pay for my local dealer to do the work. Of course, as usual, there is no firm and direct agreement but I would like to think that there is a tacit agreement to this.

The plumbing will likely be fixed that same day. My digital photos (the ones I posted here) provided a wealth of information and they used them to come to the conclusion that this can be done the same day too.

I never got a call back from my old Sales/PM guy even thought I was polite enough to leave a “firm and expressive message” with him on Saturday night. I think I clearly stated that I wanted to talk to him as soon as he heard it. I even called him “my friend”.

So where am I right now?

I am actually starting to feel good about what is going to happen on Thursday. I trust the guy that is replacing the dash. The plumbing will likely get fixed. The other issues I mentioned will all be fixed. I found a small cut on the leather driver’s seat that they will look at, maybe do something. They have a full day of work and they say they can do it. What do you think?

As I posted previously I think that SMB is talking about all of this internally now. This is the time to get a new rig built just based upon everyone being on alert. How long it lasts I have no idea. Windguy, I got me some rose colored glasses, but they are flip ups so I can still see clearly, at times.

Remember, the last phase of crisis management is to prepare a plan to emerge from the crisis, hopefully a better company. It starts with introspection from what I am told.

Thanks for putting up with me, I really thought that I was done with all of this... Can you believe all of this?

Chumley

tonyvoudy 10-10-2012 09:38 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chumley
Hey All,

Tony, thanks for the comments. I remember when we called caving "spelunking" and got reprimanded by a real caver friend. Caving is incredible, I just wonder if I would feel claustrophobic now vs. when I was younger and could crawl through that hole likely too small now for my fully matured shape. I envy you, your caving experiences and the party while in your Sportsmobile.

My standard reply is "Cavers rescue spelunkers" :a3:

kmessinger 10-10-2012 10:27 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
We were one of the first Sprinter conversions done by SMB in the spring of 2008. I can only think of one thing we had them change.

The microwave (mounted below the counter-top) was crooked. I had them line it up . . . and later discovered that when the gaucho is extended and you squeeze by the cabinets the door handle on the microwave trys to grab your leg. Left in the original position there would have been no problem!

We did get an extra outside electrical plug at no charge (lol). They installed the first one where when the sliding door was open you couldn't get to it. They discovered that mistake.

Maybe our design was easier. No shower, no engine water heater, no generator but it is great for my wife, me and Presley, our dog (https://www.facebook.com/PresleyAndFriends). 80K on it now. I have done a lot of mods on it and know changes I will make on the next one.

Some folks are luckier than others I suppose.

Regards,

Keith

Chumley 10-10-2012 03:05 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Tony, I guess I would be a spelunker. But I never had to be rescued. I wish I had pictures of the draperies (like bacon) and helictites I saw in my limited underground experiences. Incredible.

Keith, I so wish that I only had one change, that would represent perfect to me. I did not think that my build was complex at the time. However there have been some recent comments made that might confirm what you are saying about it being too complex (or not simple). But I was not told it would be tough for them when we were planning the build. Of course what would you expect them to say? No, that looks real hard, maybe not? I was warned by a few here on this board that this might be an issue but I am having problems with basic stuff here, not the stuff you might consider complex. Maybe there is a magic number of items that can be installed well and then they lose attention. Of course I've only used the refer so far so who knows what else might be lurking. Hmmm... I think tomorrow at the repair appointment I will have them run everything while I am there to make sure it all works properly now.

If I knew then what I now know then I might have done things differently but then I might not have done it at all because it would not have met our needs. If a company says they can build they need to build it right.

I really think that sometimes there can be a job where everything that can go wrong will go wrong. I joke about the build being cursed but I think it can be boiled down to some basics. Here are some of my theories with examples. There is a normal routine and it can override specific directions to the contrary. The "that's the way we always do it" comment that includes microwave without venting, refer without lower vent and the vinyl ottomen instead of leather. People can become robots (maybe rotate their duties once in a while?). The office doesn't confirm directions have been received by the shop and they are fully understood (put about everything that happened on this item). I keep hearing "that was not communicated well". The shop makes changes on their own because "they know better" (my countertop and backsplash were delivered contrary to our specific agreement and the window trim around the bath window same thing, same reason). The office doesn't check in and review the work and the shop foreman has great latitude to do things the way he sees fit. This would explain why I would ask the Sales/PM guy how they were going to fix the floor that was cut short, then with the hanging cabinet, and I would only be told that "I will like it". They get rushed, but by who? The dash had holes in it and I was not told it was patched and painted. This makes me wonder if there had been some sort of budget controls that kicked in and they just wanted to get it done (again) and stop losing money. I could be wrong but nobody will talk to me about it so until told wrong I will believe what I wrote.

The sheer number of mistakes clearly indicates that they have a problem right now, or had a problem. No matter how simple or complex the job. I would love to hear from someone else who recently picked up a SMB West Sprinter. I can tell you I saw a blue one go out without the venting I was told was required for the microwave unit by the Sales/PM guy. How long will it last? Or was the comment about needing venting just and excuse and then was meant for "the ether"?

I got thinking about what to do if you go on a trip immediately after the build is done. Something Windguy said got me thinking. Maybe SMB could make arrangements with key RV repair shops around the country to take in SMB customers as emergencies and then debit some sort of SMB account if the issue is legitimately an SMB warranty issue. Maybe call and SMB representative and get a credit card number from them after a description of the work. Something along those lines, a way to make SMB customers (like me) feel like they can be care for on the road, just in case. I am going to be very nervous for a while on this trip coming up and I don't think I deserve that, do you?

I will be sitting in the SMB office all day tomorrow so I will try to get my project closing posts ready to go.

I really, really look forward to having everything fixed.

I hope I get an SMB extended warranty now too. I think it would be appropriate now.

I want everything fixed and a memory wipe. That would be good.

Thanks.

Chumley

windguy 10-10-2012 05:46 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kmessinger
Some folks are luckier than others I suppose.

Keith, I'm pretty sure this has nothing to do with luck, sadly.
more like craftsmanship, quality and not being jaded about the process you are doing.
Remember the old saying about American made cars, don't buy one made on Monday or Friday.
That was before quality assurance was introduced to manufacturing in the US. It's done for a reason.

Quote:

Originally Posted by kmessinger
We did get an extra outside electrical plug at no charge (lol). They installed the first one where when the sliding door was open you couldn't get to it. They discovered that mistake.

glad you were able to handle a rookie move like that, more so than I would have been. prior to your first Sprinter build in 2008, SMBW was still working on vans with sliders and barn doors. same issues for those vans as for yours. mark the location of something and check it thoroughly before cutting into a $40K van.
I guess if surgeons can cut off the wrong body limbs then a misplaced outlet isn't so bad.

you have to remember that Chumley's van was gutted after it was pretty far along because someone couldn't read a floorplan and nobody was checking his work. It was the customer that discovered the discrepancy. That's not bad luck.

Hey Chumley - hope all goes well on Thursday with your fixes. bring a toothbrush and a change of clothes just in case you run into some bad luck! :b1:

JayBea 10-10-2012 08:12 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chumley
There is a normal routine and it can override specific directions to the contrary. The "that's the way we always do it" comment that includes microwave without venting, refer without lower vent and the vinyl ottomen instead of leather. People can become robots (maybe rotate their duties once in a while?). The office doesn't confirm directions have been received by the shop and they are fully understood (put about everything that happened on this item). I keep hearing "that was not communicated well". The shop makes changes on their own because "they know better" (my countertop and backsplash were delivered contrary to our specific agreement and the window trim around the bath window same thing, same reason). The office doesn't check in and review the work and the shop foreman has great latitude to do things the way he sees fit. ................... This makes me wonder if there had been some sort of budget controls that kicked in and they just wanted to get it done (again) and stop losing money. I could be wrong but nobody will talk to me about it so until told wrong I will believe what I wrote.

