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ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
2/29/12 5:25 p.m.

Not saying I'd ever do this, but...

My wife would probably come to the track with me more often if we stayed on-site. She saw the enclosed trailer one of my racing buddies has and thought the setup was cool, but no way I'm towing one with my 1965 Ford pickup. Know better than to buy a motor home, which I wouldn't want anyway, because it's too single-purpose. Everyone says "buy a van" for towing race cars, so I thought "why not a used conversion van?". They have terrible resale value, but some have semi-camper-ish conversions with beds and fridges and roof mounted a/c units. I'd ditch a lot of the seats and unneeded crap so I could haul my two extra sets of wheels and all the other race junk. Practical? Stupid? I know most are built of crap materials and workmanship. Anyone done this?

aussiesmg
aussiesmg SuperDork
2/29/12 5:29 p.m.

weight, weight, weight.. the main issue with a conversion is the huge weight by the time they are fitted out, you will need a larger engine and at least a 3/4 ton chassis.

I had a Ford E150 Chateau. It is a factory outfit without all the wood and lights and other crap. It was awesome and did many GRM trips towing the S10 and other cars.

Here it is at the Mitty

Photobucket

iceracer
iceracer SuperDork
2/29/12 5:43 p.m.

Most are on a half ton chassis, other wise should be ok

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
2/29/12 5:44 p.m.

you could ditch a lot of the unneeded luxuries and sounddeadening to allow better miliage and towing.

Last conversion van I was in.. had a backseat that electrically unfolded into a bed... I do not want to think about how much that seat weighed

Toyman01
Toyman01 SuperDork
2/29/12 5:59 p.m.
aussiesmg wrote: weight, weight, weight.. the main issue with a conversion is the huge weight by the time they are fitted out, you will need a larger engine and at least a 3/4 ton chassis.

This. My E150 conversion was 6800 pounds all by it's lonesome.

This is what it usually pulled.

It did fair. As long as the road was flat, it would pull that at 70mph and get 7 MPG. Back the speeds off to 60 and it would get 11. Forget the mountains unless you are towing an open trailer. Mine had the 5.4. My only complaint was it would eat coils. At least one a year.

Toyman01
Toyman01 SuperDork
2/29/12 6:05 p.m.

Oh, and destroy a set of front brakes in about 25K. Might have something to do with the trailer. Total weight, ready to go to the track was pushing 13000 pounds.

Some days I regret selling it, some days I'm glad it's gone.

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
2/29/12 6:11 p.m.

did you sell it to a guy in NJ? I Swear one of neighbors owns that exact same van

failboat
failboat Dork
2/29/12 6:17 p.m.

Yes the conversion workmanship is super E36 M3ty to the max. I stripped mine with grand plans to do my own custom interior....I seriously should have drawn the line at removing the seats. It's not pretty behind those walls. If you're going to leave that alone, I think a conversion is a great choice, most have curtains, windows with screens on them to keep out bugs while camping. I want another.

If you want to build your own interior, start with one of the oem vans. If a cargo its not that hard to add windows.

aussiesmg
aussiesmg SuperDork
2/29/12 6:21 p.m.

How good are you with a welder

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1999-E350-XLT-SUPER-DUTY-QUIGLEY-4X4-CHATEAU-PACKAGE-/110833555959?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item19ce31d9f7

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
2/29/12 6:25 p.m.

how bad are they, once you can get to the guts?

mrjoshm
mrjoshm New Reader
2/29/12 7:17 p.m.

If you are serious about getting a van, spend the extra few bucks and get a Ford with the 7.3 powerstroke. The mileage will be slightly better, and the entire package will be better suited to towing large loads. Plus, you can convert it to run on bio or wvo.

Toyman01
Toyman01 SuperDork
2/29/12 7:26 p.m.

In reply to mad_machine:

Under all the spit and polish, mine looked like it was wired by a 3yo. Just about everything is held together with drywall screws and prayers. I some times wonder how it all stayed in place. Everything added by the conversion company looked years older than the OEM parts. The paint on the high top and the running boards was peeling. The leather on the seats was deteriorating at an alarming rate. That does drive the sales prices on the used one down, a lot. Mine, new, sold for $45K. I bought it two years old, with 50K miles on it, for $18K. I sold it at 15 years old, with 160K miles, for $2500. It was in "fair" shape.

failboat
failboat Dork
2/29/12 7:39 p.m.
Toyman01 wrote: In reply to mad_machine: Under all the spit and polish, mine looked like it was wired by a 3yo. Just about everything is held together with drywall screws and prayers. I some times wonder how it all stayed in place.

This is what I saw on mine too.

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
2/29/12 7:56 p.m.

so really.. if you stripped one out and just used the roof and then rewired it and repaneled in the interior... it would be better?

Toyman01
Toyman01 SuperDork
2/29/12 8:17 p.m.

If I was going to do it again, I wouldn't get the high top. There still isn't enough room to really stand up, and driving it in the wind is a little like carrying a sheet of plywood on a windy day.

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
2/29/12 8:31 p.m.

I wouldn't think less than a 3/4 ton would be worthwhile. I have a half-ton pickup now and the suspension is "meh"; doesn't carry the extra weight well with the trailer hooked to it (and I distribute my load pretty evenly). E-250 with bigger brakes and axles would probably be best. One ton probably is overkill.

Some of the advantages I saw with a conversion van are the interior walls are at least covered and the hi-top may be nicer to have. I'd ditch the seats and probably the fold-flat bed/seat because they mount them across the back which ruins cargo carrying. So most of the weight would go (along with the gawdawful fiberglass running boards). Another advantage is they are titled as "wagons" so can get car tags vs. higher taxed truck tags that a cargo van would be cursed with. Multi-passenger window vans sell for strong money around here thanks to Amish taxis and Mennonite families that don't know what birth control is.

