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Old 09-11-2015, 10:38 PM   #1
pgf
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Default Advice on base vehicle for small class B?

Hi --

My wife and I are interesting in getting/building a small class-B RV. We've rolled our own simple vehicles before: first was an 80's Toyota van, whose seats folded flat (and filled the van when they did -- we were more limber then!), and later a '95 Chevy passenger Sportvan with the seats removed and a homemade couch/bed installed, plus milk crates to hold our stuff. Both had home-made curtains everywhere. Guess I'll get to do that part one more time.

We personally find all of the builtins (cupboards, showers) in something like a Roadtrek or similar to be overkill -- for us they just take up valuable sitting/moving space and make us claustrophobic. We don't think we need too much more from an RV now than we've had in the past, but we do need headroom (no more bending at the shoulders and neck), and we still want lots and lots of windows.

I'm hoping some of you can offer advice on a target vehicle. My problem is that, while passenger vans give lots of window area, these days it seems like the notion of actually opening those windows has gone by the wayside. Am I correct that none of the "modern" vans (i.e., Transit, Promaster, Sprinter, Nissan NV) have windows that open? Seems sad.

Is our only option an older Econoline, or Express? Of course we'd have to install a raised fiberglass roof on either of those, which will be its own headache, I'm sure.

One option which is a little bit intriguing is to get a Chevy Express with the "Access" package. That version has big hatches where all the side windows would be, they're all openable by remote (the intent is to give a contractor access to their tools), and they form a nice rain awning while they're open. Of course, that means we wouldn't be able to see out when they're closed because we're driving, or it's cold out.

Any thoughts/advice? Should we just get a cargo van and install some CR Lawrence windows? What's the best we can do in this regard? Aftermarket windows always seem so small. All opinions welcome!

Oh -- one more question: can the front seats in most vans be made to swivel, with an adapter? Or is that going to be another restriction on our choice? We'd really like them to be able to face the living area this time around.

Paul
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Old 09-11-2015, 10:51 PM   #2
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I guess it depends on your budget. You can find used high roof Chevy Express or Ford Econolines. My recommendation would be to take a hard look at a used Promaster as there are a bunch of them available. You can get CRL factory fit windows that vent open. trucknvans.com is the cheapest source for them. Anyone can install the windows. I did two myself with a jigsaw, painters tape and a pencil.
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Old 09-12-2015, 12:23 AM   #3
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You should have a suggested budget?. If you can afford new then Promaster vans would be your best starting point. They can be ordered with swivel front seats but no factory windows open anymore. You cannot beat tge headroom in a hightop Promaster. Even the low top gives you a 5''7" height inside.
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Old 09-12-2015, 12:32 AM   #4
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You should have a suggested budget?. If you can afford new then Promaster vans would be your best starting point. They can be ordered with swivel front seats but no factory windows open anymore. You cannot beat tge headroom in a hightop Promaster. Even the low top gives you a 5''7" height inside.
You currently cannot order a Promaster with factory swivels. Only the largest motorhome manufacturers have been able to order with swivels. Hopefully that will change soon. In the mean time there are 3-4 aftermarket options. I have the Sportscraft and they are great. Simple 30 minute install per swivel.
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Old 09-12-2015, 02:06 AM   #5
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You can get CRL factory fit windows that vent open. trucknvans.com is the cheapest source for them. Anyone can install the windows. I did two myself with a jigsaw, painters tape and a pencil.
thanks for the encouragement! i'm sure i have the skills, and most of the tools, but it's going to take a little more than that to slice into the side of my van. and thanks for the trucknvans name -- hadn't seen them before.

paul
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Old 09-12-2015, 02:17 AM   #6
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You should have a suggested budget?. If you can afford new then Promaster vans would be your best starting point.
the fact is, we could certainly afford new. there's a bit of a psychological boundary, though, because we'd be paying a lot for what is, sort of, a toy. i like toys as much as anyone, but this one's expensive! i think i'd never recoup the difference in price between a new promaster and a used econoline, say, based on mileage. but the increased mileage _would_ put a dent in the difference, so i should keep that in mind.

we did visit a promaster at a dealer, and we did like it. my wife's only 5'1", so we're a bit worried about the seat height, but other than that it was a nice feeling vehicle.

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Originally Posted by jostalli
You currently cannot order a Promaster with factory swivels. Only the largest motorhome manufacturers have been able to order with swivels. Hopefully that will change soon. In the mean time there are 3-4 aftermarket options. I have the Sportscraft and they are great. Simple 30 minute install per swivel.
thanks -- i'd seen older threads here, or elsewhere, saying they weren't yet available. didn't know if that was still true. when you speak of other options, are you referring to full seats, or adapters? and, if adapters, how much did yours add to the seat height? i've read 1.5" for many of them.

