Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

Discussion in 'Class B Motorhomes' started by larryccf1, Aug 6, 2008.

  1. larryccf1

    larryccf1 New Member

    Van - i'm aware of the quality control issues with the dodge/mercedes sprinters, but would appreciate if anyone has a link to any literature for DIY instructions, ie mainly in the area of electronics (the inverter panel wiring) and the plumbing layout.

    I've been lurk4 year old ing on quite a few boards for sometime, and just now registered here, after responding to a post that i had not noticed was 4 years old. I suspect "multi-tasking" fries brain cells faster than they can be regenerated

    I've researched the cost of most of the appliances, components etc that i'll need and the following list is what i've come up with - prices shown are approx (suspect i can do better, but took these from a couple sites on the web), and prices do not reflect labor to install, but i've got decent mechanical skills, am currently a manufacturer in another industry, but was a dealership mechanic (Datsun/BMW) in the late 60s/early 70s and have kept my hands into car building/tuning. Also have a good deal of fiberglassing and carbon fiber experience, so i should be able to custom fabricate a number of interior items, coverings, shower stall, etc.

    I've also been working with wood (as a hobby) for years and am comfortable with my wood fabrication skills

    The main purpose of this class B would be something that the wife and I (nearing retirement) can travel in, and if i get tired, she can drive and i can go back, fix cup of coffee, take a nap, browse the web, whatever. We want to tour the country, searching the coasts for that retirement spot on the water but also to view the country. Don't plan on spending a lot of time in the van camping, but like the potential, depending on the location.

    My current plans are to go with a new Dodge Sprinter Passenger van, 170" with the mega roof and the 3.5 gas engine. Not worried too terribly about the power (do have some concern about climbing grades) but am too fearful of the diesel model from all the reports on problems and the dodge techs not being able to diagnose and repair successfully.

    Main reason for the selection of passenger van model, is those are not dis-assembled and then re-assembled in South Carolina to avoid the truck tariff importation tax of 25% - I suspect a number of the quality control issues probably arise from that "assembly, crating it as a kit and re-assembly" process. 2nd reason for selecting the passenger model, it will come with interior noise insulation and interior panels, including headliner etc. And the 3rd reason for both the passenger model and building it myself, when we're thru with it in 2 - 3 years, i feel the resale will be stronger re-installing the passenger seats and reselling it as a passenger vehicle and selling the interior (shower, refrigerator etc) separately.

    I don't want to spend $90 - 100K on a prebuilt one and take the enormous hit on depreciation i've seen on resale units, plus only see the prebuilt dodge sprinter based class Bs being offered on the diesel platform, not the gas engined platform. And before anyone suggests it, i'm not inclined to purchasing something like this used - a lot of items i will, but just don't want to find the issues the previous owner had - if i build it myself, then i'll know the system in case of repair becoming necessary.

    Any insights, suggestions, maybe something i've overlooked, or even just opinions, i'm eager to hear them, and if anyone has any sources for the wiring designs and plumbing designs on these vans, i'd love to have them

    tks for reading - below is the initial cost projection i've done on this, in case anyone else has thought along these lines.

    I estimate the van will take 6 - 9 months in my spare time

    Rooftop A/C, Carrier $800 (complete)
    3 Burner Stove, drop in $150
    Range Hood + vent $100
    Shower Pan $65
    (build my own stall panels + local sourced fixture)
    Kitchen sink (13X17) $65.00
    Kitchen faucet $100
    Washer/Dryer combo unit $1200.00
    Water Pump (Shurflo 5.7) $200.00
    Fresh Water Tank (40 gal) $150.00
    Microwave convection oven $263.00
    Hot Water Heater (Bosch tankless LP) $500
    Pressure Valve, water $14.00
    Water connection panel $110.00
    Generator, RV, 3600, Gas, cabinet $1750.00

    approx total to this point $6,000.00
    Toilet - undecided but am thinking a marine chemical tank
    Grey water tank - ??

