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Old 08-12-2011, 06:00 PM   #1
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Building an Adventure Van

Updated photos September 2014

Updated Photos: July 2013

Updated photos Mar 2013

Updated photos 1/20/12:

Updated photos 9/20/11:

The building of our Adventure Van

The Objective
An Adventure Van.
A van that is comfortable for two people when we pursue our outdoor pasttimes which include:
dirtbikes, mountain biking, snowboarding, fly fishing, hiking, camping, etc etc.

This means it needs to be comfortable, versatile, and "convertible".

The Foundation
2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500.
144" wheel base, high ceiling.
3.0 Turbo Diesel V6.

The engine is Bluetec which means it is an ultra low emissions vehicle.

I bought the vehicle from Mercedes Benz of Henderson Nevada a couple of weeks ago.
800 miles away. I hopped on my 950 and rode out to the dealership in 111 degree heat.. loaded the bike in the back (with the help of 4 strong guys at the dealership ) and drove it home. 1640 miles in less than 2 days.

Photos from the drive home:

Pretty much a clean slate for us to build from

...let the games begin!

Geek screwed with this post 10-05-2014 at 09:09 AM
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Old 08-12-2011, 06:01 PM   #2
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if you keep poor...the struggle is simple

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save yourself some $ with my smuggy discount code qvMaWy1bTFU7c
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Old 08-12-2011, 06:02 PM   #3
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Old 08-12-2011, 06:14 PM   #4
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Mercedes-Benz is the world's largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, the first van was created in 1896.

Why A Sprinter?

1) Headroom. I'm 6' tall and I have about 3" of head clearance standing straight in the van.
2) Gas mileage. I'm currently averaging about 22mpg. This should improve as the van breaks in (upto 10,000 miles).
3) Lust. I just think they are cool and sometimes life is too short to not buy what you want...

Background (from a North American point of view).

Sprinters hold their value insanely. Even van's with 200,000+ miles on them are going for $15,000

There are two generations (for our purposes) of Sprinters... we don't get the cool ones like the Europeans or Aussies (they can get 4 cylinders, they can get 4wd, etc etc)... our choices are limited to what are commonly referred to as the "NAFTA" editions.

We have two basic generations. The T1N and the NCV3

NCV3 on the left.. T1N on the right:

Generation 1: Upto 2006 was the T1N. They are 5 cylinder turbo diesels and are famous for their incredible gas mileage. Commonly called a "Tin" in Sprinter circles. Sprinters have always had Mercedes engines in them but these were sold as Dodge vehicles here in the US. You will see many of them have been re-badged as Mercedes.

There are guys on the Sprinter forum with 750,000+ miles on their T1N sprinters.
There was a guy who posted recently his just flipped 500,000 miles and he has done absolutely NOTHING to the engine outside of scheduled maintenance

Generation 2: 2007 to current is the NCV3 (new concept van 3). These are 6 cylinder turbo diesels and do not get the gas mileage of the T1Ns. In 2007/2008 they were sold as Dodge and then in 2009 Freightliner as well. Since Dailmer and Dodge have gone their seperate ways, 2010 and 2011 are sold under the Mercedes moniker from Mercedes dealers (which means the parts have Mercedes prices )

The NCV3s started off with not the biggest fan fare. The 2007 & 2008 versions average less than 20mpg, which with Sprinters being famous for gas mileage, wasn't so popular of a fact...

The latest generation of Sprinter engines (the Bluetec engine) has been redesigned with higher compression and efficiency getting the vehicle up over 20mpg again

...but the Bluetec comes at a price... you spend 2 cents a minute on "cow piss"

(to be continued.. dinner is ready).

Geek screwed with this post 08-12-2011 at 07:37 PM
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Old 08-12-2011, 06:58 PM   #5
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Shopping for a Sprinter

Each Sprinter comes with a few variables.

2500 vs 3500.
The 3500 is a dually.


