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Old 02-13-2015, 02:55 AM   #1
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Default Finally, a Transit upfit (back on track as of 22 apr 2015)

After this instance of the renaissance faire, I have decided to bite the bullet and start looking into having a Transit upfitted by Sportsmobile. This van is definitely not an Alvar by any means. It is intended to be able to survive renaissance faires, as well as be used as a touring/camping vehicle (on hookups.) It also is going to be provisioned with some computer stuff that is intended to be functional, but out of sight. This way, I can back up my laptop's hard drives without having to carry a ton of external stuff.

Starting with the chassis, the reason I am going with a gasser Ford Transit is that it is the best balance for what I'm doing. For starters, I am going with the 10360 GVWR model (high roof, extended length), a 3.73 limited slip axle, and the 3.5L EB engine. It can tow about 6500 pounds, and comes with one heavy duty alternator, two chassis batteries, and a low-wattage inverter. This configuration is rough, and it will be tuned. It was a hard decision to go with a gasser engine versus a diesel, mainly because a diesel can be upfitted to be a one fuel vehicle without a complicated electrical power distribution system. However, since this is my first "B", I'm going for relative simplicity and function over form. The EB will provide the diesel's advantage of being able to go into higher altitudes with reduced power loss... but when in Austin, I can use any of the fuel aisles, and not wait for the college student in the compact car to go finish his/her lunch for access to a diesel pump.

With Sportsmobile, I am researching, but the 110S floorplan seems to be the best for my needs. I can occasionally take a relative and have separate beds (because of this, it severely limits floorplan choices). It would be nice if one of the beds can fold up to allow placement of a table and chair for computer work. I also wonder if SMB could add a fold-out table similar to the one on the Airstream Grand Tour -- good enough for a laptop. At the renaissance faire, the bed not used would wind up a place to drop costumes and other props.

As for appliances, I have definitely mentioned this before, but I'm looking at going with the usual 2800 watt Onan, but for most things, European RV stuff. The Truma Combi 6 with 120 volts, Seitz windows for the sides and van windows. A marine grade skylight. Because the van is taller than normal "B"s, I'm looking at going with a Danhard A/C unit to save on height, and to help add a little stealth, although the Euro RV twin-pane windows sacrifice stealth for insulation. For the electrical system, I am looking at a Magnum Energy hybrid inverter, which would guarentee 120 volts to internal appliances even if there is a voltage sag. This coupled with a generator controller would allow me to have the generator automatically fire up if the batteries get low.

Insulation is something I'm still researching. Because of the cube-square law, vans are inherently hard to keep heated/cooled, so doing this right is important. Insulation versus sound is critical as well, especially around the generator.

If progress on this seems like an interesting topic, let me know... I'll post followups as time goes on if there is interest. Right now, Transit vans are in short supply (14-16 week lead time), so this isn't something that will be done anytime soon. Plus, SMB has a number of weeks for upfit time as well. Definitely more to come.
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Old 02-13-2015, 03:58 AM   #2
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

Keep it coming....
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Old 02-13-2015, 04:10 AM   #3
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

FWIW, the insulation and sound dampening Advanced RV put in has been great. They used Hushmat on floor, walls and ceiling including the cab area. They installed full thickness probably 2" in most instances of the blue denim insulation and they sealed the walls with a heavy poly vapor barrier. It is working great as we have boondocked next to semis running their engines and it hasn't bothered us. I suspect the blue denim insulation is a better sound dampener than fiberglass of about equal R value. We also camped in 5 degree weather comfortably. We have a lot of windows but that doesn't seem to be a problem.

Advanced RV has also put in a double lined pleated curtain system that really works to block out light. Sleeping anywhere even directly under street and parking lamps has not been a problem.