Chumley,

I think that you got it right. However I think that the "budgetary control" that kicked in was the realization that wage increases are tied to the number of vehicles built. Unfortunate, but true.

You found this out as it was happening because you were able (forced) to visit SMB every week. Many of us just make 1 or 2 visits and accept the unit the way it was built. I was fortunate in that those items that I could not accept, I fixed myself. I was, however, forced to live with the mis-location of the Fantastic Fan. It was clearly specified to be located adjacent to the shower but was installed "where we always do it".

We are very happy with our Sprinter and are looking forward to many happy miles, I sincerely hope that you arrive at this point as well.

Good Luck,
JIM

kmessinger 10-11-2012 10:39 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Our back splash goes all the way out. I did not think about it could break so will be extra carful not to use to use it as a handle. Our microwave is not vented. Doesn't require it looking at the manuals. I don't doubt yours needs venting but I just don't understand why.

Ours has particle board not plywood and our "veneer" is just paper :a6:. The particle board will absorb water and swell up so I was told so a leak like you had would be bad. I think I will pull the gaucho (after the play-offs - Game 5 tonight) and check all the water lines. Need to do that ever so ofter as it gets very dirty underneath. I went thru mine this spring and tightened all the screws I could reach. It really made a difference in noise from the back.

I don't believe they painted the dash! I mean I do believe it but do not understand why SMB woiuld do such a thing. I don't think that normal for SMB.

Don't forget to get it weighed - each axle and a gross so you know the actual numbers. And for tires, I am going for these (discussion - https://sprinter-source.com/forum/showthread.php?t=22633) the next time. Not sure if they will work with your dualies.

I do a lot of work, maintence, mods on mine. I think with a lot of the SMB owners it becomes somewhat of a hobby. My 8 year old neighbor asked me a while back, "Hey Mr. Keith, are you playing with your car again?" I guess I was. :a3:

Regards,

Keith

Chumley 10-11-2012 01:24 PM

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

A report from the front.

I got here at about 8:05 A.M. The last couple of miles were like the "Mogadishu Mile". A car was on fire next to the road, I saw a pickup cut off a big rig going for an offramp and there was weaving and tire rubber smoke everywhere, and at my turnoff there was a big rig with fluids running out from under the hood with CA Hiway Patrol officers directing traffic with flares lit along the road. Wow, all of this just for me?

I am met by the cast of SMB's finest, heroes these guys will be to me, I hope. I have a service guy, the Quality Control guy, the Customer Service guy, and the Foreman. We reivew the day's work.
1. Replace lock on glove box.
2. Repair the dash, now replace the dash around the instrument cluster.
3. Provide additional venting for the refer if necessary. SMB feels that the space below the refer is enough room. As long as it meets the square inch requirement then that is fine with me.
4. Repair the hole in the refer wall (ust below the freezer). Glue plastic plug over it.
5. Replace scratched microwave.
6. Test drive the thing for rattles.
7. Replace the vinyl shrouds (padded vinyl trim around windows). Inspected so both sides will get it.
8. Replace the vinyl window covers since snaps will be in new locations. Original screw holes likely weakened because the screws can split the wood backing they are attached to (maybe 1/2" thick plywood strips).
9. Strap the table/bed base to something in the rear.
10. Seal remaining holes under the van with the special sealant. QC guy found many more so may put it up on the lift.
11. The rear doors don't close easily but it is likely an issue that will work out over time as the seals break in. No work here.
12. Diagnose and repair water leak.
13. Put snaps on the vinyl pouch for the table leg and tripod (courtesy item).
14. Replace the upholstery on the driver's seat. There was a small cut in the seat. It must have been something very sharp. Foreman and I had some words over this as he said it left the shop perfectly and I took issue with the implication. Net result was that he is authorizing repair.
15. I showed where the cord in the window blinds was missing and how it looked bad. They will try to replace the shade but it will be difficult. Note: too much of a chance that something might get damaged as part of the shower stall will have to come out. It will be left as a reminder of this visit.

Man, that's a lot of work.

I tell them that I want to be there when they open up the heater cabinet to look for the leak. I am called over and they try to get the cabinet face off. They can't at first until the service guy gets a torch out and heats up a screwdriver to melt his way into the screw head (ahem, just like I said to do it). Cover is off and nothing is apparent. They are going to fire up the water pump and we all start asking if the electrical (110v) is disconnected. Someone says it is disconnected and I look at the microwave and the clock is on so know it it is connected and say so. Guy goes around and unplugs the van (I was told to turn off the breaker first but I guess you don't always have to do it...). Water pump goes on and... crap, water is running down behind the wall in torrents. Guess I am happy with my decision not to turn on the water and get a motel last Saturday. I wonder who should pay for the motel bill now... I am later told that a screw (edit: 2 separate locations, 1 higher than the other, 2 different lines (H&C)) was sunk into the line when they replaced the window shroud the Friday of pickup. The shrould was replaced because they did some work so took it off and dropped it and scuffed it. They made a new one but by then the blue tape used to identify water line routing was gone and we have a leak.

The rattles/squeaks were identified.

I was shown the old instrument cluser (looks like a plug n'play modular system) and you can clearly see a line of fine scratches and a scuffed area on the lens. I assume, as well as QC Guy, that dropping in the keys and pulling them out has done this as well as scuff up the ledge in front of the instruments. As QC Guys says this is an OFI (opoortunity for improvement). There may be a few more opportunities before the day is done.

I shell out comments and advice freely. I am here against my desires so this is their punishment. Pontificating all day long. QC Guy is taking it well even as I ask him if he is proud of this van. He does not appear to be and his goal is to be, I think. I did make it very clear that it is going to take a lot to make me happy and even more to make the wife happy. She just feels volated by this whole ordeal. FWIW: Turns out QC Guy is from Mountain View like me and we only lived a couple miles apart. Small world.

The Foreman comes over and appeared worried. I'm thinking "crap, did a forklift back into the van?". He takes me over to the van and shows me a series of scuffs and scratches on the plastic trim on the pillars and door panels. I tell him "I know, they have always been there". I tell him how I even saw his guy do one right in front of me then tell him that I am not rediculous. A few little scuffs are going to happen and this material scuffs and scratches easily, bad choice of materials n MBZ's part if you ask me. He looks stunned. I said that there are some scratches on the wood paneling too. I said that maybe I am more fair than you think. He seems relieved but puzzled. I also apologize to him for cussing him out this morning in front of everyone when he essentially accused me of damaging the seat myself. Of course I now get a newly upholstered seat so I can at least put a preliminary value on a brief cussing out. Since I did not discover the cut until after I left SMB I wasn't going to make a big deal out of it or ask them to replace it, I just wanted them to know that I knew and have them see if their guy might have a way to trim the cut or something to clean it up. You could only see it from certain angles.

Seeing the van beng pulled apart for the 2nd time is too depressing so I leave the work area. I am defintely pushing for an extended warranty. Do you think I deserve at least that?

I talk to the Foreman about what mght happen if I am on the road and another thing pops up like this leak. He said that you can get it repaired and he has seen the company reimburse the owners later. I feel a little better.

With everything being done I want to focus on quaity of the work and not rush them. So I tell them that if they need more time then put me up in a nice local hotel and I'll stay the night so they can do things right. The wife and I discussed this very thing since we like to be prepared for the worst case, just in case, good motto for this van. Just don't put me next to the sewage treatment plant but make sure there is a good restaurant nearby.