No Powerjoke diesels for me; I don't like diesels. They cost more to buy, cost more to fix and the limited use I'd give it wouldn't justify the price premium. 4.6 seems maybe inadequate so I'd probably seek out a 5.4. Yes, I'm a Ford guy; they just seem to work better for me.

One option in looking at eBay is wheelchair lift vans; those things sell for peanuts and frequently have low miles. I can unbolt all that stuff and sell it for scrap if nobody else wants it.

Regular mpg would have to be at least 15; towing mpg should be around 10-12 or there isn't any advantage to having one over my pickup other than the bunking aspect.

pete240z
pete240z SuperDork
2/29/12 9:52 p.m.
ddavidv wrote: One option in looking at eBay is wheelchair lift vans; those things sell for peanuts and frequently have low miles. I can unbolt all that stuff and sell it for scrap if nobody else wants it.

My F-I-Law bought a Windstar lift van from a family friend used for $3200.

His dad could wheel up to the van, push a switch, door opens, ramp drops out, he rolls into the drivers area, locks his wheel chair into the floor, belt in, and using hand controls can drive away.

Pretty cool except the extra wiring harness and fuse box is giant. And now he has a lot of electrical gremlins. Lights won't go off, door stops short of closing. I pulled the interior light fuse at 10:00pm one night and everyone is still aggro with me. LOL.

LopRacer
LopRacer Reader
3/1/12 6:54 a.m.

I tow with and old (1986) light duty 3/4 ton GMC Van, it pulls my civic OK not sure I would want to tow anything more than an open trialer with it. The newer passanger vans are more stout and have better brakes if you go 3/4 or 1 ton. Of course if you have trailer brakes that is not quite as important. We stripped the interior of seats but kept he factory wall coverings and retorfitted a home made L couch that converts to a bed. It's a decent set up and still has plenty of cargo room.

failboat
failboat Dork
3/1/12 7:06 a.m.

the fiberglass runningboards look nice with a big fat tire stuffed under them. probably not a concern for towing though.

speaking of high top conversions, this is probably the craziest roof I have seen.

Klayfish
Klayfish HalfDork
3/1/12 7:22 a.m.

Great thread. I'm in the same spot as you ddavid. Right now, we've got a minivan for kid hauling duty, since we have 3. It can tow 3500lbs, which is fine for very light duty stuff. It's been perfect for our needs, we got it when my wife was pregnant with our twins. Loading babies, strollers, etc into a minivan was much easier than any SUV. But my wife has said several times that once we're done with the minivan, she wants to switch to a Suburban. I'm trying to talk her into a conversion van. My argument is that it can carry the kids in first class comfort, they're cheaper than Suburbans, and they can tow.

Stag_Driver
Stag_Driver New Reader
3/1/12 7:31 a.m.

In reply to aussiesmg: What can you tell me about the Stag? When was the picture taken? It looks like one of the ones in my back yard.

fast_eddie_72
fast_eddie_72 SuperDork
3/1/12 7:35 a.m.
aussiesmg wrote: I had a Ford E150 Chateau. It is a factory outfit without all the wood and lights and other crap. It was awesome and did many GRM trips towing the S10 and other cars. Here it is at the Mitty

It looks identical to the Ford Van a friend of mine used to tow his autocross car. It was a pretty sweet set up, or seemed so to me. He was happy with it.

Rufledt
Rufledt Dork
3/1/12 7:37 a.m.
Toyman01 wrote:
aussiesmg wrote: weight, weight, weight.. the main issue with a conversion is the huge weight by the time they are fitted out, you will need a larger engine and at least a 3/4 ton chassis.
This. My E150 conversion was 6800 pounds all by it's lonesome. This is what it usually pulled. It did fair. As long as the road was flat, it would pull that at 70mph and get 7 MPG. Back the speeds off to 60 and it would get 11. Forget the mountains unless you are towing an open trailer. Mine had the 5.4. My only complaint was it would eat coils. At least one a year.

6800? Dang. I didn't realize they added that much when they did the redesign in the early 90's. My 1987 E150 conversion is 5400 alone.

My parents towed a 27' travel trailer for many years with it. The 302 didn't have enough juice so they souped it up, which now is too much for the tranny in first gear. my dad installed a tranny oil cooler which didn't fix the weak tranny problem but helps cool it, and then added all the air ride stuff to support the weight, so everything seemed fine- until the brakes overheated in stop and go traffic and we almost crashed. With those upgraded, it worked for towing, but it still got horrific mileage, nearly ate first gear if floored (which was required to get moving due to the no power problem) and struggled when towing up any sort of slight hill. So, yeah, you can tow with a conversion van, but it's a lot of work.

Rufledt
Rufledt Dork
3/1/12 7:53 a.m.
ddavidv wrote: They have terrible resale value, but some have semi-camper-ish conversions with beds and fridges and roof mounted a/c units. I know most are built of crap materials and workmanship.

Also, yes, terrible resale value. I got mine for nothin because my parents wanted to be rid of such an overly brown van and nobody would buy it.

Also a +1 on the crap materials and workmanship. I can't believe people pay for some of them. The nice ones were crazy expensive new, and unfortunately for my van, it's just as worthless as the cheaper plastic ones now.

81cpcamaro
81cpcamaro Reader
3/1/12 8:19 a.m.

An E350 would be a good van to make into a conversion. Actually saw a dually E350 on the way to work this morning.

Get one of these and make it into a conversion van: http://www.studioliquidators.com/Liquidations/Automotive~Tools/MetroTrans%20Shuttle.html They usually have Powerstokes in them and plenty of inside room. When you go to register it, tell them you are making it into a RV, thus you won't have to insure it as a commercial vehicle.

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