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'BASECAMP' - 2020 Ford Transit 350 - 148" Extended, High Roof, 3.5L Eco, RWD w. Limited Slip diff
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone! This thread will document the full build as we transform our 2020 Ford Transit into a full-time camper van for two.

Our goal is to create a mobile basecamp for accessing the outdoors.
Our priorities are focused around making vanlife sustainable for us over many years - this drives our main design philosophy: Make it reliable, comfortable, and functional.

The van:
  • 2020 Ford Transit 350
  • Body-style: W3X (High roof, 148” Wheelbase Extended)
  • Engine: 99G (3.5L V6 EcoBoost)
  • 3.73 Limited Slip Axle
  • Rear Wheel Drive
  • Back-up Camera
  • Cruise Control
  • Dual Alternator
  • Extended Range Fuel Tank
Several key assumptions (We’ll update you over time if these were correct or not!):
  • We chose the Transit over a Sprinter because of the availability of dealerships.
  • We chose the Transit over the ProMaster because of the Limited Slip differential available on the Transit.
  • We opted for RWD as we may later convert to a Quigley 4x4 – the AWD system didn’t meet our needs.
  • We chose the 148” Extended length to allow us to put a full wet-bath (shower/toilet) combo.
  • We chose white exterior paint to keep the heat down during the summer.
  • Passenger seats for friends, or small future additions to the family.
  • Sufficient electricity on-board to handle two full-time remote- working jobs
Our vision:

A fully winterized (for Canada) van, that can bring us to remote trailheads for extended periods of time, from Vancouver Island all the way to the Yukon (and maybe international in several years). We must be able to work, cook, sleep.

Our build experience:

0% - we have never built anything in our lives.

Here we go!!

Brian @ MillennialMountaineer
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I have a similar build in mind so I wish you well and will be looking for more ideas.
I want to see you actually using those clothes on the slopes.
 

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Welcome!

We are doing a similar build with 4 season camping in mind. We won't be full timing in it so our designs will likely be different, we opted for a Long Vs Extended and AWD. We are coming from a 4x4 van so it will be a learning curve to see what the limitations of the AWD Transit will be. We almost exclusively camp off grid in the bush via FSR's/logging roads, I found that I had more challenges with my length (19 ft) in my current van than losing/breaking traction.

I suspect the biggest challenge for us based on our travel style is ground clearance.

Look forward to following your build, we are based in Metro Vancouver.
 

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'BASECAMP' - 2020 Ford Transit 350 - 148" Extended, High Roof, 3.5L Eco, RWD w. Limited Slip diff
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Welcome!

We are doing a similar build with 4 season camping in mind. We won't be full timing in it so our designs will likely be different, we opted for a Long Vs Extended and AWD. We are coming from a 4x4 van so it will be a learning curve to see what the limitations of the AWD Transit will be. We almost exclusively camp off grid in the bush via FSR's/logging roads, I found that I had more challenges with my length (19 ft) in my current van than losing/breaking traction.

I suspect the biggest challenge for us based on our travel style is ground clearance.

Look forward to following your build, we are based in Metro Vancouver.
Ground clearance and winter travel are serious concerns - We are coming from a '97 4Runner with locking diffs - we certainly can't go to the same places. However, we also had a Hyundai Accent and managed to get to numerous outdoor locations with that- I am hoping that the dimension of being able to spend extended periods of time in the van will allow us the 'legs' to travel to accessible, but remote locations (i.e. further north, further away from major metro centres.)

That will be very exciting when you get your van!
 

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We can't wait! Where you based out of (Vancouver Island?)?

One thing we learned the hard way with our current van (10 ft tall) is to make sure you have a quality hand saw, its not fun trimming thick branches with a leatherman multi-tool (ask me how I know lol)
 

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Why did the AWD not meet your needs? I have not yet purchased a van but was planning on getting AWD. Curious about your thoughts here. My needs are primarily to navigate icy mountain roads to get to ski hills. I don't see myself off-roading at all, maybe the occasional gravel road to access trailheads.
 

