Road Trippin' Rigs

  • Nick! It looks great. I'm still stuck with sleeping in the back of my Toyota 4-Runner, tent-camping, or hotel rooms, since Heidi & I can't agree on what kind of "Sissi-wagon" we should buy. I want a narrow high-clearance 4-wd rig for back-country roads, & she wants an inside bathroom with a toilet & shower.

    So for now.


    4-runner bed.JPG

  • @FritzRay said in Van Build:

    Nick! It looks great. I'm still stuck with sleeping in the back of my Toyota 4-Runner, tent-camping, or hotel rooms, since Heidi & I can't agree on what kind of "Sissi-wagon" we should buy. I want a narrow high-clearance 4-wd rig for back-country roads, & she wants an inside bathroom with a toilet & shower.

    Heh, I have the same disagreement with my wife. Got to admit that a few creature comforts can be nice once you've slid from hardman to pansy arsed bed wetter mode.... I am willing to go a bit wider than "narrow" though for the stability win. But, yeah, 4x4 or all-wheel drive are high on my list. Soon after you don't have it, you're going to desperately need it and be kicking yer'self in the arse...

    Full circle: I don't know about putting 4x4 on a Sprinter. I've seen the Mercedes branded 4x4 Sprinters (wonder how much of a premium that Mercedes emblem adds...) in the wild and it looked pretty sweet. Good balance/compromise on competing criteria. Would be concerned taking one some of the places I have been with my truck. Am more than a bit concerned about going too high up on any Sprinter like anything though. I'll bet Nick has the dope on this ....

  • @toby! I grew up with my family camping with a 1953 4wd Dodge Power Wagon, with an aluminum camper on it. My father bought it from an early Sun Valley millionaire, who also owned a share of the New York Yankees & built a house above Wood River, that he sold to Ernest Hemingway. Bob Topping had used the rig for his yearly steelhead fishing jaunt to British Columbia, & when he got bored with Idaho, my family got it on the cheap in 1957.

    I have childhood memories of my father driving it on narrow & tilting roads, while I stared out the camper window with terror. I'm sure it was all good for me, & most of the memories are fond ones.

    My parents 1952 Dodge Powerwagon which my father bought from Bob Topping the man who built the Hemmingway house.jpg

  • @FritzRay Hot damn! Cock of the walk, you guys were!!!

    Before my time. I presume PowerWagons' were still running inline six cylinders at the time? I am guessing in the 250-300 cubic inch range?

    Heh, a closer examination of the leading edge of that topper and you're likely glad it was aluminum rather than the modern thin skinned lightweight stuff. I'll bet it was pretty heavy to remove? Or did you not use the truck for other duties like wood hauling and such?

    Update: Not to hijack @NickG's Van Thread, but my curiosity was piqued so I did some research. PowerWagons have their own Wikipedia page. Seems likely that beast was sporting a 230 cubic inch inline six. Do you recall if it had PTO?

  • looks like both of you guys need this..
    or this.
    My only option for 4X4 is to have these guys convert my rig to 4X4 or since they offer it perhaps 6x6...

    Realistically for you guys your options are limited to.

    #1 pickup truck with pop up camper. Usually small. all the pickups have short beds now. I spied on a ski bum the other day. it didn't look all that roomy inside his rig and you have to set it up and break it down every time you move. you lose all the overhead storage options cause it all has to fold flat to lower the roof. and those things are not cheap.
    #2. old style Ford or chevy van with pop top and 4x4 conversion. Not as much room, not as good fuel economy and by the time you are done with the pop top and the 4x4 conversion almost as much money as a new stock sprinter?????
    #3 Ford transit AWD.. 148" medium roof seems like the ticket. No idea what the price is but the 2wd version from last year was about 38K the AWD version is the same height as the 2wd version. great for loading cargo. not great for wheeling. no clue how rugged it is?
    #4. Chevy express AWD. it was offered until 2014? these rigs are bulletproof and the 5.3L gasser will get you 16+ The AWD is burly. You can DIY a high roof pretty cheap. aftermarket roof is under 2k and its as easy as jigsaw and a few tubes of silicon to install. Its roofing, you don't even need teeth... Pop top is more pricy and likely a pain to raise with solar panels on top??? Cons. Not as big as and thirstier than a sprinter but if you can find one for a decent price with under 100K its a much cheaper option for 4x4.
    #5. Vanegon Syncro. Cons old, pricy and small. pros super rugged very aggressive and nimble 4x4. Super cool. you get to wave at every Vanegon, Westy and micro buss that goes by. Random strangers will approach you @ gas stations and tell you all about their acid trip in collage. good fuel economy.

