VANdiana Jones sequel: The Legacy Continues

mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
Many of you followed Brad(bknudtsen)'s extensive 2yr build-up of VANdiana Jones(http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/75555-New-E-350-Project-VANdiana-Jones!). Thankfully Brad built him the correct way and didn't cut any corners. It was this high level of build quality I watched, and when it came time for VANdiana to find a new home, I quickly jumped on the opportunity. This build thread will continue the legacy of VANdiana Jones.

So why me and a big white "church" van. Well, during and after finishing the majority of the build on my '03 O'erlandewagen(http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/78051-O-erlanderwagen-build), I quickly realized that it was a great rig for my dog and I, or girlfriend and dog and I, but that was it. We couldn't take 4 people and my dog, and barely could take 4 people/gear without my dog. The G-Wagen was packed incredibly tight due to being a smaller SUV. And not being able to share our adventures with family and friends, especially when certain family members were getting older, was a struggle to deal with. Not that we'd be taking my dog and 4 people all of the time, but the opportunity to take 4 and my dog was quickly becoming higher on the priority list. Moreover, with the RTT setup, it was terrific for fairer weather, but if I turned nasty, it was either sit under the awning and get wet, try to stay pretty dry in the RTT, or sit in the G like we're driving down the road; there was no comfortable space to rest inside(Being spoiled by time in other friends' campers like mhiscox's XV-JP-NW and Sprinter didn't help the G's chances).

I've always oogled over the concept of the Sportsmobile(SMB), but never wanted to afford the price tag for even a used one. I had thought about a 4door truck, flatbed, and new FourWheelCamper(FWC) flatbed pop-up camper, but I was struggling to find the right truck(F150 EcoBoost was looking promising until I looked into the payload further). Previous to the 4door truck/camper I was very eager for a newer Ford ambulance, either Type1 walk-thru 4x4, or Type3 walk-thru where I could add a UJOR 6"/35s setup. Justin at HD-RV was selling MegAmbo earlier this year, and since his shop is right next to Chris at UJOR's, I made a trip out east to visit both of them. I was seriously impressed with the ambo and Chris' craftmanship/business philosophy(we share the same outlook). Since MegAmbo was a MiniMod ambo(narrow box and short roof), I decided it wasn't for me, but I was determined to be a future UJOR client.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I'm prepping the G for an upcoming 2wk adventure to Utah(did the same about this time last year in the G, including Old Mojave Road, Death Valley, etc) with 4 people. I'd already ordered the factory Mercedes tow-pin winch bumper, custom tire holder was fab'd for the right rear interior, I ordered custom "saddlebag" rack plates to hang off the rear sides of the G in order to hold more gear...prepping the G for maximum cargo load. I hop onto ExPo one night, and see that VANdiana has been for sale for almost a week. Oooh, uber clean build, UJOR setup like I want, '07 6.0LTD just as I want, fairly local to me...but it's a passenger van and RB(I was thinking cargo van and EB for maximum space). Hrmmm...Brad and I start talking, I go up one weekend as I want to see how much space the RB has, how much light the windows bring in, how loud the 6.0L is inside compared to MegAmbo. I was blown away with the reduction of interior noise with all of the FatMat work Brad did. Of course there was plenty of room(52" more than G from back of rear seat-cargo door), very light/bright, the build quality was high just as I had seen online. Went back up the next weekend to seal the deal. I will now turn the G into a daily driver only, vs daily driver AND expo vehicle.

I plan to keep VANdiana for a long long time. I have big plans for him, but I won't reveal them all yet. One of the bigger ones is sending it down to Alan and crew at SMB Cali for a electric penthouse top with custom canvas(I proposed this to Alan as an option to the standard tan, and he'll do it for a very reasonable upcharge, eating some of the cost of extra material laying around). The SMB top will allow me(6') to stand up inside the van, which will be a nice change for certain tasks.

In prepping VANdiana fairly quickly for our UT trip, I have quite the list of to-do's. Here goes...

#1 Durability. Since I want to keep this van for a long time, and keep it in top shape, there are some upgrades I've started on.

Since the van only had a small amount of factory undercoating in the rear wheelwells, and none in the front wheelwells, and this van will be seeing various off-pavement conditions(mud, rocks--think gravel roads as it's no rock buggy, snow, etc), I decided my first mod would be to completely undercoat all 4 wheelwells. I got a wild hair one Friday night after work and started in on it. Thankfully have great access to Wurth products so I wiped the wheelwells with CleanSolve, taped them off, then used High-Build Underseal to coat the wheelwells. Much more of a finished and protected look.
Before, rear and front;
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After a very quick wipe-down, as it didn't need to be 100% spotless;
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All taped off;
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After coating;
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PS--sorry for the last pic(another pre-coating), I had deleted it from my post but the forum software keeps it in there.
 

