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Old 04-29-2012, 09:52 PM
 
Location: SoCal
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We currently have a 1987 Vanagon Westfalia. It's irreplaceable ... but it's a 1987. And the older we get, the less we appreciate the "adventurous breakdowns".

So we're looking at potential future campers. I may find myself "de facto retired" (laid off) in July. In that case, we'd probably go for an RV and do some serious traveling. But in case things turn out rosier, we're considering this van/conversion from GTRV: Models Specifically, we're considering the Ford van with the Westy conversion.

Has anyone had any experience with these vans? (One thing I'm noticing right away is that the V-top seems to attached directly to the van at the 'foot' end. We're both tall people, so this leaves us with no room for our feet.)
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Old 04-30-2012, 02:42 AM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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see if you can find a used Sprinter with Gulfstream Conversion with fiberglass popouts in Rear Windows (sleeping crossways in rear, higher on a platform with LOTS of storage underneath. I have seen some of these for $40k, as they listed for $65k, but were sold for $55-$58k. Sprinter is pretty tight, but far more roomy that a Westy Vanagon, they drive superb. (Eurovan Westy might be a better option for you depending on budget,). You could also detail the '87 (and transplant in a 1.8GTI engine) That really helps the reliability and power. Those 'war-stories' of VW van camping are memories to be treasured (and shared with other families who are 'adventurous' with breakdowns)

Having used my Mom's Roadtrek a few times, and now having a Rialta... Going back to Westy Air Cooled would be a stretch. I have a friend that makes Synchro westy TDI's, but still tough for me to take the small cargo space. + I LUV my outdoor shower.

BTW: I was unexpectedly 'downsized' 7 yrs ago, pre age 50. It has made for some nice travel experiences. As well as some cool 'working' ventures (Like a traveling harvest crew).
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Old 04-30-2012, 04:53 AM
 
10,868 posts, read 41,128,193 times
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Difficult to focus on specific models of conversion vans without knowing your price range ....

I've been traveling for business in a 1993 Dodge 350 Roadtrek 190 Versatile, and have been highly satisfied as to fuel economy, comfort, road handling, space and features. At over 100,000 miles, the interior looks almost brand new and I've had only a couple of minor issues with the unit upon delivery, including a burned out isolation unit ($120 for a 200 amp replacement) and a broken kitchen sink faucet ($24 replacement). Both took only a matter of minutes to replace, so not too daunting. Fuel mileage with the 5.2 magnum engine (the multi-port FI roller cam) has ranged from a high of 18 mpg down to 14.5 mpg when driving into some strong Wyoming winds. Performance is a little on the shy side of what I'd like to maintain in the 60-65 mph range; the unit does require shifting out of the OD range on every grade. We've got a lot of hills around here, and most of my driving is at 6,000' elevation and higher.

When I head East to lower elevations, the performance is much stronger and I don't have to downshift as frequently. I've not been a big fan of Chrysler products in the past, but I'll have to admit that this unit has not been a disappointment in the slightest. Braking and handling have been very good, and it's been a very good performer in the winter driving that I did this year; one does need to adjust road speed to a more prudent slower speed but I was impressed that the van tracked steady and I never got stuck despite only RWD on some of my camping detours.

As I travel solo with a small dog, the Versatile model is not my perferred floorplan for maximum interior utility; I'd have preferred the Roadtrek "Popular" model which is targeted for 2-3 people. But the van I found was affordably priced and the dealer took one of my M-B turbodiesels in on trade which helped make the deal. With a good detailing by the dealer and a nose repaint, the van is straight and looks almost showroom new ... important for that client image when I pull up to my sales locations. Unless you know it's a 1993 by the body style, people think it's a much newer van.

In my research for a sales van, I found that the Roadtrek and Coachmen Class B conversions appeared to have the floorplans and quality of conversion work that stands out in the marketplace for price/value. There are a number of other companies that were in this market sector, but their floor plans didn't appeal to my needs or the price points were well up into the $20,000 (and up!) range for similar vintage models ... far over what I could justify for my needs.

I did see a number of mid 1990's Roadtreks priced lower than what I bought, with far fewer miles on the clock. The drawback to them was that they'd been optioned as towing vehicles, so had either Ford 460's or Chevy 454's for power. My concern for anemic hill pulling power of my 318 would be gone, but these rigs can't pass a gas station ... 9-12 mpg at 65 mph just wasn't going to work for my 400-800 mile weeks. If you don't need to pull a trailer, then avoid the large engined or the V-10 powered vans.

A newer van with SRS, ABS, and OBD2 engine management would be a better, more efficient unit than what I'm driving now. Currently, I'm finding beautiful units from around 2000 in the marketplace, but the pricing is steady in the mid $20,000 range ... far in excess of what I can justify for my business travels at this point.

