By Dave Boyer
Welcome back to Autoramblings ďSpecialty Vehicles??? section.
The last posting of this ongoing article mainly touched on the vehicleís body, drive train, and engine. This portion will go over models, floor layouts and some of the basic interior features. It will also go cover a few other choices that were available in 2006. Again, due to the number of options available, the articles will be in parts, so revisit Autoramblings.com from time to time to catch the updates.
To see better detailed pictures of several vehicles coming off the line at Sportsmobile West, go to this link: My Sportsmobile Forum Pictures
This is my personal album that has pictures of various models as well as interiors constructed by SMB plus a close up look at suspension work done by Quigley and Sportsmobile. Feel free to browse through this album. I have also thrown in some pictures of Sprinter models and a few shots of my rig on the trail. I will update this album frequently so return now and then to take a look. You will also find several images of vehicles from others members of the Forum in their albums.
The interior design will probably be difficult to decide on for many perspective buyers. SMBís web site shows some basic models and their inside arrangements which will help to get you started. Because I am on the larger side of life, it was an easy choice on my part. If youíre lucky to be thin and shorter than six foot, almost any design should work for you depending on what youíre after. The layout can be configured in several ways. SMB has pre-arranged floor patterns available, but other than juggling components around, the models are really broken in to only a couple of types: those you can walk through the van to the back, and those you canít. Just decide which one best suits your needs.
Here are a couple of typical layouts that many order. Both shots are looking toward the back. The seats shown here can transform into a bed.
This model has four seats for the comfort of a larger family or passenger transportation.
There is a lot of tweaking that can go on, so this is where a trip to SMB really counts. I had looked at the 4×4 vans we have at work and could not see fitting into one. Even a stock empty van looked very cramped and climbing into one didnít help at all. In fact, it made it feel even smaller. I called SMB to satisfy my curiosity and Lynn (who primarily deals with used Sportsmobileís) talked me into coming down to look at one. She said they actually appear somewhat larger with the top up and I would be surprised. My first trip to SMB changed my view. She was correct and I was amazed how much larger they looked than our work vehicles. I really liked the 50 model because of how much room and storage it appeared to provide.
The 50 model has a couch that sits crossways toward the back. This couch folds down into a large bed that is better suited for two people than the upper penthouse bed. Another nice advantage to the 50 model is that when the bed is in the couch configuration, there is ample storage available on top of and underneath the back portion of the bed.
Of course if you need to use the lower bed, the stuff sitting on top has to be put somewhere. I have been situations where high winds made it necessary to lower the top and move to the lower bed. I was able to jam most of my equipment up front. But I carry more than the average camper, so itís not an issue for most folks. With the walk through models, the layouts generally have a couch or ďgaucho??? located on one side of the van that also folds down into a bed such as this model in the picture below.
This setup provides a walkway to the rear doors. Although there are many ways to tweak any design to suit your needs, the picture above is the type of layout which many people choose that provides a spot for a marine head, or even a dedicated bathroom with shower just be aware it will take up valuable space.
This custom build 4X4 provides a back bed configured for wheelchair access.
Some ďwalk through??? models have a dinette area in the back that also can convert to twin beds. These models are popular with owners who prefer a Voyage top as seen in the image above and below.
Remember, many variations are possible. I have seen vans without a penthouse top, rigs with rear bucket seats for passengers, and even bare bone vehicles with very little built into them such as this custom van below.
There are many ways to configure a custom van and although I prefer the 50 model, others may want something different. Thatís one of the advantages of a Sportsmobile.
If SMB has a vehicle similar to what youíre looking for, go take a look and see first hand.
While it is possible to order a van with little or no cabinetry, a person who decides to build their own interior might run into problems that companies such as Sportsmobile have resolved due to their expertise and years of design. Itís certainly possible to build your own van with better quality, but it must be planned out correctly. Building a van as tough as a tank might be a great idea until itís taken to the scales and you find out it weighs close to a real tank. Just think of the waste in time and money if you have to pull out half of what you installed because itís over weight. My van weighs in at 11,500 pounds, very close to maximum with all components installed by SMB. Can a better built van be constructed? Sure, anything can be improved on. With the time and expertise on your side, it could be an interesting project and possibly save you some money.
The next posting will cover some of the interior items starting with a few flooring options.
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