Hi, I'm in the same, uh, boat. I can't see paying someone else 20-40 grand on top of the cost of a new van for the conversion. Just got a 95 Ford E-350 Extended Cargo Van with 7.3 Powerstroke turbodiesel. I figure I saved about $30 grand, less whatever I might need to put into the van to keep it rollin'.
Did my first mileage run and I was amazed to get 24mpg on the highway with the turbodiesel. It seems to be a better choice for a Class B than any gasoline engine, at least if power vs. mileage is important.
I'm looking for my first upgrade: a raised top. Any referrals for shops in the Inland SoCal region?
Anybody know of good ways to lower the vehicle without drastically cutting its payload capacity? Upgrading the suspension to improve the ride for long haul comfort isn't out of the question either.
One little detail--Go to your DMV and to your own State Laws (vehicle Codes) at your library and do your homework on this one. Look up "upfitter" in the indices. Make SURE you'll still be able to register your DIY MH where you live, or getting it insured will be moot.
Where I live (West Virgina) there is no requirement; no license to climb into a cargo-van with tools in hand. In other states (and I don't know which but OH next door may be one of them)--registering a home-converted/home-built RV can be a problem. Do your homework before you perhaps build a lawn-ornament.
We made a "van conversion" into a camping van, and the details can be found on our Web site.
The great advantage to starting with a van conversion instead of a plain old van, as far as we were concerned, was that the real pain-in-the-pinny stuff like internal lining, carpeting, and roof raising had already been done. Of course, another reason was that we were given the van for nothing ....;^) Nevertheless, if we had to do it over I'd make the same choice.
Go to Sportsmobile's website and download their brochures. It's all in PDF format. There will be a scale drawings of your van's floor and of components you might want to install, bed, cabinets, countertops, etc. It's very helpful with planning. Yes, Sportsmobile will install a raised roof for you. The price I got was around $4K installed. A van conversion company here did mine for around $2300. That's a bare fiberglass top, white and unpainted on the interior. I'm doing the inside finishing myself. It's a little extra work, but I can buy a lot of goodies for it with the $1700 I saved. Also, if you're doing a propane installation, they will sell you an ASME tank for much less than the RV dealers will..
Here is one more place to go: the Yahoo!™ P30 Stepvan Support Group. You don't have to sign-up just to look around. Some of it may be of interest to you. BTW that's *our* baby playing "cover-girl" there at the moment; a former cable-laying truck I will teach how to play.
Converting anything like that is a good-news, bad-news thing, only it's the same news--at some point you'll be on your own. If you're up for that, I wish you success in pulling it off.
Sportsmobile prices seem rather high. I found a shop that raises tops for mobility vans, but they only will do it with an integrated box-steel frame for $3,200 for the whole job. I'm not sure if the additional frame/roll cage is necessary for RV use, but I can understand why vans with wheelchair lifts would need the greater structural integrity that the reinforcement provides. Maybe it's a good idea? I saw a van in the shop and they do quality work, with nice welding and finish work.