My XP V1 Shakedown Thread

NothingClever

Explorer
For background, long story short, we've owned a fully-restored Westy, a Technitop RTT on a Can-Back (on an '02 Taco) and an FWC Fleet (same Taco). All fell short of our criteria (which grew / matured over time) so we surrendered to moving on to a larger (yet agile and drivable), more independent camper on a full-size pickup platform.

We intend to ship to Argentina and drive north in 2015 so we wanted to get the truck and camper purchases out of the way and to sort out ourselves as a family team. After a careful apollonian and dionysian review of everything available (except UNICAT/MAN-based RVs), we landed on the XP as the best fit for us. If you'd like to discuss why such-and-such brand or type of camper didn't win the bid, feel free to PM me.

Now for the wheels. Youthful summers of the 70s spent in Oklahoma at cattle and horse ranches made me biased towards Fords. In those days, Chevys and Dodge fell apart on the Lancaster ranches. Granted that was the 70s but old biases die hard. I looked for months and months thru 2011-12 for a worthy 7.3l and finally found a sweetheart in ultra-dry New Mexico. Hesitated 24 hours and lost out on that dance partner. Several months of obsessive searching continued and I found zero, zilch, nada, nichts, heyj chis.

Gave up and shifted focus to finding a low-mileage, late model 6.0l and investing some $$ under the hood at Bulletproof Diesel to make the powerplant reliable. I found an '05 with 54k on the clock in Texas where it spent its teething years as a hobby horse truck. It checked out with a reputable BPD-approved diesel shop (2033 Motorsports in Weatherford) so I bought it and shipped it to Grass Valley, Ca.

Fast forward through about six months of e-mails between California, Central Asia and South America and the big day finally arrived to re-unite the family in the U.S. and pick up a truck we've never driven and a camper we've only seen in pictures. After a couple of days in Florida re-discovering that we're actually married and not just internet daters, I shipped me, Mom, the Diva in Training and the dog to Sacramento to make the short road trip to XP in Grass Valley, CA.

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My wife and daughter's idea of packing.

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At first glance, we were a little stunned adjusting our eyes from our itty-bitty Toyota Tacoma and Fleet camper to a full-size truck with a 4" suspension lift and 35" tires. My initial reaction was, "Holy crap....I've built a monster truck. This is going to be entirely undrivable in South America's dimensions. Looks like I'll be selling an IVD Stage 3 package on eBay."

I was in for an entirely pleasant surprise.

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NothingClever

Explorer
Here's Marc Wassmann's team at XP. Marc has assembled a great team which I enjoyed meeting and talking with. They all take pride in their part of building an XP.



Marc's expanding his factory footprint in Grass Valley by leaps and bounds. He's limiting his outsourcing to ensure better quality control and better control over delivery timelines. Marc also has a great limo service (with regular passenger cars) for folks who would like to do a fly-n-drive. The trip from the Sac airport to Grass Valley is an hour and change but Anthony (limo service owner) was a treat to talk with. Also, Grass Valley is a great location with good services (hotels, great coffee roaster, etc) for those that fly in.
 
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Keyne

Adventurer
Thank you for posting your experience. I am really looking forward to reading your posts. Also, I know you mentioned you werent going to post it, but I would be interested in your thoughts on the other options and why they did or did not work out for you. I can't afford one of these vehicles at this time but its fun to think about the different options and how they may or may not work.
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
Most of you know that Marc has been a personal friend for many years now. I have seen his ideas progress from a modest drawing in his house's attic in San Francisco to a large 12000 s.f. facility in Grass Valley. His dedication to make one of the best expedition campers in the USA is pretty intense...
 

Overland Hadley

on a journey
Also, I know you mentioned you werent going to post it, but I would be interested in your thoughts on the other options and why they did or did not work out for you. I can't afford one of these vehicles at this time but its fun to think about the different options and how they may or may not work.
x2
 

NothingClever

Explorer
After meeting Marc, Toni and the XP team and receiving an orientation to the XP, my family and I headed to OE '13 for my wife to take some classes.