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mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
(Durability cont'd)
After a bit of deliberation, I took Chris@UJOR's advice on the Husky Liners front/rear floormats, due the driver front mat covering the dead pedal(WeatherTech's won't). Great build quality and built in the USA, although I will say the rear(2nd row) mats are much too wide, so even though they're supposedly specific to the Econoline, I'm not sure which E-Series they prototyped off of.
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I have 3M Crystalline ceramic UV/heat protection film in my G and absolutely love it, as does my dog. It keeps the interior SO much cooler. I've already noticed a few times when I get in the van after it's been sitting that it's blazing inside, due to all of the windows letting the precious light inside. This time I'll be having Tommy's Window Tinting add the SunTek ceramic tint(privacy and UV/heat protection built in); 35%(max legality in Oregon) all windows save for front windshield, undisclosed% front windshield. As well, they'll be doing paint protection film on the hood/under-grille panel/fenders/headlights.
Pictures coming soon.

I was always impressed with the factory folding sunscreen for my G, and now I'm realizing it's probably a private-labeled Covercraft sunshade. Anyways, I got the same for the van so that it keeps the interior cool, and stows flat and compact.
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The 35-12.5's are pretty meaty so I ordered a set of F/R Bushwacker fender flares from Chris@UJOR. The body shop has them now to paint them a satin black with some flex agent coating over the top.
Pictures coming soon.


#2 Safety. I want to see and be seen better.
This consisted of a convex rear view mirror(my first--I must say I like the clarity and improved vision, especially when the van's stock rear view mirror was pretty small for how big the van is), and 2 rotatable(changes the convexity) blind spot mirrors on the factory towing mirrors.
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Next up was a set of the IPCW LED taillights in red. They look almost factory, and are damn bright!
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Before and after;
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Railvan

Adventurer
Great to see an update on this van! I saw it and was allowed to drive it last summer and it is a very nicely created vehicle. I'm very much looking forward to seeing its progress into an overlanding rig!

Brian
 

dcguillory

Adventurer
Looks like Vandiana has moved from one set of capable hands to another. Takes the sting out of it for the rest of us.
 

mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
(Safety cont'd)
I hadn't upgrade the G's interior halogen bulbs due to the finicky CAN-BUS system, but with the van this was a treat.
SuperbrightLEDs.com was a great resource with awesome customer support-thanks again to everyone for the lead. I've now changed most all the bulbs in VANdiana to LED's. Before/after pics;

All interior dome/map/cargo(natural white)
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Reverse(cool white)
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3rd brake(red)--not as big of a change as I wanted to see, but still brighter than stock
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License plate(cool white)
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Also the light for my fridge/freezer(natural white)--sorry, didn't take a before/after of this, but it's the same bulb as the dome/map/cargo lights
SO much cleaner of a look than the dated halogen! Brad had wired in some CREE LED reverse lights to the reverse light switch, so backing up and not hitting something at night is a whole lot easier.
A well deserved mod, and easier on the eyes.

The Retrofit Source bi-xenon 9007/5k kit; coming soon.
Picture coming soon.

LevoGauge inclinometer/tilt gauge; still deciding where to mount in the cabin.
Picture coming soon.
 
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mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
(Safety cont'd)
Thankfully my stepdad was down this past weekend and since he had initially helped me optimize my Autohome Columbus RTT on my Front Runner Cheetah rack, he again helped me move the rack assembly from O'erlandewagen to VANdiana. However, since the van's roof is about 3" wider than G's, and the F.R. rack feet were already spread as wide as possible, we had to have Russ at Racetech Motorsports next door add some length to the feet via some fresh 6061. We added some fresh Mercedes felt to the bottom of the rack feet, as well as the securing L brackets. This way VANdiana's skin wouldn't be rubbed raw.

Making the extensions for feet, chamfered holes and all(even though this stuff was simple, always helps when family are ex-aviation machinists);
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Prepping the rack feet;
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Then we removed the RTT, Maxtrax and custom bracket, shovel and Fiskars axe from the rack, and fit the rack to the van by itself. We optimized the fitment front-back, side-side, mainly to aid in entry into the RTT from standing atop the tire(the rack could certainly stand to move forward a lot more, but then it wouldn't be so easy to get up into the RTT). We moved some of the custom brackets around to fit the Maxtrax/shovel/axe best for the van width. We also moved the Fiamma F35 Pro awning forward about 4" to give better side coverage. Thankfully our building has a few overhead cranes to make this process a whole lot easier. I can't imagine how we'd get the rack nor rack/RTT all the way up on top of the van--it's so tall. The crane we were using for this step was a 5ton--eh, should hold the rack/RTT/etc just fine, hehe.
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My Rigid E-50" combo light stayed on the rack the entire time, as did the L brackets for the Front Runner stainless/aluminum under-rack camp table.
I will be soon be making a custom bracket for my Rigid D2 Diffused rear light.
Picture coming soon.
 