Sales/PM Guy waves but won't come near me. I don't remember filing for or being issued any restraining orders. What gives? I showered this morning - at 5:00 AM. It is confirmed this morning that he did know about the dash patch and paint which he never told me about. I wonder how much another good cussing would be worth? A light bar maybe? Just kidding, maybe he will drop by before the day is out, he is very busy I am told.

From the front line this is Chumley.

Chumley 10-11-2012 05:18 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Keith,

I saw the fittings for the water line connections, they appear barbed and are also crimped. Look solid. The installation was good, the aim with a screw gun not so.

I am running the 215/85-R16 which I cannot find an alternate size for, like maybe a 225/80 which I think would still work with the duallies. I don't know much about running duallies and it is as if there is a mandate demanding secrecy about tire sizing. I guess no one wants to take responsibility for someone like me oversizing a tire at their recommendation and having a problem. Heck, I had a problem finding the tire valve on the duallies as it is.

I did order two Michelin LTX A/T2s for the front. I am hoping that this helps with the tire balance issue since I have read in the Sprinter Source site how bad these tires can be and at 75-80 there is just too much vibration which increases with road speed. I also believe it is possible that the tires had flat spotted a bit from sitting for so long before they were rebalanced by SMB. I was assured that this was not the case because they move the vans so much but I know mine sat at least 3 weeks in one spot and doubt the tires were brought up to speed and temp to get them undone. But then I seem to worry a lot about these things....

I don't think that trying to fix the dash on their own is normal. I doubt anyone else has tried to pull them out of their comfort zone as routinely as I did. I am just used to thinking that if someone says they can do it then you do it. I was warned here that this type of behavior might create issues but what can I say, I trusted the guys and thought it was basic stuff. I don't think they would have messed with anyone else' dash. Maybe scratch them up but not drill and patch.

Still here and it looks like maybe everything will get done today after all. They are pressure testing the water system now (after everything was reassembled :t4: oh well).

Thanks.

Chumley

yakhlr 10-11-2012 08:06 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Thank You SportsMobile!!!

My wife and I enjoyed working with SMB custom designing and building our Sprinter. The process was really a lot of fun. The plan was thought out carefully before production began and the finished van was spot on. Any small issues were taken care of quickly. Every person at SMB has always been professional and concerned about our needs.

We now have over 70,000 miles and over 260 fun nights in our SMB. The van has taken us across the US to Maine, Eastern Canada, Alaska, Western Canada and above the Arctic Circle. We continue to explore the Western US and can't imagine a better way to travel. Every time we come home we are planning the next adventure. Life is so fun. Nothing is perfect and if that is your goal you will always be unhappy.

We are planning and looking forward to SMB number two.

Henry and Kathy
YAKHLR

kmessinger 10-11-2012 08:42 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
What about the cat?

yakhlr 10-11-2012 09:18 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Keith

Our cat Merlin has traveled most of those miles with us. Not many cats have been to the Arctic Circle and beyond. Merlin thinks the van belongs to him and can't wait for the top to go up so he can spy on the campgrounds. Pets can make the adventure more fun. I think your dog Presley would agree.

Henry

windguy 10-11-2012 11:49 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by yakhlr
Nothing is perfect and if that is your goal you will always be unhappy.

Henry,

Good words to live by. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Don't think I ever checked out your photo gallery before. very nice. you have a great eye for taking pics and you've been to some wonderful places. heck, your cat is more traveled than I am. how can that be?

I take it from one of your pics that your rig was built in the fall of 2008, about four years ago.
That must have been about the same time Keith had his done and he mentioned that was an early Sprinter conversion for SMBW.

Happy Travels!

tonyvoudy 10-12-2012 06:08 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chumley

I did order two Michelin LTX A/T2s for the front. I am hoping that this helps with the tire balance issue since I have read in the Sprinter Source site how bad these tires can be and at 75-80 there is just too much vibration which increases with road speed. I also believe it is possible that the tires had flat spotted a bit from sitting for so long before they were rebalanced by SMB. I was assured that this was not the case because they move the vans so much but I know mine sat at least 3 weeks in one spot and doubt the tires were brought up to speed and temp to get them undone. But then I seem to worry a lot about these things....

My understanding is MB usually overfills the tires prior to shipping as they tend to sit on lots awhile. (In fact, I believe a lot of car dealers do the same thing) In my case, my fronts were overfilled a good 20PSI over recommendation because of this reason. I did not realize they were over inflated until my ride home from SMB so I took the van to the MB dealer I bought it from and asked them the proper PSI.

Incidentally, as an FYI, The dealer I bought the van from asked me to bring it in once I picked it up from SMB to “check it over” for any issues related to the conversion. I was ok with that since my sales rep told me he would fill the tank up as well. (You bet I brought it in on fumes! $100 fill up.) SMB also filled it up so it was nice to get two free fill-up. The left turn signal was also out which apparently ended up being a defect in the socket and not the bulb itself.

windguy 10-12-2012 01:00 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kmessinger
Our microwave is not vented. Doesn't require it looking at the manuals. I don't doubt yours needs venting but I just don't understand why.

Keith,

I found a good explanation on an appliance user forum about microwave oven venting.

The issue is that a counter top microwave is not designed to fit into an enclosed space. The air you feel coming from under, or the back of the microwave is circulating air. Although you might not see any issues right away, I would be concerned about long-term use and its effects by installing it as a built-in. 30 seconds for coffee once a day probably wont be an issue, but prolonged, regular use might cause it to overheat without a fresh air source.

this makes a lot of sense to me. the combo micro/oven we have in our kitchen vents to the front because it's designed to be installed as a built-in. not sure what type of microwave oven SMB uses. It's also possible they've changed models in the four years since yours was built.

Do you use your microwave a lot?
To me it seems like an economical way to heat something up quickly assuming you have ample battery or shore power rather than using propane. more convenient too. At home we use ours all the time.

Cheers!

kmessinger 10-12-2012 02:38 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chumley
I have read in the Sprinter Source site how bad these tires can be and at 75-80 there is just too much vibration which increases with road speed. I also believe it is possible that the tires had flat spotted a bit from sitting for so long before they were rebalanced by SMB.

The 2008's have a speed limiter and 80 is tops. I have had my up to that speed once or twice and notice no vibration but then I am not running the stock tires. I normally run 60 -65. 60 mph in the 08's (just below 2200 rpm is the spot for maximum mileage. As for flat spots, that is like talking about tire pressure or oil, politics and religion. There are all sorts of different opinions on when, if ever, modern tires get flat spots and if they do how long does it take to get them and get rid of them.

Regards,

Keith

kmessinger 10-12-2012 02:50 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tonyvoudy
My understanding is MB usually overfills the tires prior to shipping as they tend to sit on lots awhile. (In fact, I believe a lot of car dealers do the same thing) In my case, my fronts were overfilled a good 20PSI over recommendation because of this reason. I did not realize they were over inflated until my ride home from SMB so I took the van to the MB dealer I bought it from and asked them the proper PSI.

The car dealers I have experience with under inflate the tires so the ride is much softer and smoother when you are trying it out.

Correct tire pressure - wow, how many opinions are there on that. Do you follow what MB put on the inside of the door or take it up to the max pressure on the side of the tire or leave it where your dealer or tire store sets it. I think at various times I have tried all of them. TireSafety.com says "Under inflation is the leading cause of tire failure." I know you need to weigh your vehicle when full loaded to get some idea of what you might need to do with inflation.