3500 (extended):

Roof Heights:

High roof (as seen above.. you can stand up inside) vs.
Low Roof (better gas mileage.. no standing up)

There is also a super rare "MEGA roof" available.. but I've only seen one single van for sale with a megaroof in the past year.
They have something crazy like an 84" internal height in the mega.
That dually pictured in the previous post is in fact a mega roof (you can see the extra strip on top compared to the highroof pictured above it).

Low roof:

Passenger vs Crew vs. Cargo
Passenger vans come with more windows, more seats (which can be removed) and more interior finish. If you are doing a full conversion anyways, you are likely not going to use the interior stuff you are paying extra for. Crew vans come with two rows of seats and more windows than cargo (see my van). Cargo vans come with just the front two seats, a stripped industrial interior, and usually a cargo partition behind the driver to protect them in case of an accident.

and finally....

Wheel base.
The T1Ns came in various lengths:
118" shorties (super rare in the US though we saw one outside Aspen a couple of weeks ago)
140" medium wheel base
158" long wheel base

The NCV3s come in two lengths in the US
144" (what I purchased)
170" - the long one - and a 170" extended is also available which is another foot longer at the back again...

Put all these together and you ave a rather large collection of permutations and combinations (not counting the cab only configurations). Combine this with not a lot of them out there.. and it becomes a real challenge to find the right one for what you are wanting to do!

I spent literally months watching for the right van.

Fleet vans tend to be fairly beat up (the drivers don't own them and can treat them as such).
Individual owners who babied their vans wanted near-new money for them.

It took us quite a while to decide exactly what configuration we wanted.

High roof: no brainer.

2500: better in the snow and we're planning on snowboarding with it every weekend in the winter.

144": All that space in a 170 sure is tempting (especially when you see the guys that have set theirs up with a garage in the back ).. But.. the 144 can go more places (high centering a 170 is a worry for us as we want to get into the back country where we can with the van. That combined with the difficulty of using 170 in the city (I'm using it for my business as well and don't fancy trying to parallel park a 170 in downtown Denver ) made the 170 a non-option for us.

Here is our van last weekend camping on Weston Pass. I don't think we would have been able to get a 170 to this location...

So long story short(er)... I searched for such a long time for "just the right sprinter" that I ended up saving enough money up to just go buy a new one... so I did

Geek screwed with this post 08-12-2011 at 07:36 PM
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Old 08-12-2011, 07:24 PM   #6
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I so want to do this....
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Old 08-12-2011, 07:24 PM   #7
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Will there be indoor plumbing??
He laughed, then he took a dump.
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Old 08-12-2011, 07:34 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Beamklamp View Post
Will there be indoor plumbing??

It is not an adventure unless you have to shit outside.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain
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Old 08-13-2011, 08:13 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by NDEBT View Post
It is not an adventure unless you have to shit outside.
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Old 08-13-2011, 11:02 AM   #10
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Don't haul motorcycles inside your camping rig. It's going to smell like gasoline and oil, unless you have some kind of charcoal filter. You'd be better off hauling a smaller trailer or a hitch carrier.
Learn to ride. Ride to learn.
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Old 08-13-2011, 11:05 AM   #11
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Yeah, Geek you're doing it wrong.

With my van, I pretty much always have to carry two bikes (for me and Tami), so they have to go inside. One of the reasons I wanted a van is so I didn't have to pull a trailer all the time. I think you'll be fine with some ventilation. My van is ventilated through the poorly sealed, bent to hell back doors.
"What these people need is some mental psychology."-Bonnie Abbzug

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Old 08-13-2011, 12:38 PM   #12
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5440 is the empty weight. I'm curious to see what we are going to end up at

Why am I worried?

