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Folks

For the last several years, We've been planning a camper build to replace our VW Westfalia, soon to be retired after over 20 years and 200K miles. We've become quite used to the relatively small space of the Westy, love the maneuverability and ability to include cities in our touring, so will go with short to medium length, medium to high top in our new van.

High priority attributes are:
1. Reliable engine (preferably gas), lots of power, easy to service
2. Reliable and powerful AC to cool the large volume of the van. We want to travel in the SW without baking! I plan to buy a white van, insulate well, tint windows, and install a MaxAir fan as well.

I've been thinking to go with a Ford Transit, but now I'm reading lots of posts about major AC problems, gas mileage is disappointing, and the short WB model isn't quite tall enough for my 6' body.

Sprinters are more expensive up front and maintenance, and the dealer network is thin.

Dodge Promasters have a variety of issues, haven't done well in some comparison tests (Car and Driver, Canadian "Autos" magazine, and have a pronounced forward tilt that bothers me.

I've been waiting for GM to weigh in, hopefully with a Nissan NV400 derivative, but it looks like they're not going to do that any time soon.

So now I'm re-considering one of the old-school vans, Chev. Express, with a pop top from Colorado Campers. Reliable power train, decent gas mileage (though from what I've read the V8 will do just as well as the V6), lots of dealers. Not sure how good the AC is. Another plus is the large supply of used vans out there.

Looking forward to your thoughts on this.

Larry Burt
Portland, Oregon
PS: I've posted this in the Transit, Sprinter, Promaster, and Express Forums.
 

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Welcome, Get over the idea of gas. I have a 136” High top converted to have sort of what a Westy has. Pull out bed, galley with 12 volt refrig, tilt out windows, a diesel that gets 27 mpg (just what my air cooled Westy got) and it turns a tight as the VW, handles and stops much better, we park in any city and were just in Key West to prove it. The driving position is sort of the same and you ride very near the front ties too. I have 23K in a year, not one issue, diesel is available everywhere and the pumps are clean and no soot on the back, in fact no soot in the tailpipe at all. The transmission is a manual that has no clutch.... automatically shifts itself! Unique but very good. You can stand up in it, step up to the floor and you can sleep across it too! (74” in our bed), a ton more storage than a Westy but it really doesn’t feel much bigger, just wider which you get used to. I put in a diesel heater, no AC, and solar which does everything. Look at my build and others here. It is an easy van to convert and have something better than your Westy was. Have fun looking.
 

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Wrong... Don't believe comparison tests, they are about as real as the so called "real life" TV shows. American Pickers, Love It or List It, Ice Road Truckers, and all the pawn shop garbage. The only thing that's real in life is what you discover on your own - everyone else has an agenda and it basically is all about relieving a fool and his money.

The Sprinter, Promaster and Transit all meet different needs for different people. It's up yo you to find the one that meets your needs.

Personally, as an ex-Sprinter owner, I wouldn't have one in my driveway and the Transit is just an ugly poorly design vehicle that is tring to everything to everyone and fails miserably - the Promaster is, by far, the best choice for my needs at least and everyone here.
 

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No, you don't have to "get over the idea of gas." The gas PM is a dream. (I drove diesels for 30 years.)

I call my conversion my "VW that runs" after two vanagons that didn't. Check it out.

KOV is right--read the forums and go kick some tires. Drive them all. One of them will feel best to you and that's what matters. Now that the "birthing" issues have been dealt with, I can't think of any issue with the PM that is widespread and unresolved.
 

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I have had 2 diesel Sprinters and now have a DIY Promaster 2500, 159 wb, high roof gasser. I absolutely love it especially the front wheel drive and crisp handling. It has more than enough power -- by actual weighing I am at 7000 pounds. You are correct about roof heights with the Fords. For a tall person especially when adding ceiling insulation you need the very tallest roof. Promasters not having a drive shaft running aft start with a floor a few inches lower and the high roof is just right for conversion. My gasser gets by actual measure 16 MPG with mixed driving. On the highway I get over 20. The gas engine is smother and quieter than a diesel and maintenance is far less. I just had an oil and filter change and 5 tire rotation for less than $80 at a dealer.

I am well insulated -- the air conditioner is more than able to keep it cool with the fan running at one of the low to medium speeds. Also the turning radius is excellent for a van.

I do a lot of winter camping and use an excellent Espar D2 diesel heater which is easily set up with a small 2 to 5 gallon separate diesel tank.
 

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That 80% of europeans chose the Ducato for which eurovan makes the best camper helped solidify my choice.
 

