Building an Adventure Van

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by Geek, Aug 12, 2011.

  1. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    Updated photo: April 2015

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    Updated photos: December 2014

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    Updated photos September 2014

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    Updated Photos: July 2013

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    Updated photos Mar 2013

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    Updated photos 1/20/12:
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    Updated photos 9/20/11:
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    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 :D ) and drove it home. 1640 miles in less than 2 days.

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    Photos from the drive home:

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    Pretty much a clean slate for us to build from :thumb

    ...let the games begin!
    #1
  2. FLYING EYEBALL

    FLYING EYEBALL out of step

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    :clap
    #2
  3. adiablolex

    adiablolex Lost again

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    locked in
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    #3
  4. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    [​IMG]
    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... :D

    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 :huh

    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:
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    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 :bow

    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 :patch )

    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 :clap

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

    (to be continued.. dinner is ready).
    #4
  5. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    Shopping for a Sprinter

    Each Sprinter comes with a few variables.

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    2500 vs 3500.
    The 3500 is a dually.

    2500:
    [​IMG]

    3500 (extended):
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    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:
    [​IMG]


    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.

    Generally:
    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 :tb ).. 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 :eek1 ) 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...
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    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 :rofl
    #5
  6. Sic Semper Tyrannis

    Sic Semper Tyrannis Plays with Banjos, Boats and Bikes...

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    I so want to do this....
    #6
  7. Beamklamp

    Beamklamp Velvet Burrito

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    Will there be indoor plumbing??
    #7
  8. NDEBT

    NDEBT Long timer

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    It is not an adventure unless you have to shit outside:lol3.
    #8
  9. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    Bluetec

    "Dude! Yer van runs on PeePee!" -Wolfman (yeah.. the owner of Wolfman luggage) :rofl

    Bluetec is an "interesting" technology.

    Executive summary: I have to keep the PeePee tank full or the van won't run :patch

    The good:
    -It allows them to up the compression on the diesel engine and get better performance/gas mileage.
    -ULEV status (ultra low emmissions)

    The bad:
    -complexity
    -You have to fill up the AdBlue tank (which isn't cheap :patch ).
    -AdBlue is 33% urea (urine) so it allows your buddies, like Eric, to tease you :freaky

    paraphrasing wikipedia:

    The BlueTec system was created because the processes that give diesel engines efficient fuel economy also creates extra emissions of certain pollutants. High compression ratios and lean air-fuel mixtures make high combustion temperatures, which results in more nitrogen oxides being released into the atmosphere. While the particulate matter can be controlled with higher injection pressures and particulate filters, the big challenge is limiting NOx

    Consisting of many different elements, BlueTec most notably relies upon particulate traps to eliminate soot/smoke throughout the engine's operating range, and upon urea injection from a stored canister (Mercedes calls this AdBlue) into the exhaust stream. AdBlue injection begins a chemical chain reaction which, in conjunction with an additional catalytic converter, converts nearly all remaining NOx into water vapor and nitrogen.

    What it means from an owner's point of view:

    The van carries 5 gallons of AdBlue on board. This is good for somewhere around 8000 miles.
    When it gets down to 2 gallons left it'll warn you.
    When it gets down to 1/2 gallon of AdBlue it will let you start the engine something like 20 more times before it disables the vehicle.

    Moral: keep some adblue with you. :patch
    I already went and bought a couple of cases.

    It has all kinds of sensors to keep track of the system.. (you can't dilute it with water.. or pee in the tank.. I asked :D ).
    The van can get upto 1800 miles per gallon of Adblue.

    The cheapest I've seen Adblue is $9 per half gallon (i.e. $90 per 5 gallons).

    You have to be very, very careful when filling the adblue.. if you spill it it will crystallize and eat things like wiring, etc :eek1

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    #9
  10. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    That's still being debated by SWMBO and myself.. :rofl

    ...sorry for all this back story gents.. I'm trying to get caught up to where we actually are and then I'll go forward as we do more stuff.

