The How and Why
Building an "Adventure Van" was something I've been rolling around in my head for quite sometime now. The idea of a van that could sleep say 3 people comfortably, get killer gas mileage, and accommodate everything from the 2-3 day trips as sort-of a base camp to the week long family road trips was becoming very appealing as time went on. We have a motorhome, and to be completely honest... I hate it. It's miserable to drive, requires constant maintenance, and sucks fuel like there's no tomorrow. I can't bomb it down a gravel road to a trailhead because they're all made out of wood interior shells, and they basically rattle themselves apart. It serves it's purpose as a family "KOA queen", and that's about all I really like it for much anymore.
So yeah, I wanted something short so it was easy to drive around town and turn around at a trailhead, but also spacious enough for 2-3 people to be able to comfortably "hangout" in the inside if needed. It doesn't take long using Googlefoo to run into phrases like "van life" and "adventure van". The things that people have done to these vans is amazing! Some are waaaaay fancier than my taste, and some were a little more slapped together than is my style too. So I'll give a quick two cents from an auto technicians point of view, and then not bring it up again. NONE of the vans available in a factory high-roof configuration (Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, Nissan NV2500, Ford Transit, Dodge Promaster, etc.) would fall under my category of "good" vehicles. They all have their flaws, and none of them gave me a super warm and fuzzy feeling when it came to choosing. Mercedes has that emblem that automatically doubles parts prices. I really liked the idea of the fuel economy and power from the diesel, but DEF fluid is such a pain to deal with and can lead to very costly repairs. The Nissan sucks fuel in V8 configuration (10-12mpg), and to be completely vein looks so absolutely absurd I could never spend money on it. The Transit has had a horrid reputation for transmission problems. The Promaster is... well... a Chrysler product, and staying consistent with it's reputation is not overly reliable. That, and that it's front wheel drive made me a bit nervous. So, after much debate and taking into consideration employee discount, mpg, reliability, features, and overall build quality I chose the 144" wheel base High Roof Mercedes Sprinter 2500 Worker! It's just about as "base model" as you can go. It's got a couple features that were really important to me like bluetooth, and cruise control, but past that it's a hollow empty-ass van plain white van that IMHO is overpriced. I bought the base model, because I wanted the least "Mercedes" rolling chassis I could get, lol.
I've built a couple cargo trailers in the past as hobby rooms for previous hobbies, and I know how valuable of a resource I've found other people's blog posts documenting their custom work so I'm going to continue with that tradition and help contribute myself by taking as many pictures as reasonable during the build process. I'll keep adding pages to the website of the more major parts of the build as I go.
I knew I wanted to name this new van, because... well... it's basically going to be a part of the family. I had put very little thought into it, and was listening to No Shortcuts to the Top by Ed Viesturs when it hit me. He had mentioned famous Russian alpinist Anatoli Boukreev and how amazing of an athlete and climber he was when at that moment I just knew... the name had to be Vanatoli!