Of course, if you have the budget, the Sprinter units with diesel power make sense. Friends driving these are seeing 22-24 mpg and the interior volume/utility is impressive. But way too big a unit for my requirements, so not under consideration ... especially at price points well over $50,000 for used units.

Friends driving Westy's don't appear to get any better fuel economy than what I get with the Dodge van, and their performance down the road doesn't come close to what I get from the Dodge. From time to time, I do pull a two-horse bumper pull trailer with it, and it's got the structure, brakes, power, and towing ability to meet my requirements which could not be met with a Westy.

From what I've seen in the marketplace, there's a huge number of Class C conversions around for much less money than the Class B's. If you can justify the lower fuel economy, you can get a lot more RV for less money. The trade-off, of course, is a significantly larger unit which isn't as convenient to park in a lot of places ... important to me because I'm calling on clients and can park in regular parking lots or street parking with ease; a Class C simply wouldn't work for my needs and would be very excessive in terms of space and operating expenses. But if you're planning on traveling and living out of the RV, a Class C may be worthwhile for your consideration, especially at the low price points. I've seen some very nice units well under the $10,000 mark, some even much lower than that from folk who simply cannot make the payments or afford to operate their RV anymore.
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Old 04-30-2012, 11:15 AM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
20,773 posts, read 37,441,293 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Difficult to focus on specific models of conversion vans without knowing your price range ....

...
From what I've seen in the marketplace, there's a huge number of Class C conversions around for much less money than the Class B's. ... a significantly larger unit which isn't as convenient to park in a lot of places ... ....But if you're planning on traveling and living out of the RV, a Class C may be worthwhile for your consideration, especially at the low price points.
Good points, the Class C is much more comfortable and available at lower price (Even Used Sprinters).

BUT.... if you are a true Class B fan, you may experience dissatisfaction with Class C travel / lack of ability to 'Stealth-camp' just about anywhere you take a notion. The C is much better if fulltiming. I meet many couples working / volunteering in National and State Parks who have sold their homes and are traveling in a sub $10k class C and loving it. You cannot live in a Class B (as a couple), as you can a Class C.

I travel extensively using private guest homes ($10/night). That works well with a 22 mpg Class B, or a 52 mpg VW. (Tho my Rialta is actually a true Class C that fits into a Class B parking spot). The Rialta has significant limitations for driving off road or in the snow, a Roadtrek or similar would be a better choice for avid 'remote / back-road / mountain states' campers.
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Old 04-30-2012, 11:51 AM
Status: "I cannot wait for the heat to break..." (set 3 days ago)
 
Location: Where the sun likes to shine!!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StealthRabbit View Post
Good points, the Class C is much more comfortable and available at lower price (Even Used Sprinters).


I travel extensively using private guest homes ($10/night). That works well with a 22 mpg Class B, or a 52 mpg VW. (Tho my Rialta is actually a true Class C that fits into a Class B parking spot). The Rialta has significant limitations for driving off road or in the snow, a Roadtrek or similar would be a better choice for avid 'remote / back-road / mountain states' campers.


I love our Class B because of the versatility and the back door space.

How do you find your guest homes? Is there a site you use?

Thanks.



To the OP....

Have you looked and been inside of any of the class B vans without the screens and pop ups?
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Old 05-01-2012, 06:04 PM
 
Location: SoCal
5,915 posts, read 9,051,071 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by younglisa7 View Post
I love our Class B because of the versatility and the back door space.

How do you find your guest homes? Is there a site you use?

Thanks.



To the OP....

Have you looked and been inside of any of the class B vans without the screens and pop ups?
(I have to keep looking up what all the various classes mean, because I keep forgetting! )

I don't much like the looks of them, from the outside. I prefer having a popup. And I'd guess that wind is even more of an issue with a high-top.

We've looked at several van-sized campers, and what I'm noticing is that they all look like miniature RVs inside. We much prefer the "metal tent" look of our Westy. We have less storage area, but more windows.

We were considering a teardrop trailer or a pop-up trailer, but the problem with that is that we have absolutely no where to park such a thing when we're not actually using it. The Westy doubles as DH's daily driving vehicle.

We're actually looking for a later model Eurovan Westy (or comparable). But we're also looking around to see what else might fit our needs and wants.

