my Sprinter van

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Horst
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my Sprinter van

Unread post by Horst » November 1st, 2021, 11:37 am

As Guy has asked my to show my van build, here is a short thread on it.

As a matter of fact the desire for having a motorhome/RV started many many years ago. My first RV was an Hanomag AL28, 4x4 wheel drive truck with around 5.5t max gross weight. Had a 2.8l diesel engine with a roots compressor and air over hydraulic brakes. Unsynchronized gear box. In Germany we have an organization called THW, translates in technical support corps, it is government supported but run entirely by volunteers, they come into play when help in case of national desasters is required. As such their trucks don't see much use and I got it with a little more than 10k miles on the clock. I converted it into a RV but unfortunately could not hold to it very long as I could not finance the registration fee (which was based on weight).
IMG_8312.jpg
(next to it my DKW Munga which I had for 10+ years as my daily driver)

After the Hanomag had to go, I went for something lighter, the Unimog 404.1 had about 4.4t MGW. It has a 6 cylinder gas engine with unbelievable high fuel consumption. It had a fully syncronized transmission with 6 gears forward and 2 gears reverse, both differentials could be 100% locked, no need to stop to engage four wheel drive or engage the lockers. I had a lot of fun with it, but it was not very practical, as the radio shelter is pretty low.
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Fast forward 30 years and I got a Ford E350 skoolie as my 3rd RV. It acts as my vacation home in CA, I build it in a few months with a lot of short cuts. It moves under it's own power (400ci V8 gas engine) but it does not really drive (and does not have to).
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Last edited by Horst on November 1st, 2021, 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Horst

1972 USMC M151A2 w/ROPS (ex Barstow) and M416
1962 M201 and trailer
1966 GTO,1982 E350 Skoolie, 1987 SJ413, 1987 911
Gone: 2xM35A2c, Unimog 404S, Hanomag AL28, DKW Munga

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Horst
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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by Horst » November 1st, 2021, 1:01 pm

in 2018 I decided that I want another camper van, this time however I did not want to deal with any issues on the van itself, so I got myself a 12 month old 144in wheel base Mercedes Sprinter with the 163 horse power diesel engine. It was off a rental fleet but had only less than 10k miles on the odometer.

First thing I did was cutting the van and installing a window (and I did not follow the "measure twice - cut once" rule ...)
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Time went by and I did not really do anything on the Sprinter but used it as my daily driver. Empty it has excellent MPG, a working AC and a few other comfort items, more comfortable than any other car I own.

But there was light to moderate pressure from my GF to show some progress, so the last year I started working on converting it but again it was pretty much a driving work-in-progress. So by end of last year, not too much had happened, insulation was in, all the wiring, ceiling but it did not look like an RV yet. I got myself a few battery operated tools like the bench saw and build all the cabinets somewhere somehow but not in a real work shop.
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I tried to stay light weight. When you look at all those Instagram builds, you wonder how they manage to stay below 3.5t (and probably a lot don't) and how they sleep side-to-side with a bed length of only 70 inches without panels or insulation. Sure looks good on Insta but don't think is very practical. This is my kitchen before and after
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I have a 20 gallon fresh water tank and a 1.5 gallon electrical hot water heater which runs of either 220V shore power or 12V from the battery. Batteries are 2 180Ah AGM batteries.
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Water and batteries last for 3 days off-grid. Of course I have solar panels on the roof, but this time of the year having a low angle of incidence of the sun, the panels are pretty much not producing power. We did not use shore power at all, partly because simply there was none and partly because I did not bring the right cable (a very specific CEE connector is used at sites)
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Last edited by Horst on November 1st, 2021, 1:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Horst

1972 USMC M151A2 w/ROPS (ex Barstow) and M416
1962 M201 and trailer
1966 GTO,1982 E350 Skoolie, 1987 SJ413, 1987 911
Gone: 2xM35A2c, Unimog 404S, Hanomag AL28, DKW Munga

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Horst
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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by Horst » November 1st, 2021, 1:14 pm

The heart of the electrical system is a triple charger. It charges either from shore power, the solar panels or from the alternator when driving. Does all this automatically and even keeps the van starter battery trickle charged when the van is not in use.
Second box is a 1500W DC-AC converter for the 220V outlets, it also automatically switches to shore power when the van is connected. 1500W is plenty for everything but just enough for the coffee machine (Nespresso).
21-10-03 - 6.JPG
Here comes however the most important item for this time of the year, the wood stove. We just returned from one week in Northern Germany and one week in Italy. Temperatures where slightly below freezing at night but the stove made it quite comfortable, even for the dog ;)
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As said, I could not follow the usual Instagram example with side-to-side sleeping and as such a lot of space available. Instead I have build a dinette which converts into a big enough bed for 2. As predicted by my GF, it was in the bed configuration the whole time, but I think it is still nice to have the option.
21-10-31.jpg
Given the space, there is no bathroom. I have installed an outside shower (which we of course did not use yet) and a small composting toilet. We found a few nice places to stay, like at the end of this parking lot of a golf club. We were on our own but could use the bathroom and showers of the golf club, pretty nice. We found a few other good places like this, our concept it to avoid any standard RV park. Not like in the US, over here you have only a few feet to your neighbor, why would someone want that is a mystery to us ;)
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Horst

1972 USMC M151A2 w/ROPS (ex Barstow) and M416
1962 M201 and trailer
1966 GTO,1982 E350 Skoolie, 1987 SJ413, 1987 911
Gone: 2xM35A2c, Unimog 404S, Hanomag AL28, DKW Munga

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Horst
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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by Horst » November 1st, 2021, 1:38 pm

Our eBikes are carried on a rack attached to the trailer hitch, so we don't have to use the van for every little trip we want to take.
21-10-23 - 11.JPG
So I hope I did not bore the audience too much, after the first trip a few small items need to be added, mainly a little storage here and a little cupboard there, in general the van did perform reasonably well.