    #6. 4x4 sprinter. Cons Pricy. 40-50K for high roof.. low roof I saw one the other day for 37K. 85k on the odometer you can almost stand up in the low roof.. pros. high clearance. AWD that you can disengage, good fuel economy, tons of space....

  • so with all of these options and despite me being totally sold on AWD or 4x4 I ended up with a 2wd rig. First step is going to be chains. step 2 will be a winch. what are the 4x4 ethics of bosching a bolt into rock as a an anchor point for a winch? I remember in the desert many lifetimes ago trying to come along a 2wd Ford ranger from a Joshua tree. the slings cut right through the Joshua tree...

  • Road Trippin' Rigs - Past & Present - The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

    Good stuff, people! I was thinking I should copy/link to Happiegrrl's thread since she is in need of a new rig. But then ...

    1. It is not just about a particular road trip anymore.
    2. It is not just about Happiergrrl anymore.
    3. Nor just about Nick's killer van build out.

    I imagine there are more than a few folks who've given deep thought to "The Perfect Road Trippin' Rig". Of course, as we've already seen:

    • Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

    And its ever present arch nemesis:

    • The perfect is the enemy of the good.

    Since many of us have done a lot of road trippin', we should get quite a few perspectives, ranging from @NickG's custom beast posted above to @Moose's tiny teardrop trailer.

    So I forked a new topic. Let's pool our collective thoughts here so future generations will be able to marvel at our collective wisdom. 😉

    Post up yer' road trippin' rigs. Past and present. Pros/Cons analysis as @NickG included up post appreciated. 👍

  • So I just got off the phone with Craig from whitefeather custom 4x4s and he will be happy to upgrade my suspension and convert my rig to 4x4 with new tires and a 36,000 mile warentee for only $27,000 Apparently he still converts a few of my generation sprinters for folks traveling in south America and Africa. The new ultra low sulfer fuel is not available in those areas and the fuel that is available will cut the engine life of a 2007 to present sprinter motor in half....

  • Here's my idea of the perfect road-tripping rig...

    Road-tripping rig.jpg

  • @toby That 1953 Power wagon had a straight 6 engine. No idea how many cubic inch. It had a winch in front. My grease-monkey father had owned a Ketchum, ID service station & garage for 7 years, then he decided to sell that business & open a welding & metal-working shop in 1956. It was a much calmer existence for him, but he then had to supplement lost income by driving school bus & plowing snow.

    He added hydraulics to run a snowplow, which worked well, except in deep & heavy snow. About twice a winter he would have an axle break, which he could replace in a few hours. The camper came off in late fall, & got added back in the spring. He did not have an easy removal method, but with the help of friends & sometimes a front-end loader the job got done.

    I should mention, Ernest Hemingway was our most famous customer. At about age 11, I was along on a dark & stormy night, when my dad was plowing the great man's driveway. Hemingway came out of his house & waved us down. My father rolled down his window & Hemingway thanked him for plowing & invited us in for drink. when the job was done. A few minutes later, my father parked, looked over at me, & said, "I'll only have one drink & leave the engine running, so you won't get cold."

    On a brighter note, in good-weather, Hemingway would usually walk about a mile into Ketchum to get his mail, & have a few afternoon drinks with the locals. Our welding shop & house driveway was on his route & if I was outside, he would wave & give me a hearty "Hello young man."

