Sprinter Van planning stage

Flagster

Expedition Leader
#1
I am planning on purchasing a Sprinter Van within 3-6 months...maybe a bit sooner and am hoping to get a thread started about the benefits, limitations, and practicality of these vans...especially on mild offroad situations...

I caught the Land Cruiser "fever" a few years ago...mainly due to this site...and acquired within a short period of time a worn out 60 series and a lightly used 80 series...neither of which I use much...
The 60 I have decided to "restore" and the 80 just isn't practical for my type of travelling...I am still deciding whether to sell it or just keep it for occasional use...It looks the part but just doesn't mesh with long distances of highway...mild forest roads...where I then base camp and either hike or bike...


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I also have a 2005 Tacoma 4x4 that has been my reliable DD/camping truck for over 7yrs. I am a ground tent and rubbermaid box type of guy...everything gets thrown in the bed of the truck (with camper shell) and I go...but with my GF, bikes, fishing gear, fuel, wood, etc...things get tight...I usually have a canoe on the roof for fishing purposes so I cant' run a fancy roof rack...

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Add a moto on the back and I am on the bump stops...even with Dakar springs in the back...probably well over my payload


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I am looking to simplify the vehicle...I rarely need 4x4 here in the dry desert SW...I will be keeping the land cruisers for the occasional trip where I need the capability...and for the "fun" factor...you can't top the smile it puts on your face...



I would love to have hard side, hard top...and no windows for security/stealth camping purposes and also want a safe vehicle (airbags, comfortable highway cruising)...My GF races a lot or triathlon all over the west and I do the occasional MTB race and this season it would be nice to have a easy way to transport all our stuff to races/etc...


Which has led me to a 170 high top Sprinter van...I am currently trying to decide on extended or non extended as I figure the 170 wheelbase is already going to limit me pretty severely offroad...and the 170 ext is just HUGE:Wow1:



So my question is who is running a sprinter van for a mild offroad vehicle...is the 170 too long?...is a winch mount available...tire recommendations?...do you run chains in the winter...(I live in Flagstaff on a dirt road outside town which can often be dicey)

Thanks
Matt
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
#2
Matt

Interesting timing. Persephone and I have also pretty much decided that our overland vehicle will be a Sprinter. I also plan to buy soon, I just need to sell the BMW first.

I think the 170 extended is too long for any mild offroad.

4x4 versions are available in UK and Germany.
This one here has been advertised on Ebay for over 6 months now:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/MERCEDES-...3?pt=UK_Commercial_Trucks&hash=item337585f6dd

However I do not know if the drivetrain components are "shareable" with the NA version. Ideally I would prefer to buy a LHD drive here in the USA - the commercial version in the UK seems extremely basic - no a/c, no airbags, no power windows, basic seats, etc.

I am also curious to know if there is a way to convert the 2007+ generation so it will run on older diesel, just like the 2001-2006 version.

The last challenge is to design the inside configuration. The van seems to be too narrow to put a bed sideways, and I really would like to have a permanent bed, not a table that you have to convert with many cushions.
 
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Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
#3
Matt

Check this design here:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/2007...RVs_Campers&hash=item1c2fe0f95b#ht_500wt_1182

I sort of ruled out storing my KTM inside the van. It can be done configuration-wise, but I am not sure that mixing up the dirt/fume/oil with the kitchen and the bed is such a good idea.
If you go with a 170, you do have enough space in the back to create a garage, but again for me the 170 is too big and that's a lot of space sacrificed to your motorcycle.

I think it's better to just use a hitch support like you have on your picture, although I am not sure if there is one strong enough for my KTM950 (500 pounds)
 

Flagster

Expedition Leader
#4
Matt


Interesting timing. Persephone and I have also pretty much decided that our overland vehicle will be a Sprinter. I also plan to buy soon, I just need to sell the BMW first.

I think the 170 is too long for any mild offroad. I plan to buy the 140, ideally a 2006.

4x4 versions are available in UK and Germany.
This one here has been advertised on Ebay for over 6 months now:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/MERCEDES-...3?pt=UK_Commercial_Trucks&hash=item337585f6dd

However I do not know if the drivetrain components are "shareable" with the NA version. Ideally I would prefer to buy a LHD drive here in the USA - the commercial version in the UK seems extremely basic - no a/c, no airbags, no power windows, basic seats, etc.