Regards,

Keith

BroncoHauler 10-12-2012 02:59 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
A line of chalk on the tread face is a pretty good test for inflation. See if it wears off evenly, or just the middle, or just the edges.


Herb

kmessinger 10-12-2012 04:04 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by windguy

Keith,

I found a good explanation on an appliance user forum about microwave oven venting.

The issue is that a counter top microwave is not designed to fit into an enclosed space. The air you feel coming from under, or the back of the microwave is circulating air. Although you might not see any issues right away, I would be concerned about long-term use and its effects by installing it as a built-in. 30 seconds for coffee once a day probably wont be an issue, but prolonged, regular use might cause it to overheat without a fresh air source.

this makes a lot of sense to me. the combo micro/oven we have in our kitchen vents to the front because it's designed to be installed as a built-in. not sure what type of microwave oven SMB uses. It's also possible they've changed models in the four years since yours was built.

Do you use your microwave a lot?
To me it seems like an economical way to heat something up quickly assuming you have ample battery or shore power rather than using propane. more convenient too. At home we use ours all the time.

Cheers!

I feel no air coming from any where on a counter-top microwave. A Microwave does not get hot, only what is cooking gets hot. A combination convection/microwave would have heat as the entire space gets hot and need venting but uses too much power for a SMB. Any micowave installed over a stove top would have to vent because of the heat of the stove. That said, if the manufacturer (mine was Sylvania) recommends venting then I would.

We use it mainly for popcorn and to reheat leftovers. At home with a convection/micowave we sometimes cook in it but the one in the Sprinter pulls too much juice when used for anything more than just a few minutes. Very convenient especially when driving down the highway and the wife wants some popcorn.

Regards,

Keith

kmessinger 10-12-2012 04:08 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by BroncoHauler
A line of chalk on the tread face is a pretty good test for inflation. See if it wears off evenly, or just the middle, or just the edges.


Herb

I think I will try that. I have been rotating the tires every 5k (free service) and have got 60k+ on them now so what ever the air pressue is, it must be pretty close to right.

Regards,

Keith

kmessinger 10-12-2012 04:43 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
I have noticed in this particular topic I seem to be almost "troll" like in my posts. Although that is not my intention - I am really a very happy camper - it seemed the more I read the more I didn't really understand. Well, maybe I understood but just didn't agree with.

I can agree that a 3" would be a project stopper for me, but a 1/4" over 20" is just a little over 1%. Like most of the SMBer's I know, if it bothered me I would fix it. Much of the joy I have in my SMB is "playing" with it. I know, you pay $100k+ you expect things to be perfect but I can testify perfect is unachievable at any price.

I think the experience you had Chumley represents a very, very small number of SMB customers. That number would be 1. Yes, others have had problems and needed corrections made but none to the degree you have. I submit you will never really be happy with your SMB. There will always be something that wasn't done right or showed up after 10k miles. The length and detail of your posts show me that. Not that there is anything totally wrong with being fixated on an unachievable goal but don't blame other people for not being able to meet your standards - after all they are "your" standards. Case in point the leather seat covers. SMB agreed to make them but after review decided they could not. There is nothing wrong with that.

I do agree you have the right to say anything you want about your build. It is after all, your SMB and your money and your time. I just reserve the right to disagree.

I consider Alan and Liz and Jonathan friends and I think you have taken advantage of them.

So, I now will butt out as I started to do when I read your first entry. I should have known better.

Keith

BrianW 10-12-2012 06:32 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
It's obvious Chumley is more detailed oriented than most. And, his posts can certainly lead one to think that maybe he has crossed the line at places. I think part of the issue is his near-real-time journaling of the process, without the time needed for the frustration to subside.

BUT, if I were in his shoes, I'd probably react similarly. For a $100,000 vehicle the expectations are understandably high. I don't get the impression that he was looking for perfection, but rather was looking for a product commensurate with the pricetag. People know that there is a tradeoff between the quality and price of a Ford Focus vs a BMW 5 series, for example.

The fact that SMB willing completely tore-down and rebuilt his van tells me that they agreed it was done incorrectly. To me that is actually a big plus in SMB's book: the willingness to admit a mistake and rectify it. At any point SMB could have refused, or simply given him his money back and said they didn't want him as a customer because he was overly critical.

That being said, there is a difference between building a custom house or high-end building (seemingly the field Chumley works in) and a rolling house. Fit and finish are likely much harder when working in a van. Without being there to actually see the finished SMB product, I don't think any of us can say whether his worries were justified or not.

There is always a disconnect between what a contractor thinks is acceptable and what a client thinks is acceptable. I say that as someone who has both worked in the construction field (my father is a contractor) and has been a consumer. I recently spent many thousands of dollars having a new AC system installed in my house. The install was a mess, with poorly done ductwork, mistakenly installed electrical components, etc. They have been back twice to fix things. Most likely the average person would not have noticed the issues (well, except for the system breaking down within 16 hours of install), but I did because I have a background in the industry. Does it make me picky that I made them fix the things in the attic they did wrong? I don't think so.

"Good enough" depends highly on who is doing the judging. There are numerous posts in the forums about people who are surprised by the messy way SMB does hidden wiring and plumbing in some builds. I've felt the same way as I worked on my new-to-me SMB. But, truthfully, as long as it works and is safe, who really cares what it looks like behind the walls? Sure, I'd do it differently, but in a production environment this is a good case of "good enough" being good enough. Visible fit and finish is a different story, though.

Spenard 10-12-2012 08:59 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
:a4: My analysis of the product: A $100K van is really a $42-45K commercial van built to better than average standards with a great handling and maneuverability, but not to Mercedes passenger car standards and fit and a $55K investment with SMB in labor (about 30-60%) and quality components (40%-70% based on needs and desires) to build a unique one of a kind solution. Don't leave out of the equation paying overhead costs (employee bennys, taxes, utilities, liability insurance, workman's comp) and making a profit in high tax CA.

The components used are designed for a variety of applications-not just RVs, that are adapted on a case by case basis to the layout preference of buyer and the installer. Wiring and plumbing wise SMB seems to have used years of experience to eliminate situations that don't work but since they don't build a standard platform every time, the investment in standardizing a wiring harness or plumbing tree, etc for elegance and intellectual perfection for a concealed location has no payback and is likely a hindrance to the goal of customization and labor efficiency. Having a production line fuss with your unique generator installation and components they don't install often is likely to distract them from other issues -its human nature. If you want near perfection in any unique product, you have to be willing to invest in a prototype as well as the final product.

I do agree that a three inch glitch is a big deal if it interferes with the intended function and commend SMB for owning up to it.
I really enjoyed the process and the product that SMB West built for us for a fair price all things considered and their commitment to my satisfaction.

windguy 10-13-2012 03:56 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
I think all of us learned something beneficial from Chumley's experience, including SMBW.
I'm grateful that Chumley shared his thoughts with us in a candid manner.
I wish the Chumleys the best of luck with their SMB travels.
I'm confident they will thoroughly enjoy their van as their new home on wheels.
Cheers!

Chumley 10-13-2012 04:53 PM

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

I see that my posts have brought some controversy to the thread and comments are being made, all appear reasonable and in no way disrespectful and I appreciate that. I hope that no one feels that I have been maliciously telling stories about SMB, it is all real and unfiltered. In a way I would say that this is “reality forum” posting (but with none of the staged events like reality TV seems to have). In a way it is heartening to see the support for SMB and I was wondering where everyone was that might feel that I was presenting my story as a knock towards Sportsmobile. If you read all of my posts I think you can see that in the beginning I would have no idea of the way it would work out to this point. If you give me credit for plotting and planning this post to be a negative story about SMB from the beginning I assure you that you are giving me too much credit. There were a couple red flags thrown up at the beginning but I thought that my second salesman put all of those to rest. There were just so many more to come - an so much good work to fix it all.