We don't really like the way RVs look inside. They're far too over-decorated for our tastes. And what's with that tiny door??? How can you commune with nature through a 2.5-foot-wide slit? So when we do go to an RV, we'll likely end up with a toy-hauler. Those open. at least in the back, and they tend to be under-decorated so that they can be easily hosed out.
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Old 05-01-2012, 06:10 PM
 
Location: SoCal
5,915 posts, read 9,051,071 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StealthRabbit View Post
see if you can find a used Sprinter with Gulfstream Conversion with fiberglass popouts in Rear Windows (sleeping crossways in rear, higher on a platform with LOTS of storage underneath. I have seen some of these for $40k, as they listed for $65k, but were sold for $55-$58k. Sprinter is pretty tight, but far more roomy that a Westy Vanagon, they drive superb. (Eurovan Westy might be a better option for you depending on budget,). You could also detail the '87 (and transplant in a 1.8GTI engine) That really helps the reliability and power. Those 'war-stories' of VW van camping are memories to be treasured (and shared with other families who are 'adventurous' with breakdowns)

Having used my Mom's Roadtrek a few times, and now having a Rialta... Going back to Westy Air Cooled would be a stretch. I have a friend that makes Synchro westy TDI's, but still tough for me to take the small cargo space. + I LUV my outdoor shower.

BTW: I was unexpectedly 'downsized' 7 yrs ago, pre age 50. It has made for some nice travel experiences. As well as some cool 'working' ventures (Like a traveling harvest crew).
Thanks, we'll check out some of these vans.

Our Westy has a relatively young engine, having got an OEM replacement when we bought it. It's all sorts of other stuff that keep breaking on us!

I'm hoping to find us some work-camping jobs. DH doesn't quite understand what these are - he keeps thinking I'm talking about volunteer hosting at the county and state campgrounds. I think I'm just gonna' have to show him the websites.
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Old 05-01-2012, 06:14 PM
 
Location: SoCal
5,915 posts, read 9,051,071 times
Reputation: 5416
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Difficult to focus on specific models of conversion vans without knowing your price range ....

I've been traveling for business in a 1993 Dodge 350 Roadtrek 190 Versatile, and have been highly satisfied as to fuel economy, comfort, road handling, space and features. ...

In my research for a sales van, I found that the Roadtrek and Coachmen Class B conversions appeared to have the floorplans and quality of conversion work that stands out in the marketplace for price/value. ...

Of course, if you have the budget, the Sprinter units with diesel power make sense. ...

From what I've seen in the marketplace, there's a huge number of Class C conversions around for much less money than the Class B's. ....
Thanks for the suggestions. We'll check them out. We actually could afford a Sprinter, but it's really spendy ...

We currently get 15-18 mpg in our '87 Westy, depending on where we're driving.
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:53 AM
 
10,868 posts, read 41,128,193 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oddstray View Post
Thanks for the suggestions. We'll check them out. We actually could afford a Sprinter, but it's really spendy ...

We currently get 15-18 mpg in our '87 Westy, depending on where we're driving.
You've confirmed what my friends with Westy's are getting for fuel economy ... essentialy, comparable to my Dodge Roadtrek.

At the same time, there's no way the Westy's can keep up with the Dodge on the road, nor pull a horse trailer when needed, or have the braking/handling/inclement road conditions ability. On a cost per mile basis, there's no advantage to the Westy's, especially with them having pretty strong price points due to their collectability.

Consider another major difference: the equipment that comes in a Roadtrek compared to a Westy. I've got 25 gallons of potable water tankage, grey and black water storage, a sizable refrigerator/freezer, a flush toilet, shower arrangements, furnace, and substantial propane and house battery capacity for camping. Additionally, a 2800 watt generator built in and a reasonably sized air conditioner. My travels in a Westy years ago were marked by the rather sparse amount of amenities that it provided; for the most part, it was a shelter with minimal cooking/cleaning/creature comforts to be had. With the top down for the regular profile, the Westy still got blown around on the roads in nominal crosswinds that don't even bother the Roadtrek.

One of the big reasons I ruled out a soft-sided "pop-up" rig is the winter months traveling I do. A hard side rig has insulation and a much better integrity in adverse weather conditons and cold temperatures.

Unlike many Class B's with a front over-the-cab bunk area, the Roadtrek doesn't have the big bulge up front, but is much more streamlined. The turtle top to it hasn't been an issue for me, and I drive in a lot of cross- and head-winds and gusty winds here in the Rocky Mountain states, especially Wyoming's open spaces.

But if you've looked at the floor plans and the Westy's are the only ones that appeal to you ... then find a newer one that meets your approval and use that.
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:21 AM
 
Location: SoCal
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Well, we have checked out all the suggestions here. The van conversions we see nowadays may actually have more room than the Westy, but they all feel very claustrophobic due to cabinets at head level and fewer windows.

So we've decided to go straight for the trailer. We didn't want a pickup or a behemoth tow vehicle, which left a choice of Nissan Xterra or Jeep Liberty. Liberty is discontinued, so we bought a Nissan Xterra.

Next problem is ... we live in a condo with no place to store the trailer. So we've rented trailers a couple of weekends. But until I retire, we've reverted back to tent camping!
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