Fully Off Grid 4x4 170” Sprinter
- The Build Story -
In January of 2019 we received an email from a couple interested in getting a custom van built. With some HOA restrictions in their neighborhood governing their exterior modification plans, they decided to build a van that looked like nothing more than a capable delivery van for business use. Big bumpers, lights, ladders and gearboxes were foregone for interior comfortability, aesthetic and function. After a couple phone calls back and forth we helped them find this maroon van on the East Coast. They liked the color; less popular and more discrete. They liked the 170;” room for a couple necessary creature comforts. They liked the 4x4; they knew it would be capable.
Being full time traveling photographers, our clients had a few interior non-negotiables: 1. Longterm off-grid systems. 2. A modular shower. 3. A composting toilet box. 4. Easily cleanable surfaces. 5. An interior that would second as a meeting and office space for their photography clients all over North America.
In March of 2019, after a few preliminary design and pricing conversations, the van was dropped off at our shop. We talked design, we talked colors, swatches, counters, walls, ceilings, electrical systems, shower ideas, and two weeks later our clients had full interior renderings of their van’s design. With some minor aesthetic adjustments to counter height and cabinet width we got to work.
Agile Offroad’s suspension upgrade and auxiliary diesel fuel tank, sound deadening, three layers of insulation for extreme temperature, custom upholstered wall panels with a wipeable texture and finish and 1/4 padding for extra sound deadening, 9 ply birch formica laminated cabinets with hydraulic openers, 3/4” carbonized bamboo countertops with a food safe natural finish, 1/4” carbonized bamboo ceilings with a natural low VOC finish, 30 gallons of fresh water, 15 gallons of grey water, a sink, an interior shower, an exterior shower, Rixen’s hot water systems with an Espar D5 Hyrdronic Diesel Heater, an AirHead composting toilet, 400AH of Battleborn Lithium Ion Deep Cycle Batteries, full Bluetooth integrated Victron power systems from Inverter to Solar Charge Controller to Battery Monitor, 400w of Renogy Monocrystalline High Performance Solar Panels, WeBoost Cell Service Booster and a whole lot more brought this client the van they were looking for.
There are many, many builders out there who do incredible work. As you will find, getting into a fully custom built van like this doesn’t come without a good financial investment. If you are on the edge about builders, or if you need guidance on how to select a builder please take a look at the images below for reference. This attention to detail is the essence of a van builder who is well established in their craft, cares about their work and wants to bring their customer the best possible product. The details are of the utmost importance to us and other high quality van builders out there.
These little details take time, they are hard to make and they bring a van to full completion. The trim pieces are the last installations we do on our builds and they are aesthetically some of the most important. Without them factory bolts, wires, and gaps are left fully exposed making the build feel incomplete.
Consistency in Drawer and Cabinet Face Gaps
The images below are of the galley cabinet drawers. As you can see all the latches are perfectly centered in the drawer face and every gap between drawer faces is the same. Each drawer face also has an 1/8” round over with sanded edges for a smooth and finished aesthetic and feel.
These three photos display the matching of different drawer faces with the same exact gap.
The upholstery work is consistent with no cheap folds, loose flaps or frays. It is backed with 1/4 of foam so it is soft to the touch and absorbs more noise from the road.
Counter tops are some of the most visible and the most used surfaces in a van. They need to be both durable and aesthetically pleasing. Some major focuses on counter tops are material quality, finish quality, grain direction and wall scribes so the counter tops are set perfectly flat against the walls.
The grain (wood direction) in the two pieces above is matched so the counter top lines remain consistent all the way across.
Quality and Functional Hardware
Our hardware is selected based on quality and functionality. We make sure it will last, it won't rattle and it will be easy to use.
System Detail, Proper Installation, Serviceability and Material Quality
The greatest care should be taken when installing systems in a vehicle. Materials need to be of the highest quality (in some cases gold plated), computerized systems (solar charge controller/inverter/battery monitor, diesel heater, cell service booster) cannot be second hand or off brand, proper fuse amperage is essential, wire length and gauge need to be considered for long runs or exterior chases, and all warranties need to be transferable to the vehicle owner. All systems also need to be serviceable if a client ever wants to add on a system later or service after heavy use.
In summary, we do not ask that you build with us explicitly, because there are a lot of high quality builders on the market. We simply suggest you do a lot of research before making a large financial investment in a vehicle.
Good Luck in the build search and Happy Camping!