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I've had my hi top gasser a year today. Very happy with it! Its superior to my old VW vans in every way. Doing it's second oil change today!
 

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Diesel is super smooth & quite ,,just gets better mileage20/26 & should way outlast,,,oil change $70 if you do yourself,very easy,a monkey could do & you can change less,so that actually works out costing less.There's a port on fuel tank to tie a diesel heater into if you were to go that route.I think both are great.
 

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Wrong... Don't believe comparison tests, they are about as real as the so called "real life" TV shows. American Pickers, Love It or List It, Ice Road Truckers, and all the pawn shop garbage. The only thing that's real in life is what you discover on your own - everyone else has an agenda and it basically is all about relieving a fool and his money.

The Sprinter, Promaster and Transit all meet different needs for different people. It's up yo you to find the one that meets your needs.

Personally, as an ex-Sprinter owner, I wouldn't have one in my driveway and the Transit is just an ugly poorly design vehicle that is tring to everything to everyone and fails miserably - the Promaster is, by far, the best choice for my needs at least and everyone here.
WHAT??? Are you saying IRT and the Kardashian's aren't really REAL??? :D
 

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That 80% of europeans chose the Ducato for which eurovan makes the best camper helped solidify my choice.
And 100% of those Euro Ducato’s are Diesel, most do have a clutch but plenty have this AutoShifted manual called the “comfort-matic” there, and it’s been used since 2009 with great results, in fact the clutched diesel tends to hop when reversing which this one does not do! Just go buy one ASAP.
 

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I have a 3500 extended gasser now, I had a long wheelbase express before the promaster. The Chevy was a nice van except the brakes would warp anytime I drove down a mountain pass. It drove like a big truck with a terrible turning radius and crappy gas milage. The 6.0lt LS motor was pretty nice but I think the promaster has more power maybe a little less torque. The promaster beats it in every way I love my van, I have 85,000 miles on it now with no problems. Of course you can save a lot of money buying a express van. There really is no comparison.
 

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My truly snooty brother-in-law, who makes pretty good money, looked really concerned when he saw my new Promaster. I could see the wheels turning in his head, "How am I going to one-up this one?" "Well how do you like it?", he asked. I told him that I liked it a lot, only that I really wanted a Sprinter but could not afford one (snicker snicker). I hope he takes the bait.
 

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You are cruel, and I love that when it comes to too much money being in the hands of an in-law. LOL
 

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For me, the PM Pros are van is front wheel drive, closer to the ground, higher roof line than the Transit, better drive, cheaper, lighter and lots of positives on the newer 3.6 Pentastar. Cons from what I read here, Dodge customer service for the PM is lacking to say the least. We owned a 86 Dodge Shadow, burn me once(what a nightmare that was)...

PS: After spending a few hours on this forum, a gasser is no brainer(to me). Diesel is 10% more expansive than gas here in N.A. Parts and service are scarce. Emission down the road is the biggest concern for me!!! There is one reason I would consider a Ford Transit, LPG/LNG conversion.
 

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Larry,

There's a lot of good reply's here. Here's my take after owning my Promaster for a year. All of the three modern vans are great vehicles with different pluses and minuses. I would except the Chevy from the list, the design and technology is literally from the 1980's and the livable space per ft of length in the newer vans is so much greater.

Rather than going through all the other options here's what sold me on the Promaster in order:

1. Size and shape: There is more usable cubic footage for a given length in the Promaster than the other vans. The little extra width allow sideways beds and a bathroom. I would have had to go to a longer van in the other brands. The Ford comes in odd roof height options. Either not quite high enough for 6' standup or super high where you're checking the freeway overpasses for clearance =) The Promaster was the Goldilocks size.
2. Front wheel drive: Sure I'd love to have a 4x4 but FWD but the 4x4 Sprinter wasn't in my price range so FWD with snow tires is the best compromise for winter traction. Also it makes for a lower van floor height.
3. Driving comfort: The Ford may edge out the Promaster a little in driving "fun", especially with the Ecoboost, but they're pretty close and just worlds better than my old Econoline. It really does drive like a minivan. The brakes are excellent with none of that planning a mile in advance to stop feeling like my old Ford had.
4. Price: The Promaster had by far the best value for the money.

Issues I had have been minor such as squeaky brakes and a rear door rattle. All were fixed under warranty.
 

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I have no complaints about South Oakville Chrysler, where I bought mine. But ... I've also had nothing go wrong, so the only thing it's been back to the shop for has been oil changes and two trivial recall campaigns.
 

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No complaints about Greenbriar Dodge in Chesapeake Va. They have done good work fixing the couple bugs my van had. They're a good dealer for service. IME.
 
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