Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 09-30-2018, 06:47 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 112
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
Ford E350 Hi-Cube van (aka box truck) conversion

I finally bought a small box truck as a base for an Adventure RV build. With 'Adventure RV' I mean a vehicle that gets us to interesting place (not RV parks), allows us to make a nice meal, take a shower, use our own toilet, and get some sleep. Something simple and compact, not a McMansion on wheels with kitchen island, home theater, and La-Z-Boy reclining chairs.

Converting a regular van would not have added much amenities over my 1985 square body Blazer (lifted, with heavier axles and big tires) that has a bed platform in the rear. We use this one for weekend overnights in the surrounding mountains and I want to build-out something suitable for longer trips lasting a couple of weeks. A skoolie would have offered enough space but would have needed a roof raise to accommodate my 6'6" height. I then looked at a couple of low floor transit buses and while I may at some point convert one I decided to get a more nimble and fuel efficient vehicle for now.

The box truck was listed as 1999 Ford E350 Hi-Cube Van on Public Surplus and no info was given about the size of the box. Since the truck was fleet maintained, looked OK in the pictures, and had the 7.3L Powerstroke diesel engine, I decided to bid and take the chance that the box would not be high enough and I would have to resell the vehicle and look for another one.



The retrieval of the truck was a bit of a nightmare since the seller was not going to mail the title, the state where the vehicle was located (VA) does not issue temporary tags to non-residents, and my home state (NC) does not issue temporary tags at all. After Hurricane Frances moved out of the Mid-Atlantic region, I drove my 26' International 4700 box truck with 10,000 lbs flatbed trailer to Virginia Beach, just to find out that the Hi-Cube van exceeded the payload capacity of my trailer. That was after spending about an hour finagling the Hi-Cube with its dually rears on my trailer, securing it, and driving to the closest scale.

According to the book numbers I should have been OK but the folks who sold the van had installed a lot of cabinetry and a work bench that apparently was built without any concern for weight.



At least I had the title in my hand after 12 hours drive time and a $320 fuel bill. I also found out that the box has plenty of headroom for my needs and that the truck was rust free, started, ran without showing signs of engine problems or wear, and moved around nicely on tires with plenty of life left in them.

A couple days later I drove a rental car to VA Beach with registration and plates for the Hi-Cube van, a bunch of tools, and an inflatable mattress to take a nap in the box if necessary.

After dropping the rental off, I checked all fluids on the Hi-Cube, added Stanadyne Performance Formula to the fuel, fired up, and headed back home. The engine smoothed out considerably and now runs like a Swiss watch after pushing the vehicle fairly hard for a couple dozen miles with the Stanadyne in the tank. I am not a big believer in snake oils but I had the injectors sticking in my International T444E after burning several hundred gallons of untreated diesel and the Stanadyne additive fixed that in a minute or so.

There was a scary moment about half an hour into the trip when a strong smell of burned brake/clutch lining came out of the vents. After stopping, I found out that the smell was in the air most likely from a truck that had gone down the road before me while cooking its brakes. I used the opportunity to check all fluids again and verified that tire and bearing temperatures were OK.

Since the Hi-Cube weighs much less than half of my International 4700 with the same base engine, it feels quite peppy and when I put the hammer down while cruising at 70 mph the little truck would readily accelerate to 85+ mph. I did not take it any further due to the speed limits. The last few miles from the Interstate to our house are quite curvy and I drove at a speed that felt right, which to my surprise was just as fast as I drive our passenger cars. There is no scary sway with that little boxy whatsoever. Brakes are more than adequate with the current weight of 9700 lbs which will be about the same after the RV conversion. All in all I am very happy with what I got.

The fuel consumption of 12.5 mpg was a little disappointing but I was pushing it hard, never below 70 mph on the Interstate, and there may be some gains possible with a tuner and/or a wind deflector for the box.

The next steps are to remove the very solid cabinetry that was added to utilize the van as a maintenance vehicle and then rip out the floor of the box. The wood is exposed to the underside of the vehicle and not in the best shape. I am thinking to put a layer of composite decking planks down, seal the gaps, add a layer of XPS foam, and top that with interlocking sheets of Advantec subflooring as a base for any decorative flooring. Another possibility would be: Advantec directly onto the steel beams (the stuff is pretty weather resistant), then XPS with hydronic heat piping and a luan subfloor. What do you guys think?

PS: More recent pictures will be posted tomorrow after the rain stops and the sun comes out.
alpine44 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-30-2018, 07:23 PM   #2
Bus Geek
 
Tango's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 7,992
Year: 1946
Coachwork: Chevrolet/Wayne
Chassis: 1- 1/2 ton
Engine: Cummins 4BT
Rated Cap: 15
Good to hear of a safe trip home. Should be an interesting build to follow. Best of luck and please do keep the pix coming.


But personally...the 12.5 mpg's sound pretty good for a big ol' box going down the road.
Tango is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-30-2018, 07:33 PM   #3
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 112
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango View Post
Good to hear of a safe trip home. Should be an interesting build to follow. Best of luck and please do keep the pix coming.


But personally...the 12.5 mpg's sound pretty good for a big ol' box going down the road.
The box is 8' wide and 10'6" high. Not as bad as my IH 4700 but not a Prius for sure.