I am also curious to know if there is a way to convert the 2007+ generation so it will run on older diesel, just like the 2001-2006 version.

The last challenge is to design the inside configuration. The van seems to be too narrow to put a bed sideways, and I really would like to have a permanent bed, not a table that you have to convert with many cushions.
Great info Christian...thanks!

I have been looking at the newer generation but I forgot about the fuel issue...for the next three or so years I would only be using the van in this county so not really an issue for now...
But heavily building out the interior and then deciding you need a different van would be a bummer...
Thanks for reminding me of this...

The "bed over garage" setup is the main reason I like the 170s...separating the dirt from the living space...

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The dealer down here in PHX had a lot of pictures of customer modded interiors...many basic...many looking like they would cost 25K+...

For the immediate future I see myself buying the van and throwing some cots in with a fridge and just using it...
Then later on deciding what would be the best way to build it out...
 
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mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#5
I am planning on purchasing a Sprinter Van within 3-6 months...maybe a bit sooner and am hoping to get a thread started about the benefits, limitations, and practicality of these vans...especially on mild offroad situations...

There are a few threads around the Portal discussing this question; do a search for "Sprinter" in the post titles to get most of the threads. Alternately, you can start here:

http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/19224

So my question is who is running a sprinter van for a mild offroad vehicle...is the 170 too long?...is a winch mount available...tire recommendations?...do you run chains in the winter...(I live in Flagstaff on a dirt road outside town which can often be dicey)
In that build thread for my T1N Sprinter, there's some discussion of the pros and cons of the 140" versus the 158" which would be relevant to your decision making. None of it's rocket science, though; the short wheelbase is a lot nimbler but the extra room in the cabin is really valuable sometimes. In your case, choosing between the 144, 170 and 170 extended will produce the same tradeoffs. (And while I was delighted to have the nimble 140 at about 18.5 feet long back then, I'm pretty sure we'd get a new 170 now that we have other vehicles for off-pavement.)

The departure angle of a 170 extended, where basically 3 feet of van is added with no change in wheelbase, is predictably poor. But the bigger problem is that the 170 extended is big enough, as big as the biggest pickup trucks, that it's not ideal for running into the grocery, going into town for dinner and so on. In fact, the length is such that 170 extended owners sometimes tow a car behind them for running around once they're set up in their location.

On the other hand, the 170 itself, at over 21 feet long, is still a very big vehicle and can't be tossed around real easily either. You might decide, "Heck, if we're going to be driving a giant van around anyway, maybe it should be the most giant van possible." In my opinion, it's only the 144 that can be driven around town close to normally,

My advice is, either using a computer drawing program with the dimensioned floorplans from the Sprinter body builders' site or by putting masking tape on the floor of a garage stall (we did both), lay out the components you have to have and see if they'll fit in the shorter model. If they will, you'll enjoy having the easier-to-drive vehicle; if they won't, then you'll more regret going without space and components you really wanted.

There is a winch setup available from the Sprinter Store (http://sprinterstore.com/nudge.htm) but it's hard to find anything of reasonable size with enough capacity to get a fully loaded Sprinter out of a serious stuck with a single line pull. Plus there aren't a lot of good places to attach the cable. In my case, I was happiest with the winch mounted on a plate that went into the receiver at the front and back, and I always carried a shackle to double the line. Give this setup some thought, as it allows taking off the heavy winch when you know you won't need it.



The traction of the truck is, predictably, pretty dependent on tire choice and how much weight is in the back. An empty van on stock tires can sometimes get stuck on wet grass. You can spend $20K for the 4WD conversion from Upscale or Whitefeather and never worry about it, but chains will work and are admittedly a lot cheaper. As far as tires go, they biggest you can get aren't all that big--search the Sprinter Source forum for the reports of what rubs and what doesn't--but tire choice does make a difference. I used taller, skinny Bridgestone Dueler ATMs and was happy enough, but there's lots of other possibilities. (If most of your driving will be on pavement, the Michelin LTX/MS2 is well-loved.)

Good luck with the decision. Let us know if there are other questions.

P.S.: Two widely-regarded Sprinter ordering tricks . . . be sure to get both the extra keys (making 4 total) and the towing setup. Both are cheap when factory options, expensive to get afterwards.
 