  • Cool stories.. This rig had the most aggressive 4 wheel dirve I have ever experienced.. and it had an ultra low 1st gear so you could really creep. the problem with this design is that you can't store anything significant under the bed so all you shit ends up piled on top of the bed until you park. then you have to shuffle all the gear into the front seats so you have room to cook and sleep.

  • @David-Harris Damn. I am such po' white trash.... Thought I was poopin' in pretty tall cotton when I could finally afford to buy a 4x4 truck and shell.

    @NickG Ha! Nick, appears your search for the perfect woman was less intensive than that for the perfect road trippin' rig!

    It had crossed my mind that a VW microbus rig might work for Happie. Other than being a bit small. Suspect the rig above uses a water cooled engine but the old air cooled stuff was dead simple and relatively inexpensive to rebuild. Install an oil cooler for warmer climes. I have also watched more than a few VW's blow my mind when it came to some of the ground the 2x units could navigate in reverse. Obviously lots of downsides and driving in reverse over sketchy terrain requires lots of spotters but the low cost of engine rebuild was the impetus for consideration.

  • Here's our previous roadtrippin' rig that we sold a few years ago. We had years of fun in this thing...


    Here's our current setup, in which we've also done many, many trips...




  • Micro buss is a terrible Idea for Happie. those air cooled rigs you really need to know your stuff to keep them running.. seen the hippys day after the dead show sanding down their points just so they can get it started to get to the next show....

  • @NickG Good to know. I have never owned one. Nor, I must confess, eve been to a Dead show. They do have an advantage of being relatively lightweight though, so you can push 'em easier when they fail! The rigs, not the Dead. Heh.

    @Moose Your set up looks pretty sweet. Tripped my radar when you first posted up pics a while back. Please elaborate on pros/cons there. For e.g., how squirrely might that single axle rig be when towing in windy conditions? Yeah, I know the trailer is short and relatively low profile but having towed more than a few single axle boat trailers working various field gigs I am leary of the "tail wagging the dog". A few of 'em involving daily short runs on I-5, regardless of weather conditions. Hate those freakin' high crosswinds. And you can only slow down so much before concern over the guy behind you outweighs the crosswind threat. Always swore that when/if I ever owned such it would be dual axle. And I was towing with a full size pickup truck.

    I am also curious about the blue tented rig. Changing area? Port-a-poti? Shower? All of the preceding??

  • When I first started climbing I sooooo wanted a Westie. I was told about TheSamba. com and began learning what I could learn in order to make an educated decision.

    What I learned was that a vintage VW was NOT the right thing for me. Someone posted: "The good thing about them is that the break down pretty much on a schedule."

    So, if looking to buy, one should know What has already broke and been fixed, and when. Then you could have an idea as to how soon your next fixes would be coming....

    Also, from knowing people who had them, I understand you kind of need to have a VW-loving mechanic when work needs be done. That can be tough on the road in an unfamiliar area.

    I will want to look at Promasters, Transits and I was wondering about the Freightliner high tops. Saw one parked somewhere, and had never known Freighliner did a high top van. Anyone got some beta?

    My hope is that I stay unemployed at my place of work, or at least partially unemployed, for several more weeks. The Covid Extra on unemployment pays more than I get working. Though I feel bad for people who are anxious and wondering how they'll make ends meet, I am actually benefiting from this whole thing. It could provide the windfall that makes it possible for me to get a new van.

  • I supposedly am on unenjoyment but haven't gotten a check yet. if it does come through with the extra it will be quite a bit more than actually working 😉 I might have to go back to work next week but hoping for at least one more week of double unenjoyment 🙂
    the freightliners are Mercedes drivetrain sprinters. I don't know if they differ at all from the Mercedes sprinters?? I do know that when dodge was part of Mercedes the only difference between dodge and Merc sprinters was the logo. If there is any possible way you could get into a newer sprinter or Transit that would be so much of a weight off your shoulders. Keep in mind that the Pro master is really a Fiat..

  • Isa's Westy in 2017

  • @NickG You sure do go to some lots of beautiful places, mon! 👍

  • Parc Du Bic Canada. late season, park closed but not gated. Crashed right there with zero hassels. Merika they would have jailed us....

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