The first real test of the truck was taking place on the drive from Grass Valley, CA to Mormon Lake, AZ and that was urban and highway driving performance and load handling with the new suspension package.

During the build phase, Marc and I talked back and forth over tire and suspension options. I enjoyed the collaborative effort with Marc because it was unbiased and focused on meeting my performance objectives (spirited driving on washboard roads and mild four wheeling).

I picked an ICON Vehicle Dynamics 4.5" Stage 3 suspension lift for the coil spring, shock and steering stabilization set-up.

Already familiar with Alcan, I was inclined to go with their leaf springs but because Deaver's very familiar with IVD's products and also relatively close to Marc, I went with Deaver to facilitate XP and Deaver's collaborative efforts.

For tires, I didn't do much research past Hilldweller's posts about his new shoes, Toyo's Open Country A/T II. I admit to pushing the envelope a bit by going with a 35" tire (on 17" American Racing wheels). My objective was to get my differentials off the ground a bit more over OE specs.

So, how did everything do together?

Urban cornering turned out great with responsive, tight, agile steering with no feedback from the XP such as body sway while diving the truck's front end into a 90* street corner turn. I really value the turning radius of Ford's '05 and later coil-sprung front ends. Also, it seems Ford engineered a small steering stop into the front end which prevents the driver from racking the wheel all the way until the power steering pump starts groaning. That's been a nice feature in city driving.

Hard braking and aggressive acceleration are another way a truck reveals its load carrying performance and the XP again does not give any feedback to the driver. Is there a load back there? Yes, but you don't really notice it given all the weight (75g water, 25g grey water tank, four house batteries and two spare tires) is right behind the cab of the truck and forward of the rear axle. That's been re-assuring as my Taco with a pop-up required increased driver attention and anticipation to make up for the OEM brake system.

The Ford's stock 3.73 gearing is great. I thought I was going to have to re-gear (4.10 or 4.33) to get some power back but that's definitely not the case with a full-size work truck. The F350's low gear (really, it's a lower first gear of a six speed manual transmission) is great for starts on steep grades. More on the low gear later in the mountains.

The XP stays with the truck exceptionally well and Marc's flatbed mounting system ensures no bucking and power loss from delayed load feedback when getting underway.

The OD gear (really 6th gear) is great on the highway with the tach sitting just under 2k RPMs at 70mph indicated. Big, fat, sweet spot in all the in between gears with super skinny pedal response with a stock engine.

Another big test as we progressed southeast was the Grapevine out of Bakersfield, Ca. I'm not sure why this particular route has an apparently famous name but it was a big enough hill to test the 6.0l engine (albeit at a pretty wimpy altitude). I was able to maintain 65mph without leaving the sweet spot of 4th (really 5th) gear.

The Ford and XP with all the above components tracked really well. Cross winds were not noticeable and the truck tracked well (hands off test at highway speeds and also the hard braking test). While those are not big deal notes, they're more appreciable when running aftermarket suspension and carrying roughly 3,000 lbs (fully wet and totally stocked) of solar-powered, luxury hotel room on your back.

So, really to sum up everything above, in my first few days of driving, I found the full-size truck entirely drivable and the XP (as a cargo load) really well balanced and securely loaded with no perceptible feedback.

Marc offers a back-up camera which works great for parallel parking and regular backing up in the city. Because my truck sits pretty high, he also added a front camera which does double duty for city parking and four wheeling. I'll try to get some pictures of the camera monitor and how Dean mounted it for me on the Tuffy console box.
 
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NothingClever

Explorer
We had fun at OE '13 and my wife especially appreciated the courses to help fast-forward her skill sets (which took me years to develop). If the timing works out right, we'd like to return next year. However, the road trip from Tampa, Florida where we live to Arizona might prove to be a stretch.

Anyways, my wife is the navigator and with OE '13 complete, she set her GPMRRSS (girl-powered map reading and route selection system) for our first planned waypoint....Bulletproof Diesel in Mesa, Az.

