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RD- I see where you are going with the number of cylinders idea, but I don't think it's quite that simple. All engines strike compromises in many areas, and I suspect that 4 cylinder engines get better mileage than 6 cylinder engines not because of the number of bores but because of how they are designed for their intended purpose. For instance, I once owned a Mazda 626 with a 2.5 liter V6. That's tiny, and the 4 banger available for the same model year was a 2.0 or a 2.2. So why would Mazda sell such an incrementally different engine size? Because they could! By that I mean that people will pay more for a V6, and Madza would design the V6 to make more HP.

Generally, more cylinders means higher horsepower but lower torque, or high horsepower at high rpm. A V12 has twice as many power impulses as a V6, and it has twice as many valves so it breathes better up high. It has (theoretically) twice as much internal friction though. And it's twice as complicated and probably twice as expensive to build.

I've never understood why the Europeans were so enamored with 5 cylinder engines. I can say that I used to dabble in diesel 70s Benz's, and they had a 2.4 inline 4, and then in 1980 came out with a 3.0 inline 5. The engines were identical except the 5 had one more cylinder. So I chalked it up to Benz laziness in engineering. Chevy did the same with the 4.3 V6 - it was just a small block with two cylinders lopped off.
 

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Let's run RD's numbers comparing his gas F150 camper to a PM camper. Givens are:
gas at 3.29/gal and diesel at 3.52/gallon. His F150 gets 12.5 and a gas PM gets 18. The diesel PM we suspect will get 26 (though that's just a guess).

Cents per mile are:
F150 26.3 or .263 dollars per mile
Gas PM .183
Diesel PM .135

assuming the diesel PM costs $4000 more than the gasser, the break even mileage is 83,333 miles.

Because I like to play with numbers, what if I assume he owns the F150 outright, but that he's decided to throw $10,000 at maintaining it. He buys a crate engine, he rebuilds the trans, he gets sheepskin seat covers. Yet he still gets crappy mileage as above. Assuming the gas PM costs $33,000, his break even mileage is:

287,500 miles.

Now let's assume he decides to throw $10,000 at the F150, but he spends it on fancy stuff to get better mileage. Not sure what that stuff might be (tires, fairings, a Powerstroke diesel, an Ecoboost transplant, whatever). Let's say he gets it up from 12.5 mpg to a sensible 18. How long does that take to pay for itself:

125,000 miles

Where am I going with all this? I really can't remember. But it's fun stuff to think about.

If it were me, I'd lay aside the money aspects and approach it from a different angle. Ask yourself, "how serious am I about RVing?" If the answer is super-serious, then don't futz around. Buy what you want, what excites you, and make it yours and **** the expense. If the answer is "I love RVing, but I don't want to blow a pile of money on it?" then I'd keep the F150 and I'd save $30,000 by not buying ANY new rig.

If the question is, "does the PM make a good RV platform?" then the answer is a resounding yes. It's more comfortable, more maneuverable, more spacious, simpler, and generally more elegant than an F150, and certainly than an F150 with a camper in the bed. It's a blank canvas upon which to paint your RV masterpiece.

On the other hand, you can get a pretty nice used motorhome for $10,000. Shockingly nice with low miles.
 

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...On the other hand, you can get a pretty nice used motorhome for $10,000. Shockingly nice with low miles.
I don't generally say that because I don't want to p on anyone's hobbies. But yea, it makes no sense to me to drop $30K - $40K on a van and then spend a bunch more building an RV. Nice used ones are plentiful for 20 cents on the dollar.
 

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First off, it is incorrect to compare a single cylinder 650cc engine and a 2 cylinder 800cc engine as the 800cc engine is almost 25% larger.

But I do see most Sprinters on the road looking like a rusty wrecking yard reject going down the road.
 

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Since I started this aspect i'll chime in that i agree with all the above responses. Yes I know my cylinder vs mileage is a factor not the final answer, yes I agree we have more cylinders because it sells, yes I could keep the F150 going for many years, yes a PM RV is a desire and used van conversions are cheaper than dirt, yes I am a cabinet builder and I want to have my built RV instead of an upfitters and yes 800 cc's is bigger than 650. Thanks all for chiming in. Now let me stop your guessing my motivations. I think the PM van (and the Sprinter and Transit to some extent) change the landscape concerning small RV's that can be multipurpose vehicles. I have the truck because I have been a builder and I needed a pickup. I have the lightweight, pop-up slide in camper because I want a rig I can travel in, get away from everyone, stay for weeks on end, enjoy nature and relax. I have taken it to places the Jeepers shook their heads and couldn't believe I could go. I probably am past that so the front drive should get me anywhere I want to go.
I have never been happy with the interior of any manufactored RV I have been in... too much OSB, fake wood, plastic, and fluffy fabrics. Not nearly flexible enough as well. I plan to build a tasteful interior of quality wood and veneers with the van's ribs showing. It should be modular so the bed (or kitchen etc.) can be removed to let the van be used to haul two motorcycles to Daytona or (???) to bring home a few sheets of veneer for my hobby (I'm retired.. not working for anyone else!) and to park next to Jacob's field if I want to catch a Red Sox vs. Orioles game, stop at Walmart for a night on the way to AZ if needed, catch the subway into NY, or park on the beach at the end of one of the many roads that leave Muelle de San Felipe in Baja. It needs to be able to provide all my power for weeks on end, keep the beer cold, allow me to sleep in comfort and to ride along the interstate at moderate speed but be able to get me through the mud on a dirt road in comfort.
I like the IDEA of diesel as a fuel for its mileage, vehicle range, reliability(?), but I am willing to learn more having little experience with it in trucks/vans. I have up to a year to decide on which rig to buy. I then need a winter to convert it and plan to learn from you all before I make a mistake. $30+ K is a lot of money but both my kids have enough of their own. I'm hoping to spend mine myself and die broke. Wife's on board on this!
Thanks
 

