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Euro-Vans, Go Home!

Once again I took advantage of a mountain biking event to check out the motor vehicles, used to carry bikes and camping gear around. Once again I didn't learn much, because most people had the bikes on external racks. No thanks.

I didn't see one homemade, plywood cap/shell on a pickup truck. That is my best plan for the future. The commercial caps are expensive, not tall enough (at the stern), lack barn doors (at the stern), and have too many windows. (The first mistake in any vehicular design is too many windows.) Besides, I want to mount furring strips, shelves, and hooks on the inside, just like a cargo trailer. Are you really going to drill holes through a new commercial $2000-3000 cap?

But then I got a little excited about seeing the rebadged Fiat cargo van that Chrysler is selling as the RAM "Promaster." My goodness, where do they put the engine in this ugly, snub-nosed thing? But 'ugly' is OK with me. I knew that it was front wheel drive, and therefore wouldn't be much good for towing. But at least the ground clearance in front looked pretty good.

As the RAM Promaster van drove away, I managed to get a photograph of its rear end, practically dragging in the dirt. Maybe this is how they grade roads in Europe:

Gee, now that you mention it, maybe the "Zamboni" (that smooths the ice skating rink) is a branch of Fiat of Italy.

They can't be serious?! Why don't they go back where they came from? We don't cotton to their kind around here, in the great American West. 


Sondra said…
That's crazy no clearance--and if your trailer is a wee bit heavy it could sit even lower.
Terrible, ain't it!? But you know, there is no mention of this dreadful ground clearance in the articles by "professional" reviewers? Why do you think that is? The reviewer is a soccer mom in Los Angeles who doesn't know what a forest service or BLM road is? Or the reviewer is paid to keep their mouth shut about ANY negatives on a vehicle?
edlfrey said…
You are right about the reviewers not knowing what a forest service or BLM road is. They are not reviewing vehicles that are intended to be driven off pavement. Those type vehicles are reviewed and driven by Expedition Whackos.
Then if you go to the Expedition Whacko web sites they are only reviewing rigs that cost over $100,000 as a base price and are all equipped to transit the Sahara or do an off road around the world tour.

What you need is an old Dodge Power Wagon or maybe a Military 1 1/4 ton Ambulance. Either one of those would give you the ground clearance you are looking for but you may sacrifice a little fuel economy. I think a Military Ambulance would look great towing your new home.
A standard, mass-produced Ford Econoline Van has adequate clearance for me. But it appears the only way to do that well (or a little better) in the future is with pickup trucks.

You are right about Expedition Whackos. Every time I bring up the subject of rigs with good ground clearance, somebody sends me a link about some rig that is outlandish and ridiculous. I hope they don't waste people's time like that, this time.
Anonymous said…
I had a FWD Plymouth Horizon for several years, and on slick surfaces, it had enough front wheel traction that if you left the emergency brake on, it was unnoticeable until the first turn. You could add a skid plate to the Fiat's axle simply to discourage getting hung up on a rock. Equally un-serious is my suggestion to flip the dropped rear axle beam upside down, which would also give the van a jaunty, fresh NASCAR look, or tub out the rear wheelwells and bolt on tall 33-inchers. It would have that John Deere look then. The last option is to pass it by, but what fun would that be?
I would rather read useful, non-joke suggestions.
Anonymous said…
Your post is humorous, but I'll go along to get along. I don't get how you can hack up a travel trailer, modify a carge trailer, and yet be wringing your hands over the potential resale value of a commercial truck cap ten years down the road. (Answer: $200, if you can find a buyer at all.) If you can't find what you need ready-made - and you're not finding it - you'll have to modify something to do the job. You already know the combination of features you need, and may not be thrilled that the path to get them in one package is so mundane in your view, but sooner or later, you'll need to stop mincing about and pull the trigger. Your only issues are how much you're budgeted for, and how much horsing around it will take to get each workable approach where you need it to be. A better starting point will often appear years later, but this is today, and either you wait for it, or ante up and get cracking.
Perhaps you are right: just drill holes through a commercial cap wherever you need to, and stop worrying about it. I still need a couple more inches at the stern, though. And no windows. And barn doors.
edlfrey said…
"I want to mount furring strips, shelves, and hooks on the inside, just like a cargo trailer."

kaBLOOnie, why on the inside? Why not on the outside? A Communication Services - DCU Series Commercial Truck Cap or a SnugPro XL Commercial Topper may be tall enough in the stern, they have barn doors, there are shelves accessed from the outside and with a racks on top you would have perfect 'stealth rig'.

If not something like that then I think you will need to get a custom build or build it yourself.
Aren't those commercial (white sheet metal) caps over $4000? (The customer is a business typically, not a retail customer.)

But I do like the storage compartments that are accessed from the outside. They only eat up internal space that is chewed up by the wheel-wells, which is the least useful space anyway.
Unknown said…
Who designed that axle? Could it be turned over? :)
I don't see any reason to not build your cap. Get the height you need and the doors to suit. All the commercial ones I see are just thin junk.
edlfrey said…
I have been too busy to do any searching for prices but found some time tonight. Most of the online companies that offer pickup caps want you to call for a quote but I did find this one that has some prices posted.

It looks like you could get a commercial style cap that is 36" high (from the rails, I think) with barn doors and everything standard for around 1/2 that $4,000 you thought they would cost. I'm sure you could build something cheaper than that but those commercial utility caps do look good.