Mikey's Sprinter Expedition Camper: Chassis and Exterior

T.Low

Expedition Leader
#46
2007 EarthRoamer XV-JP Wrangler Rubicon Camper
2005 mid/tall MBz Sprinter 2500 Expedition Camper
2004 Tacoma double cab--ex-Expeditions West/Trail Monkey
1992 Suzuki Samurai JL (It's Baaack . . .)
1996 Honda XR600R highly-modded

Your signature bares the question: When you begin to plan for a trip, do you start by openning your barn door and asking yourself what you feel like driving or riding that weekend, or do you start by openning a map and asking where you feel like going and what would be the best vehicle for the job? :ylsmoke: (a bit of a rhetorical question, but a fun one anyway you look at it.)

Thats one well equiped barn you have there, Mike.
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#47
Thats one well equiped barn you have there, Mike.
Thanks, but it is less absurd than when I also had my Unimog Camper and the AdventureDuo's LC80 and Adventure Trailer. I'm actually two vehicles down from the peak. Thank heavens for those recovery programs. :sombrero:

One thing that helps narrow things down is that if the wife goes, we take the Sprinter. Mi esposa has "progressed" beyond the no-bathroom campers.
 
#48
Mike,
In one of your previous posts, it sounded like you bolted the Storm Cases to the roof basket. If so, how did you do that (there are probably 10 different ways). :)

Great little rig.

Also,
We live up near Tacoma. It would be great to stop by & say hi, if we are down in your area.
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#49
Mike,
In one of your previous posts, it sounded like you bolted the Storm Cases to the roof basket. If so, how did you do that (there are probably 10 different ways). :)
Nothing too exotic. Actually broke down and drilled holes throught the bottom of the cases and attached them with fender washers, carriage bolts, and lock nuts. This stayed secure and there's been no additional wear around the holes.

We live up near Tacoma. It would be great to stop by & say hi, if we are down in your area.
I wouldn't want it any other way. :)
 
#50
Update?

How has the past year plus been? I was holding out for a 4x4 but finally gave up a few months ago and had a factory order 4x2 . Today the van is at GTRV. I like your set u. How have your modifications withstood the test of time?

I am particularly interested in your tire set up for back roads BC. More rock than sand here.

Thanks again for recording your plans
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#51
Thanks for the compliments. Be sure to post details of your conversion when you get it back.

There have been a few threads about using a 2WD truck for overlanding, and the gist of what I posted about my Sprinter is that you can do very well when the conditions are reasonable, but some recovery gear, and some prudence, is necessary for when the conditions deteriorate. On a Sprinter, the open rear differential can be a problem in mud and snow.

A new Sprinter can handle bigger tires than the 215/85x16 Bridgestone Revo ATs I used, but even my tires did well on off-pavement. The vans will never be rock crawlers, but with good ground clearance, good steering and a torqey engine, I've had good success on Forest Service and BLM roads.

When you get the van back, you should decide if you care enough to have it converted to 4WD. It's still an expensive option, but at least now there are a couple of alternatives:

http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/71240,

and if you'd like to come down to Portland for the SprinterFest, I'm sure we'd all be excited to see your van.

http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/73593.
 

All-Terrain

No Road Required
#52
Very nice build! How reliable has your Sprinter been? Any no-start's or stranded experiences? I am hoping to get one to run my family around the world in, but I'm a little wary of the Mercedes electronics. Any experience to share, there?
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#53
There was one stranding in the seven years I owned this one (fuse block problem), and one stranding early in my ownership of my current one (failed O-rings letting air into the filter housing). The first instance, ironically, was when I'd loaned the truck and the loanees were camping in the middle of nowhere; that one was kind of ugly. The air leak was in town, and far less of a problem.

The best source for evaluating how Sprinter reliability sits with you is the Sprinter Source forum (http://www.sprinter-source.com/forum/). There, you'll read about people driven crazy by their Sprinter's unreliability on the same page as people celebrating their half-milluionth mile without major issues. Avoiding problems seems to be highly dependent on the vigor of the maintenance, but even then, it's still a bit of a crap shoot . . . the O-ring failure was on the truck I bought from the owner of one of the very most highly-regarded Sprinter shops in the country.

Sprinters do suffer from the conflict between being above average in complexity and a below average number of experienced mechanics to fix problems. Just as Dodge dealers were getting useful experience, Mercedes took over the brand and it was basically starting from scratch. Freightliner offers continuity, but their Sprinter service facilities aren't very numerous. Clearly, in this country, a Ford or Chevy van will have more places for repairs, but overseas, the Sprinter would become one of the better-supported options.

Good luck with the trip preparation. No one can predict your eventual reliability, but since you'll likely be looking at an older truck for RTW use, I suggest you perhaps help your odds by paying a modest premium for an example with the best combination of low miles and well-documented service history.

Also, FWIW, I posted this a few days ago when the announcement of the factory AWD version was made, and you might find some of it to be relevant.

The principle drawback I see is that this is (in common with all new US vehicles) a highly-computerized truck and thus, should you break down in Mongolia, you're in worse shape than if you were driving, say, a stone-simple 30-year-old Unimog or Land Cruiser. Sprinters aren't less reliable than other vehicles, but--again, as with every new truck--they sometimes fail in ways that aren't clear until they're hooked up to the dealer's diagnostic computer. And while there are a few spares you can carry to cover some of the more common failures, when things go wrong, even the most mechanically-inclined might need professional help. Things wouldn't be different with most modern computer controlled vehicles. You'd probably have to get something from the last century to start getting around this problem, and you'd want an 80's truck with carbs or mechanical fuel injection to feel entirely good about it. This then introduces the question of whether you prefer an ancient vehicle that has a problem you can fix every 10,000 miles or one that has a problem you can't fix every 100,000."

Having said all of that, realize that the biggest issue is that you'd be places that won't have the Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel necessary for any new US diesel truck to run right (and pass emissions tests when you bring it back to the US). This suggests using T1N Sprinters from 2006 and earlier (unless you search out the rare and unloved-at-the-time petrol engined 07/08 NCV3). This concern is relevant for all US light diesel trucks post-2007, I believe.
 
#54
Gutter Roof Rack Feet

Hey, Wicked rig you got. That is an adVANture mobile if I have ever seen one. I have a MB sprinter hi top with gutters and I have welded a rack composed of electrical conduit reinforced with internal rebar. Well the yakima feet that I had on it (which was holding a piece of conduit bent at 90degrees which was then welded onto the rack- just failed. It almost slipped off my van and caused a huge traffic collision. Close one. Anyway, I see that you used a plate version of a gutter mount to attach to your rack. WHere did you get that and how much was it?!
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#56
Anyway, I see that you used a plate version of a gutter mount to attach to your rack. Where did you get that and how much was it?!
hayduke1 said:
I believe those are Thule gutter mounts and they are now available in the USA as part 953.
Oops. Sorry, missed this question for, ummm, only three months. :(

Anyway, mine were a Thule product and had to come from England back in the day, and they remained a pain to source until recently. But now, as pointed out, Thule "super high gutter feet" are now a US item. Not cheap at over $100 apiece, but that's still a relative bargain compared to shipping them in from Europe.

Here's example information from one supplier:

http://www.rackattack.com/product-pages/thule-953-super-high-foot-gutter-system.asp

 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#58
The windows are great for this type of van. They came from the German company Seitz, and there are several threads about them on the Portal forums.

They are expensive compared to plain ol' RV windows but cheap compared to most dual pane alternatives. As you can read in the other threads, there's a problem with availability, as the North American distributor, Dometic, has not been selling to individuals, even though they are readily available in other countries.
 
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