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Raises a cuppa coffee to RDinNHandAZ

Agreed! I bought my PM in January as a "sag wagon" for a transcontinental horse and carriage drive. Nothing in the pre-made category suited my requirements to haul a carriage, pull a horse trailer and then readily convert into a comfortable camper.

And the US-made Class B motorhomes are so tacky inside unlike the european ones. Skeeves me right out.

I don't have RD's skills and trying to install the ceiling has convinced me that I need a third arm.


Maybe I'll see RD's PM in the Sonoran desert.
 

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RD, your goal and situation are similar to ours. We bought my 1500 136' high roof last week and hope to have it fitted out by July. It will not be easy, given that 4-5 months of that time we will be traveling.

We presently use a tent on the truck bed. It will be nice to walk to the back and go to bed without setting up a tent in the rain trying to keep the bed sheets dry. However, we are reluctant to cross that line from campers to RV'ers. Thus no tanks, no extra batteries, no fru-fru, etc. Just opening windows all around, a bed, storage and work surface. Honest wood with the ribs probably exposed.
 

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I have a tip that I learned. If you want to know what gear you are in at that very moment,
pull the shifter to the left and it will read on the dash the gear that it is in.

So if you were in 4th gear and pulled the shifter to the left it will read 4 but now will
not go higher than 4th unless you manual it by pulling back .

I do this sometimes to know what gear it is in, pull to the left and read then put back in auto mode.
But as time goes by I kinda know what gear it is using without looking.
Manual shifting comes in handy at times.
 

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I don't generally say that because I don't want to p on anyone's hobbies. But yea, it makes no sense to me to drop $30K - $40K on a van and then spend a bunch more building an RV. Nice used ones are plentiful for 20 cents on the dollar.
There are a lot of members on here doing what you think makes "no sense"
Including me. Kinda stupid huh?
What are your hobbies?
 

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Personally I have no desire to own a vehicle of any type that is over 10 years old and has close to 200k miles on it. I don't care what it cost/is worth - I want no problems, easy to drive, daily driver/weekend camper, modern. I don't won't someone else's 10 year old smelly camper with who knows what problems, mold, mice, etc, etc. that is why I sold my 10 year old Sprinter and bought a new Promaster. It fits my needs perfectly for the next 10 years and after that I'll be too old to worry about anything.

Price and cost are not always the determining factor in any purchase!
 

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RD - now we are narrowing it down nicely. I think your general plan and approach are fantastic and I'm jealous.

In the grand scheme of things, you really only have a choice of three new vehicles that meet your needs, namely the Sprinter, the PM, and the Transit.

Don't neglect to research it on your own, but the Sprinter is basically a pile of crap. Ask around and I think you'll conclude the same.

My own feeling is that the PM is best because it's the simplest. The chassis and body are butt simple. The engine is a known quantity, 3 years old now, and installed in every Chysler vehicle sold. As long as you keep after the oil changes and use the right oil, it should be a maintenance free engine basically. The "mystery" part is the transmission and transaxle. The guts of the transmission are over 10 years old and are in every minivan, but it doesn't have a stellar reputation. The PM transmission is a modified version of it. Time will tell. The upside is that in the worst case, I can buy a lot of transmission rebuilds with the money saved over the Sprinter.

To be honest, I don't really know much about the new Transit and how it compares. It had just hit the market when I bought my PM. My feeling is not to buy one until it's been out for at least 6 months. That said, the basic Transit has been around for decades in Europe. The Ecoboost version is mostly proven, but also fairly problematic in both V6 and I4 versions. It's an exceptionally complex engine. You could get the N/A version, which is a fairly robust engine and has been in production a while. There's also the diesel option.