If anyone has a lead on a wind deflector similar to this one, please let me know.
alpine44 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-30-2018, 08:29 PM   #4
Bus Geek
 
Tango's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 7,992
Year: 1946
Coachwork: Chevrolet/Wayne
Chassis: 1- 1/2 ton
Engine: Cummins 4BT
Rated Cap: 15
Funny...my first thought when I saw the pic of your rig was..."it would be cool to build a cab overhang". I've seen a couple of rigs that came with them and they put the bed up there which leaves a ton of space in the rest of the box. And it could indeed be made somewhat aerodynamic.


Just a thought.
Tango is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-30-2018, 08:45 PM   #5
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 112
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango View Post
Funny...my first thought when I saw the pic of your rig was..."it would be cool to build a cab overhang". I've seen a couple of rigs that came with them and they put the bed up there which leaves a ton of space in the rest of the box. And it could indeed be made somewhat aerodynamic.


Just a thought.
I have a bunch of big styrofoam blocks laying around that I may shape into a nose cone, attach it to the box, and then test whether there is any measurable mpg improvement.

If I do not find a factory wind deflector first.
alpine44 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-30-2018, 09:05 PM   #6
Bus Geek
 
o1marc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: Dawsonville, Ga.
Posts: 3,488
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Genesis
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466/3060
Rated Cap: 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpine44 View Post
I have a bunch of big styrofoam block laying around that I may shape into a nose cone, attach it to the box and then test whether there is any measurable mpg improvement. If I do not find a factory wind deflector first.
All this reminds me of the Metro we built for land speed record attempts. When we got to Bonneville some guys asked Bob how he designed the nose, did we wind tunnel test it? Bob said "I glued 3 big pieces of styrofoam together and then traced the outline of the firewall on one end and then got out my chainsaw and cut off everything that didn't look like it would go 300mph, and then just fiberglassed over that" Rules required from the firewall back had to be factory steel body with no mods other than a 5" roof drop for aerodynamics, from the firewall forward was open. We hold the World Record for C Gas Comp Coupe at 268mph. I saw the euro cap in the pic below and said "Styrofoam and a chainsaw"
Attached Images
File Type: jpg A Metro IMAG0475.jpg (44.4 KB, 10 views)
o1marc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-30-2018, 09:59 PM   #7
Bus Crazy
 
joeblack5's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: pa
Posts: 1,079
Year: 98
Coachwork: 1. Corbeil & 2. Thomas
Chassis: 1 ford e350 2 mercedes
Engine: 7.3 powerstroke & MBE906
Ha. Congrats with your truck. Pretty much ideal. I put advantac on my porch and painted it. It holds up to the moisture but my choise would be deck planks. May be add 1-1/2 " square tubing for framing every 2 ft. No need to seal in between the deckplanks when you put 2" xps on top. Just put them tight. They will shrink a little when drying. Our 7.3 small bus gets 13 to 15 mpg and I am not pushing it.

Later Johan
joeblack5 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-30-2018, 11:36 PM   #8
Bus Crazy
 
sdwarf36's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Moodus, Ct.
Posts: 1,062
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Champion
Chassis: Ford e-450
Engine: 7.3 Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 14
I had a cube van before I got a bus. I built a "moms attic' using an air dam that came on the top of an International truck. I built up an edge on the rain gutter to equal the hi spot of the roof. Then welded a base using 14? gauge steel. It went down the road so much smoother after putting it on. The drumming from the wind hit the box was reduced 80%.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg IMG_2109.jpg (196.7 KB, 16 views)
__________________
Don't make a fuss-just get on the bus!

my bus build http://www.skoolie.net/gallery/Skoolies/Sped
sdwarf36 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2018, 10:33 PM   #9
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 112
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
4x4 conversion research, repairs

Just a weekly update.

Met with Chris at UJoint Offroad to complete my shopping list for the future 4x4 conversion. On the way there (25 miles from where I live) my right front caliper got stuck. With smoke coming out from under the fender I pulled into a gas station, borrowed a big crowbar from a contractor parked there and got the caliper somewhat loose. Another 6 miles to UJoint and the smoke was back.

After going over the conversion details and taking me for a test ride in a converted E-350 ambulance, Chris offered to get a caliper from the local parts store and have one of his mechanics install it. He saved me a lot of pucker factor for the drive back home through the mountains - for a very, very reasonable price. But to make the return trip less boring, the AC clutch decided to go up in smoke. The bearing cage disintegrated and the ID of the pulley started rubbing on the coil, creating a lot of heat and smoke.

After fixing the AC system I went over the rest of the vehicle with a fine toothed comb and could not find any other major issues. Camber on the front wheels is a little off and I ordered the adjustable bushings. Other than that and the necessary caliper replacement I do not want to sink any more money into the front axles since this is going to be replaced by a F-type truck axle for the 4x4 conversion.
alpine44 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2018, 10:36 PM   #10
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 112
Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
Interior layout

Here is my current layout for the interior. The drawing scale is 6" per square.



The idea is to have all fixed installations (shower, toilet, fridge, sink, stove, batteries, inverter, etc.) in the front and keep the rear as "flex-space" to be used a living, dining, sleeping or cargo area. I plan to put the dinette/bed on rollers so I can move it back or closer to the counters, depending on how much cargo space I need.

The side entrance door is currently on the driver side to be more stealthy in cities/towns. If I can find a door that does not have "RV" written all over it, I may move the entrance to the passenger side and the fridge to the driver side. Sink would be close to door then.

There will be two Arctic Tern windows above the dinette area and one in the toilet/shower stall, high enough that nobody can look in from the outside. And two big skylights. The goal is to have the vehicle look like a contractor's truck on the outside rather than a class C RV.
alpine44 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:05 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.