Way back in 2008 I began to ponder the next step in the evolution of our adventure rig. At the time we were a couple seasons into using our TACO 4×4 with truck-bed canopy as our sleeping area and a Truck Tent out the rear hatch. It was all going fine until a mouse decided to visit us one night and Cari kind of lost it 😉

Fast forward to fall of 2010 I had finished a year’s plus research on full size vans and found a good price on an Express AWD at an out-of-state Chevy dealership and talked to my local dealer’s Fleet Manager who I’d known for over a decade. After working his magic and exchanging a vehicle on their lot for the van it was delivered and we qualified for a zero percent GMAC loan and had a blank canvas for a new adventure rig.

Part of the ‘magic’ my dealer friend worked into the deal was a year end $1500 up-fitter credit that allowed us to apply the credit toward the 24″ Fiberine fiberglass top and passenger seat swivel we were going to have Van Specialties of Portland Oregon install.

Two other items included in the original VS build was a Fantastic Fan (we later replaced the FF with a SUPERIOR PRODUCT = MaxxAir MaxxFan!! < IF you are considering a FF fan do yourself a favor and read up on the benefits of the MaxxFan).

The other item was a Fiama F45 Awning. While I understand the traditional RVer’s leaning toward these designs, after two seasons of epic fails during nearly-calm (~15mph afternoon camp breezes) i’d had enough with the F45’s lack of ability to deal with such small nearly-every-afternoon breezes. So I sold it to a fellow vanner with full disclosure on why we were looking for alternatives, and he was a happy new owner. We ended up having a custom aluminum awning rail fabricated that we would gear-tie one of several sized Kelty Noah Tarps to < this idea has worked well for our needs over 5 seasons and has been utilized in winds well over 35mph on a regular basis.

Part of a Van Specialties project after a year of DIY interior tests was to take a design we’d settled on and fabricating a permanent interior build that would suit our spartan, rugged design concept.

We had them build a full size bed platform with pass through storage underneath, with a closet next to the bed on street side, a full size utility closet forward of the bed which we would use as a shower/porta-potty storage area. We had them cut out only enough area of the stock metal roof to allow for comfortable a comfortable standing & working area leaving the forward and rear areas over the metal roof as attic storage areas (the black boxes are in those two areas which store clothes and blankets.)

At some point my wife and I began discussing options for minimizing camp setup. One thing that kept coming up was setting up the table with chuck box, stove, pots/pans and utensils. I was familiar with some builds over at Expedition Portal that had utilized Aluminess bumper boxes as camp side chuck boxes and ran the idea by my wife > > 😉 ~$7K later and we had a very utilitarian and ruggedized version of our vision of what an easy camp set up.

And so we come to the end of the continuing tweaks (Boulder Off Road Van lift & suspension upgrade, increased tire size, it never really ends does it!) Here is the rig in all it’s trail bling glory:

For any who wish to dig deeper into the particulars I have a build thread over at the Sports Mobile Forum. And while all the posts/comments/replies text remains in tack, many of the image links became broken as I sold my original domain to a corporation that made me an offer I was happy to accept.

Happy Trails!

Thom