4x4 Ambo Conversion Opinions

#1
I've been diving down one rabbit hole after another. Trying to soak up as much information from other's conversion experiences that I can. Probably more confused now than when I've started. I've picked up a lot of information, but it's also left me with a lot of questions as well. I'm hoping the facts and experiences other's have gleaned along the way can help me straighten out my thinking. Feel free to chime in and straighten out my ignorance.

Originally I was thinking of picking up a 4x4 ambulance. I had been browsing online and I had seen several available even at pretty good prices. They were all gone very quickly and I haven't seen much since then. I apparently did not appreciate how hard it would be to find one. Probably missed my chance there. Since then though I've seen less than great opinions about the Quigley 4x4s (honestly don't remember the details of the ones I had seen, but given the variations out there I suppose it's a safe guess).

I came around and started thinking that if it was going to be so hard to find a 4x4 (especially one worth having) that I might as well get a 4x2 and do the conversion later. This approach would allow me to pick out a box that really works for my plans without having to be picky in regards to the 4x4 option (which would probably leave me to just make do with whatever box it happened to have). I'm 6'3" so it would be quite an advantage if I could find a box that's 72" (or even better 75" which I've seen exist, but haven't actually seen any for sale yet). This way I could basically get everything I want except the 4x4 and know I could just add this later.

Now the rub with that is that it seems to convert to 4x4 it's going to cost a lot of time and money (or either a lot of money x2, or a lot of time x2). I can't claim to have either of these in unlimited quantities. Maybe I'm wrong and this is more doable than I'm thinking? I'm still digging through the conversion threads (kind of slow going with thousands of posts) so I'm still getting an idea of what it all takes.

At this point I'm wondering that if I'm going to do the 4x4 conversion afterward would I just be better off getting an RV I could do a refurb on instead of a complete refit and then convert it to 4x4 instead? Should I just be patient and wait for a 4x4 ambulance I don't have to convert (warts and all)? Is an ambulance after refitting going to be that much better than an RV (people say it's sturdier and rattles less, etc, etc, but couldn't I just turn the radio up?).

My questioning might be vague, but mainly I'm just interested in information in people who have walked down this road already. What did you do that was worth it? What did you do that wasn't worth it? What would you do differently? Hit me with anything you wish you knew before or you were glad you found out when you did.
 
#2
Your post resonates with me big time!! I explored optioned for two years. My wife and I looked at tons of old raper vans, sprinters, and everything in between. My biggest take away is that if a 4x4 is the plan, there are only three sensible options.

1st. Sprinter van. There is lots of support and piece by piece mods you can do yourself at your own pace. “Sportsmobile” is the only outfitter I’d let do it for me based on build quality. I was appalled with the revel when we drove it. Rattled you to DEATH!! Cons are obviously cost!! I dont have $100,000 plus to blow. Additionally I wanted towing capacity in excess of 5k just in case.

2nd is a domestic Sportsmobile which I LOVE ❤️ BUT AGAIN COST AND AVAILABILITY ARE PROHIBITING.

now the ambulance option (which I recently did). I read opinion on quigley setups until my eyes bled and there are pros and cons to it. At the end of the day I wanted it for snow and occasional use. I’m very clear that my rig is 8800 lbs and I’m not rock crawling or doing hells ditch in Moab. It’s really a macho want for me. I romanticize about getting way off the grid with this toy. I’ve not put a few hundred miles on mine and I’ve come to realize that standing room isnt needed si Fe the drive position is great and the box isn’t for standing around in really. Ps I’m 6’3” as well. My interior height is 5’6” and I just stoop. It’s not even annoying. Back to the 4x4 part; I just replaced all the shocks and tires. Everything was off the shelf. I like knowing that if I lost a component 1,000 miles from home, I’d just go to a 4wd parts store and grab something off the shelf.

In summation, if you see one you like, get it. Have fun making it yours and recognize that building it feeds the soul as much if not more than using it.

For what it’s worth, mine is a Quigley type 7 mini mod 1995 year model. I was ONLY looking for 7.3l diesels though. The engine has 62,000 on it and the chassis is at 271000. I paid 10750 for reference and feel like that was a bit of a steal. It was on govdeals.com.
 

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#3
Appreciate the response. I'm on the same page as you in regards to how much use the 4x4 will actually see. I'm assuming I won't be asking anything of it beyond stock 4x4 SUV capabilities (and probably mostly stuff that my Tahoe could do without even switching over to 4wd).

I'm mainly looking for a taller box not for standing room, but just to minimize hitting my head moving around. It's surprising what a bad mood that can put me in.

