10/23/19 Update Poptop, bumper, swingouts and more

It has been a mad dash across the country but the pleasure of working with great companies has made it worthwhile. The frustrations caused by others is part of the process but still sucks.

This is a quick update with limited wifi so I will hit the highpoints…

The Sportsmobile top is amazing, never doubt the strength of that frame and the guys there actually are happy and enjoy their work. The top is only partway up here, don’t freak out. Also the custom roof “fence/light holder/awning support” caused them some issues but it works for now even with a lube required tight fit. A little bit of tweaking by Dave the Fabricator back in Phoenix and the thing will be perfect.

The last post I wrote was from the Aluminess lounge, little did I know how upset I would be soon. I will provide a more in-depth post once everything is resolved but the lesson to learn is companies change as they grow, they can’t always hire the best people and new designs create new problems. But more on that later.

From Aluminess it was a side trip to drop off David the video dude I had hired in Kansas City. He is the reason the quality went way up on the videos. But I am a hard person to work for and this is a crazy mad dash trip across the southwest. We parted ways and I blasted north to the Bay Area so Owl Van could work their magic.

Like most of the bits on Red Chaser, this is a prototype swingout setup. The hinges are different both in placement and style from the other Transit they have modeled on, but in less than 2 days they had whipped up a tire carrier and a Sherpa mount that I now get to beat the crap out of in the desert.

In another example of killer customer service, Toby of Scheel-Mann let me invade his shop and helped me install a pair of seats that I am really looking forward to trying. By this point, I have put on almost 4000 miles in 9 days. When I lost my leg my pelvis was broken and healed crooked, I have scoliosis (curved spine), lower back pain and more. I have never been comfortable in any seats but I just figured that was the price of life. My hope is the 10-way adjustment in the Vario model, the firm but supportive padding and German engineering will make a big difference in my life. With another 1000 to 1500 miles before I get home the truth should be clear soon.

There will be a full write up on all this soon, but a quick note. I fully accept I no longer have airbags in my seat. I accept that all of these modifications change the vehicle and it’s safety in some way. I am an adult and I choose to do all of this.

The Scopema swivels will get their own notes but needless to say they were not the simple drop on mod I thought. But they are rock solid and work well.

Sunday was a workday with a buddy who has a houseboat north of Portland. More Heatshield paint on Db Skin (it washed off me with warm water and soap) and more L track installation. Also, I mocked up the tires, Oh Boy!

And then it was bright and early to Quadvan Monday morning to start the magic….and to see if they choke on these big ol’ Nitto Ridge Grapplers and the pretty Method 701’s. The front-wheel well has a pinch weld on the back end of it that has to go and on the rear wheel well the pinch welds at the front and back bottom ends will have to go.

These guys are really impressive at the concern for quality, for double and triple-checking work and the willingness to understand the customer’s needs.

Watch for more soon…..

10/16 Update… Fat Ford and Real MPG

PLG & Forum Update 10/16  only 18 days to Build a Van

Currently at in the Aluminess Customer Louge writing this up while the shop folks make front bumper magic happen.

Like many things along “the road to SEMA” (I am almost getting tired of saying that), I am sure there will be mistakes in my vision, my plan, my understanding of how all the bits will fit together. And like the previous mistakes the killer cool people helping me will make something great come out of it.

Lightforce sent flush mount Venom lights which was a cool idea, but Aluminess had already built the bumper with a tube to protect a standard single post mount 6in light. Luckily Lightforce is smarter than me and sent a set of that style Venom also. I am really curious which will work (or maybe 1 set IN the bumper and the other ON TOP !

I did ask for the weight of all the Ford bits they are taking off…..sorry super happy assembly line people. And a weight of the bumper going on since it is all about the data for you folks.

Sportsmobile actually finished up at the time they said they would when Jason quoted me weeks ago. It is nice that the operation there is so well run. Having the guys who worked on the van sign the back door was my favorite part. And some of them had been part of my van almost 10yrs before. That is a sign of a good company if folks stay around, especially since moving OUT of California would be a solid business choice for the owners. But nope, good employees are worth way too much to move away from.

Of all the shinny metal that was removed I was able to save the window slug which will get some pics stuck on and go in my shop. Hard to let all that pretty red paint go to scrap.

If you are ever passing through Fresno it is well worth the time to stop in the showroom. They have pretty much every configuration you want and you can see a 60’s VW and soon a 70’s Ford for historical comparison.

Oh and before you start thinking this is a paid post, well NOPE I paid the same price you would. $14,800 for an Electric Poptop, color matched in bedliner, solar panel install (my panel) with wiring, Drivers side awning window and too many laughs and jokes to count.