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Also curious to know why the AWD did not meet your needs. Quigley seems to only have recently started allowing installing their 4x4 on used vehicles. It seemed like they were only doing that because the 2020 was a new model and they need sometime to figure out how everything will fit on 2020.
 

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Why did the AWD not meet your needs? I have not yet purchased a van but was planning on getting AWD. Curious about your thoughts here. My needs are primarily to navigate icy mountain roads to get to ski hills. I don't see myself off-roading at all, maybe the occasional gravel road to access trailheads.
AWD is perfect for your needs.
 

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'BASECAMP' - 2020 Ford Transit 350 - 148" Extended, High Roof, 3.5L Eco, RWD w. Limited Slip diff
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Why did the AWD not meet your needs? I have not yet purchased a van but was planning on getting AWD. Curious about your thoughts here. My needs are primarily to navigate icy mountain roads to get to ski hills. I don't see myself off-roading at all, maybe the occasional gravel road to access trailheads.
Great question gdufour1! I also agree with J_of_Today. It sounds like your needs will be well met by AWD. The short answer to our personal selection of the RWD selection vs AWD is initial cost.

AWD is great for many things! In our particular case of wanting to travel on rough and snow covered Forest Service Roads, ground clearance and the ability to have locking diffs is where I'll be (potentially?) investing our money when it comes to the drive train upgrades. I don't know that having AWD precludes you from doing those same upgrades in the future, so in our personal case it comes to a matter of the cost of the AWD system. We would like to put that money into the cost of a future upgrade to something similar to the Quigley system. But for now, we are hoping that excellent snow tires and the limited-slip differential meets our needs. This is an assumption!

I have not driven a RWD Transit or AWD Transit in the snow yet. Once I do, and get some experience, I'll share my findings here!
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Here’s our two rooftop vents to help with airflow, humidity and temperature regulation.

We’ve already completed the Maxxair Main fan install a few weeks and just received the Dome fan in the mail today🎉! I’ll have photos and videos of the install upin the next few weeks.

The Dome Fan included in the box a 6” extension to account for varying roof thicknesses.


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I really don’t think traction is the limiting factor for off-road use for a HR extended van. It’s going to be roof height, wheel base (high-centering), approach and departure angles, body roll, and turning radius. Imagine coming to the point where one has to make the decision to continue or turn around because the road/trail conditions become too risky to continue - good luck with a three-point turn and one may end up backing up for awhile.

Anyway, I just whacked a tree branch driving in the dark early morning hours on a major arterial road in my 5-day old van. The only street tree pruning done in Portland Oregon is done by the Amazon Transits so I though I was good. 😊

So I think the idea of driving on Forest Servive/BLM roads will be challenging - the idea of carrying a pole pruner/saw with me is tempting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I really don’t think traction is the limiting factor for off-road use for a HR extended van. It’s going to be roof height, wheel base (high-centering), approach and departure angles, body roll, and turning radius. Imagine coming to the point where one has to make the decision to continue or turn around because the road/trail conditions become too risky to continue - good luck with a three-point turn and one may end up backing up for awhile.

Anyway, I just whacked a tree branch driving in the dark early morning hours on a major arterial road in my 5-day old van. The only street tree pruning done in Portland Oregon is done by the Amazon Transits so I though I was good. 😊

So I think the idea of driving on Forest Servive/BLM roads will be challenging - the idea of carrying a pole pruner/saw with me is tempting.
Great points regarding off road travel!

Helicopters have wire cutters attached to their ‘roofs’ to cut unseen power lines ... maybe you could follow suit with your pruners for low hanging Portland trees 🤣
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ok, so far lots of small steps complete!

1) Installed Scopema Swivels on the Driver and Passenger seat.
Thoughts: Fairly straight forward considering our total newbie status with vehicle work.
Issues:
-I couldn't for the life of me find an accurate description/video of how to properly disconnect the batteries for a 2020 Ford Transit with Dual Batteries. Can anyone send shed light on that for future van builders?
-The holes on the swivel did need to be elongated to fit the factory seat bases. Both swivels I had to use a file to open two holes on each swivel.... This was slightly annoying.
Result: Honestly, these swivels seem to work really well! We are happy that we installed them and it was a good first step to get our hands dirty with the van build!!