Our trip from Mormon Lake Lodge to Bulletproof started out with a pretty little dirt road baptism. Serendipitously, I got to try out dirt road tracking on a curvy mountain road and also test out the suspension on washboards. I was really impressed with the truck's tracking, the tires' traction, the COG design of the XP and the suspension. The truck drove like a homologated product. Big testimony to Toyo, IVD, Deaver and XPCamper's mounting system and load plan & design.



Sorta got boring after that with a whole lotta this...



Me contemplating the Eagles, the 70s and a flatbed Ford in the current decade.



At Bulletproof Diesel we replaced the exhaust gas recirculator cooler, the fuel injection control module, added an oil cooler, added a cold weather thermostat, relocated the oil filter to facilitate oil changes and replaced the water pump. Andrew (service manager) and Jacob (servicing tech) were great. If you can't make the trip to Mesa, AZ (rather understandable!), they have affiliated installation shops around the U.S. We lucked out because it was on the way from California to Florida (well, sorta).

Now that I had some known engine weaknesses addressed, I wanted to push the truck and use the camper. Late spring in Colorado would be a good proving ground.
 
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NothingClever

Explorer
Sounds like a trip. What bags are those in the first picture, if you don't mind?
They're a North Face duffel bag made out of a Hypalon-like material. I'm not normally a big fan of TNF but these bags have earned solid reviews and they've proven to be well designed and manufactured. They have a pretty slick shoulder strap system for muling stuff around airports and up and down stairs.
 

OutbacKamper

Supporting Sponsor
I really value the turning radius of the post-'02 Ford coil-sprung front ends.
I am really enjoying your thread, please keep it going NC.

One minor correction: I think '05 was the first year for front coils. I know my '03 has leafs in front.

A word of warning regarding F350 brakes: the front rotors are quite susceptible to warping.

Cheers
Mark
 
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NothingClever

Explorer
I am really enjoying your thread, please keep it going NC.

One minor correction: I think '05 was the first year for front coils. I know my '03 has leafs in front.
Cheers
Mark
Yeah, you're right, '05 was the first year. Posting photos and editing text on my iPad has been kicking my butt that I've been distracted.
 

NothingClever

Explorer
Awesome thread so far. When are-you shipping to S.A.? Does this truck fit in a container?
For the past year we've been settled on shipping in January 2015 but our daughter's education is the big factor influencing our start date. We're currently front-loading our daughter through normal activities she's interested in to earn us wiggle room to take half a year off without missing out on her social and educational development.

The truck will fit no problem with some container (clown) wheels. I intend to find some or have some made once I get down to Florida. I'm also interested in RO/RO options but won't compromise the security of a container for the ease of a RO/RO. A leg from Jacksonville or Miami to Argentina is a little longer than, say, a ride-along RO/RO from Seattle to Alaska.

My wife is from Colombia and has college friends in the shipping business in Cartagena. If Argentina proves problematic, we feel pretty confident we can arrange shipping to Colombia on our terms. But we want to spend time in the southern cone since we've never been there. Colombia is a nice destination for the actual road trip because we'll be arriving home to Abuelita (Grandma) :D .
 

NothingClever

Explorer
Somehow a short post from OE '13 got dumped.

My wife enjoyed the kid and pet-friendly hotel room :) .



She also REALLY enjoyed how quickly the dinette goes from mealtime to bedtime for our daughter. Without any effort, my wife drops the table down to some teak ledges and then peels off the green back cushions to lay them on top of the table. All of this takes less than 10 seconds and the resulting bed is large enough for an adult or two children up to about eight years old. This is a huge win by the XPCamper for my wife.

Sorry about the slightly unfocused photo.

 

NothingClever

Explorer
Uhmm, where were we?

Leaving Bulletproof Diesel with a clean bill of health, a totally slick oil filter relocation job and a full tank of gas, headed to our second and third waypoints....four-wheeling and househunting (for retirement) in Colorado.

First night of camping on our way out of Arizona was just below the crest of Mt. Ord.

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I was starting to really admire the XP's well-proportioned dimensions on the F350. It started to feel, drive and look like a tight, little package despite being categorically a full-size truck.

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