I see some feel that I want everything “perfect”. I think that we all want stuff to be perfect, especially one that represents such a big investment, but I respectfully disagree that I demanded perfection, I just seek it. I won’t argue perfection and me, I will just let things work out and I hope you will see what I am talking about in the long run, you may always feel right and that is your right but hopefully after all of the facts are in. Someone said that a person who expects perfection will never be happy and it has been implied that I will never be happy with my build. I think that it would be true of an unreasonable person and they would probably live in a world burdened by unfulfilled expectations. I do have high standards and I do sometimes get frustrated with how much service and regard for others has degraded over the years but I quite like the balance in my life. My eye has made me a very good living over the years. That same eye has protected owners from subcontractors providing substandard quality and subs from owners who expect more than is reasonable. It does cut both ways. If you talk to the guys at SMB I think that they may say that I am tough but so far no one has said unreasonable, but I may be the last one to hear it too. Seek quality in life, not quantity (unless it is a lot of quality... :a1: ).

As it stands right now I am on the fence regarding my build. I envy all of you who got out the door without having to rebuild you interior once and have part of it pulled apart again only a couple weeks later. I envy all of you who had everything right when you inspected it and it was pleasing to your eyes. I envy everyone who got to make that memory of the first night in your SMB a great and special one. I do fully expect to get there myself. I do expect to be happy with this rig and Thursday's correction was a good first step (or was that second?). I am just not there yet and I feel that I have legitimate reasons. It will take me a little longer than some of you and I may need some more help from SMB than you.

I will work on a couple more posts now and I hope that you can work with me to keep it civilized. My goal is to put enough positive posts on this thread myself that it buries and ones that appear negative but there is a little more to discuss, most as a response to those that think I expect perfection. This was never intended to be something that might hurt SMB’s reputation so I really would like it to end in a long series of positive posts but it's still not all up to me yet. But I have come this far based on telling the day to day truth and how I feel about it contemporaneously so I cannot conveniently or rightly make it all go away at once. It happened over time and it will take time to fix it. I am working on it now.

I really like the gang at SMB and I may have pushed them into a situation where I can never call them friends now, no matter whose fault. My goal was to get a nice motorhome made, not make friends, but if you build relationships along the way then you get more than what money can buy. But I also don't like conditional friends so let it happen as it may. I know that Alan wasn’t feeling as well as he could and I respected that and it was one of the myriad of reasons why my posting has slowed. I like Alan, I like my Sales/PM Guy, I like all of the guys I met and now respect a little more. I have to be honest, when things go like they did I am not a warm fuzzy kind of guy. Like I told the foreman, there is a little animal inside and he's best left there, he's kinda thorny (I also sincerely apologized for being thorny last Thursday). That doesn’t mean that when it is all over they can’t make fun of me and I make fun of them and a beer or two is hoisted. Just first things first.

FWIW Thanks.

Chumley

Chumley 10-13-2012 05:23 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Tires, what's up with the tires?

So I wanted to respond to the tires thing. I am sure many of you think I am crazy for buying new tires right away for this rig. I am not thrilled by it either but I had to make a choice, be pretty sure that I solved the problem or expect to live with it for about 2 weeks and 4,000 miles. The cost of the tires were not necessarly cheap but if the vibration can help start things rattling inside I am pretty sure the front end is taking a beating.

I decided to change tires because I have had a long history with Continental tires and really like them on my cars but they never seemed to work on my Mazda MPV. They did pretty much the same thing that's happening now until I had them worked over by Custom Alignment in Mountain View (rotating them on the rim until they could balance them and they may have shaved one). I've been going there for years and they seem to be able to fix about any front end issue and are well known in the area for it. Of course they aren't cheap, just good. This van's definitely worth it.

So I decided that with what I had read and my own experience I would change the tires. When the new tires showed up I realized that I might have goofed. I ordered Michelin LTX A/T2s. Nice aggressive tread blocks but they are tall and I expect that some squirm may be noticable for a while. I will also have 2 spares at home or you will find them on eBay, virtually brand new...

I am hoping that there is enough adjustment in the camber plates that they can move the camber from slightly positive now to at least neutral but hoping for just a little negative. It could really make all the different in the slight wandering I feel now. My van is defintely arse heavy. I am so glad I got the 3500 now (see the little affirmation to myself there...).

I mentioned that I thought that the tires may have flatspotted and could have been that way when going in for a balance and thrown off the balancing. I know that modern radial tires really aren't supposed to flatspot but I have definitely felt something when starting back out on the freeway if the car (usually a truck) sits a couple weeks. Tony brought up a good point that I did not know about and that was the 20 psi overpressure from the factory, smart move.

I am going to have the tires installed and the alignment done this upcoming week. I have asked that they first check the balance and give me a report that I can send to SMB so they know if their guy is doing a good job (they have a guy that does a balance and alignment after the build).

I know that there is a chance that the steel wheels aren't perfect either, it is supposed to be a cargo vehicle I am reminded (silk purse from a pig's ear anyone?). We do have a couple wheels to move around here if needed. It's worth getting right.

Hmmm... that gets me thinking, I wonder if the headights should be re-aimed?

Thanks.

Chumley

Chumley 10-14-2012 07:17 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
A summary…

This is all dedicated to those less picky than I am. The wife is on a business trip so I had some time before I went out and worked on the motorcycle but I didn’t know I would spend so much time on this. Still, it’s as much for me as anyone else. I have it more clear in my mind now and am more convinced than ever that I was reasonable. I also think this may be the longest post in the history of posting so get something to drink and go to the bathroom first, or just skip it entirely running away as quickly as possible.

Week 4 of Build:
I visit SMB for the first time during the build. I am impressed but notice the backup light had already been installed and it was a round one, not the square one we had been discussing. I was still waiting for a cost to make a decision. I had been told that the “Rigid” light they would like to use was tough and waterproof (and square). I researched it, liked it, and wanted it. We just had to come to agreement on price first. But I got something else until I complained and they changed it. Thank you SMB but it seems like extra unnecessary work.


Stiff piled on dash but told it would be okay. This is part of an overall problem now being addressed by SMB West. Commitment made by SMB to fix it or replace it if necessary.


Noticed that the floor base was cut short at the sliding door and a cabinet edge was just hanging there. This would need to be fixed somehow but no plans for design were offered for a long time, then became moot.


Week 5 of Build:
Notified that the rear upper cabinet (option) that was identified to be 24” is going to be 18” due to ac unit location. It is good to be informed but still wrong, it ended up being 16” wide in the end.

Did not understand why the microwave shelf was not attached to and level with the front storage compartment (like it is now). Told that the microwave needed venting and that they don’t think it would look right to have the shelf level with front storage (like it is now).

Also, see that blue tape in the background? It is there to show where the plumbing lines are run.

Week 6 of Build:
We discussed the dash switches and I asked to have something other than the standard switches cut into the knee panel of the dash. I was presented an option to have a custom plastic plate made and to have switches installed on it. I didn’t like appearance of plastic and quality of fabrication. We would wait until there is confirmation that there is nothing on the aftermarket available and then go with the normal SMB style install if nothing is found.

In general some of the vagueness of the design is starting to appear. Backsplash details, countertop extension details, drawer instead of cabinet door, etc… Nothing really wrong, just surprising and I thought I had been thorough.