Are you happy with the 7.3L? I've read that's the best Ford engine to go with, but I'm a bit hesitant to go that route (if I can avoid it) just because to get one it will be at least 15 years. I like the Chevy Kodiak look and have heard good things about the engine/drivetrain.

...Which is a whole separate problem I guess if I'm considering changing the drivetrain and also the aftermarket 4x4 conversions seem to be a bit more limited with anything other than Fords.

Love the look of yours. Did you have to cut the fender wells for fit or did it all go together well? That looks like a great final solution for all uses considered.
 
#4
I’m not a Ford guy per say, but I’ve been around diesels for years and it always comes back to the 7.3 in the end. It’s not quiet, fast or particularly good at one thing, but it’s built for use and it performs well at everything. A 6.0 that’s been bulletproofed would have worked for me too, but it was always a quest to find a 7.3l.


I forget who and where, but a guy once said just get a rolling shop chair like you’d use to work on something with the tray at the bottom for tools and loose screws and keep it in the ambo. That way you don’t have to stand.... you just roll around. Makes sense actually.

I really like the Kodak, but it’s really just too big and heavy to trail in and the aftermarket options and support are lacking in my research. I’d do one in 2wd in a flash, but 4x4 is another game for me.

The genders are stock (unless Quigley) cut them way back when... I’m not sure. When I went from 31” to 33” tires, I rubbed on the steps, so off they came and I cut the front bumper at an angle with a simple angle grinder from Harbor freight ($12.00). Worked fine.

Out of curiosity, where have you been searching? And where in America are you?
 
#5
Located in NC.

Mainly been searching ambulancetrader, eBay, and govdeals. There’s a whole list of other sites I run through occasionally (someone provided on another thread I can’t find now) like arrow and gev, etc., but it always seems like these vehicles are priced much higher there and the offerings are much more limited.

I’ve searched through craigslist occasionally, but I’m not really aware of a way to cast a wide net there so the brute force isn’t always very useful. I look through the forums here occasionally as well, but they’re not really set up the same as searching listings.

Any other recommendations of good places to check I would definitely take a look at.
 
#6
Still rambling around online and I've had a fairly hairbrained idea inspired just by vehicles I've seen. If someone can point to where this has been done or discussed before I would appreciate it (forums aren't the easiest to search for specific topics).

So a good bit of the advice I've heard to convert vehicles to 4x4 that don't have ready made kits available (anything other than the Ford vans) is to get a donor vehicle to help source all the parts needed that will likely be hard to find. But...

Would it be possible to purchase two working vehicles such as a 2wd Ambo and 4wd flatbed and swap the cutaway/box and cab/bed between the two. End result being a 4wd Ambo and 2wd camper. I'm assuming that there will be some brackets and mounting points that may not be right, but drilled holes or making brackets doesn't seem too bad. The electrical system is the wildcard I know next to nothing about, so I'm not sure if that would just render this impossible.
 
#7
People seem to be pretty happy with the Agile RIP kit installed on a Quigley. I’m installing mine over the next few days.


I think it’s easy to sort of dream about the perfect project and set-up, just don’t get into something that takes so much more time and money that you never actually get out the door.

One thing you have going for you is your proximity to U-joint, but you could probably by a Quigley Ambo, add Agile RIP, all for less that just a U-joint system.
 
#8
These are the words of wisdom I keep coming back to.

The idea/path I'm leaning into at the moment is to find a decent deal on a E series in 2wd. I can customize and then decide later if adding the 4wd is the right move or not. In the meantime if something comes available with 4x4 ready to go maybe I can trade up or if I'm thinking of undertaking something really big then I can tackle that at some point in the future.

I guess it'll be like my first house. It's a place to leave in the meantime while I really decide what I want and what I don't want in a house.
 
#9
I had this dilemma for a while too. The aftermarket 4x4 mods were as expensive as the rig itself! And that just didn't feel right. That kept my brain swirling for like 2 years.

Eventually, and rather randomly, my 2009 Kodiak 4x2 ambo came up at a reasonable price and I took it.

