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Old 08-17-2010, 12:40 PM   #1
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Cutaway van - utility body

Our Nissan Titan performed well during our recent trip, 3000 miles of which were towing (and packing) more weight than the '67 Overlander. That said, we really don't need a crew cab for our jaunt next year. We're also trimming storage space in the Overlander to keep the coach more open and "airy." Since the bed of the Titan isn't ideal for easy access, I'd like to get a utility body. For better or worse, however, this means a 3/4 to 1 ton truck.

For some reason, I've seen better deals on cutaway vans with utility bodies than regular trucks. Looking at the specs for 1-ton+ (E350/450) vans, we'd have plenty of towing power, but some of the most commonly available have the dreaded 6.0 powerstroke diesel. I've looked at some odds things including a local volunteer fire company selling an ambulance. By the way, I'd bet my bottom dollar the ambulance is heavier than its GVWR before you put anything in it. I had no idea the boxes on those rigs were so incredibly heavy.

I still think the utility body is a good concept for long-term camping/touring, but the pickings have been slim. Some of the vehicles have been used incredibly hard and the utilty boxes are prone to rust if not carefully maintained. Some trucks have been used for heavy duty snow plowing... not exactly the best course for a long life. While we haven't find the right truck/van at the right price yet, we're continuing to look. Since the forums have always been a source of good info, feel free to share any experiences with using the 1-ton vans, particularly cutaways.
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Old 08-17-2010, 12:57 PM   #2
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Ironically, Nissan will be selling a new full-sized van here in the US next year. Based on the Titan, it's aimed at commercial buyers. That's probably more $ than you'd want to spend though, and you'd be buying the first year of a substantially-new design.

I've towed a lot with various 15-passenger Ford E-350s, all gas (either the 460 or the V10.) Lots of room inside. Towed decently, although the Ford's long rear overhang isn't optimal.

But I'm not sure the passenger area gives the comfort level that you'd want for your planned long jaunt. The doghouse really intrudes into room and the ride can be pretty bouncy. (I know it's more comfy than your vintage truck, but...)

A Sprinter is more comfortable and drives surprisingly well, but they can get expensive to fix and are fairly expensive to buy.
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Old 08-17-2010, 01:34 PM   #3
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Some of the Ford Vans deleted the turbo inter cooler to make the diesel engines fit in the Econoline cab.
Result is less power, less mpg and possibly less engine durability.
Personally, I think big vans handle poorly and would not consider them as a suitable heavy load tow vehicle.
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Old 08-17-2010, 03:03 PM   #4
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Hi, I used to own a 1994 E350 box van and it was great. It had the V-8 460 cu. in. engine in it and if they still made those today, I would consider one of those.
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Old 08-17-2010, 03:05 PM   #5
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On the positive side, the Overlander weighs around two tons dry. By the time we're done with the renovations, it may go a bit higher, but not much. If it was just towing, I could putt along happily in a half ton truck like the Titan and not really worry. In fact, the Overlander tows like a dream (compared to the "double bounce" of a 4000 lb truck with a bed full of part on a car trailer).

I just see a utility body as a very useful design to offset the limited storage in the Airstream. The only drawback is the weight of the utility body itself. Even if I found an aluminum body, it's still hefty when you start loading it with things.

While I've heard good things about the Sprinter, it is possibly one of the ugliest vehicles this side of Yugo... and I do have a wife with veto authority. As for "first year" vehicles, I went against my longstanding rule and bought the Titan in its first year... and then lived through the headache of the poorly designed front brakes. I'll give props to Toyota, they went to school on what was wrong with the Titan and made the Tundra a very good truck.

As for cab comfort, the goal of touring is short moves from campsite to campsite rather than the brutal pace we set going to Montana and back (from Maryland). I do like good heat and AC, but I'm fairly tolerant after banging around the old Dodge.
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Old 08-17-2010, 04:32 PM   #6
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i'm not a fan of the driving position in most of the domestic vans...

the E ford IS a tad better than the other 2...

but still not as comfortable or organized at the F series seating/footing/visuals.

utility/service beds have a LOT of appeal if set up properly but do weigh a bunch.

otoh the NEW 250s ride so much smoother and could work with a service bed and smaller stream.
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the 08-09? f-150 had an option for a very cool oem set up...

