BY BETH ALLEN
April 2010: This story began when my boyfriend came across a posting on Craigslist. Sadly, a couple was selling their completly customized 4x4 sports van. It sounded amazing. Too bad I didn’t have an extra 80 grand laying around. I emailed the folks selling thier wheels and got the scoop on what it’s like to customize your own 4x4 and take it on the road.
What kind of van do you have and how long have you had it?
It is a 2007 Ford diesel extended van with a Sportsmobile conversion done to it. My husband and I had it custom made. It’s been our home from November 2007 through 2009.... Unfortunately we decided to try to sell it.
We didn’t really want to sell the van, but we are at a point in our lives were we would like to start a family and put roots down somewhere. We knew if we sold the van we would miss it dearly, but it would excelerate the process of purchasing a house and start a new adventure in our lives called “babies”.
How much did it cost to get customized?
We paid aprox $102,000 for it as a brand new custom rig. We posted it on craigslist to sell for $82,000 OBO.
Does it have a name?
Tell me some of the “green” details...
I sent them all the materials for the interior, made from recycled goods. It has countertops made out of recycled paper, curtains and upolstered items covered with new fabric made from old recycled polyester. We do not have a generator for power — instead we have 360-watt solar panels attached to the hard high top with very large batteries below. It has a diesel furnace and water heater system. We have a small sink with a retractable spout and a portable tiolet. It really is a mini-apartment.
Our rig is completely worth your investment if you enjoy 4x4ing, going off-the-beaten- path types of trips, wanna travel in style to festivals, are thinking of homesteading a raw piece of land, preparing for 2012, if you love hunting, surfing, fishing, or extreme sports, or if you want to live on the road fulltime, or take your family camping in comfort — this van can do it all! Unlike long, large RVs these vans are easy to drive and park. You are also less likely to get in trouble for parking overnight in a parking lot or in a residential neighborhood because it isn’t an eyesore, it doesn’t take up more then one parking space and more times then not people like them and want to talk to you about your big beautiful van.
Sounds cool. Now if only I had 80K to buy it from you! You said you have a story behind deciding to get one, fill me in!
My husband and I have always dreamed of living on the road in an RV. We first chose to try and build our own RV out of an old moving truck, but that proved to be a challenge with our landlords and with our full time jobs. So we started looking around... first at VW buses—but they were too small for the both of us to live in comfortably and they require a LOT of maintenance among other undesirable qualities. Then we looked at some BIG LONG RVs and well, they were TOO BIG and LONG! Parking and fuel would be ugly. Then we looked at the regular sized RVs and we didn’t like how they SCREAMED “hey look at me I have people living inside me and I am kinda ugly!” They were also a bit cumbersome width-wise for parking and most run on gas not diesel.
Then we remembered seeing a van, sometime ago, at some festivals we’d been to, and I just thought “WOW those seem very versatile and attractive somehow,” but I couldn’t remember what they were called. So we kept our eyes peeled for them on the road and at events. Finally we found out they were Sportsmobile conversion vans and started considering them even though they were way out of our price range.
We were looking for something we could live in full time, was easy to drive/park, used Diesel fuel (we’ve never used biodiesel or vegi fuel in it due to 5 year warranty), could be used to homestead a piece of property someday, that we could take to the snow and on any road conditions and not have any worries what so ever (4x4, winch, tires), enjoy events/festivals without a generator (we use solar to power everything), would reflect our green/eco/environmental consciousness as much as possible (fabric, counters, solar, amsoil, diesel, full time home), and it still had to have comforts of a home (toilet, shower, sink, fridge, closets, cabinets, hot water heater, room heater, alarm system, outlets, long kitchen galley counter top). The list could go on and on.
So we realized the Sportsmobile van could give us all we were desiring... and at first we thought “oh we could probably get what we wanted buying a used one,” but as we found out... they hold their value extremely well and we’d pay ALMOST as much for a used one as getting a new one that would be exactly what we wanted. So we started the process of biting the big bullet and got a loan, saved up some money and even charged some of the price on a credit card for our beauty. Totally worth the price! We’ve enjoyed it sooooo much.
Even though we LOVE our van, I wouldn’t recommend getting your own created unless you’re good at waiting and don’t mind a lot of unforeseen issues arising. The place that did ours said it would only take about 3 months to build it and we’d have our dream van, but it actually took 8 months! And when we went to pick it up they had forgotten to do quite a few important things like the correct tires we paid for, a fridge issue, a leaking windshield, they didn’t put our solar panels on, they didn’t seem to be very organized, the salesman made promises that the builders couldn’t keep, the salesmen forgot to let us know about all the options they could do for our rig (like alarm system, audio upgrades), basically it’s a big ordeal and will cost you a lot of fuel money and time to go to the factory (we ended up having to go back and forth at least six times and stay the night because of mistakes and promises they made) to make sure we got what we were paying for. The van is awesome now, but what a roller coaster ride getting it dialed-in was!
Knowing what we know now, we’d recommend trying to find a used one that fits your wants and needs as much as possible. You can always upgrade it yourself or take it to a van conversion place and they can remodel parts of it/customize it more for you. The production/builders were very nice to us and I would recommend talking to them as much as you can and as little as possible with the salesmen!
For more pictures of “Roadbelly” click here for a slideshow!
Here are the total stats on our Custom 2007 Diesel Ford 4x4 Sportsmobile w/ “Green” Extras (Short Description)
PICTURED ABOVE: (Top to Bottom) Roadbelly on the road, views from inside and with itís creaters.