    Various plumbing tubing, fittings ($200 - 300)
    Lightling - have a ton of halogen 20 watt disc fixtures, and have a box of LED small lamps, pretty bright, should serve as well
    TV - probably a 19" Samsung ?? (estimate $????)
    Articulating mounting arm for TV ?? (estimate $200)
    TV Antenna dish - ????
    DVD player ???
    LP/CO2/Smoke detector ?? guesstimate $100

    Aux battery(s) & cabinet - guesstimate $100

    Monitor panel (holding tank, grey water tank, aux batt & LP tank) ??

    Furniture grade plywood, Cherry veneer, epoxy, fiberglass & epoxy - approx $1000

    Upholstery - if i go with leather covered cushions, maybe $2000, but most likely will go with cloth, because of the dog - and
    buying Futons and adapting them is not beyond the possibilities, estimate for two $600-800)
  2. larryccf1

    larryccf1 New Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    thanks for the input guys, but i found the info i was looking for
  3. TexasClodhopper

    TexasClodhopper Senior Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    Well, what the heck would the 'resale' value of a home-built RV be? I certainly wouldn't buy one used or new.
  4. elkhartjim

    elkhartjim Senior Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    Hey think Good Sam or anybody else would issue an extended warranty?
  5. TexasClodhopper

    TexasClodhopper Senior Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    So, after you build all this stuff into a passenger van in 6-9 months of spare time, you're going to take it all apart and put all the stuff that you took out (and stored) and resell it as a passenger van again to some unsuspecting person?

    I can only imagine all of the wiring and unwiring involved in this. You must not put much value on your spare time. I would think the 6 - 9 months you plan on spending will tend to alienate your family just a wee bit, too. There's a cost to that as well.

    To each his own. I RV to have fun. The depreciation is just another cost of getting out and doing the fun stuff.

  6. larryccf1

    larryccf1 New Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    well at least someone's responding, albeit hostiley

    not sure what "unsuspectingly" you would be implying or referring to

    a)i've built two experimental category airplanes, the last one took 3300+ hours (FAA requires documentation is only reason i know), and actually enjoy building things, so it would be enjoyment for me - it's been more than one time i've been up till 2-3:00AM working on a project

    b) don't understand what wiring you feel would be interefered with on the vehicle's wiring harness - all take offs, 12V wise, would be off the auxiliary battery, and would simply be dis-connected from there

    3) as i calculate it, there would be two holes in the floor for the shower and sink drain - but had already planned to simply layup a pc of fiberglass over where the holes will be "before" i cut them - that way, when i remove the cabinets and drains, the fiberglass was already formed to the exact shape of the floor's contours and simply a matter of bonding it over the holes

    I've got enough experience with wood and fiberglass to match what i see the RV mfgrs offering, plus be able to do it modularly, so that it simply slides out in modules. And all cabinets would be at back end anyway, with two couches facing each other in the middle of the van

    Service entrance or access panels for water / electrical would be on an extended bumper molded & painted to shape to match the van's rear - the 170" passenger 2500 sprinter van actually has more room than i need so if i wasn't concerned about weather i could actually put it inside the rear doors in what i'm planning on using for lawn chair, etc baggage compartment. That extended bumper would simply unbolt

    the roof A/C would remain with the vehicle

    your implication of passing on a vehicle with "unsuspecting" whatevers is a little offensive - my experience tells me folks that are quick to assume or accuse are usually guilty of what they project.
    hope that's not the case
  7. TexasClodhopper

    TexasClodhopper Senior Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    un·sus·pect·ing //

    Audio Help (un's?-spek'ting) Pronunciation Key

    adj. Not suspicious; trusting.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved August 10, 2008, from

    Damned if I do; damned if I don't.
  8. elkhartjim

    elkhartjim Senior Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    Oh boy!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  9. H2H1