We find the glove box door has a big gouge in it. It will be replaced. It has the lock.

Cabinets are complete but notice that the upper cabinet that was supposed to extend over the sink is missing. Confirmed it was on the plan so it will be added.


Week 7 of Build:
Confirm that the microwave shelf is out by ¼” across 20”. One quick search on the internet has provided this set of specs. The type of cabinets used by SMB are called European frameless with “blum” hinges. ( https://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/O ... eness.html )
Besides dimensions you should use your eye to work with spaces where reference lines may make things look distorted, like the inside of a van with curved roof and walls. The noted dimension I observed represents ¾” across 5’-0” which would be very noticeable to the eye if there was a reference edge nearby. Note: for the SMB build the team uses the floor as its “reference level” since the vans have a typical rake (sloping down towards the front in this case) when empty.

The big one happens. I sent an e-mail the previous Thursday night since things didn’t appear to be adding up and something just looked wrong. Monday we find out that the bed is 3” short and will initially all come out of the shower stall which is 39” not 36”. Ultimately it will turn into 4 ½” to 5” short before we are done and we will have to take another 1 ½” out of the microwave shelf and cabinet below (the one with the heater). This takes care of the microwave shelf issue. Entire van gets gutted at this point. This will fix most issues including the floor that was cut short. I am promised that this will not take any longer than planned. They will throw all the men at it they need and will be back on track. I tell them I would rather have it right than “on time”. It takes a couple weeks before I find out when it will really be done. Prediction is 3 weeks later than the most recent promised completion date but only 2 weeks later than originally planned.

We have all lighting in at this point and I discover that the LED puck lights planned for over the driver’s and passenger’s seats are missing. SMB will now add those in.

The spice rack is not installed as designed. It is supposed to be the full 24” width of the shower stall wall it is attached to. It is instead just the width of the microwave cabinet shelf and has finish trim so that you can barely get anything in. I knew nothing about its design until it was completed and installed. This will be fixed and ultimately moved to a new location up against the exterior wall under the microwave shelf. We will move the LED light from under the spice shelf to the underside of the microwave shelf in redo now. Thank you SMB.

The missing cabinet section over the over the sink is being installed and it looks terrible to me. It looks like an add on and even the edging is trimmed crooked . Good thing we are rebuilding. We discuss lighting and we will have a LED puck light over the sink and a light that swivels over the stove that can also point outside and with an LED lamp will be very effective. Good options.


They are out of the black countertop material and have changed suppliers. We will have to change to another color. We have selected a darker brown top and are okay with it now.

We will get the full backsplash that we expected and wanted. I provide a design and reviewed it with the carpentry foreman and field foreman since this is not normally done. Backsplash will be installed at the edge of a square cut countertop so it is flush vertical surface from top to bottom – for a reason of mine.

Cabinet was possibly made too small for the refrigerator so a “narrow flange" kit is ordered I am told. During the rebuild they get the cabinet size right and don’t need the narrow flange kit anymore.

This is what it looks like now:



Week 8 of Build:
I ask how all of the holes in the floor will be patched and demand that they be per Mercedes requirements. I am told they will be and am shown how it looks when I crawl under the van which looks like nice patches. I see many holes not plugged but am told that they will be reused (this comes back).

SMB finds after-market switches that will fit in the factory dash switch locations. I think it is good but apparently they had again gotten ahead of themselves and installed the blank plastic plate. They had to perform the patch and paint work. Everyone knew it took place but they thought that it was a good and reliable patch. I am told nothing about the patching work (this comes back).


This will come back too.


Week 9 of Build:
I am told that the microwave will be installed without venting by foreman. “They do it all of the time”. ( https://products.geappliances.com/ApplPr ... ES0736SPSS )
Click on link and go to “Q&A” and see the question about venting. The reason this is a big deal is because I told them that if we needed we should talk this out. I was thinking that if necessary we could relocate the microwave but was always assured that the venting that my Sales/PM Guys told me was required would be installed.

The window film is installed poorly on one rear window and it will be replaced. It did not extend to the edge of the window so you could see daylight.

Week 10 of Build:
Nothing to report!

Week 11 of Build:
Not previously posted. SMB folks are unhappy that I am unhappy with recent developments. My wife had finally apparently called while I drove there because she knew I was getting pissed about the unapproved changes and told them I was unhappy and that I was tired of surprises and just wanted the truth. I was "offered" a check made out to us if wanted and it kind of made me feel good to know that if things fell apart I could bail on the build because my confidence was at a low (FYI: the deposit credit check was made out for the incorrect amount). I was told that the microwave shelf was not going to be vented as promised so we burst into a “spirited conversation”, Alan F., Sales/PM Guy, Foreman and myself. While we are arguing we walk to the van and they pull out a microwave and put it in place. It is now fine because it is a different microwave unit and the venting is all in the rear! I guess I kind of smile and the SMB office guys don’t, they didn’t know about the change either. The entire conversation is moot.

The installation of the new microwave and shelf is fine! The shelf now lines up with the front storage cabinet and it all looks nice (I was previously told that this would not appear right, why?).

The countertop was not installed with the backsplash flush against the edge as agreed earlier. Instead the countertop edge was radiused and the backsplash set on top just inside the curve on top. I just accepted it at this point but it negates my previous plan to have a stainless steel band laminated to the edge to strengthen it against accidental holds. Foreman changed it because he “thought the other way looked boring”. No one asked me. They did do a custom flip up top and it fits flush against the main countertop. They can do good work.


The foreman also changed the agreed upon design for the window of the shower stall. It was supposed to be all FRP. The foreman had decided that he would install a vinyl “shroud” like all of the other windows at the window opening. When I told him that the design would now allow water to get past the edge of this screwed on padded and vinyl covered piece of wood he said it wouldn’t leak. He thought it looked nicer even though it would not perform its function well. I temporarily said okay if he would caulk it in on the sides and top. I called back and told the Sales/PM Guy to make him do it the way we had originally agreed. He did.

Week 12 of Build:
We go on Thursday before Friday orientation and pickup.

Thursday:
Audio and visual guy goes well. Done well.

We are signing paperwork. Numbers don’t match at first but it is okay since it represents the $300 deducted for deletion of the safe from the build, I forgot. I ask about the paperwork for the extended warranty. Finance lady looks lost. She talks to Sales/PM Guy after we show her our final build estimate which is the basis for paperwork. This has not been addressed or included. Finance did not have any more long contract forms. She will get correct paperwork to us next week along with the extended warranty.

Inspection of interior includes the recently referenced refer not sitting properly in cabinet. I ascertain that likely a leveling foot at the left rear corner is low since the whole unit is now twisted. I measure 1/8” across the 17” of door width but it’s not the dimension (which they measure as 1/16”) but the obvious alignment issue with so many nearby straight lines like the countertop.

There is a warped panel on the side of the cabinet with the heater. They say I am ridiculous so I say “okay, you don’t mind if I post pictures of it then?”. They found it and fixed it.

The dash is scratched on top of the instrument cluster. There is also the “Armorall” on parts when I had been assured it would be removed to see if it might be hiding scratches. A plastic repair guy will come in tomorrow before orientation.

It is difficult to open and close the blind behind the shower stall. I had asked if we should make this a short blind and have a snap on window cover for the window above the heater cabinet. I was told that this would not be a problem but now it is not working properly. A couple guys start working on it and take off the spice shelf and the window shroud to get to it. They take the window shroud somewhere and drop it and damage it so make a new one (this is likely the source of the future leak problem). They remove a guide on the end for the blinds and it works fine now (I think it also removes a guide string to be seen later).

