Mike Williams of Fayetteville, West Virginia, is a serious climber. And any serious climber is a road warrior. Only the fittest survive, and in the case of climber road trips, increasing evolutionary fitness ( I like to think) leads from VW Westy to Sprinter camper van. Seemingly so for Mike:
“Buying a new vehicle was a very difficult decision but I had to man up and do it. I’ve loved Troy, my 1986 VW Vanagon Westy, with all my heart. But it got to the point where I was unable to leave town for climbing trips. Kind of defeats the purpose of having a camper van if you can’t leave town to camp! So I was faced with the difficult decision of either putting thousands of dollars into a full restoration or spending 1000’s of dollars on a new rig. I bought a new rig. This is Max…the Road Warrior… Max is a Dodge Sprinter cargo van with a 2.7 liter turbo diesel Mercedes engine that will supposedly run up to 400,000 miles at about 30 mpg. Sick. He was used as a work truck in Iowa. I flew to Iowa to pick it up, filled up the tank across the street from the dealer, then drove it home, only stopping for gas once! It has a big tank. 800 miles on a tank and a quarter.”
Now when Mike is on the road, it’s in Max, his 2004 Sprinter 2500 118″ wheelbase camper van. A 118″ Sprinter camper? Yep, and Mike pimped it out himself. This DIY Sprinter camper is a great example of how to fit all the necessities into a very small space, on the cheap.
Mike built the first version of Max the Road Warrior and took it out on the road before uncovering some problems with his design:
“Our biggest gripe was the bed…we were sleeping sideways with our feet under the cabinets. The Sprinter van is 5’8″ wide and I’m 5’10” …I brainstormed ideas for a bed that would maximize space for a year. Seriously. Much like the naked Archimedes and Doc from Back to the Future, my best ideas often come to me in the bathroom. Slightly less brilliant than a flux capacitor was my folding bed idea which came to me in the shower as I washed, rinsed, and repeated the flowing golden lock that covers my bald spot.”
“The other big improvement is the addition of a fridge. I researched for a long time and decided to go with electric over propane for a number of reasons. With the addition of a Novakool electric fridge I also needed to up my battery bank. I did have one 55 ah AGM battery mounted under the passenger seat and I chose to add in 200 more amp hours for a 255 total.”
“I’m not going to go into all the pain-in-the-ass details of tearing apart everything and redoing it except to say that that is what I had to do. The counter had to come out an inch to accommodate the fridge depth and the cabinetry beneath had to be completely redone as well… I also added a slide out dining table for the booth, and a small table between the two front seats…The kitchen is improved. Food on the left, drawer and fridge center, pots and pans under sink.”
And after all this work to create a DIY Sprinter camper van, what is the upshot? Is Max 2.0 really Beyond Thunderdome?
Mike: “‘I’m really happy with the setup I have now. The 12V electric fridge was the right choice. The space available is perfect. I love having the shortest model Sprinter as a daily driver. At this point I wouldn’t change a thing. It suits my needs perfectly.”
Thinking of building your own DIY Sprinter camper van? Check out my Sprinter RV Conversion Sourcebook!
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