    H2H1 Senior Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    post some picture of your project, on the other hand don't I don't have time to look and still enjoy this forum. good luck and happy camping when ever :question:
  10. SnowbirdInFlight

    SnowbirdInFlight Senior Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    Wow! This sounds like a lot of work, yet a lot of fun as well. What a satisfying feeling you will get out of 'doing it yourself'! Don't mind the put-downs by some of the guys on this forum. I've found they always attack any ideas that are new and different from what they believe. Don't let their hostility get you down. I think what you are doing is great. I would love to see some pics of your progress! Good luck and welcome to the forum!
  11. larryccf1

    larryccf1 New Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    i'll try to - i had actually posted thinking the topic might be an interesting topic for a number of folks to jump into - really didn't see the reaction some posed, coming.

    it'll be at least 3 - 4 months before i start - a) we just launched a major new product line and it's taking more management time than i had expected but also showing stronger initial market response than we expected, and need to make hay while the sunshines and before the competition wakes up.

    For the hey of it, been looking to see what's on dealers' lots - found one gas passenger sprinter on a florida dealer's lot, that had anywhere near the options i wanted. But found a lot of the normally stocking dealers are lanquishing with diesel versions - plus there's the uncertainty of or if dodge will be carrying the sprinter next year. Would love to see Freightliner get it back as all the forums for the sprinter, users that took theirs to freightliner for service issues seem satisfied with their technicians competency.

    b) still doing a lot of research on materials, supplies, different designs. Found an interesting generator i was surprised to find and priced relatively reasonable for the quality/durability - a honda ev4010 & ev6010 12 HP inline 2 cyl water cooled gas engine RV generator - i was surprised as it uses the same engine in my 19 year old honda lawn tractor and thought honda had dropped the water cooled engine altogether. I know from a friend at a honda bike/outdoor sports dealership the engine is actually a car engine for a small 2 seater car they sell in Japan, that with a different profiled camshaft & carb generates a whopping 27 hp. But main point, anytime an engine is water cooled, it's a)quieter and b) has a longer life expectancy due to cooler operating temps. Given it's built to hand 27 hp and more importantly stronger torque numbers, it should give good life. the lawn tractor i've got still runs strong turning a 3 blade 38" deck cutting 2 acres for the 19 years (and still so quiet you can have a conversation with engine running 3600 rpm, standing 5 feet away. - suprising part is it's the same engine whether a 4000w or 6000watt model. For either output, 12HP is extra hp, which means engine won't be running full throttle holding rpm at full load which means quieter still. And pretty compact (25W X 15H X 18" deep). Price isn't bad, the 4000watt is $2700 retail w/muffler, remote start/monitor panel is $210, the 6000W is $3000 - both prices are MSRP. Compared to $2000 for the EU3000is Honda, which would have no where near the longevity, i'm inclined toward the EV series

    also looking into aero gel insulation - pretty interesting stuff, feather light, silica based gel that is flame proof (so no toxicity if there is a small electrical fire inside the van - saw the stuff demo'd on discovery back in the 90s, 1/2" thick piece, user was able to place hand in full contact on the under side and held a 1400 degree torch to the top side for 45 seconds or so with no heat transfer. It seems it's been on the market commercially now for a few years. Not cheap material though

    but organizing items like that will be first on the agenda
  12. SnowbirdInFlight

    SnowbirdInFlight Senior Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    Actually my hubby and I have considered taking our old conversion van and converting it into a mini-camper, but we haven't started it yet. Who knows you might just inspire us to do something! Looking forward to hearing more on your project and seeing the progress photos.
  13. cwishert

    cwishert New Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    It sounds like a big project. Sounds like a lot of work but it sounds like if you have the time and the knowledge you will have a nice van. My son told me he could do the same when I started looking for an rv but I told him that I need instant gratification if you know what I mean. I am a right now kind of person. My son also has the skill and the knowledge to do what you are suggesting but I doubt he has the time or patience. I wish you all the luck and I hope to see pictures of your progress when you start and while you are working on the project. Don't let a little negativity get you down or riled up. Just prove them wrong. :bleh:
  14. steeltrap

    steeltrap New Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    I am close to completing my build of a Class B Chevy Cargo Van. I think you have more of the nescessary skills for this than I do. But here are a couple of thoughts.

