When Ford discontinued the E-Series commercial van last year, California-based Sportsmobile found itself without one of the primary van platforms it relied on for its rugged 4x4 camper vans. Rather than discontinue the model to focus on other designs, Sportsmobile decided to transform the still-available E-Series Cutaway into a custom-built camper, designing its own fiberglass shell to fill the void left by Ford. Sportsmobile's E-Series camper van is now more spacious and focused than ever.
In case it's unclear, the E-Series Cutaway is the van without the van, a driver cab with exposed rear chassis meant to accommodate a variety of commercial vehicle platforms, like ambulances and shuttle vans. Sportsmobile welcomed the challenge of replacing the traditional E-Series van camper with a Cutaway-based version, and actually turned it into an opportunity to improve upon its camper design. It worked with a local fiberglass shop in custom-building the camper van shell, and the all-new Sportsmobile Classic was born.
"While maintaining the rugged capabilities of the Sportsmobile 4x4 system, the design of the Sportsmobile Classic allows us to expand the interior space without compromising the trail readiness and performance," explains Jonathan Feld, president of Sportsmobile West.
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Instead of designing a large, wide camper cabin, which some manufacturers do with the E-Series Cutaway, Sportsmobile chose to keep its design close to the original size and look of the E-Series van. From the side, you can almost mistake the Classic for a factory-built van, but the upper rear wall looks just a tad too round. From the front and front 3/4 angles, you can see that Sportsmobile's cabin sticks out just a little farther than the driver cab. This slight widening creates a 6 foot 2 in (1.9 m) interior space, 4 in (10 cm) wider than the interior on the factory-bult E-Series van. That extra width means that Sportsmobile can fit the folding bed across the cabin, not just lengthwise.
The cabin is built with a pop-up Penthouse Top that opens up headroom and can be outfitted with a two-person mattress. The top is sized around an exterior Fiamma awning, making it easy to mount an outdoor shade along the side. The roof bed plus the convertible sofa bed provide sleeping space for up to four.
Sportsmobile plans to continue to offer the wide variety of floor plans and interior options that it offered on the stock E-Series-based 4x4 camper. The Classic model it showed at Overland Expo included a driver-side mounted kitchen area and plenty of cabinet and drawer space for storage. The options list includes air conditioning, hot water heater, solar panels, shower, and other home-away-from-home comforts.
The custom shell and interior are nice, but Sportsmobile conversions are all about mechanical upgrades, starting with the Sportsmobile 4x4 system. That system routes output from Ford's 305-hp 6.8-liter Triton V10 to all four wheels with its Advance Adaptors Atlas II gear driven transfer case and Dynatrac Pro-Roc 60 front axle. The build maintains the TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission and Full Float Dana 70 rear axle that Ford installs at the factory. The suspension system cushions the wheels with Betts partial military wrap leaf springs and Fox 2.0 Performance Series IFP shocks.
Sportsmobile plans to begin production of the new Classic in the fourth quarter of 2015. Prices start at US$120,000.