Hmmm Van Conversions - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-14-2018, 03:33 PM   #1
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Hmmm Van Conversions

I realize this is NOT FG! But my first reaction was OMG! how heavy that thing must be with all of the standard wood cabinets and paneling.



After the Escapees safety seminars a few years back on weight issues I am very very concerned how so many "regular" rigs on the highways WE ALL travel are likely dangerously overweight. Aside from the greatly diminished reliable miles on a vehicle due to over stressing the drive-train and chassis. I wonder about stopping distances, brakes that may not handle the massive overweight issues etc.


I may have missed who did the conversion so I could check out the outfit that did the work.



Cheers all,
Bat Dude and family



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Old 10-15-2018, 07:35 AM   #2
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I recently acquired a used Roadtrek van camper that my mother is no longer able to use. I have been shocked at how little attention was paid to weight in the build-out. Despite being built on a 3500-series Chevy Express van, the ride is wallowy and feels like it is near the limits of the suspension. Some reading on a Roadtrek forum revealed that suspension upgrades are among the first mods many owners do.

I will be taking it to a scale once I get some repairs made.

Cabinet cases are 3/4" thick and made of some kind of solid manufactured wood product. Several cabinet hinges have already pulled loose during very limited use. With so much over-built cabinetry, it ends up feeling cramped and claustrophobic. There is little natural ventilation.

It could be so much better!

I blame consumers as much as the companies that build these things. The videos reveal that people value the "cute house" look more than light weight and efficiency.

All in all, it confirms everything I love about my Scamp.
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Old 10-15-2018, 07:55 AM   #3
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I see where this could be a problem, but I never intend to have this type of camper, just doesn't fit our camping style.

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Old 10-15-2018, 02:35 PM   #4
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Jon, interesting contrast between your Roadtrek and your Scamp 13'. While not identical, the interior space is certainly comparable.

Also interesting is that many DIY's are probably lighter than typical factory built Class B's. Wet baths are pretty rare in DIY conversions. That eliminates multiple tanks. Propane is more likely a portable unit.

All said, typical cargo vans, Promaster, Sprinter, may have several tons cargo capacity. Thank goodness.
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Old 10-15-2018, 04:03 PM   #5
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I do believe if I was doing a DIY interior, I would be making extensive used of thin baltic birch ply for the cabinetry, milled on a router table. it comes in 3mm and 6mm as well as the more common 12mm and 18mm, and the stuff is STRONG and durable, as well as looking really nice if just smooth sanded and clear finished with or without staining. its not cheap.
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Old 10-15-2018, 05:50 PM   #6
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I could be wrong but I think that's a Dodge RAM Promaster commercial van which would have a maximum payload weight of over 5,000 lbs. They definitely could have shaved a bit of weight off of that interior build but I don't think it approaches the weight that that van is designed to carry.
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Old 10-15-2018, 07:20 PM   #7
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I do believe if I was doing a DIY interior, I would be making extensive used of thin baltic birch ply for the cabinetry, milled on a router table. it comes in 3mm and 6mm as well as the more common 12mm and 18mm, and the stuff is STRONG and durable, as well as looking really nice if just smooth sanded and clear finished with or without staining. its not cheap.
Baltic Birch is not light weight.



If you want a light weight plywood with a nice surface finish then search for some "Lite-Ply" that is a trade name. It gets used by cabinet makers who have need for lightweight materials such as for boat interiors, RVs as well as portable exhibits for trade shows.


Not something you will find at Home Depot or Lowes. But in the Seattle area I know of two companies that carry it, Edensaw and also Comptom lumber.
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Old 10-16-2018, 09:03 AM   #8
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I could be wrong but I think that's a Dodge RAM Promaster commercial van which would have a maximum payload weight of over 5,000 lbs. They definitely could have shaved a bit of weight off of that interior build but I don't think it approaches the weight that that van is designed to carry.
I agree that the build isn't the most light weight but these commercial vans have 4000 ( Transit) ,5000 (Promaster), or up to almost 6,000 lb (Sprinter) payload capacity. I like my scamp 13, but I do see the advantages of a class B van, its just that they are so expensive and are another vehicle with an engine and a maintenance schedule.
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Old 10-16-2018, 09:10 AM   #9
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I have never thought a van conservation for camping was the way to go, there's no way it can be cost affected, plus for a family it becomes a third vehicle. This becomes much more expensive to own and operate over pulling a travel trailer, or staying in a motel from time to time. The depreciation value drops so much on a conservation, or any motorhome, where at least the fiberglass travel trailer market is pretty stable and as proven to be the best investment for the camping world as I see it, other then a tent.

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Old 10-16-2018, 09:28 AM   #10
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Gompka / trainman - Good comments. Every time that I think a van conversion would be a neat project, and it would be, I remind myself why I much prefer a trailer. I like to establish a base camp and use my Jeep for exploring and/or offroading. Breaking camp and leaving a pile of "stuff" at your campsite with no vehicle or anything there with it just doesn't appeal to me.
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Old 10-16-2018, 03:29 PM   #11
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the weight savings from baltic birch have more to do with being able to use thinner pieces at a required strength. for instance, my 'dinette bed extender' for my Casita, I used 12mm (1/2") instead of 18mm (3/4"). for RV cabinet exteriors, I would use 3mm (about 1/8") as they are not load bearing, instead of the flimsy Luan ply I so often see.
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Old 10-16-2018, 04:41 PM   #12
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My Sprinter is a second vehicle. For a while it was my sole vehicle. They are for singles or couples, not families. The space inside, behind seats is over 10 feet. That is comparable to 13' trailers. If you install swivel seats, you gain 2-3 more feet.

I am here because of my interest in fiberglass eggs. I like vans as tow vehicles. Quite a few vans will tow 5,000 [Sprinter] or 5,100 [Promaster]. The Ford and newly introduced Chevy should be comparable. I like the secure enclosed storage and the ability to stand up. Towing cuts into GCWR [combined] but not GVWR.

I guess a family van with seats might tow well. If you mind the total weight.

I have a RAD ebike as destination transportation. Should work great. Does need an outlet.
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Old 10-16-2018, 05:08 PM   #13
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IIRC, our 2001 Ford E150 7-passenger "Traveler" was rated to tow something like 6500 lbs... It had a payload of about 1600-2000 lbs.... so yeah, a 6500 lb trailer would take 650-900 lbs off the payload, but you wouldn't even notice a 3500 lb FG behind it.

A E250 (~3000 lb payload) or E350 (~4000 lb payload) can probably tow 12000+ ... but the classic Econoline has been discontinued, and replaced with their new 'euro' style Transit van with smaller wheels, less ground clearance, and taller interior.

A friend has a E350 based Sportsmobile, with a quigley 4x4 conversion, and big offroad wheels and such, its a very capable adventure-mobile for two.
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