    1. Its a lot of fun!
    2. As I looked over your proposed equipment list I wondered how you would fit all of this into the van, especially the washer/dryer and the 40 gallon water tank. That seems to me to be one of the biggest challenges, - how to lay things out. But you do have more room, at least verically in a Sprinter than I do.
    3. You indicated you want gas instead of diesel. I'm surprised at this. I would think your MPG with diesel would be 20%+ better, and I think diesel price will come more in line with gas soon.
    4. There are some alternatives for AC where it is not installed on the roof. I've sometimes regretted having it up there because it makes my vehicle extra tall and I think it hurts gas mileage a little.
    5. On the generator, I have an Eu3000i and it seems to be plenty, thats with an AC that I think only draws about 8 amps. You might want to keep an eye on weight. Also, I thought I read somewhere that you can not put a roof AC on the highest Sprinter roof. I don't know why you couldn't, but you might check on that.
    6. If you like, I'll try to put together a list of the components I used and some pictures. Mine is not nearly as nice i.e., does not look nearly so professional as what I have seen on other posts, but I enjoy it.
    7. One nice thing about DIY is you can do it like you want to. In both of our previous RVs the beds were either short or hard. Now our bed is a full size queen and very comfortable.

  15. larryccf1

    larryccf1 New Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    Steeltrap - wasn't aware of the rooftop not being eligibile for A/C installation - is it possible that's for the fiberglass Mega rooftop? -
    i'm planning on staying with the standard high roof, but even if so, suspect some ribbing would remedy the situation - but that will have to resolved when i have the van on hand

    Main reason for gas: i've lurked on all the sprinter forums for awhile now, and could not believe the reliability issues with the diesel sprinters - and i mean outrageously common issues that the majority of dodge techs don't seem to be knowledgeable in identifying or correcting. Most outrageous report was a Winnebago owner indicating his had been TOWED in to the dealership or a dealership 20 times in 22,000 miles. One owner actually reporting that at 17,000 miles he had lost all confidence in the vehicle and had converted it to use as a "$40,000 storage trailer" and had bought a chevy express. If it had only been a few reports, that'd be one case but it seems to be quite common to suffer more than a few totally disabling issues that seem to be electronics based and the same issues being reported from 2003 thru 2006, which is the more worrisome part, indicating MB or Dodge had not bothered to correct the issues. Another set of issues seem to be a result of the varying quality of diesel fuel available here in the US, with ULSD diesel fuel not commonly available and the mercedes diesel emissions system specifically designed for it with no allowance for the slightly lower grade LSD diesel. At least the gas engine, which is common with the engines in a lot of mercedes sedans, i would hope to be able to have serviced at a mercedes dealership, even if not under warranty. (I have given some thought to the Chevy vans, with the 6L V8, but can't seem to find them with the high top roofs available. The high top sprinter van is just an extremely nice "box" to start with.

    I suspect a good number of the reported problems derive from the fact they're imported into the US market in "kit" form, ie built in germany, dis-assembled and boxed as "repair kits" to avoid the truck tariffs that have been in place since the early 70s. Suspect the re-assembly at the SC plant, QC controls are not what they should be. Only reason i suspect that, a lot of the issues seem to be poor grounding on electronic components - headlights that flicker, parking lights that only come on on one side of the vehicle until the culprit grounding point is found and tightened, "start error" codes that flash up on dash & disabling the engine, that seem to be corrected by tightening the fuse panels. Really basic stuff that should not be occurring. Sprinter/MB owners outside the US don't seem to be experiencing the reliability issues at all and are surprised at the quality issues US sprinters report, which is what leads me to believe the SC assembly process may be the culprit. The passenger vans, not being categorized as trucks, are imported in the assembled state and i haven't seen any reliability issue reports on those.