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Old 09-12-2015, 03:15 AM   #7
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Aftermarket swivels add 1.5", my wife couldn't touch the floor sitting in the seat so I raised the floor 1.5" with gym foam. The difference in roominess between a promaster and an econoline is vast.
Mojovan Story by mcgiotes | Photobucket
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Old 09-12-2015, 03:20 AM   #8
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I suspect I'm building the RV you want on a 136' HR Promaster. Motion Windows completely fill the available space and have large vents. The two of us can actually walk around in the open space between cab and fixed bed. No upper cabinets but so much storage below that I wonder whether we will ever fill it. Very open feel.
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Old 09-12-2015, 01:35 PM   #9
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Aftermarket swivels add 1.5", my wife couldn't touch the floor sitting in the seat so I raised the floor 1.5" with gym foam. The difference in roominess between a promaster and an econoline is vast.
Mojovan Story by mcgiotes | Photobucket
oh, interesting! i'm not sure i would have tried that. you're referring to this picture?
IMG_8027_zpsxgf88zei.jpg Photo by mcgiotes | Photobucket

is that carpeting the original? i.e., it already had the right amount of overhang? slick.

of course, that only fixes the distance to the floor -- i guess the pedals were okay?

btw, did you keep a blog, or a thread, going during your build? i'd love to see the context for some of your pictures.

thanks,
paul
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Old 09-12-2015, 01:38 PM   #10
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I suspect I'm building the RV you want on a 136' HR Promaster.
excellent! let me know when it's ready! i'll bring takeout.

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Motion Windows completely fill the available space and have large vents. The two of us can actually walk around in the open space between cab and fixed bed. No upper cabinets but so much storage below that I wonder whether we will ever fill it. Very open feel.
that does sound great. do you have pictures?

paul
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Old 09-12-2015, 07:49 PM   #11
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In a couple of weeks, I should have better pics. Drawers went in yesterday. Pull-out table worked so well, I put one in the other bank of drawers, too. It can serve as extra counter.

Here is the layout. Yellow is the bed.



Under the bed before drawers:



Upper wall (before windows):



Driver side windows:

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Old 09-13-2015, 12:55 AM   #12
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The medium or high Transit may be another good option for you. But the swivel seats are difficult to get and then likely only for the passenger seat.
The glued-in dark-tinted factory-installed windows offer great wide views but offers very limited ventilation. That may be an advantage if you pull in cooler air from underneath the vehicle.

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Old 09-13-2015, 01:28 AM   #13
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I had a big long post and realized you just need to buy an old econoline van. Keep us posted.
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Old 09-13-2015, 03:13 PM   #14
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In a couple of weeks, I should have better pics. Drawers went in yesterday. Pull-out table worked so well, I put one in the other bank of drawers, too. It can serve as extra counter.
nice bed design! i like the multiple access directions for storage. and the windows look good. are those CR Lawrence windows?

and where did you get the nifty graph paper layout sheet?

paul
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Old 09-13-2015, 03:16 PM   #15
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The medium or high Transit may be another good option for you. But the swivel seats are difficult to get and then likely only for the passenger seat.
The glued-in dark-tinted factory-installed windows offer great wide views but offers very limited ventilation. That may be an advantage if you pull in cooler air from underneath the vehicle.

Van Williams
thanks for the tip re: the swivels. didn't know they were an issue in the transit.

as for windows, i'm intrigued by the CR Lawrence windows that look like factory glue-ins, but have a tilt-out section in the lower half. anyone used those?

as for pulling in cool air from underneath -- is that safe? i'm thinking of exhaust, i guess. seems like even if you're careful, at some point you'll move the van with the ventilation running, and suck in exhaust.

paul
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Old 09-13-2015, 03:18 PM   #16
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I had a big long post and realized you just need to buy an old econoline van. Keep us posted.
no!!! i need to hear it all! keep it coming! (we may be leaning toward a new promaster. all these conversions look too sweet. )
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Old 09-13-2015, 04:01 PM   #17
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You can find some really cool graph paper at printablepaper.net. Not sure if that exact one is available there though.
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Old 09-13-2015, 06:14 PM   #18
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nice bed design! i like the multiple access directions for storage. and the windows look good. are those CR Lawrence windows?

and where did you get the nifty graph paper layout sheet?

paul
Graph paper layout--I think I got it from Sportsmobile site.

Windows are Motion Windows in Portland, Oregon. Significantly more vent and window area than CRL. We installed them ourselves.

Can't think of anything I'd change so far. It's working great.
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Old 09-13-2015, 06:20 PM   #19
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thanks for the tip re: the swivels. didn't know they were an issue in the transit.

as for windows, i'm intrigued by the CR Lawrence windows that look like factory glue-ins, but have a tilt-out section in the lower half. anyone used those?

as for pulling in cool air from underneath -- is that safe? i'm thinking of exhaust, i guess. seems like even if you're careful, at some point you'll move the van with the ventilation running, and suck in exhaust.

paul
Those windows are standard in the Pleasureway Lexor. So far, I've not seen any complaints posted. They appear to be a high quality product.
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Old 09-13-2015, 07:40 PM   #20
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Ok then hear it is. When buying a pre made camper or building your own you should never expect to recoup your costs. My van is actually a pretty well made and thought out rv and I got it for less than I could build one and we use it a lot.so don't rule out premade.We also have a big Class A for taking the whole family n dogs. I think if you are a Ford guy, you should check out the sportsmobile forum. They are very Fordcentric to a fault. If I was building a used van I would go Chevy/GMC and not because of brand loyalty(current and last 2 vans were Dodge) but because the newer Express type vans are very reliable and comfortable. I drove a Uhaul box van recently and have fallen in love and that was a box van. If you can find a used Chevy passenger van with the popout windows you could add a top and make a pretty good , simple conversion using portapotti, camp stove, cabinets and sink. I have kept my poptop van page active in my profile to give people ideas. Always interested in other ideas so whatever you come up with will be of great interest.
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