VanLife is the hot ticket right now, so if you are thinking of having someone else build your van, just ask:

How long have you been doing this?

How many have you built?

Now that said, I will be doing my own interior….for a couple of reasons:

I am burning through cash like a drug dealer and I still am not sure exactly what I want.

Light…Check

Minimal….Check

Sleep above or below……I have no idea. I have not slept in the penthouse bed yet so I am not sure how easily my 1 legged self will gimp up and down. I am not sure how comfy it will be for my terrible back & hip. So you all will just have to come back and see what happens.

I am bummed I lost the cool LED lights that Ford puts in. Those have to be the best cargo area light I have ever seen. Really bright, neat aluminum heat sink and flush mount. I did save them and will find a use. Sportsmobile does put in their own lights, stylish brushed aluminum but there are only 2 up front. I think strip or side lights might work better…….sorry I had to pause to write a note as an idea flashed into my head and it will drift out like my cigar smoke if I don’t capture it.

 My first driving impression was on the highway since Sportsmobile doesn’t have a dirt playground, but wouldn’t that be cool? I could absolutely tell the center of gravity has changed. I was really hoping to find a Truck Scale before I got to Aluminess but it was a 5hr drive south last night and early up to Heatshield Products this morning. However if I deduct the bumper when I find a scale today I will know what the top/window difference is.

The vehicle doesn’t feel tippy, it actually feels more solid and planted. Strange since all the weight went as high as possible. Even the solar panel moved from against to the van wall to the roof. Oh and MISTAKE ALERT….Bo the very nice wiring man was super kind along with Bernie in telling me that my 3M VHB & plastic solar mounts would “not be the best idea”.

Since I had already ordered the Thule rails it was a breeze for Bo to make brackets to low mount the panel to the rails. Love it and rock solid….I might have “passed” someone at 90mph on Grapevine pass as part of my data collection on wind noise and panel securement.

And for everyone curious about the roof “fence” (yeah I got tired of explaining it wasn’t really a roof rack, just an place to hang the 23Zero awning and Lightforce lights while protecting my poptop. Well it was a tight, tight fit but I think I can get through SEMA and then Dave the Fabricator can do a couple of tweaks to make it perfect. The “concept” is sound, it was just amazing he did as well as he did with 2 visits by a Uhaul Transit and 6hrs with mine.

And here is another MISTAKE ALERT, I knew we needed some sort of rubber gasket between the roof fence feet and the Transit body. I was just thinking it was for paint protection and vibration. Nope! It was because water can flood through those factory mounting points!

So anyone thinking of making your own roof anything, make sure you silicone, or gasket or something to seal up around those bolts, rain INSIDE your van is a bad thing.

Before I forget, let’s talk MPG (yeah my brain bounces around)….these are hand calc based on odometer & pump (stock tires, 3.31 ratio, 3.5 Eco, luggage and 2 extra single factory Transit seats…Certified scale weight 5780lbs

Here is a summary of most of my fillups, at over 500 miles a day I am getting frazzled:

KC to Witchita :15.7

13.8 (fast driving and variable RPM for engine breakin

14.9 (lower speed and less throttle modulation

15.1 (now 6815lbs with more crap hitting the highway to Sportmobile in Fresno)

13.2 (up and down a lot of hills)

12.8 (pushing way hard from Fresno south to LA, new Sportsmobile roof, still need new weight)

14 (pushing much less hard)

So I am at 2500 miles and my avg from Kansas City around the Southwest has been 14ish, hard driving, 5 over the speed limit maybe, maybe more….and not quite 7000lbs.

I will continue to update the data and info along the way….and pics as soon as I get to good wifi!

Day 1-4 of SEMA 2019 4×4 Ford Transit Overlander

So well, yeah, I am still in Kansas City….yeah yeah I know me too.

I wanted to use this “little” delay to talk about how great everyone from hourly security guards to Ford Corp Comm folks have been. Even when there is nothing they can do to help they are all really nice about it. Also this is a good chance to tell all you future SEMA builders to be careful how big and bad you want to seem, it can bite you in the butt.

But before we get to the part where I screwed up let me tell you about all the good stuff.

Sat am and no van and not likely but that is ok, there is plenty to do, roam the K CAP perimeter (Kansas City Assembly Plant)…..

I nearly had a heart attack when I saw a Red low roof van, but a little work with the zoom lens broken my heart, wasn’t mine…

So instead I went off to check out rural Kansas on my way to meet up with the fine folks of Konza Overland. This drive in movie theater is way cool and still in use.