    The actual build has "kinda" began...

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    #10
  11. DELTATANGO

    DELTATANGO Motorcyclist and Dog Walk

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    Was anyone injured?

    I'm just bullshitting....

    It's sharp.

    Put up some more pix.
    #11
  12. ROYAL COACHMAN

    ROYAL COACHMAN Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    948
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    Oooooooooooohh an Adventure Van :tb
    I'm happy for you guys, this is cool!!

    I'm assuming you can fit the Ktm and F650 in the back?
    Gonna build storage racks or cabinets for it?

    Planning on sleeping in it? (fold down cots)
    How about the refridgerator to keep the wine cold:lol3

    Details ED, we need more!

    Give my best to Cheryl :freaky
    :lurk:lurk
    #12
  13. NDEBT

    NDEBT Long timer

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    You are getting ripped off. DEF all has to meet the same requirements in the US. The ford part # for 2.5 Gal is PM27J it is about $15.00 for 2 1/2 gallons. The blue is just dye.
    #13
  14. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    Hi Glen! :freaky

    Queen size bed: definitely
    Fridge: eventually

    Bikes: we'll have a variety of weighs to bring 1, 2 or 3 (dirtbikes for each of us + trials bike) with us.. stay tuned :D

    Hey.. aren't you a woodworker? Wanna come visit for a while? :rofl
    #14
  15. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    My understanding is that standard DEF uses an oxidizing catalytic converter and particulate filter combined with zeolite. There are other Mercedes vehicles than can run on DEF (and MB sells their version DeNOx)...

    Adblue on the other hand is urea based and works differently in its chemical reactions?

    ...that said, I could be totally wrong. I'm a systems engineer and know nothing about diesels other than owning a few of them and what I've been told/read.
    I'd love to learn more about it (perhaps in another thread).

    :freaky
    #15
  16. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    Last comment on AdBlue (trying not to get off topic.. would love to learn more about it in another thread):

    For years I've teased those new to motorcycle wrenching about whether they'd "rotated the air in their tires", check their "blinker fluid" or topped off their "exhaust fluid".

    Karma is a bitch.. now I have to indeed top off my exhaust fluid :rofl

    Photo of the case in my garage:

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    #16
  17. chacha

    chacha CAT Herder

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    I think all DEF is just pee and water. Adblue just has a Merc symbol on it :lol3

    Sorry for the tangent, continue please. Waiting to see the end result.
    #17
  18. ROYAL COACHMAN

    ROYAL COACHMAN Been here awhile

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    Hi Ed!
    Yes I am a cabinet maker, own my own shop

    Love to come visit!
    Fax me some prints of what you want and I'll be glad to help out!

    Call me if you need help
    314-920-1743
    #18
  19. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

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    I'm running out of time for this evening..

    upcoming topics include:


    The stereo system (the first thing I did :evil )
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    The backup camera system:
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    Our first camping trip:

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    The stripping of the van to prepare for this weekend (i.e. tomorrow)
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    ...and this weekend's project:

    photo taken in the garage 20 minutes ago:
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    ...basically a huge amount of "Damplifier" and "Luxury Liner Pro" combined with a "Heatwave" barrier. For those not familiar... it is a bunch of sound deadening material. Vibration Dampers, Noise Barriers and then Heat Barriers.

    468 lbs of sound damping materials :eek1

    My UPS lady hates me.. she got a workout today (and there is another 96lbs coming fed-ex tomorrow) :rofl

    I would like the vehicle pretty much silent inside when it is done (and it better be.. this crap cost the price of a dirtbike :patch )



    ...to be continued. :freaky
    #19
  20. Geek

    Geek oot & aboot

    Joined:
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    Question:

    Has anyone seen any cool wheels out there for the Sprinter?

    I'm leaning on taking some mercedes alloys and powdercoating them like these:

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    I would basically end up with this setup on the van as I'm going to be putting the same AT tires on.

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    #20