Let’s Go Glamping!

We sell a lot of vans to folks all over the country. One of the trends that I love seeing are the growing market of people taking cargo vans and turning them into mini-camper vans. This market surprised me when I started in the car business nearly 21 years ago. Back then we had requests a couple times a year. Now we sell them a few times a month.

These requests used to be on larger vans only. Now we get them on our smallest ProMaster City vans all the way through the ProMaster van line-up. So, whether you need 6, 8, 10, 12, or 13 feet of deck space, we have you covered.

The ProMaster City vans have 4 models. There is a City Tradesman Wagon or a SLT Wagon. Both of the Wagon models have 5 seats, and 54.7 inches of deck length behind the rear seats. 69.2 inches if the back seats are folded forward. With the 2.4L Tigershark motor and the 9-speed automatic they get great fuel economy and have lots of power without having to worry about turbos or premium fuel. They are also best in class with 1,885 lbs of payload, and 2,000 lbs of towing capacity when properly equipped. I’m 6′ 2″ and they have more than enough head room.

So, for a “small” van there is plenty of capability for camping and searching the countryside, and room for the camping gear, kids, dogs, and a partridge in a pear tree. Beep Beep!

Then, when you move up the size lineup to the full-size ProMasters line, they start with the 118 inch wheelbase. Here is a short video I made showing one off with the swivel seats.

2019 RAM ProMaster 118 WB with swivel seats.
Let’s Go Glamping!

The swivel seats are a popular choice for camper vans. So, when you are stopped you have chairs that can spin 180 degrees and face the rest of your van. No, we do not recommend doing this while driving. Even if you think you’re Tow Mater and the world’s best backwards driver. They still recline and have full adjustments. These seats are available as a factory options on all of the full size ProMaster vans, but must be added at the factory. They, unfortunately, cannot be retrofitted.

The 118 inch wheel base has 8 feet of deck space (behind the front seats to the rear doors). The 136 inch wheel base has 10 feet of deck space. The 159 inch wheelbase has 12 feet of deck space. While the longest van we make is the 159 inch wheelbase extended and that has 13 feet of deck space. There are two different roof heights with interior heights of 5 foot 5 inches or the high roof vans are 6 foot 4 inches. For more specific dimensions and helpful tips the RAM engineers made this website to walk through each vehicle. RAMbodybuilder.com (works best with Internet Explorer)

Each size can be configured into a tiny house on wheels.

Beep beep. Hit the road and see the country, or as many of our clients have done, countries. Road trek and Winnebago take our ProMaster vans and make full camper vans. Most of those are well over $100,000 USD. Cha-ching! So, it is understandable that there are many folks that are handy enough to make their own versions for much less. We have seen dirt bikers add fold up beds into the walls, and people just hanging hammocks inside the vans.

It has been fun to see all of the variations that people have come up with over the years. Some folks have the van as a work van and haul around padding to throw on the floor and a sleeping bag to go camping on the weekends. The weekend warriors are my people. There are those folks that would rather go out and buy the turnkey ready Winnebago version, but I admire the crafty people that can manage to fight off cursing, wipe up the blood stains, and deal with the agony of cutting the trim piece too short. The victory of putting together a completed van that is yours.

Sometimes we just want to get away, and reset ourselves.

How do I Build the Right Work Truck?

Clients come to us all the time. Many have a handle on what they want in their vehicle. Many do not.  They have an idea, but they do not want to build the wrong configuration.

Our job is to decipher the information and help build a functional vehicle that will efficiently make them money.

Where do we start? <Insert joke about “the beginning” here.>

I try to do a needs analysis with the client. This is easy when we have done business together before. However, when we are just meeting, this is often met with various levels of resistance. So, the key is to investigate not interrogate. We will get to that more in a minute.

The reason for the questions, are to make sure you have thought or know all of the options available. Our clients are well educated in the art of configuring vehicles. Some clients way over-think it, and some just haven’t had enough experience in what is available. This usually results in them spending too much. So, we take more time to figure out what the vehicle will be used for. That way we can make sure that the vehicles are as versatile as possible. The drivers using the vehicle can make one trip instead of multiple trips, or take one vehicle instead of two or three vehicles. That way they save on fuel, maintenance, and as much overhead as possible. So, why the extra expenses? To save you more money overall.

Clients often get interrogated. Why? Why? Why? The sales person sounds more like an inquisitive 5-year-old instead of a guide. That is all we are in sales. Guides. We gather information and relay suggestions so people can make educated decisions. If you are selling, then you are trying too hard. Just guide the clients through the options and they will naturally want to do business with you and always come back for more. So, investigating and asking questions that will help a client understand WHY we are asking the basic questions will help everyone succeed. More often than not we have to educate them on what their friend did, or thought the friend did is not exactly what we need to do to be the most efficient and effective.

If you have an electrician and he has been working in a low roof van for years. We point out the lost time when your electrician has knee problems because he has to crawl in and out of his overflowed van. If we buy a little bigger van that has a high roof, now the employee can walk in and out of the van. Have more area to store parts and therefore find the parts quicker, or have them at all at once instead of needing to make multiple trips. Plus, with us based in the Northwest, it rains. They now have a working mobile canopy area to assemble parts and pieces for the job site.

I stopped trying to sell vehicles years ago. Ironically, people buy more vehicles every year from my team and me than the year prior. They call us, and we do not harass them with “you wanna buy something? No? How about now?”

We as a dealer we rely on a lot of outside information. We gather that information from the manufacturers like RAM. I use their RAMBodyBuilder.com pages constantly. As well as, the upfit manufacturers like Knapheide and their detailed specification pages. Plus, the expertise of our local upfitters, like Allied Body Works. The NTEA (National Trucking and Equipment Association) is a vital resource for all of us. So, together with all of this combined knowledge of previous successes and failures, we can help save you time and money.

We could all use more time and money.

Working on the work truck side of a dealer for 15 plus years as allowed me the experience of witnessing plenty of the successes and failures. Being on the cautious side of life, thankfully the failures I have endured are minor learning experiences. I have had to tell more than a few people that we will not build their project for legal reasons. Liability to a dealership is a real thing. We never want to put a vehicle out there on the road that we know will eventually injure someone. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people that ask me to turn a blind eye to these, and I gladly tell them no.

Honesty and integrity are something that can be easily earned, and easily lost. However, once you lose it is gone. Clients may give us a second chance, but the likelihood is slim to none. So, every opportunity is appreciated and taken very seriously.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you have more specific questions feel free to contact me. I will do my best to help direct you on the right path.