few quesions for Mr. Badger

marc olivares


i've just spent the last hour or so, soaking up your wonderful little blog on your SMB.
great stuff man, thanks for putting it out on the net...

now having done that, i do have a few questions for you and thought the board might find useful too.

i'm thinking about pulling the trigger on a 4x4 van conversion and was curious if you were happy w/ your current setup. More specifically, your SMB is equipped w/ an atlas 2 T-case; have you found the need to engage the t-case in the fWD only lock position? obviously, the beauty of the Atlas is it's ability to lock in a various amount of positions, but the biggest advantage over an NP271 would be the "front dig", have you ever used your atlas in a "front dig" situation? the 4x4 conversion i'm looking at utilizes an NP271, and although much quieter than the atlas, it lacks the front axle only locking options. what has your experience been w/ your atlas in your van?

second question, how is your van geared?
i noticed you went from a 33 to a 37" tire, was the 6.0 able to keep up w/ the tire change without re-gearing?

third, what is the most difficult trail/road you've taken your van on?
i'm trying to get a gauge as to what these thing are capable of doing.
i currently have a very equipped Land Rover Discovery, and i'm curious how the van will stack up on "hard" off road trails. no, i dont expect to be doing pritchett canyon or Moab Rim in a van, but i would still like to be able to get up rocky ledges with relative ease.

last question, the 6.uhoh has taken some serious abuse every diesel forum i surf; what has been your experience w/ this motor? if you had to do it over again, would you chose a gasser instead? V-8? V-10?
fully loaded, what's your average MPG?

thanks again man, your site gave me a great excuse to avoid being productive at work :wings:


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I was going to contact Eric as well about some interior stuff, so I'll just post it here. I'm trying to decide on interior trim, paneling. Any thoughts? Have you had to replace any of the Sportsmobile trim pieces?

My thoughts on the t-case questions....... I considered an Atlas t-case for my conversion, but went with the 271 instead. The Atlas is an awesome piece, but I don't think it's really needed for a full size van. The 271 has a good low range, better than a 205. And it's light weight. And cheaper, I bought mine with a new output shaft & adapter brand new from Ford for $1200.00. Everyone has different needs for their rig, I went with what best suited me. You can check out my entire build on my website, www.ujointclothing.com.------Chris

I also have the 6.0, or ****.0, no issues so far. 23K.


marc olivares said:
what has your experience been w/ your atlas in your van?

second question, how is your van geared?

third, what is the most difficult trail/road you've taken your van on?

if you had to do it over again, would you chose a gasser instead?

fully loaded, what's your average MPG?
While we wait for Eric to answer, I'll throw out a little info from my 1.5 years with our Sportsmobile. It is also diesel with the SMB 4x conversion. One thing I really like about the SMB 4x conversion is the tight turning radius. It's actually tighter than the stock 2x van.

I have not used the Atlas in 4x low front only.

My gearing is 4.10:1 which comes with the towing package. I am running 305-70-16s so the gearing is fine for me. I have wondered if it has worked out for Eric with the larger tires without rubbing with the front sway bar disconnected. I know his van sits higher than ours as he has adjusted the springs compared to as delivered.

Eric's website shows them running Elephant hill. That's rougher than any place I have been so far.

I like the diesel. Some folks don't. I don't care for the noise, but I don't hate it. I added Dynamat to the cab floor and the inside (van interior side) of the dog house, and added Dynamat hood liner to the engine side of the doghouse. This helped kill lots of the clatter, but the mid range noise still comes through. You can see some photos of this project here: http://www.pbase.com/railbat/inbox

On our last trip I got 14.27 mpg, with a fair amount of time in 4 low in there too.

I filled the van up again after we got home, and with 1,828.2 miles since I started this round of tracking the mileage, it is now at 15.8 miles per gallon average. The previous lower number of 14.27 was figured after we had spent quite a bit of time on mountain roads and in low range. Adding in the freeway miles home and some other driving around town, it now stands at 15.8.
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First off, my apologies for completely spacing on this thread. Somehow I didn't even notice it till now... Probably the "Mr." threw me off...

I'll go for the quick questions, and address the rest tomorrow...

We have never used the FWD only for any useful purpose (e.g. skidding the rear around for a tight turn). The only time I have used it for any functional reason was when a front hub blew and I was trying to track down what had happened (hopped out, had Amy put it in all the various combinations till the van didn't move but the shafts were turning to isolate the source of noise and loss of traction).

Most difficult trail we have done was Elephant Hill in Canyonlands in terms of immediate challenge. We also did the Maze district of Canyonlands out to the Dollhouse, which, while not up to the immediate complexity, wears on you for hours, and actually caused more scraping of our motorcycle carrier. Without the motorcycle on back we could probably up the complexity a bit, though some sliders & skid plates would make me more comfortable.

With the 37's I find the gearing still to be adequate @ 4.10. It makes the freeway travels quieter with the lower RPM of the engine (it still does OD fine at 75mph). A bit less acceleration. Biggest draw-back has been braking while on trails (such as dropping off of a step) where I have to put all my weight on the pedal to control the drop. Larger rotors are in the plans.

Full lock steering will cause light rubbing of the front anti-sway bar. Wheels are 1" offset to the outside (-25mm). I find that I never hook up the disconnects on the bar anyway, so it will probably be removed.

I'm happy with the Atlas, though I wouldn't mind having the 3.8:1 ratio instead of the 3:1 considering the tires we are running. Its still able to crawl over anything we have put infront of it (the automatic torque converter helps too), but it woudl be nice to have more engine breaking on steep descents. Can't compare it to other t-cases in the van as I have no experience there.

Regarding the engine... I like the concept of running diesel. It makes our entire van single fuel for heating, cooking, driving, etc. We have had our share of problems however, and so far every Ford dealer we have taken it to has first tried to put all blame on "aftermarket equipment" even for issues that are clearly engine related (our engine is straight stock from intake to end of the tail-pipe).

So far we have had replaced: passenger side head (stuck valve), power steering pump (noise at startup), high-pressure oil pump (noises when hot, oil leak), batteries (went dead and overflowed @ 2 years), intake air pressure sensor, and a couple other small bits.

Never had this much trouble with any other vehicles, especially at the relatively low mileage and age (none of these issues were related to the "rough" areas we drive in either).

Rearding cabinetry, the SMB stuff is all MDF and thin ply-wood. All held together with L brackets and sheet-metal screws. We have had to replace quite a bit due to moisture damage, screws stripping out of the MDF due to flexing/vibrations. Once we are fully settled again we will be gutting the interior and re-building ourselves.