Like mentioned in the other thread, the 151 needs a little bit of attention, the water pump is leaking (again), I am assuming those aftermarket pumps are just crap and don't handle a sitting truck very well.
21-10-31 - 8.jpg
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Horst

1972 USMC M151A2 w/ROPS (ex Barstow) and M416
1962 M201 and trailer
1966 GTO,1982 E350 Skoolie, 1987 SJ413, 1987 911
Gone: 2xM35A2c, Unimog 404S, Hanomag AL28, DKW Munga

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m3a1
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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by m3a1 » November 2nd, 2021, 12:51 am

Wow, you are certainly dedicated to the cause! Very professional work you've done there.

The 'living-in-your-ride' idea always seemed like a good one to me, until I saw all the long, protracted efforts made to convert a truck or van into a Swiss Army Knife for living away from home; all of which always seem to end up being a longs series of compromises in space vs. utility; decisions that I would have a hard time making.

BTW - Some time ago I did see a piece on youtube about those small wood stoves and, OH BOY, they are really well thought out!

The most convenient application still seems (to me, anyway) to be a slide-in camper which allows for the option of switching between having a truck, or a camper (I have problems with commitment) and packed with the usual amenities...but, if you're willing to go over the cab and a bit beyond the rear bumper....well!....one can live pretty 'high on the hog'.

So what have I done about it? Well, at one point I had the big slide in which was palatial (and not that awful thing that was on the GTB) and I had a cap top for my pickup which did yeoman service as a sleeper when equipped with a pseudo mattress (this is before space-age foams were a thing) and equipped with a small electric heater. Everything else was meant to be taken out of the truck to be used...and it actually worked exceptionally well, especially for desert use which is about as far from KOA Campground living as one can get..

Admittedly, in colder climates, maybe the cap top arrangement isn't all that..

Now, the little adventure trailers are all the rage but I see little difference between those and my truck with the cap top, aside from being able to establish a base camp and leave the trailer behind.

Anyway, nice work! Hope you're throughly enjoying it!

Cheers,
TJ

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rickf
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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by rickf » November 2nd, 2021, 7:56 am

Horst, That is great. I recently saw a video where a US couple rented a camper van in Germany and it was a Sprinter that had been converted. It had all kinds of neat drawers that slid out with all the necessities. I will try to find the video. The vans are starting to catch on here now, there is one featured in Four Wheeler magazine that had been converted to 4 wheel drive and a camper. Interesting to see your original large truck was a gas engine, I was always under the impression that just about all of the German and most of the European trucks, were all diesels going back almost to WWII.
1964 M151A1
1984 M1008
1967 M416
04/1952 M100
12/1952 M100- Departed
AN/TSQ-114A Trailblazer- Gone

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Horst
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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by Horst » November 2nd, 2021, 2:52 pm

The Hanomag had a diesel engine, the Unimog had the gas engine. As a matter of fact, in the 50s, when the German Army procured trucks, they were still influenced by the problems they had in WWII. Diesels had to be Multifuels, like the MAN water cooled and the KHD air cooled diesels. Engines shall be started at extremely low temperatures. The Unimog has a provision under the radiator where a gas heater could be installed to warm up the engine. It was actually the swing fire heater normally used to heat the radio shelter. Furthermore the battery box could be heated by the exhaust gases. All cabs had to have a soft top and fold down windshields. Apparently in the generation ordered in the 70s, all that nonsense went away.
The Hanomag was a civilian truck and as such did not have the military requirements but interesting enough, it had full blackout driving lights and as you can see a roof hatch. Apparently the plan was, in case of national requirements, be able to easily convert it into military use.

The sprinter is available with all wheel drive but the supply is very low and as such the prices are super high. Most white vans were used commercially and almost 100% of the low-milage / newer years vans are from rental companies.
Horst

1972 USMC M151A2 w/ROPS (ex Barstow) and M416
1962 M201 and trailer
1966 GTO,1982 E350 Skoolie, 1987 SJ413, 1987 911
Gone: 2xM35A2c, Unimog 404S, Hanomag AL28, DKW Munga

csmith
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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by csmith » November 2nd, 2021, 5:39 pm

GREAT STORY HORST, LOVE THE CONCEPT AND ACTUALLY LOOK AT A LOT OF INSTA AND PINTREST SHOWING CONVERSIONS. SOME REALLY COOL OUTDOOR STUFF BEING MADE TODAY. THANKS FOR SHARING!
1976 M151A2 4 Color Cammo Mutt, aquired August 09
1976 or 7? M151A2 "Miss Sandy" Driver, aquired May 2010
Former owner M151A2 "Miss Saigon" Vietnam Rescue Sold Sept 09
Fond appreciation for the M151 Breed!!

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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by lpcoating » November 2nd, 2021, 7:01 pm

Thank you for the write up Horst! I'd say you did an excellent job. In the early MV show days I'd take a carpet, cot, sleeping bag and electric heater and sleep in the back of the CMD sprinter vans. Was cozy!

Guy
M151 Body Panels - http://www.m151bodypanels.com/

'68 A1 - Under full resto

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rickf
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Re: my Sprinter van

Unread post by rickf » November 2nd, 2021, 7:23 pm

Horst, Found the video and I was way off! It is not a Sprinter and it is electric. Oop's. BUT, check out some of the layout, you may get some ideas and since it is in your area you might be able to look one up in person.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7ACOIimvrE
1964 M151A1
1984 M1008
1967 M416
04/1952 M100
12/1952 M100- Departed
AN/TSQ-114A Trailblazer- Gone

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