Flagster

Expedition Leader
#6
All great information...
Ordering options is one of the big decisions I have to make...there are like two pages on the MBZ USA page:Wow1:

The dealer here in PHX isn't too keen on me ordering the exact spec I want...
He recommends just taking an in stock van and upfitting at the dealer...Most of the vans in stock have very little options...rear step/power windows/etc...no rear heat/cooling/towing/etc
I don't know if this is really possible to add all of the options at the dealer...and I am not sure he really knows the options I am talking about...
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#7
The dealer here in PHX isn't too keen on me ordering the exact spec I want... He recommends just taking an in stock van and upfitting at the dealer...Most of the vans in stock have very little options...rear step/power windows/etc...no rear heat/cooling/towing/etc.
Trust me, you want to order everything that you're going to want on the Sprinter from the start. Many of the options you might want don't exist in the aftermarket, and many that do are not as elegant.

The exception would be side windows. The MBz windows do not open (though one is an emergency exit) and there are some aftermarket options that do. Even then, the stock Sprinter windows are huge and beautifully integrated, so some people keep the sealed windows and get screens so as to use the van doors and front windows for ventilation.

The Sprinter ordering situation is a joke--always was and probably always will be--as the trucks are made in Germany, disassembled, shipped to the East Cost in pieces, and re-assembled, all to save an import duty of 25% on assembled vans--and so it takes six months, more or less, to get your truck. But of those two pages of options, rather few have satisfactory aftermarket alternatives, so it may be worth waiting (and the smaller discount). (Not to mention that Sprinters come in 22 colors, of which your dealer probably has one: white.)

I don't know if this is really possible to add all of the options at the dealer...and I am not sure he really knows the options I am talking about...
If you are dealing with a Mercedes dealer (for some of whom Sprinters are new and only begrudgingly included in the product line), you might try a Freightliner dealer, as they've been at it way longer. If you're lame dealer is already a Freightliner dealer, you might request names of knowledgeable dealers, or search for threads about them, on the Sprinter Source forum. In any event, though, people definitely order Sprinters in spite of the ordering process.

One other brainstorm . . . you might take a look at a new or used NCV3 passenger van, rather than the cargo van. They are finished off on the inside, giving you a big headstart on the conversion, plus they are usually better equipped than the cargo vans dealers order up. They appear to cost more, but they are virtually identical mechanically, often more gently used, and if equipped as you'd prefer, no more expensive.
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
#8
Mike

Someone mentioned to me that there was a company in Alberta that sells a kit to adapt a 4wd system from European Sprinter onto our NA Sprinter. I am still researching the difference/similarities between the 4wd system available in Europe, but I am not having much luck finding diagram and such online.

Any pointers for me?
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#9
I think the 170 is too long for any mild offroad. I plan to buy the 170 but not extended, ideally a 2006.
Christian,

In 2006 in NAFTA countries, you got the T1N with either a 118, 140 or 158 inch wheelbase, which translated into roughly 15.5, 18.5 and 21.5 feet of length respectively. The 118 is very short on cabin (behind the seat) space at about 7 feet long; you get 10 feet in the 140 and about 13 feet in the 158. The in-line five is a wonderful engine with great economy, but the newer NCV3s are a much more sophisticated vehicle.

But the other advantage to an NCV3 is that it is a few inches taller inside (letting 6 footers stand straight) and a few inches wider, which makes a crosswise bed of up to about 70 inches practical, versus about 66 in a T1N. In terms of cubic volume, the post 2007 NCV3 144 is, and feels, considerably bigger than the 140 T1N.

It does seem like it'd be practical to take the 4x4 parts out of a European truck and put them into a NAFTA truck. It doesn't work all that well, though, because of unhappinesses in the truck's computers. That was pretty much the route that the Sports Vans conversion tried by Upscale and Sportsmobile took, and while they both eventually got their trucks into workable condition, they are one-offs.





The current best places to point you for the decade-long "Please make my NAFTA Sprinter a 4x4" is to Upscale or to Whitefeather Conversions. My humble opinion is that the Upscale system is the more sophisticated, while the Whitefeather conversions components are beefier for more hardcore use. At $20K, there aren't a lot of either around. Check here for the links and a tiny bit of useful discussion.

http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/86609

(None of the converters in Europe will convert a NAFTA vehicle or supply parts. To do so raised, and would raise again, the ire of Mercedes.)

BTW, that Roadtrek van you linked to is interesting for being a 2007 RV on a 2006 chassis. The chassis-finished coach model year gap is not unusual with RVs, but for someone who definitely must have a T1N conversion, this will be about as new as you can get one.
 