    The 170" WB will give me a little over 14' of floor behind the driver/passenger seat, so there'll be room for the washer/dryer under the sink/refrig/stove counter. The washer/dryer is not a definite item, but would prefer to not have to visit/waste time in or even having to look for public laundry facilities.

    The larger generator would serve double duty for me. Where we live, we're down the road from an electric power substation. Power just seems to go out every other thunderstorm. I've had a 13KW generator in a shed for the house since 2000. Have had to use it about 9 times, for outages ranging from a 7-8 day outage, to 14 hour outages. Only problem with it is fuel consumption is high (about 22 gals/day). I wanted one that large to handle the house 5 ton A/C, but at night, I don't need it running, as we have one of those windowless split A/C heat pump systems for the master bedroom. about 10:30PM the house A/C goes off, and the bedroom unit goes on. Having a 6,000W unit installed in the van or under the van, it would serve as the backup system to handle the night time duty. As the economy is in a downturn, the utility companies that have been "compressing" their maintenance budgets for the past 10 - 15 years, i suspect will only compress them further, which means more outages in store for the future.

    And that 12HP honda engine is quiet, extremely so, plus with the water cooled factor, life expectency is lot longer. That same engine in the lawn tractor is now 19 years old with a lot of grass cutting under it's belt with no repairs other than a starter battery. The smaller air cooled engines can't offer the kind of life expectancy, plus the 12 hp engine isn't running as near to it's full power limit. Frankly, had the EV6000 been around when i bought the house generator, i'd have bought two of those, and had someone build me a combo panel, so i could run both during the day and just shut one down at night. If it was solely for use in the camper, the Eu3000is would definitely be my choice, hands down. But for $1000 more (at retail), the 6000W is a lot more bang for the buck, considering i'll be able to use that extra "bang" during outages. Plus, the EV4000/EV6000 come already sized (25X18X15) and mounted on a tray for RV installation under the floor. It wouldn't be that difficult to build a compartment for it that would convert easily to a locking luggage compartment when it reverts back to passenger shuttle use.

    tanks - I may be optismistic on potential capacity - I'll have to have the van on hand to be able to size the spaces available under the floor accurately to determine what sizes i'll be able to go with. I have seen a sprinter on the lift (a 12' van) and believe i'll probably be better off building the tanks to fit the cavities under the floor. But once i've got the cavity space available worked out, i may have to adjust sizes or capacity some, but I'm comfortable i'll come close enough.

    and yes, would love to see any input - what you've installed, etc. Always looking for ideas -

    Quote: "7. One nice thing about DIY is you can do it like you want to. In both of our previous RVs the beds were either short or hard. Now our bed is a full size queen and very comfortable." Exactly, that's probably the biggest advantage to a DIY van.
  16. hertig

    hertig Senior Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    Hello, have you added up the weight of all this stuff? I tried to have Sportsmobile convert a 3/4 ton dodge van, and they would not put in the high capacity battery, the generator, the big water and sewage tanks (less than 20 gallons) in anything less than a 1 ton. Plus they didn't even consider putting a washer/dryer into a class B.
  17. larryccf1

    larryccf1 New Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    actually, that is a good consideration

    i was planning on saving weight by building the cabinets from a sandwich of carbon fiber over 1/2" foam (ie, both sides of the foam panels sandwiched by carbon fiber). We built our trade show booths, making 4X8 sheets like that, and then simply using or cutting them same as we would plywood.

    I was more focus'd on keeping weight as low as possible, to avoid a top heavy affair, but hadn't thought much about the possibility of the total weight. It had occurred to me i'd have to try to balance the weight around the vehicle in terms of side to side bias and front/rear bias. Was also planning on self leveling air bags (which means another 20 - 30 lbs for small compressor & tank).