Few data points from my experience:
1. So far I have taken it up some rough roads and found that I didn't lack traction. The dual rear wheels had surprising traction even in loose dirt and rocks. Granted, I wasn't on a "trail". But, I didn't intent to take it "wheelin'" - just on rougher forest service roads. The sway is a big deal for me though - it seems to sway a LOT; but this isn't going to be avoided by lifting or with 4wd. Maybe some oversized tires can help ease that though (smoothing out some ruts), which is sort of a side effect of a lift guess. I'd give it a 7/10 for what I want and I think I can get to 9/10 with a lift and oversized tires.
2. Traction in the snow was a non-issue. IMO I wouldn't even consider snow tracking as decision factor for a 4x4 for something as heavy as an ambulance.
3. The Kodiak has a factory 4x4 option. So, I think that one day I'll be able to get that option for way cheaper than an aftermarket setup if I really wanted it. I heard about a guy on this forum that got a donor wrecked 4x4 and used it to mod his own. Man I wish I could find such a donor! But again, this is really for my ego rather than for real capability.
4. Headroom - I haven't measured my box height, but you at 6'3" will be pushing it. I have a fried who's that height and I want to say his head was rubbing. That said...There are bars that hang from the ceiling - so that reduces the height in the middle of it by a few inches. I've bumped my head on those things more than once and yes, I'm with you - that is a little annoying. This sound like it may be a very difficult spec to resolve.

Those bars can be removed to regain that clearance, but I have found them to be quite useful. I suspended a swinging chair from them :). I actually used them to suspend my bed platform too - that left the underneath side clear of legs making it easier for me to throw in gear. This works out well for my purpose - I didn't want an RV, I wanted an adventure vehicle. The fact that I can throw my raft frame in next to the bed while in bed position and throw the rolled up raft after under the bed without issue was a HUGE selling factor for me. I can be fully packed for rafting and set up to sleep at the same time! Those bars are super nice for intimate activities too I might add, but I'll keep this clean. Just sayin'

Like most choices, IMO it is REALLY important to decide what you want to do with your rig most. For me, an RV was not an option. I've had them before and didn't have fun with them. Now my ambulance goes out damn near every weekend - skiing, camping, rafting, mountain biking, stealth camping after a concert, music festivals, rooftop sleeping or party deck, etc; it's my one vehicle that does pretty much everything I want well enough. And I, as they say, am a happy camper!
 
#10
First off, this forum has been wildly helpful and friendly so far.

Secondly, thanks for all the good info. I know I'll have to stoop, but 72" is going to be a lot better than 68" so I'm starting to think that maybe I should be pickier on the box on this first go round. I had thought about the bars and wasn't sure what I might do with them. They do seem helpful like you say, I might just try to put them where my head won't likely be. The bed is also an interesting idea. I've only got vague ideas of what I would want to do in that regard.

I'm thinking my uses will be similar to yours. Likely worst case probably poorly maintained roads. If I ever end up with 4x4 it will probably see use about .83%-1.2% of the time, so I certainly don't think I'm going to let myself get hung up on it at this point.

Thanks again to everyone for the information. I'm enjoying soaking it all in.
 
#11
Completely different rabbit hole... has anyone seen anyone put the area above the cab to use? Most I've seen with a few google searches is a guy that threw a spare tire up there.

Not a bad use for it, but wondered if someone else had done anything innovative with this.
 
#12
Glad to see another NC'er, I have a 94 ambo (Flatliner) 4x4 McCoy Miller 7.3 Banks turbo 79,000 miles....just did a full gut and rewired the whole thing. Shore power and onboard generator, and added a roof ac.

Walls going up now.
 
#13
I’m pretty happy with my Quigley w/RIP kit. Ramsey installed mine a few yrs back and really did a great job.
If you find a good Q-van I would go for it. I like the way mine drives. They have converted many vans over the yrs.

If you end up converting or having it converted I guess it’s:

Ujoint (Leaf springs)
Many options available

MG (coil springs)
Seems well thought out/engineered

Ujoint variant of MG kit
I believe has some changes to steering setup.

Agile (coil sprung ttb)
Not sure who runs Agile now, but when Ramsey was around they were great!

The C4500 has come up on my radar recently while it may be overkill for me I’ve got my eye out cause it looks like a fun project.
 
#14
Completely different rabbit hole... has anyone seen anyone put the area above the cab to use? Most I've seen with a few google searches is a guy that threw a spare tire up there.

Not a bad use for it, but wondered if someone else had done anything innovative with this.
I'm thinking of using that for the solar panel. Many use the box for that. But, my box roof will be used for inflated rafts, rooftop bed, and the party deck. I'm planning to linex the roof so it's durable and non-skid. So the only place left for solar is over the cab.
 
#15
Completely different rabbit hole... has anyone seen anyone put the area above the cab to use? Most I've seen with a few google searches is a guy that threw a spare tire up there.

Not a bad use for it, but wondered if someone else had done anything innovative with this.

I considered a flip Pac style top tent to free up the back half of the roof as a viewing deck. It won’t fit on an E series but it might on a kodoak or FL.
 
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