Friday:
We look over the work required from yesterday’s inspection. Refer is not twisted anymore and the cabinet side panel is acceptable. Dash looks okay but there is a funny black material flaking off like wax or something. SMB will look into what it is (never received a response to this day).

Orientation moves along and we both seem to relax again.

The upholsterer is working while we are in there. He is just now making the window covers that had been in the plans from about the 2nd week. They will measure and come back after the orientation with the completed covers. We have been done with orientation for a while and I am just waiting for the covers while my wife waits at the motel with the dogs and we need to check out in 20 minutes (already late checkout). They come back and the window covers are made of a cloth fabric and not the vinyl. Sales/PM Guy asks if they will be okay and I say no I want vinyl as we agreed. He quickly agrees. I need the covers this weekend so they will make new ones after I use them for the planned overnighter. I will mail them the old ones to use as a template and they will mail back new vinyl ones the same week. Original window covers end up not fitting well on one side and were missing one snap at a corner so I mark them and the replacements fit well.

Items to mention:
I had asked to have the van outside so it could be inspected in the sun but we never did do that. I think it is imperative to see it in the bright sun because unless you drive only inside of a building you should see it in its native environment. As well as the gouged glove box door SMB also replaced the passenger side “B” pillar since it had become gouged. I accepted the scuffing that was going on but was hoping it would have ended. I got sick that weekend so we never went anywhere but McDonald’s one night and the van sat until the next Thursday when I went to the upholsterer.

Week 1 after the build:
I see a hole in the refer near door. We never checked inside after the refer was leveled and there is a hole now.


Thursday I go to the upholsterer for the cover that SMB did not want to do. He tells me that the ottoman that are supposed to be leather are vinyl and shows me how to tell for sure. On top of that issue I had originally asked SMB if we could upholster the rear area in microfiber because of the dogs. They say that they can only use material approved for use in automobiles and know of nothing else but tell me who their supplier is, who has no good selections. My upholsterer says that materials are typically approved for home and auto use and they use the same standards. Someone might want to fact check him on this, I haven’t.

I see that the microwave has a series of scratches on the door open push button and the plastic frame.


Friday I am getting ready to go to the Eastern Sierras and just a little after 5:00 PM I pull off the seating warning label and paint comes off of the dash and I see the holes and sanded dash. I will admit I kind of lost it here for a few moments but realized I would demand and get a new dash for sure now. I also saw some fine scratches on other parts of the dash but they are insignificant now.


Saturday I was driving on HWY 80 when water started coming out of the refer. Trip in Sportsmobile ended and it became a trip in the Sprinter van and a motel room. Trip cut short.

Week 2 after the build:
Thursday to be big day of repair work.
Started with mild dispute with foreman about small cut in seat. Did not expect them to replace it just want them to know that it had happened. They did replace it, thank you.


The untreated holes in the floor that I found turned out to be one of the most important issues. “Curt” found several holes and they decided that they would put it on the lift to get access to all of them. There were over 20. Many had sealant coming through from the inside but the bare metal edges were supposed to have been covered by the undercoating/sealant. This surprised everyone and was critical. Good catch by Curt.

The shrouds would be replaced on both sides. The blinds are short but since they are a standard size it turns out that the shrouds were made too big. They said that they make the shrouds big because people want more window area. I understand but ask them if they can block out the view outside (and in from out) when closed for me. Because they had to make new shrouds they also had to make new window covers. The last set (3rd) fit very well and they make such a difference in insulating the windows they may show up as an option some day. The problem is that behind the shrouds is a 1/2 “ thick piece of plywood that they use for backing (called blocking here) that I saw was easily split (and was split) so any screws installed nearby probably won’t have the same holding power. The new screws were installed close to the old ones in many places.


We looked at the blinds above the heater cabinet because the cord was missing and there were funny looking empty holes. They agreed it was wrong but to replace them they would have to really pull some stuff apart so I just accepted it. This probably happened when they worked on it that Thursday before orientation. There is another cord in the bathroom missing.


We went for a test drive to isolate the rattles and creaks and they found them pretty quickly. One of them was the sliding door cover that did not have a screw in the corner so it flopped around and rattled. They added in a screw and covered it with a button. No one knows why they didn’t before.

Replacing the dash was quite effortless and less of an ordeal than I thought it might be. I should mention that the guy that did the work, Randy of IA, is really on top of things. We saw how the sawdust got inside the instrument cluster and how scratched up the instrument lens was when it was removed. This is an area where SMB policy has changed so no more scratched dashes or instruments. Good for the next guy but I still have some small scratches on mine I guess I can live with.

The replaced glove box door did not include the correct lock so it is found on another van just before it is shipped to the Pomona RV show and is installed in my van.

The water leak was likley from the screw holes for the shroud that was replaced in a hurry that day of inspection. Too bad the blue tape was removed showing plumbing routing.

They repaired the leak but then I asked them where all of the water went that I saw gushing down the wall. It does not appear that they had thought about it but then said that the weep holes would let it drain. There was also a lot of insulation that might have gotten wet. I walked around the van and never saw any water on the floor the rest of the day. Only time will tell if it was an issue. The piece of plywood wall paneling behind the patch area is now patched instead of being one big piece. There may be some stuff flexing around now that wouldn’t have before so it may just be another thing that may pop up later but for now I can’t see it. They ran a 1 plus hour pressure test and it passed.

I was worried that we might run out of time and told them that I would accept them putting me up in a nice motel. It was already 5:00. I said that I did not want to perform the final inspection in the dark and said that 7:00 would be my cutoff for completion. I did not realize how dark the overcast skies would make it so early…

They were about ready to go at 6:00 and were filling the water tanks, cleaning the windshield, etc… I went in and sat down while they finished and then saw the van being slowly backed into the shop. A piece behind the “B” pillar on the driver’s side (which had been removed to access the leak) that holds the cover for the seat belt adjuster was broken now. Two men were frantically working on the area and were going to another van and pulling it apart. I said that I think we ought to call it a day but they wanted to continue. Okay. “Curt” asked if we could perform the final inspection while they worked since they were only in the one area. Sure, so we went through everything. We checked and everything we could see was fine but the guys were still in the way until the very end and it was pretty dark inside by then. The dash swap appeared to have gone fine. The guys finally finished the repair but I fear in their rush they left something in there that slightly rattles from time to time. I’ll probably pull it apart myself and look at it since I saw some wires in the area that are likely the cause.

We looked at the shower and ran it. I ran all systems which we had not done at the orientation. I noticed that water collected on this little shelf that extends to fill the space between the smaller shower pan and wall. I thought that I had brought this to the foeman’s attention earlier when I asked him about the grey plug in there. I was told by Curt that he probably misunderstood me since he did too (I am not sure how many ledges there are next to the grey thing but…). Well this ledge appears to slope away from the shower pan and not towards it to drain. I was told it drained this way with a wave of the foreman’s hand. Well, it does hold water and does not drain as we found out after the shower test. They will make a filler panel out of the same FRP as the enclosure walls and send it with a tube of silicone sealant for me to install. Oh well.


They were finishing cleaning as we were getting ready to leave and it was about 7:00.

After I left the appointment I was initially incredibly happy because it is amazing the difference in quality you feel when the annoying major rattles and creaks are gone. I didn’t realize how much the remaining noises were bothering me. The van felt so much more solid.