it was a shorter bed with 2 FULL pass through storage boxes in FRONT of the bed/behind the cab...

this essentially created some service/utility bed compartments AND a more traditional bed combination.

very very cool looking AND an excellent rv'n arrangement, but not common and special order only.

selecting a truck platform on which to add a service/utility bed is tricky...

the "bed delete option" on a regular 2/350 is a better route than the chassis cab offering.

they LOOK similar externally, but in fact are not.

they are built on 2 different frame rail setups, the utility beds are SPECIFIC 4 each.

and the options are much different for the cab/fuel/power and so on...

the chassis cab has FEWER options, is derated and has other UNdesirables.

cheers
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Old 08-17-2010, 05:01 PM   #7
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check with artstream, he travels all over with a box truck towing a 28 foot. It is his home, office and life.
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Old 08-17-2010, 07:01 PM   #8
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hampstead,

The Sprinter isnít so ugly if you get the cab and chassis version. See page 44, post #610 on my thread:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f227...-18448-44.html

Itís the high-van models that look like a whale or dolphin, or something, weaving down the highway.

Your utility box idea is great. Check around with truck body builders. You might find a good used bargain. And one with a wide enough aisle down the center so that you can haul around a Smart Car too!


Good luck,


Sergei
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Old 08-18-2010, 10:56 AM   #9
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A smart car? I think we'll stick to a couple of bikes, maybe a scooter. For the average Streamer, even a full-timer, I doubt the utility body would be worth the extra weight, expense, etc., but it does seem a good solution for us. I like the amount of space available in an enclosed cutaway, particularly having some space under roof for additional storage. I'll try to test drive the Sprinter and find out how it feels.
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Old 08-18-2010, 05:04 PM   #10
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Not sure you'll find much out there used that isn't run out. Most places that use service bodies run them into the ground because the cost of customization works against them if they replace the chassis frequently.

The local power utility was running boom trucks made in the late 1960s up until a few years ago for this reason.
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Old 08-18-2010, 07:10 PM   #11
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hampstead,

Next week Iím going to be in Aylmer, Ontario. Thatís the home town of WILTSIE TRUCK BODIES, friends who have been invaluable to me during the ďcontemporizationĒ of my Argosy.

I think Iíve seen some old utility boxes around their shop yard. If youíd like, I can check into them for you.

Sergei
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:29 AM   #12
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Thanks, Sergei. It doesn't hurt to take a look, although my wife may be less than enthusiastic about me dragging her a few thousand miles to look at a utility body.

Some guys took the old Dodge "utiline" boxes (see below), removed the fenders and attached fabricated metal tool boxes. I thought about that because I had a pretty heavy duty flatbed for the old Dodge... but as noted, I've been instructed to seek a more modern form of towing vehicle for our extended North American tour.

The Wiltsie guys look like they do good work. I'm sure it would be easier to find a chassis and mount a box than to find a utility truck/van in great condition (at a decent price). Honestly, I really like the possibilities of the ambulance body, but the thing is a tank. I like having the additional box room a cutaway offers, and the snug cab doesn't bother me. I've even seen some Izuzu diesel cutaways (normally box trucks) but with utility bodies. I'm not sure how they would tow, but they are work horses.
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:31 PM   #13
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I was curious about the Ford F-150 option that 2air mentioned above. It was called the "midbox" and was offered by Ford in 2008 as a fleet option. Later years offer "mid-box prep" as an option. Here's the press release and another one and even more info. Turns out that the company that makes them offers them for other trucks as well. Kind of cool.

Edit: And here's a leftover new one - even in Maryland (but it's not cheap and it has the 4.6 instead of the 5.4-liter).

Tom
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Old 08-19-2010, 02:17 PM   #14
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hampstead,

If thereís anything there Iíll send you some pictures.

I have no real knowledge but I think it stands to reason that, as you say, itís best to find a cab and chassis that you like then find (or have built) a utility box to fit.

Small town builders like Wiltsie are often exceptionally good craftsmen for far less money than what youíll pay in bigger places.

Hereís the link Baltimore ĖAylmer, Ontario. Itís 500 miles. (Donít tell your wife thatís one way unless she asks):

Driving Directions from Aylmer, Ontario to Baltimore, Maryland


Sergei
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