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…..

Why these wheels?

Choosing a wheel, it should be more than good looks…

Normally I am not a fellow that goes crazy when it comes to wheel choices. I either run a stock looking steel wheel so I can beat it back into shape if some rock attacks me in the back country or stick with the stock aluminum wheels if they are the right size.

blown tires on the burb
Blowouts, pot holes or wayward rocks can all damage a wheel.

However there are times even someone like me who isn’t about looks needs to find the right wheel, and that is usually when your wallet is also going to lighten up buying bigger tires.

In the case of our Transit build, Ford blessed us with a cute little 28 inch tire on a 16 inch wheel of steel. Normally this would be great as a 255/85/16 has been a fantastic size on my last few builds. However with the Quadvan 4wd conversion I also need to change the offset in order to squeeze as much tire in and not rub against the coil spring on the strut. Oh and yeah in the very near future we are going to see what can be done about some custom reservoir shocks with custom rate coil springs.

This mean a bit of research into 5x160mm bolt pattern wheels…..and only a few showed up. While I didn’t have first hand experience with any of them I did know Method from watching how well they held up during all the NORRA Mexican 1000’s I chased for. Almost any wheel will work on the street and most will work for a normally loaded rig on forest roads. But beat on a wheel in Baja or put it on a heavy vehicle and the real test begins.

Method Race Wheels
They really are lighter, stronger…but I am not usually faster.

Now is the point you start thinking, “well of course he likes Method, they are giving him free wheels”. Nope, I am paying for these, yes there is a discount but I would rather pay for something that works in remote areas than run free that leaves me stranded.

method bead grip
wheel design matters

With previous SEMA builds the wheel choice did come down to the best partner deal since all the choices were about the same in performance. However for this van since I can’t more than a 33 inch tire and can’t really go wide I know I will be airing down often and many times way way down. That means a higher risk of rolling off a bead in sand, mud or snow. Sure I know how to re-seat a bead, and with the Extreme Outback compressor and a tank it won’t be hard. But even better is not having to deal with the problem in the first place.

I have seen first hand Method Trail series wheels aired down to 5psi and hold a bead, to me that is worth paying for.

So the winner for our Chase Red Transit will be Method 701 bronze wheels in 17 inch size……and now to figure out tires.

Method 701 bronze
Method Trail 701 so pretty, but more important, so strong