I would recommend you research what they are doing and adopt it. No other B converter has it figured out that I know of. If you had ever boondocked in a Walmart parking lot you would understand this.
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Old 02-13-2015, 07:06 AM   #4
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

Mlts22. You have some kind of patience. I've been reading your posts on various forums and amazed at your self control. I wish you much luck with your choice. I know you have put a lot into the decision. I know you'll keep us posted and will look forward to progress reports. Congratulations.
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Old 02-13-2015, 12:05 PM   #5
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

Congrats on your decision. Sounds like you are sorting out the issues effectively and are determined to get it right. You have a lot of decisions to make. Even the relatively small customizations I specified for our GWV Legend fully consumed me for some time. The relatively clean slate the Sportsmobile offers you would nearly overwhelm me. Huge amount of fun, though!

One comment on insulation. Although ARVs practice in this area is probably the best in the business, they are wrong in one important respect: It is a big mistake to install a vapor barrier in a b-van. The first rule of insulation is "only one vapor barrier." Since the metal shell of the van provides a near-perfect barrier to water in all its forms, adding a second one does no good and creates a volume where moisture can become trapped--reducing the effectiveness of insulation and potentially promoting rust long term. Insulation WILL get damp (because no barrier is perfect), and it needs to be able to dry out--the faster the better. A double vapor barrier severely impedes this process. This is something that many RV DIYers get consistently wrong.

This has been discussed at length around here somewhere in the past. So I can save Davydd the trouble of responding: He vehemently disagrees with this. But this is so fundamental and the logic of the situation is so clear that I fear that his otherwise well-justified trust in ARV is in this case misplaced. Nobody's perfect, not even Mike N. I don't intend to get sucked back into this debate, but since it came up here I wanted to get this in the record

At any rate, enjoy your built!
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Old 02-13-2015, 01:45 PM   #6
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

I considered sportsmobile and the underfloor a/c but decided against it because sportsmobile could not tell me how to get the Danhard serviced in massachusetts. what irritated me is that they had no clue and stock answer was we don't know.

having said that since you live next to sportsmobile Texas you should have no issues-good luck.
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Old 02-13-2015, 03:59 PM   #7
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

There are some insulation candidates I'm looking at which work well, even in water. Thermablok is one, as it is an aerogel, and has an excellent R-value. Same with Thinsulate, which also insulates even when wet. Of course, "Styrofoam", closed cell foam is decent, but not really the best for curved walls of a van. I want to avoid fiberglass and cellulose insulation at all costs because it doesn't just lose functionality if wet... but becomes nesting material for critters.

Hushmat/Dynamat/Fatmat are also must-haves, especially in areas like the cab of the van and around the wheel wells. One area where I have done research is where the generator gets mounted. There are rubber shock mounts that can be used, not just for mounting the genset, but the hoses and pipes, so vibrations from those are isolated. This also requires heavy duty acoustic insulation on the top as well. For the walls, I'm going to let SMB be the judge on that one, since they they do a lot of work on expedition vehicles. However, if they spec fiberglass or cellulose, I'm going to put the kibosh on that and go with the denim as above.

There is also external insulation. I need to do research, but I wonder about having the wheel wells and chassis underside parts sprayed with Line-X before the van gets upfitted. The reason for this is that it provides a radiation barrier layer, as well as a physical anti-chip/anti-spall layer.

I am lucky I live about four miles away from the SMB factory, and about five from a Ford dealer. However, serviceability is something that is a concern, and something I looked into. If I went with an Onan or Powertech generator, I know a shop that actually knows what they are doing.

The one reason why I am avoiding multiplexed wiring like the plague, and looking at wire conduit if possible, is the ability to replace some appliance with a different make or model. Part of my philosophy is so that 10-15 years after I have the van, all appliances and subsystems (plumbing, electrical, etc.) are still operable.

There are a number of different Danhard units. I have a noisy A/C unit on my current rig, so I'm hoping they have a model that can be acoustically isolated somehow, as well as completely pulled out if servicing is needed. Part of the reason I'm looking into a hybrid inverter is to prolong the life of the A/C compressor unit, which to me, is the hardest thing to replace, appliance-wise. I will assume because Texas requires an A/C, SMB Austin will have expertise in handling service on the units.

