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Old 11-04-2005, 01:20 AM
OkeeDon OkeeDon is offline
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Default Progress report -- Sprinter Class B RV

By now, I'm sure everyone has seen one place or another that I'm planning to buy a Class B Rv based on the Dodge Sprinter chassis. For those who aren't clued in, Class B is a van conversion of one sort or another -- the van body generally stays the same, at least horizontally, and the RV stuff is stuffed inside. Often, the roofs are raised and/or the floors lowered. If there is a shower at all, it's in a "wet bath" in which the bathroom compartment is the shower compartment. Usually either a sofa or dinette is used during the day for seating at made into a bed at night. They almost always include, fridge, stove, sink, microwave, etc. Often there is not a generator, but they depend on 12V or shore power. They're usually based on a Ford or Chevy chassis with a V8 or V10, and get around 11-13 mpg.

They're generally expensive, often more expensive that a larger full-size Class C or even some Class A coaches, because it costs more to make the components confrom to the irregular confines of the van body that it does to make a square fiberglass box, and because they often have to tear the van virtually apart and rework a significant part of it.

Mostly, they're chosen by folks who live in a restricted community where they can't park a full-size RV, or by someone who wants to use them as a daily driver and only occasionally as an RV. I was never interested, because a newer diesel Class A can get as much as 8 or 9 mpg and be purchased for around the same money, especially used. I was never willing to sacrifice the room and luxurious comfort of the larger unit for the slight savings of the Class B Ford or Chevy van.

A couple of things happened to change that. One was the current high cost of fuel. I don't mind spending money to get what I want, but I hate to keep spending it after the fact, I hate giving the oil companies all that money, and I believe in trying to do my part to conserve the earth's resources. Owning an RV is bad enough; owning one that gets 8 mpg or less is pretty bad if you feel the way I do. The second thing that happened was my health. Betsy won't drive a full-size RV. Ain't gonna do it, no matter what. It's entirely possible we'll get somewhere and I won't be able to drive back. She won't drive it, so a problem arises.

So, I went looking for something that was more economical and smaller for her to drive. I discovered something relatively new to the RV world. The Sprinter, first marketed by Freightliner and then by Dodge, has been around for about 4 years. You've most seen them as FedEx vans, but Coke has a bunch of them, and UPS has been experimenting with them, and more service people, like plumbers and carpet installers and such are getting them. They also have passenger versions and a few folks are going that way, although they aren't cheap.

Turns out, they're actually made in Germany by Mercedes, which is a part of Daimler-Chrysler. The engines are a 5 cylinder turbo-diesel with 154 hp and 234 ft lbs. of torque, a 5 speed automatic and a 3.73 rear end. The package gets around 30 mpg as a 10 passenger van. They have 3 lengths - 118" wheelbase, 140" and 158", the latter being almost 22' long. They have two roof heights, the taller one being over 8' (9' 6" with a rooftop AC) and 73" clear height inside.

It didn't take long for the makers of Class B RVs to jump on these things, and today, there are 8 or 9 manufacturers of standard models and at least 3 or 4 prominent custom builders. In RV form, with all the living stuff in them, they're still rated at around 22-26 mpg, and rated to tow 5,000 lbs.

The custom builders are either into extreme (XPlorer, Sportsmobile) or luxury (Creative Mobile Interiors). We just need a standard one. I plan to get rid of 3 existing vehicles (my Dakota, which I actually sold today, my Windstar and my Pace Arrow) and make the Sprinter my daily driver. That pretty much eliminates the Winnebago and Itasca versions, which are cutaway van fronts with a small fberglass box RV on the back. They're too big and too heavy for a daily driver, and Betsy won't drive them. The Westfalia, a German RV marketed by Airstream, is also to unwieldy and too European for us.

I looked at the Gulfstream, Forest River, Great West, Pleasure Way, Airstream Interstate, Leisure Travel and RoadTrek versions on paper. Of them all, I thought the brand-new RoadTrek design suited me best. It features 4 leather, swivel, captain's chairs in the front to serve almost as a normal van, with the galley, bathroom and sleeping area in the rear. The 4 captain's chairs swivel to face a central post-mounted removable table, or swivel to the rear for theater-like TV viewing, or to the front for normal driving. It's possible to leave the bed made up as a nearly-king size bed all the time, or convert it back to bench-like dinette seats. However, I have not yet seen a RoadTrek in the "flesh", because they are just being shipped. The RoadTek dealer is in Okeechobee, which is very convenient for service.

I discovered a dealer near Sarasota, about 2 hours from Okeechobee, which carries all of the other brands. Betsy and I went over there on Tuesday and looked at all of them, to be sure we were making the right decision if we buy the RoadTrek. Of them all, the Leisure Travel was the best quality. One of their floor plans has an electric sofa in the back that makes down into a king size bed. It has extra wardrobe space and a larger bathroom space where the RoadTrek has the 3rd and 4th Captain's chairs. To my surprise, Betsy fell in love with the design. She said that when we go out with another couple, she'd much prefer that she and her girlfriend sit all the way in the back so they can hen-chat without me and my buddy talking over them. Made sense to me.

So, I will wait for the RoadTrek to come in and look at it to be sure, but it now looks like we'll be going for the Leisure Travel. Lavishly equipped with all leather seating, real wood cabinets, laminate "wood" flooring, generator (2.5kw Onan LP), roof-top AC with heat strip, separate furnace, water heater, fresh water, gray water and black water tanks, SS sink, 2-burner LP stove, microwave, 4.0 cf 3-way fridge, coffemaker, back-up camera and monitor and a 17" HDTV LCD flat panel TV with built-in DVD player, it will list right at about $90K. I expect to buy it in the $75K range. There are some neat additional touches like an exterior spare, under-coach storage, built-in sewer hose, outside shower, crank-out awning and an outside mount for the flat panel TV. I have an additional receiver and dish for our Dish Network satellite TV, so I'll have satellite service in the RV for $5/month extra. I'm also planning on a satellite radio.

In order to get one the way I want it, we'll have to order it. We should see the RoadTrek in a couple of weeks; then, if we still feel the same way, we'll order the Leisure Travel, and it should be shipped in time for Christmas. Nice present.

Here's a picture of the exterior and one of the interior -- and a link to the site if anyone wants to look at the photo album they have listed.
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Last edited by OkeeDon; 11-04-2005 at 01:32 AM.
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