After completing a week long Colorado road trip in our friends Matt & Jenny's built out 2008 Dodge Sprinter, the questions became when, not if, we would be buying a van. For several months following this trip, we scoured the internet for any and all information to help us decide on the perfect van to fit our needs. Our needs were pretty simple, a comfortable space for 2 adults and a dog that would be easy to manage in both an urban and remote settings for weekends to week long adventures.
We decided on a 2015 Ford Transit 250 RWD 148 High Roof with the Bio Diesel engine, 4.10 axle ratio and open differential. Our first must have on the list was the high roof, as neither one of us wanted to have to be hunched over when in the van. In the US, this limited us to either a Sprinter (Dodge or Mercedes), Ram Pro Master or Ford Transit, as our budget did not allow for a Sportsmobile. Our selection of the Ford from this list was largely based on having a vehicle that could be serviced almost anywhere and not break the bank. Both the Sprinter and Ram have imported engines which can be harder to find mechanics that will service and be more expensive to repair. Another selling feature of the Ford was the wheel base 148" wheel base and the 6'5" interior cargo height. Both of these measures are slightly larger than the sprinter, and in a van conversion, every inch counts.
We chose the diesel engine for the improved gas mileage as well as the longevity of the motor. There are many conflicting perspectives on the cost of ownership for a diesel engine vs the savings at the pump, so do your research. The next few items were new to us as we conducted our research, axle ratio and differential, open vs limited slip. I'm far from a mechanic, so i'll let the fine folks at hardworkingtrucks.com explain axle ratios, "A lower (numerically higher) gear ratio, such as 3.55:1 to 4.10:1, provides more low-speed wheel torque, which means it takes less throttle to get the vehicle and the load it's carrying or towing moving." The 4.10 axle ratio will cause a slight decrease in gas mileage that we were happy to sacrifice for better performance in the mountains. As far as our choice of the open differential vs limited slip, the topic is a bit more technical than we'd like to get into here, but it's certainly something to research and consider.
We're excited to share the progress of our van build over the next several months, so stay tuned!