Historically, Ford has a so-so record with diesels. The 7.3 power stroke was a great engine…..made by International. Ford tried their hand with a 6.0 version and it was a class action level lemon. The newest power stroke is an all Ford design, but I really don't know if it's good or bad. I can say that except for really routine stuff, you are pretty much married to the dealer service department on the Ford diesel or Ecoboost. Corner garages simply aren't going to be able to deal with it.

I would give the diesel transit a serious look though. Am I wrong or can you get a transit in AWD?
 

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I must be really bored, because I've been thinking about those Jetta comments from a few pages back in this thread. So I ran some ROI numbers on a Golf. Here's the scoop

Golf 1.8T gasser 25 city, 36 highway, base model $20,695
Golf TDI diesel 30 city, 45 highway, $21,995
Local fuel prices as of today 3.17 gas and 3.69 diesel

ROI for highway driving 31,707 miles
ROI for city driving 33,333 miles

not bad at all. But here's another fun one. What about a Prius vs a Toyota Corolla. Pretty comparable cars I think.

Corolla base 28/37mpg $16900
Prius base (not the prius C or V but the regular one) 51/48 $24,200

ROI City 270,370 miles
ROI Highway 1,825,000 miles.

That's 1.8 million miles to break even with a Prius on the highway, and a quarter million in the city. Crazy. And if you are at the national average of 15,000 miles a year, the Prius saves you a whopping $407 dollars a year in fuel in the city, and a measly $60 per year on the highway. So expressed in years driven at 15,000 the numbers are:

ROI city 18 years
ROI highway 121.66 years!

Nutty. Call me crazy, but THIS is why hybrids aren't selling well.
 

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Archangel...Can't I fill the ribs with foam? I know the through-metal will conduct a lot of heat away but most covered ones seem to have only a thin veneer over it anyway. Whether they stay exposed is too fine a detail for now, i just think it would be a good look. I'll do what works.

Kip... I agree on all your appraisals of the three vans. Sprinter is out.... too much $$ and too few service sites. The transit was converted from FWD to RWD for the american market I believe. I have no knowledge what that entailed in terms of engine layout/transmission etc. I suspect it should be considered a new vehicle only remotely related to its Euro history. In Euro it is offered in an AWD variant (hearsay as I never saw one) and rumor is that it will be offered here sometime. I think I can live without AWD. As I have this winter to investigate this I will mostly follow the PM for another reason. It is wider and I have drawn configurations and seen a few DIY jobs in sprinters and I like the bed across the back. I am 5'8" and the wife is less so we could do it. I will look at and drive the Transit Diesel but so far know nothing about it, except it is $6,000(?)... little has been published and I have not really looked too hard. As of now the PM diesel ($4,000) is where my money will go if it gets good reviews and high 20's fuel mileage. I would not rule out the gas job if I learn more about modern diesels and they do not look good. BTW the robotic transmission may be a winner. They have been around a while, well received, and seem to outlast any automatic and the clutch is controlled to avoid premature wear as the manual clutches do. I appreciate all the feedback and hope for more.
 

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AdBlue / DEF / urea consumption is very low. The late model VW TDI experience has been that the engines configured for AdBlue (Passat) can be tuned differently and more efficiently than those configured for a lean-NOx catalyst (Mk6 Golf/Jetta), and the reduction in fuel consumption is enough to pay for the AdBlue or maybe even a bit better.

With modern diesels, I'm less concerned about the AdBlue consumption than with the repair cost if any of that extra hardware fails.
 

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".Can't I fill the ribs with foam? I know the through-metal will conduct a lot of heat away but most covered ones seem to have only a thin veneer over it anyway. Whether they stay exposed is too fine a detail for now, i just think it would be a good look."

I think this is worth discussion. Especially for a multipurpose van. Exposed ribs certainly make future mods easier. And 1/8" paneling is only 1/8" of extra insulation; a small fraction of an R value. Stuff or foam ribs with any type of insulation and slip reflectix into the holes for a smooth finish. This is like the ROI discussion. How much extra heating would I need? Maybe not really measurable.
 

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I am very reluctant to cover the midpoint ribs and have spent a good bit of time pondering what to do with them.

I do plan to insulate reasonably well, but I'm more concerned about condensation, sun heat on the roof, and sound than heat loss. We manage quite well in a tent with snow on it, so the PM would be luxurious in the cold even with nothing. At the ribs, my biggest concern is plugging holes so nothing can fall into the innards and get lost. I'd love to see a set of covers for those odd-shaped openings. A few years from now, I'd just fire up my 3-D printer and make some.
 

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I used loose polyester fiberfill into the ribs and struts. Poking it into the ribs took some time but an audiobook helped. I chose this because it is non-allergenic.

Between the ribs, I used sheets of styrofoam.

I covered all this with layers of http://www.warmcompany.com/ibpage.html 45 inches wide x 40 yards.

The sprinter forum has lots of different ways to insulate the cargo area and is worth a look.

I found that sound insulation became unimportant once I had a great sound barrier between the driving compartment and the cargo area.
 
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