I looked over the van the next day and realized that I wish we could have finished earlier because it really was a mess of fine sawdust in places. I guess cutting out the plywood wall panel sent a shower of sawdust all over the place. I noticed a few more scuffs but I won’t blame SMB for those. If it was a production model sitting on the showroom floor it would have scuffs. I don’t like gouges though. Speaking of gouges here is a grab handle that got chewed up (assume when the pillar cover got replaced) that I just noticed.


Overall I am feeling better but need some more miles and smiles to push me into the complete SMB fan column. I think I can get there, I just can’t have any more silly problems.

Hey, if you think that all of the stuff here is silly for me to have been worried about then I guess I am a perfectionist. My concern would be that if what I have displayed is truly a demand for perfection, and did not let up until it was received each time, then there is no expectation for anything to ever be better than what I received and I have a hard time believing that. There is a very long list of items accepted that were less than what was in a van in the showroom. I understand that SMB would welcome me back to let them sort out more issues right now but I can’t keep going back. When does it really all end?

I really like the van the way it is. I love the overall layout. My wife and I can move about and pass each other at the kitchenette, we can dine easily in the cab seats, see the TV from the front seats as well as the rear seating, it is just very comfortable for us. And it feels solid now. I am still unsure about how everything will work since we haven’t had a chance to actually use it but if it does work as we expect we are going to be very very happy. I took my wife to her office in Palo Alto Friday to get some stuff for her business trip and we ate gourmet empanadas from a food truck while sitting in back with the dogs. She looked around and said she felt like it was becoming our van. I have had to do a heck of a selling job SMB, please don’t let me down. I don’t know why this was all such a struggle but hopefully it is over. Someone said earlier that I will have a very strong bond with this and it seems to ring true. I actually feel pretty confident that I can take a good part of this van apart myself now, I have seen it done enough times myself and if I carry the right tools I am in good shape.

I am not going to say thanks to SMB West just yet because I am gun shy right now. But maybe soon.

Thanks all, I am done with the yin now.

Chumley

Chumley 10-16-2012 12:14 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
We had the yin, now we have the yang.

When we started down this long winding path to Sportmobile ownership we had a dream. Sportsmobile does more than any other manufacturer of this type of vehicle to help build a dream, an image of just getting away. They have ads in places like Overland Magazine that really hit the spot. I wasn't looking for the 4x4 advenutre but still wanted that free spirited getaway right-now ability in my driveway. Only a few manufacturers have developed this kind of image and developed a following like this one, that I know of.

Our dream included a comfortable place to just hang out and do our thing anywhere we wanted. From having a sitting room with a view to read and lounge, to a launch pad for short adventures, we wanted it to be easy to drive and keep in the driveway. We got it, here it is.





A sitting room.




With a view.




Just like Hermione's purse.



With nice functional touches.


For the family.


This is just a small sampling of why some of us build a Sportsmobile instead of going to RV-Mart and picking up a Genericmobile.

When it is all said and done and you buy direct from the manufacturer like with Sportsmobile you cut out a layer of the sales chain, basically buying factory direct. If you add on the $10,000 plus or something that an RV dealer would have to add in to keep these rigs on the showroom and employ sales people just to show them these rigs become very good values. Add in the much longer warranty and much more solid build feel and you have a bargain.

Sometime I need to sell myself again on these things. I think I just did. If I could just remove about 4 weeks of memories this would be the perfect dream.

Time to bury this thread with positive posts.

Thanks.

Chumley.

kmessinger 10-16-2012 12:25 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Looks like the "kids" love it ! Very nice.

Spenard 10-16-2012 09:55 AM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Nice looking build.
BTW we liked a visual trick that outside van does to make the exterior looking sleeker. We carefully removed the adhesively applied "2500" (3500 in your case) "bluetec" badges off the sides and rear and the "sprinter" off the rear door with our fingers and a plastic putty knife. Makes it way easier to clean the van and the exterior looks custom and less cluttered. Do it now if you are going to do it, before the adhesive tape gets really hard and the paint dulls. Nope, we kept the MB hood badge -hey we paid a lot of money for that :b6:

Chumley 10-16-2012 12:56 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Keith, We built this van now because of our dogs. The male has severe emotional issues. They were a product of a bad backyard breeder who kept them in a kennel for the six months before we got them. They were never socialized and their mother apparently had fear and aggression issues but the breeder wanted to make money, not strengthen the breed. We paid full price for them but we call them rescues now. They are considered to be vulnerable breed which means that the breed may not survive here in the US. There are only 100 of these Lancashire Heelers in the US that are documented but they are growing in Europe. He is our hero. He went from almost being put down due to his fear issues to being more relaxed than his sister now, yes we defiantly adopted siblings. It actually turned out to be a good thing with their emotional issues, they are each other's support group. It is just so adorable to watch them interact, cleaning each other's ears or licking each other's faces (translated to mean affection by a human). They have the best souls and it has taken a couple of years to get them to their current "bat guano crazy" state but it is miles from where we started. No matter what, these two will be properly cared for. They have been through so much and as is typical of dogs they they forget and just want to be happy, so they are, so we are.

One of our best memories on our trip to the Sierras was seeing them knowing that the van was theirs and running to it and then going tot he couch and staking out a spot after digging up the layers of towels to make a bed. That brought huge smiles to our faces. That's what it's all about.

I know many members plan around their pets and understand what I am talking about. It is a family thing.

Thanks.

Chumley.

Chumley 10-16-2012 01:01 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Spenard, I like the idea of removing badges. I think I may do some cleaning up. I think I will keep the 3500 badging as well as the "Sportsmobile.com" on the sides.

I was warned that the van might attract attention but I figured that it was just a proud proclamation by an SMB staffer. I really didn't know it would come true.

On our trip to the Sierras my wife kept on pointing out that people were looking at us when we went by. I went to the post office and spent about 10 minutes telling a lady all about the van and the company. I have driven the thing all of maybe 4-5 times and it is already really evident that these things get attention.

So to keep things simple I think I will keep the Sportsmobile labeling so I can just point and act like I just left the dentist and can't talk.

Thanks.

Chumley

Spenard 10-16-2012 09:29 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
we kept the smb logos for the same reason

kmessinger 10-17-2012 06:11 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chumley
They repaired the leak but then I asked them where all of the water went that I saw gushing down the wall. It does not appear that they had thought about it but then said that the weep holes would let it drain.

I hope nothing shows up later. I hate surprises.

I put this in right by the back doors.
https://www.ourexcellentadventures.co...sets/drain.jpg.
I tell people who ask that after we ford a river I come back here and drain all the water out . . . I think some of them believe me.

Regards,

Keith

Chumley 10-18-2012 03:46 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
So Keith, is that your rear shower floor? Or...?

It has warmed up so if there is any water I think it is likely drying out. We had a spell of unusually cool weather and even some rain but yesterday and today are unseasonably warm, as they say, and in the 80s/90s.

I hope that takes care of any moisture concerns.

Thanks.

Chumley

Chumley 10-18-2012 03:49 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Spenard, I removed the extra badging and the difference is surprising considering that I only removed 4 in total, well 7 if you include the ones on the windows.

The plastic stockers all came off very easily too so I am even more of a minimalist in appearance.

Thanks for the idea.

Chumley

kmessinger 10-18-2012 04:14 PM

Re: My SMB Sprinter Van conversion building experience
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chumley
So Keith, is that your rear shower floor? Or...?

It has warmed up so if there is any water I think it is likely drying out. We had a spell of unusually cool weather and even some rain but yesterday and today are unseasonably warm, as they say, and in the 80s/90s.

I hope that takes care of any moisture concerns.

Thanks.

Chumley

I had that added as I thought I could eventually come up with an emergency shower idea. Haven't been dirty enough to give it much consideration.

Keith


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