_MNT6908.JPG


Our SCOPEMA Youtube video:

2) MAXXAIR Fan install.

Thoughts: I was terrified of cutting holes into our van - but after completing this install I realized there is nothing really to be worried about - sheet metal is fairly nice to work with and doesn't require overly complicated tools either!
Issues: I was naturally most worried about introducing a source of water leakage into my build. I really over complicated the process and really stressed about how and where to install the fan, really worrying about the roof ridge heights. In the end, I think with a healthy dose of Dicor sealant and butyl tape, paired against a really solid wood frame underneath I think everything will hold well. I followed lots of Youtube videos and felt like I knew what steps to take.
Result: Gained confidence after learning how to cut the sheet metal and the roof vent looks great! We went with a smoke coloured vent and are pleased that the smoked plastic allows some light into the van - perfect for overtop of our kitchen!!

FUJIFILM X-T4 4992x3328_000064.jpg

Our MAXXAIR install Youtube video:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
New progress!

3) Removed the Ford factory flooring and tie-down points

4) We installed our MAXXAir Dome Fan (6-inch) for our wet-bath (shower+toilet room).

Thoughts: I was quite worried about cutting such a small, circular hole into the roof of the van. This led me down the rabbit hole of coming up with overly complex solutions to this (perceived) cutting problem.

First, I phoned around trying to find anyone that sold a 6&1/4" circular hole saw - the biggest I could find was 6" and cost $150.

Second, I looked up jig-saw circular hole guides. I found a DIY instruction set for making your own jigsaw circular hole guide and created my own with some scrap wood. The concept worked well IN THEORY, but I missed a key step resulting in my jigsaw having the ability to cut into the guide... obviously not a desirable trait. We got lucky, and the hole we cut was smaller than needed (easier to cut more then to add material) . After removing the DIY guide we completed the cut, completely free-style and it turned out just fine.

In the future, I would eye-ball the circular jig-saw cut from the beginning.

We lowered the fan into the hole to check positioning, and noticed that the wires that power the fan ran dangerously close to the edge of the sheet metal. To remedy this, we found some old bicycle cable rubber housing, sliced it lengthwise, and covered the sheet metal edge. I will also use a rubber grommet and nylon cable ties to direct the wires away from any chaffing edges.

As noted on the side of the box, installation is on a roof thickness of 1-6 inches. We made a wooden sub-frame to accept the screws of the fan base-plate and give us the added thickness.

Installation after that was straightforward and similar to our larger MAXXAir fan. We used Butyl Tape under the fan and Dicor sealant overtop of the fan bracket for the waterproofing.

Video of our progress found here:


Cheers!

Brian, Millennial Mountaineer
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Happy Holidays to everyone who celebrates at this time of the year!

Krysta and I installed another two major components: Our Ford OEM bench seat (31") and a Webasto Air Top 2000STC gas heater.

Here's our latest YouTube video in case you are a visual person!

Seat install components-
-donor seats from a 2019 Ford Transit
-Grade 8 automotive bolts
-3/8" cold rolled steel, 4" wide to make the under vehicle mounting brackets

It was difficult to determine the mounting location for the seat! Even making sure that the seat was perpendicular to the wall was tough!

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Webasto Heater install-

We chose to mount the heater beside our bench seat. Our thought process for choosing this location was based on the idea that we want to duct air all the way back into our 'garage/under bed location' to dry out our outdoor adventure gear and we also wanted to duct air to our kitchen area. We haven't yet used the heater, so we don't know if the plan we have works, but this seemed to be a good location for our specific build layout!

Next-up - window install!

Thanks everyone!
 
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LOL, that was the only reason???
Great Choice, though the Limited slip is NOT the reason. The Pentastar v6 is a POS design, NO EXHAUST MANIFOLDS! Built into the heads, they overheat and burn up the roller lifters. Transmission is the same as in the Minivans and jeeps. Another POS, and it hand grenades. Both are $5000 repairs, I KNOW!!
 
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