Welcome to Alpinevan.com, a website dedicated to documenting the conversion of our Ford Transit van to an on/off-road camper for travel and sport. During the planning of this build, we have benefited immensely from the wealth of knowledge on the Sprinter Forums and on the Ford Transit USA Forums. We hope to pay it forward by sharing the details of our build with you!
So let’s start with a discussion of the van…
Why We Chose the Ford Transit
The Transit Delivered on our key requirements:
- A van that we could stand up inside
- 4 Wheel Drive with low range gearing
- Easy and low maintenance/repair costs
- Fuel requirements compatible with Central and South American travel
If you want to be able stand up inside your van, you have three choices: the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the Ram Promaster and the Ford Transit. One could debate the merits of these vehicles seemingly forever (and some do). But there were two factors that drove the choice of the Ford Transit: ease/expense of maintenance and availability of a real four-wheel drive system with low-range gearing.
Real 4 Wheel Drive
Many of our travels will be either on rough, sometimes steep and loose mountain or desert roads or on snow, hence our requirement for 4WD. This immediately eliminates the Promaster. The Sprinter is available with 4WD from the factory, although it’s a 60-40 power split rather than the traditional 50-50.
The Transit is not available in 4WD from the factory (at least in the US). However, there are two upfitters that are authorized by Ford to convert the vehicles to 4WD: Quadvan and Quigley Motor Company. Quadvan is located in Oregon and Quigley is in Pennsylvania. Both conversions run approximately $12,000-$13,000 which you pay to your Ford dealer at the time of purchase and both provide similar capabilities, including two inches of lift, fully-locked transfer case and low-range gearing. Both have warranty same as the original new vehicle warranty.
We decided to go with Quigley mostly based upon the size and resources of the company. We felt that Quigley would be better positioned to offer the warranty support for as long as we owned the van. They have been in business for over 40 years and convert more than thirty-six Transits per month. While I have also heard good things about Quadvan, they are much smaller operation. Your decision criteria may be different, so I encourage you to talk to owners and read the threads on the Ford Transit USA Forums before making your own decision.
Ease and Cost of Maintenance
The issue with the Sprinter is that it is only available with a diesel engine that can really only be serviced by at Mercedes ($$$) and a few specialist shops. The 3.5L Ecoboost gas engine available in the Transit is used in the Ford F-150 (most popular pickup truck ever) and can be serviced almost anywhere.
The Sprinter requires ultra-low sulphur diesel which is not available in most of Central and South America. So if you have dreams of heading south (as we do) you cannot take your Sprinter. Dave Orton, a former Sprinter owner and DIY camper converter has since switched to the Transit and has more information his website www.ortontransit.info comparing Sprinter to the Transit.
In the next post, we will get into the detailed equipment options for our van and our rationale for each.