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Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
#10
Thanks Mike - yes I believe my preference would be a 140 - that's what you have, correct?

I may prefer the NCV3 for the reason you mentioned, but I can't find any information about whether you can drive it down south past Mexico (because of ULSF).
 

Flagster

Expedition Leader
#11
Wow...6 months would be tough...

Seems like the crew configurations also come with more options like you mentioned with the passenger vans...

Another question my MB dealer couldn't answer and I have been unable to find on the internet is whether the crew second row seats can be fitting in a cargo van...

I prefer the no windows of the cargo van but would like the option of the second row seats in the rare case we had more than two in the vehicle.
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#12
Thanks Mike - yes I believe my preference would be a 140 - that's what you have, correct?
That's what I had. I thoughtlessly sold it to a couple that came up to me at Sprinterfest last April and flattered me with talk of how perfect it would be for their retirement, so given that the XV-JP was finsihed, I sold it to them. (Tried to buy it back from them a couple months ago. No dice; it apparently is perfect for them. :()

There may still be an issue of Pemex versus non-Pemex stations in Mexico, and there are bigger issues south of there. It is indeed likely that you'd be wanting a T1N to head to Central America, though (and I am not an expert here) there is a school of thought that says take it to Central America, ruin the catalytic convertors and particulate filter with LSD, and then replace them for a few thousand dollars when you need to pass US emissions. I'm not sure I'd trust the Sprinter engine to be happy with the viscosity, lubricity (though that should be better) and other characteristics (besides sulfur content) that differ between LSD and ULSD, but . . . FWIW.

There's a little useful discussion of the situation here:

http://sprinter-source.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-12543.html

and perhaps you can post up there and get more. But I'm pretty sure I'm correct in thinking you'll need the inline-5.
 

mhiscox

Expedition Leader
#13
I prefer the no windows of the cargo van but would like the option of the second row seats in the rare case we had more than two in the vehicle.
I don't know exactly where to point you (though Creative Mobile Interiors would be my first guess), but second row seats were and probably still are widely available, since many people took seats out of their vans to do the conversions. Also, it is not difficult, as decent seat mounting points are available, to mount individual seats (including Sprinter front seats) in the cabin as well.

I understand the benefits of stealth and security, but its a big dark space in the back of a big Sprinter, so think through that decision carefully. (Kind of a pain not to see the traffic, either, though the mirrors are good.) An alternative if you are only occasionally camping in dubious places is to make up sturdy solid inserts to fit inside the window frames and pop them in when you feel the need and take them out when you don't. Just food for thought.
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
#14
That's what I had. I thoughtlessly sold it to a couple that came up to me at Sprinterfest last April and flattered me with talk of how perfect it would be for their retirement, so given that the XV-JP was finsihed, I sold it to them. (Tried to buy it back from them a couple months ago. No dice; it apparently is perfect for them. :()

There may still be an issue of Pemex versus non-Pemex stations in Mexico, and there are bigger issues south of there. It is indeed likely that you'd be wanting a T1N to head to Central America, though (and I am not an expert here) there is a school of thought that says take it to Central America, ruin the catalytic convertors and particulate filter with LSD, and then replace them for a few thousand dollars when you need to pass US emissions. I'm not sure I'd trust the Sprinter engine to be happy with the viscosity, lubricity (though that should be better) and other characteristics (besides sulfur content) that differ between LSD and ULSD, but . . . FWIW.

There's a little useful discussion of the situation here:

http://sprinter-source.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-12543.html

and perhaps you can post up there and get more. But I'm pretty sure I'm correct in thinking you'll need the inline-5.
Mike

I just dug back your threads and made them sticky. Lot of fabulous information in there.

Regarding fuel and such, it seems like there may be a solution:

We (Custom Spooling) have several customers with NCV3 Sprinters who frequently visit Mexico. They installed our DPF Delete Tune as a precaution to prevent fouling their DPF on Pemex diesel fuel. I've received positive feedback from these customers with regard to the performance and reliability of our tunes. Installing our tune involves removing the filter element from the DPF canister. This is not reversible and is not legal for public road use in the USA. Our tuning kit for 2007-2009 NCV3 Sprinter is $1125, not including DPF canister modification. The kit includes a flash tool and a performance tune as well as an economy tune. Contact me, peter@customspooling.com for more info.

However I think I will focus on a pre-2007 for now.