The reason I've bided my time until now is just because I've not had much vacation time, so blowing cash on a rig that wouldn't be used would be a waste of money. I would have bought one in 2013... but had a former employer of over 15 years ago cause me a major ID theft issue.

Curtains are handled, for better or worse, by the Seitz windows, as they are an integral part of the window. This is both good and bad. Because they are double-paned, this provides better noise dampening than most windows, but because they are plastic, a delicate touch is needed or else they break, and this will only be worse with the Texas sun and UV light degrading the window. However, worst case, if the window is a standard size, it can be tossed and replaced. The advantages of twin panes, ability to open in the rain, and open 100% fully offset the need to not use a ham fist on them. They destroy the stealth aspect as well, but because Transits are so relatively rare, I don't think it is a big deal.

For the skylight, I'm looking at a Fiamma model, one which also provides LED illumination. If it doesn't interfere with the solar panels, maybe two of these would be nice.

I also am looking for someone who can make a fiberglass "insert" for the starboard sliding door. If I can get a standard RV door on the side of the rig, it would be quite nice, but this may be pie in the sky for now. Replacing the sliding door will result in more usable room, and could allow for a fold-out desk/table for the passenger seat.

Another appliance I plan to use to save space is a Dometic/SMEV flush-mounted stove/sink combo. Like the MO8323 model. It is small, but large enough to be useful for basic cooking on LP gas.

Now, here is where crazy comes to town: I have been looking at various refrigerator models. I don't think the van will be able to have a large battery bank (at best two AGM jars for the house batteries, and two for the chassis), so I'm probably going to go with the same refrigerator model that is in the Winnebago ERA 70A or the current floorplan Travato. It won't be perfect, but decent. I'd love to go with a Nova-Kool fridge, as well as a top-opening fridge from Isotherm for drinks... but that isn't really doable without a heavy battery setup, which I doubt can be done.
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Old 02-13-2015, 04:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

I would look again at the NovaKool fridges. We are in love with ours and we do not have any more battery capacity than you are planning. Look at the amps rating and do the math. They are extremely efficient. If you have decent solar, or if you drive around with any regularity, you will be fine.
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Old 02-13-2015, 04:28 PM   #9
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

It sounds like you have it very well thought out. The Thermablock sounds really interesting. They only listed it as putting on studs to thermal break, so it much be pretty spendy. Will it be affordable for the entire van? I agree totally with you and Avanti on the wet insulation issues that can happen in a van. IMO, if you see moisture on the windows, you will be getting it in the walls also, so best to be waterproof and not water retaining.

I haven't used Line-x, but have used Rhino lining (because I can get a can of it at the parts store) to cover areas of our Roadtrek. I used it on the exposed wheel wells in the storage area under the bed, under the plastic entrance steps where it was starting to corrode a little, in the wheelwells. I has held up very well in those areas, but I don't know if I would do the entire bottom of the vehicle. It would make mounting anything difficult and have to be removed, and if it ever did come loose, it would trap water badly, which is what happened a lot with the old non flexible undercoatings. We saw it a lot here in Minnesota. It would certainly quite the van down a bunch though, we noticed it immediately when I did the wheel wells.

It will be very interesting to see what you come up with on the generator noise and vibration. There are lots of industrial vibration support and damping products out there, which might work much better than what Onan uses.

I think the Ecoboost will turn out to be best B engine around, for all the reasons you listed. It is far and away the most powerful and altitude happy. I think the only thing we don't know yet is if they will be able to use all the power in a van body without overheating issues (think Chevy, they limit the rpm on the current 6.0 to keep it from making all the horsepower it could for that reason).
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Old 02-13-2015, 04:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: Finally, a Transit upfit (research stages atm)

I'm not going to get in a debate about vapor barriers but just to say I had a 45 year career dealing with them in buildings and want remind everyone an RV is a moving vehicle in every climate and not a building and everything you can find about vapor barriers are in references to specific climates and building codes. I have personally investigated moisture problems in every climate of the United States. I have confidence in what I said and what ARV is doing is the best solution to cover every climate condition. My comments don't come from a book. If you need a longer explanation I can give it to you.
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