600 lbs of sound deadening and seat swivels are going in the van as step one:

the swivels came from germany.. it'll be interesting to see how well they work. They should make the van a bunch more comfortable when parked.. being able to face the seats to the rear

p.s. I'm procrastinating...
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Old 08-13-2011, 01:10 PM   #13
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I have an 08 2500 144, cargo. I have the cargo tracks both on the o/s roof & inside floor. Removed the steel partition just behind the seats. This is a real hauler & most of my driving is on the interstates pulling a single or double axle bike/car hauler.

I have transported 3 DS bikes inside, one on the rear hitch & another bike on the front. Had to make my own 2" receiver & weld it to the very strong frame under the motor. Carrying 5 DS bikes was not as much fun as I originally thought.

Yes, there were smells but thankfully three of the riders flew the 1800 miles a couple of days later.

I installed Firestone air bags over the HD leaf springs. This made a big difference in keeping the head lights out of on comming eyes.

Now I keep the inside for riding gear & my murphy bed that I also made, w/ a cargo/ extra bed over head.

One thing which has made the cargo interior a real pleasure is the making of rotating front seats pedestals, 180 degrees.
Now I just set up lawn chairs inside if raining or snowing, spin around the trucks seats & it becomes a living room.
Buying these addition under the seats would have been 750 USD. I'm just too cheap to pay that out for something that can be made.

I have just over 53,000 miles & have moved this truck into "my best truck" position list.

The most bikes I have transported was 5 DS & 2 st1300 & r12gs on the car hauler(8), w/ 1 F550gs inside the truck. That's 9 bikes. plus riding gear for 6 riders & still had the bed in the sleeping position. Only two people in the truck & we took turns at the wheel.

Installed a back up camera (IR) but keep it on all the time so the driver may look up & keep an eye on the strapped down bikes. This has been a big part of having a peace of mind while on the road.

I cannot say what a pleasure having the floor cargo tracks have been. Whether you have bikes or bins of supplies or parts, keeping them in one secure place is not only safer but keeps a better living area in the back. Nothing sliding & spilling etc.

I can post some pix or a link of my interior if anyone is interested. Geek has started a good thread here as Adventure Van & how the Sprinter meets a lot of our different needs.

W/o pulling a trailer I average 21+ w/ a tops of 26.65mpg; but a super low while pulling the double axle, loaded down, doing 80 mph in West TX earns a 11.5 mpg. Always w/ a/c on. While on the interstate I earn between 14 & 17 mpg. while pulling a trailer loaded down, doing regular mph. Suggest anyone buy a lazer temp checker for the hubs on truck & trailer to head off an on the road break down.

Note: an oil change is 13+ quarts & costs about 100 USD w/ MB filter. Changing the fuel filter more often than the factory suggests is my insurance of no injector issues.

This is not a car motor slipped into a truck but a real LT engine w/ a smooth as silk 5 spd AT truck trans.
The 4 wheel disc brakes are huge & my pads are still in good shape.
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Old 08-13-2011, 03:05 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Wolfgang55 View Post
One thing which has made the cargo interior a real pleasure is the making of rotating front seats pedestals, 180 degrees.
Now I just set up lawn chairs inside if raining or snowing, spin around the trucks seats & it becomes a living room.
Buying these addition under the seats would have been 750 USD.
Funny you should mention that.. here's what I did in the last hour:

Passenger Swivel Seat Install

Step 1: Removed 4 bolts. Cheryl cleaned the inside of the seat housing with paint thinner for me.

Step 2: applied a layer of Damplifier to the bottom of the seatwell. Damplifier now comes with black foil

Step 3: applied a layer of Luxury Liner Pro to the bottom of the seatwell.

Step 4: bolt the seat swivel unit (complete with instructions in german.. good thing it is simple ) onto the pan...

Step 6: re-bolt the seat on..


I still have to do the driver's side but it is a bit more involved as you have to re-locate the park brake mounting...

Geek screwed with this post 08-13-2011 at 04:15 PM
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Old 08-13-2011, 02:24 PM   #15
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.........This is going to be Nice.

Do you have a general figure of what you plan on spending when complete?
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