And then you have the cool older places that I still wish were open so I could hear the stories of times gone by…..

And then I finally got to the Overlanding part of the day, well not really that would still be a bit as I drove 2hrs to join the Konza Overland group. But I did find the Great Overland Station, amazing the things you will see if you follow the little road signs instead of blasting down a highway. This place was one of the great railroad stations in the Midwest built in 1927, with 20,000 people coming to the grand opening.

Pretty soon I was in Manhattan, but not the one with skyscrapers, the one in the middle of Kansas! I found a great group of gents who were happy let me have a passenger seat and show me the dirt roads, waterfalls and history of an area I know I will return and enjoy again in the future, or sooner if I can’t get a van and hit the road.

I am working some video from the adventure…watch for that soon.

Now to the part you were waiting on….why it might be better to be nobody.

In the tactical world it is known as “grey man”, invisible because he is of little note. However when you tell Ford you are doing this 4200 mile road trip to SEMA, building the van along the way, and you plan to chase in Baja and have more adventures on the way to Overland Expo West in May, well, Ford doesn’t want anything to go wrong. Either they know how I beat on rigs, or they just don’t want a video of a Race Red Transit burning to the ground along a highway.

So the great folks at the factory are checking everything over, including the Paint which needed some work (if only they knew the desert pinstriping this thing will get). So waiting and waiting but in the end it will be worth it.

So word to the wise, before you tell anyone what you are doing, think through the “Law of Unintended Consequences”….are you better off known or unknown?

Day 0 of SEMA 2019 Build a Ford Transit 4×4 Poptop Van Roadtrip

Today is the Day a Van gets built…..I think, I hope, I have not been able to make sure, but I trust the power of positive thinking, and a little 1 leg luck.

Yesterday I spent a bunch of time with the great folks at Matt Ford, from the parts guys that helped me figure out where some boost/pressure sensors where (cool news coming on that) to the finance fellow Fred who helped me pay for a van that doesn’t actually exist yet.

I also got to test drive a high top, 148 Ecoboost for a buddy. I had been telling folks how easy it was to deal with Ed and the folks at Matt Ford and there are actually people who want high roof vans. After seeing how much room is inside those things I can understand why. Now I can say I am really an influencer since a deposit was made and a trip arranged for another VanLifer to join the fray.

Another cool thing about Ed the mighty salesman is how tight he is with the Transit powers at Ford. From big things like the new CrewVan model to small things like a factory floor mat. And never scoff at a well-designed product like this floormat, after all the times Martin our engineer has complained about a poor design I get that the little things matter. The 2 part design keeps you from spilling the dirt and rocks out when you want to dump that mess. Not bad price at $95 (I paid for it quick, they only had 1 left).

Of course, I had to end the day with some Kansas City BBQ, and I knew my belly led me in the right direction when I saw a Transit parked in front of Slaps. They were out of ribs by 6 pm but everyone knows a quality joint should run out of meat each evening. Never trust a place that has plenty of long smoked meat around.

Keep an eye on our Instagram account pegleggarage for the latest updates, let’s all lift our eyes to the sky and say “Get Lance his Race Red Chase Van Today Please”, and thanks for following along.

Day -1 of SEMA 2019 Build a Ford Transit 4×4 Poptop Van Roadtrip

Update time for everyone, we ARE in Kansas anymore Toto! Or Claycomo to be more precise. But amidst the soybean fields, I found where Ford grows Transit vans! And some of them grow pretty tall.

And I admit I geeked out a bit at the serious architecture of the Ford Assembly Plant, very solid.

Now you know I am embarking on a serious Overland Trip when I drive through Overland Park and even see Overland Photo supply since it is really all about the ‘gram after all.

Back home Dave the Fabricator (really of Rock Solid Products) is working hard on the double tube rack to handle the torsional load of the massive 23Zero awning, 270 degrees and 280 square foot of coverage are not to be messed with, plus something has to support the Lightforce Nightfall LED’s.

Meanwhile, I am testing a new leg while trying not to abuse the temp socket too much.

Also just before I left I wanted to put in a new Treehouse to Tacoma gasket and make sure everything is right on this setup before I put it up for sale. So if you know anyone who needs a killer ready to roll ride this is the one.

Lastly, for today, there is still some parts selection going on. Quadvan just sent me these pictures of their Intercooler skid, Transfer Case skid, and Gas Tank skid. Yeah, I ordered them all. I had already ordered the VanCompass intercooler skid and rear diff skid but it is nice to have everything come from one place so I think I will switch out to the Quadvan products since they are doing the 4wd conversion.