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mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
(Safety cont'd)

Up, up and away(yes, how we got the 944 Enduro racecar upstairs);
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After finalizing the rack fitment on the van and tightening the feet-to-rack, we removed the rack from the van, re-installed the RTT and all accessories to the rack, then re-installed the entire rack assy to the van. Presto!;
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(Needed to position the rack assy more towards the rear of the van, as instead of buying an Aluminess ladder, we're using the rear hitch step(seen below), bumper, and then spare tire to get up into the RTT. One idea was to get another FrontRunner rack and have 2 racks up top(2nd for other gear if needed, platform for photojournalism and perhaps stargazing, just like Brad aimed to do), but in the end my long term goal is the custom SMB top, so the rack assy is in use now because I already had it all from the G, and thankfully it didn't take too much work to modify to fit the van).

Since there is no locking fuel door, I ordered one of UJOR's billet locking fuel caps. It's at the paint shop now getting painted body color to blend in the best.
Picture coming soon.

Brad had informed me how important battery voltage is on the 6.0L TD's, so we removed the front end off the van to route the CTEK battery charger's pigtail to front for easy access.
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Gotta use the mil-spec sheathing for an OEM appearance!
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Sorta stealthy;
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#3 Comfort and convenience
Brad had already made awesome custom front/rear bumpers, and while there was a foothold above the hitch but below the rear bumper, it was still mighty high off the ground. To help some of the ladies(girlfriend/mom's) up onto the rear bumper and spare tire, I was originally looking for a HitchStep by AMP Research, but alas they don't make a generic 2" HitchStep(I've since emailed them to tell them they need one, no response yet). So instead I found Smittybuilt's rear beaver step. I secured it with a Curt locking hitch pin. Now getting up into the rear cargo area or up onto the rear bumper is quite easy. I still need to add some anti-skid skateboard tape for our wet weather.
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Since Brad had already installed '11 Sienna non-reclining(custom sliders and swivel on RF) front seats in grey cloth, I purchased two more captains chairs for the 2nd row, along with some UJOR Sienna mount brackets. Michael from MG Metalworks has offered some of his spare time to install these this weekend--he's the Ford van seat man!
Pictures coming soon.


Other than this, I started to optimize the G's interior bits(Front Runner drawer system--as seen by large cardboard piece), National Luna battery Power Pack, Nat'l Luna Weekender50 fridge/freezer, F.R. Wolf boxes, F.R. water jerry cans, etc. However, I'm quickly realizing however that I need to source good used plastic interior panels to nail down the most efficient use of space. IF ANYONE HAS A LINE ON THESE INTERIOR PANELS IN GREY FROM AN '04-07 E-SERIES, PLEASE LET ME KNOW, I'D BE INDEBTED!!
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That's all for now. More info/pics as I work on more mods...
 

mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
Great to see an update on this van! I saw it and was allowed to drive it last summer and it is a very nicely created vehicle. I'm very much looking forward to seeing its progress into an overlanding rig!
Brian

Thanks Brian! I'll try to capture in detail its progress, and it's adventures.


Looks like Vandiana has moved from one set of capable hands to another. Takes the sting out of it for the rest of us.
Thanks dc! I'm very blessed to be surrounded by some very talented people in the automotive/marine/aerospace realms. This is not all my doing.

-Jeremy
 
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mgmetalworks

Explorer
... Michael from MG Metalworks has offered some of his spare time to install these this weekend--he's the Ford van seat man!...

uh oh...I really need to step up the Cummins swap efforts to shake off this "seat guy" label I've inadvertently created for myself. :sombrero:
 

CrabbyMcNab

Adventurer
I knew VANdiana went to a good home!
Alright, I need more information on the pigtail battery charging system. My 6.0 is in need of some battery tender love.

2nd, did you get matching rear Sienna seats (i.e. the cloth seats from the front)? Try to get pictures of the seat install if possible as I have 4 cloth Sienna seats sitting in my garage ready for install. I am in a conundrum as to how to go about the rear seats. They are limited in mounting options as they do not have the built-in seat belt system like the leather recliners have and will rely upon the van side wall mounted male ends.

Very nice upgrades, and I may be copying some modifications...sincerest form of flattery and all!
 

Capital E

Member
I'm not sure if this thread is real time or if you have already made your UT trip. If you are passing through SLC on your trip I'd love to meet up. I have a SMB with the 6" UJOR kit that I put on last winter thanks in large part to Brad's step by step build thread. It would be awesome to poke around underneath the van that helped inspire my build and you are welcome to check out the sportsmobile build out on my van. PM me if you can make that fit in your schedule.

Thanks
 

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