On September 1 2017 we picked up a new Ram Promaster High Roof 159″ wheel base Regular Body van, this was an early 60th birthday present to myself >
As with our Chevy AWD project and the 4×4 Tacoma before it, at some point in ownership of the Chevy I began pondering yet another “future” project. And in 2014 that research began in earnest as the relatively new-to-US-van market Ford Transit and Dodge-Ram Promaster came to market.
In the mix was also the Sprinter though we had tentatively already taken that off the list as we’d read of horror stories of owners being stuck hundreds of miles from the nearest repair shop. While we did like the looks and handling of the Sprinter, the “what if” planted seeds of doubt in our minds.
Fast forward to 2017 as both the Transit and Promaster vans had a couple of years on the market we took both out for test drives on the same circuit in Portland on dry sunny days. Both vans had ~2K worth of payload over rear axle. What was of little surprise to us was how well the FWD Promaster handled [the Transit lost traction twice on the dry pavement while the Promaster handled like it was on rails the whole test drive].
Reading on the forums we had discovered issues from some owners with both the Transit and Promaster rigs so we were aware before purchasing that neither were “perfect”. What we liked about the Promaster beyond the exceptional handling and for-us cab comfort was the interior volume and lower exterior roof over the Transit. In the PM we would be able to easily design a floorplan that allowed for side-to-side sleeping in the rear of the van, thereby allowing for more floorspace in the kitchen/bath area. Also having the option to have both front seats easily swivel toward rear and greater room between seats for access to rear of van would be beneficial.
As mentioned before, the handling of the FWD Promaster was on the top of the list of factors that swayed us to purchase, and has proven it is quite agile off pavement. I can say that after a year of ownership it has outperformed our initial hopes. Recently I posted about a trip to Lower Falls Campground [link to post of trip] and how pleased we were with the Promaster’s ability to handle a particularly poor area of the access road to the CG.
OK, on to some details of what we wanted in the build…
If you’ve visited the Chevy Express AWD build post you are aware of what we wanted out of that rig…sort of a rolling cabin of sorts. Spartan, rugged interior with outside camp-kitchen. And we feel the design is well suited to that need. What we wanted to achieve with the Promaster was an entirely different feel and use. The design would be much more civilized and include more creature comforts (though the Chevy had all the same functionality from shower, toilet, kitchen). We envisioned more of a rolling “condo”, and we think you will agree it is all of that!
I set out to locate a builder that was willing to work with my more radical approach to van-builds (read lots of MacGyver stuff with input from my MacGirlver of a wife!). I located a shop on the Southwest tip of Washington State in a small town of Seaview by the name of Mobile West RV Service. Cari and I spent time with the shop owner and plans were set in place to begin the build. We picked up the completed van on January 9 2018 and have been pleased with the finished product. Below are a few images with explanations as to what is going on.
I’ll start with the forward swivel seats:
One of the things we wanted to do inside was to maximize the available space + have a nice comfy useable seating area for reading, lounging, and eating. The extra interior width of the Promaster allows for easy seat-swiveling without going through some Yoga moves to get in/out of cab area.
In the image you will notice an in-floor table pedestal mount for a SS table that was included in the custom build. We chose Stainless Steel for all horizontal surfaces for ease of maintenance and longevity.
Something else seen in the image is the use of a product called Foss EcoFi [example link]. It is similar to the hull liner fabric utilized in the Chevy. Mold, mildew and stain resistant. From experience in the Chevy I can say the fabric in use still looks new after eight seasons of use.
As you can see in the close up of the RotoPax I went a tad overboard on the containers! At $xx a piece it might very well be the most expensive sink-jerry can build in the VanLife world 😉
There are 3 containers for grey use, and 5 for fresh. The black Bakelite container is a holder for our Travel Berkey 1 gallon water filter we take on the road. It lifts up and is placed inside the ~10″ deep sink once we break camp.
Up next is the view looking to the rear from the front swivel seating. There is ample storage for kitchen items, and food on street side plus a pull out drawer that holds our ice-cooler. We chose to keep things simple as our fruit & veggie lifestyle doesn’t need a lot of cooling to work, and neither of us bother “chilling” our beverages (water/tea/green or red protein shakes).
On the curb side forward is a ~30″ counter that we set the 15K BTU butane stove on as needed if cooking inside.
This counter area also has nice storage under. We currently store our shoes at floor level and some dry goods on a shelf above.
Behind the camp side counter is a closet that houses our pull out shower and portable toilet plus personal toiletries on separate shelves in the upper cabinet.
Seen at the foot of the bed on camp side are two his/hers overhead clothes cabinets. We have been using the TravelWise packing system bags for a few seasons now for all our clothes which work fine for our needs. [example link]
In this last image you can see the colorful tapestry I found online at Etsy and had a local seamstress sew onto one side of a black down-alternative full size comforter. We then purchased several color matched quick dry camp towels in various sizes to keep with the happy blue theme. Also seen on the sink counter are matching blue silicone matts.
I will discuss the exterior mods in another post.
As always, thanks for visiting our blog!