    Just ran thru a list of the components, and using their shipping weights, which should give me a margin, i'm at 2200 - 2300 lbs there (including me & wife & dog). I might have to go with a full ton rated van and trim back some on the list. We used to have a 3 ton rated E350 Ford van with a Utilimaster cab over van w/dual wheel rear axle - and it traveled surprisingly well, but it did like the weight down low.

    I also thought about building my own water tanks, both supply and collection, only because i could custom fit them in the cavities between frame and rocker panels, but... not a task i really look forward to- would prefer prefabbed plastic tanks.

    Anyone know what kind of per minute gal consumption rate the RV shower heads flow at? I'd like at least enough water for two showers + hand/face washing and some coffee.

    thanks, i needed to look at that and really hadn't expected total weight would go that high.

    BTW, found at one conversion van outlets, a van that they offer for police departments as a Laser or Ladar van for tagging speeders, E350 ford w/ high top roof, roof/top a/c, generator, 19" TV monitor w/DVD player, small refrigerator, & interior vinyl panels and sound/heat insulated for $35K. What's nice about it is it's been prewired with 10 or 12 110V circuits (including breaker panel), rooftop A/C already installed. And it would leave me to build cabinets, and plumb the water items (tanks, shower, toilet). Staying with one of those marine toilets (3 or 4 gal collection tank as part of the base) would be easier and save wgt (eliminating one of the collection tanks) as well as space under the van.
  18. hertig

    hertig Senior Member

    Re: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    Taking a shower in an RV, particularly a class B, is sort of a 'navy' shower experiance. Wet down and turn off the water. Lather up. Turn on the water and rinse off. Next! Plus the hot water heaters tend to be pretty small. Even if you have plenty of water and plenty of gray tank for it to go into, cold showers may not be your thing.

    That police van sounds like a good start.

    As for the shower, I've seen a method which may work for you. There is a pan in the floor, covered with a panel so the floor is level. Take out the panel and you have the base of the shower. Then there is a tapered (wide at top and shower base sized at the bottom) curtain which goes all the way around. The nice thing is that it is not as cramped as those which attempt to have a 'stall'. Although it is a bit more trouble to set up.

    I'm sure you haven't forgotten a sink.

    And when thinking of weight, don't forget that water in your fresh water tank and hot water tank. 8 pounds a gallon, I think.

    If the refridgerator is 110v only, that could be a concern as you travel. Perhaps you can run the generator (and the A/C). Or toss in some 'blue ice' packages while travelling. From what I hear, the 12v refrigertors don't do the job. The gas ones are good, but then you need a propane system. And if you have that, might as well have gas stove, gas water heater and/or gas furnace, since those all tend to be more efficieant than electric.
  19. larryccf1

    larryccf1 New Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    LOL, had forgotten about those Navy showers (i took too many of those aboard a destroy, 1967-69). Might just buy the shurflow pump and a shower fixture ahead of schedule to see how low i can take the flow rate. I've had those "economizer" shower heads that basically use a restrictor plate (a washer) in the connection with an opening that's about 1/8", they pull flow rate down to 2.7 gallons a minute from 5-6 gallons/minute for normal household shower heads. Sure made our hot water showers last longer untill we went to a gas hot water heater in the house.

    I actually held a bucket under the head and ran the water for 1 minute and measured how much the bucket had captured. Probably the easiest way with the RV shower head - and see how low i can bring it and still have a comfortable shower.

    and yep, had allowed for the weight of sink, faucets, and the water - it was kind of a surprise seeing it add up to what it did. Maybe i'll install some helium balloons in the panels to help "lighten" the load.
  20. TheQueen

    TheQueen New Member

    RE: Planning on building a Class B on a Dodge Sprinter passenger

    When I was married the first husband we converted a school bus into a motorhome. We lived in the motor home for 7 years and had a great time.

    If this is something that you want to do then you do it!

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